Here’s the first concept doc for our film. For any budding screenwriters out there this is a great way to start your scriptwriting process. Not only does it help you form and develop your idea, it also gives you the opportunity to define the perimeters of your world. In this project we’re not doing anything too radical but when you’re working on a narrative set outside of our own time/world/reality you can get as crazy as you like. The key is to be true to the laws of the imaginative space you are creating. This doesn’t mean constraints, it means liberation - if you stick your own rules people will believe anything you throw at them. And this kind of development piece allows you to define your laws and lay them out as a reminder to yourself. Consistency = credibility. It’s all about getting your audience to suspend disbelief for the duration of your story…
I’m thinking of London about 20 years from now. The essence of this is that superficially it will appear to be much the same. But there are going to be subtle changes that’ll make an audience double-take. For example, technology has developed to a point where everyone has a chip (micro!) in their palm and this allows them to connect to anything – they can pay for things, download things, pass information person to person – simply by swiping their chip against a counter point. My current idea for the first scene is Maria getting on the tube – very much the same train we ride today – so that the audience is under the assumption they are looking at a contemporary setting. She interacts with a man that at first seems to be behaving oddly – maybe even appears catatonic. It transpires (not necessarily at this point) that he is logged into a virtual world but the download is in his system so there is no physical representation of this except his bizarre attitude. When they get off the tube we see Maria swipe out and for the first time recognise that she is using her palm, not an Oyster card. These are the kind of subtle differences I’m talking about so I think it’s a good idea in these scenes to try to capture a sense of the unchanging side of London as a City – to develop the contrast.
The basic narrative:
Maria gets on a busy tube. John has dropped something. She hands it to him but he is unresponsive. She touches him and he starts back to the real world.
John introduces Maria to a virtual world that can be downloaded into her system.
Maria and John in a park. Everything is heightened, colourful, dazzling. He tells her she is beautiful.
(Possible cut to him sitting on his own in a dark flat, stating this)
Maria and John at night by the railway arches. They are attacked. The attacker rips out John’s chip. He becomes catatonic (as he was when we met). Maria logs off and finds herself in her own dark flat. She runs outside and finds the streets empty. Goes to the train – the station is shut up. Perhaps she goes to John’s flat and finds him catatonic but with his chip intact. Leaves and walks around, sees animals in the streets, houses overrun with vegetation, etc. But the world looks stunning. And we leave her alone in this place, unsure of whether we’re in the game or not.
At this stage the narrative needs to be further developed but I think, Brad, that you are right in your suggestion that we don’t feel too tied down by what I’ve plotted and maybe see what we come up with on the first shoot. At the moment I’m thinking it could be anywhere between 3 and 10 mins.
So with that in mind the only thing I feel I really need to explore here is the nature of this virtual world (vw) and how we are going to work with it visually – specifically in contrast to the real world (rw). Maria is going to get introduced to the vw by the male character. From the very start I think there should be some confusion as to which world we are in. My idea for the vw is that it is a form of augmented reality – a beautified version of what we normally experience. Also, I’d like to play with the idea of the rw being heavily populated to start and then becoming empty with the vw working in direct opposition to this. The more I think about the concept of all of this the more I feel that perhaps we should completely leave the rw behind from when Maria first enters and until she exits the game and then it is only at this point that we realise we have been in the vw the whole time. In other words, not have the reveal of John alone in his flat when he tells her she is beautiful. And finally I think that the ending shot should make us question whether or not she really is back in the rw or if this is still a part of the vw. And that would lead to questions as to whether she was in the vw or the rw to begin with, etc, etc. The obvious connections here are films like the Matrix and Inception so conceptually I want to be careful that we are doing something that is different from these but another vital way to stand apart from them is through the visual worlds that we create.
I think we can start here by playing with some good locations. I’d like to film in the Isabella Plantation tomorrow afternoon as the flowers there are in crazy colour at the moment and I just think it would be a fun way to work. Then we could move back to Ravenscourt Park around dusk to get some train shots. I think the plantation could work well to be part of a vw but it could also serve as a place for the final scenes of Maria in the rw as it is so extreme in its beauty that it will confuse the audience. We can work this out when we see it. The other element with the visuals is all down to you Brad and your cg skills. I’d like to see what we can get just shooting naturally but I’d also be interesting to play with some of the techniques you showed me to see how they look. They would definitely help to develop twists between the two worlds.