People keep telling me that my comics read like movies (if only they paid like 'em!), and I'm starting to wonder whether it's time I dipped a tentative toe in the shark-infested waters of Hollyweird. The question is, where to start... ?
The other day I was struck by something I read in Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott's excellent Wordplay site:
"Sometimes the thing, the item that's sitting right in front of you, can make for a great film idea... I guarantee you, as you sit there reading this, there are at least two items within your line of sight that would make fantastic topics for films. Million-dollar ideas that Ted and I plan on writing and selling, ideas we think are as good as TOY STORY."
Well, I've got a lot of time for these guys, but are they serious? I wanna write about exploding helicopters and rampaging dinosaurs and cyborg ninja assassins from the future and, y'know, grown-up stuff like that - not staplers and telephones and drifting swathes of paperwork (which I really must get round to filing at some point). But I thought I'd give it a go, as much as a creative exercise as anything else…
And my eye lit on an object lying not three feet in front of me. It had been sitting there on the desk for weeks, ignored. And the best idea I have ever had for a movie instantaneously downloaded itself into my brain, just like that.
"Tank, I need a premise for a high-concept Hollywood action thriller." ZZZZAP!
Now I'm not usually one of those guys who's afraid to tell people my ideas in case they steal them. There's nothing I like better than pitching my harebrained stories to an audience - preferably down the pub - and watch their eyes, see if I've got them hooked. What's the worst that can happen? I figure it's easier - and cheaper - for Hollywood to just buy your story and change it than to steal it and risk a lawsuit, right?
But this is such a good idea, I'm not gonna risk it. This idea's gonna put my daughter through university.
And it's got a great title.
I'm not gonna tell you that either. You might steal it.
Backtrack a little. I keep a list of random story titles in a Word document, add to it whenever I get inspired. A good title's worth it's weight in gold. (I still wish SILENT DRAGON was called HAMMERHEAD, or ZETSURIN, or SHURIKEN). And most of the time I have no idea what these titles might be for - they just hang around, waiting for a concept to attach themselves to.
And my absolute favourite of all these unused titles just happened to fit this new idea perfectly; so much so, it was as if my subconscious had known it all along, and was just waiting for the rest of me to catch up and put the pieces together.
I also like to keep a file of whatever random story ideas might occur to me; often little more than "what if" premises. Most of them are too thin, too one-dimensional, to grow into a fully-fledged story. They're just dry seeds, unfertilized. But occasionally, two unrelated concepts floating around in the murky depths of my subconscious will suddenly glom together in a completely unexpected way, and something magic happens. They fertilize each other. Two one-dimensional ideas suddenly combine to form a three-dimensional whole; greater than the sum of its parts.
I love it when that happens. I wish I knew a way to control it. (Alan Moore probably does).
And that's the very next thing that happened. The idea inspired by the object on my desk, the great unused title, and an old idea that I hadn't known what to do with ("What if a hitman didn't actually kill his victims?") all suddenly fused together into a little cracker of a story. It had a great hook, structure, mystery, action, twists and reversals that come out of nowhere and yet make complete sense in hindsight, making the audience hungry for answers and drawing the protagonist deeper and deeper into a strange and dangerous world.
And unlike some of my movie ideas, it would be cheap to film. Real cheap.
I was so excited, I couldn't stay in my chair. I ran downstairs and cornered Angela in the kitchen and babbled at her for a full fifteen minutes. I was hopping. I couldn't stand still.
Then I pitched it to my new manager. She was kind of "meh."
I don't care. I'm writing it anyway.