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Time to Die Archives

Jun 28, 2007

Re[6]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

Just a few quick responses while the baby’s waking up — more later.

If we define back as �back to life� you did. If we define back as �back to Earth�, which is what I was getting at, then I don�t think it�s there. But then, I don�t think Earth figured at all into your concept, so that�s splitting hairs.

Right right right. Gotcha. This is indeed the crux of the whole issue. If you need to go back to Earth for the revivication to work, then it ends on Earth. If you don’t, then it ends on the prison planet. We just need to decide which.


I’ve never seen Silkwood, so the allusion was completely lost on me. I mean, I know what it’s about, but not having an experience of it, it didn’t mean anything to me.

I’m still not sure what my two movie references are, but I’m leaning toward The Fugitive for one of them — that kind of energy and excitement and tension, but with that kind of cool smarts about the whole thing. Also, Speed didn’t make me think of “road trip” at all, and I think it’s kin to The Fugitive — keep it on the table. Also also, completely new pitch coming up. And finally, a critique of yours!

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Jun 28, 2007

Re[5]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by Martin

One note I just thought of. I’ll bet I threw you off by my blank meets blank statement, so I should describe it a bit. Of course, the need to do so totally negates the spirit of the statement, and shows probably how poor my choices were. But, as a first stab, I picked those two movies because each had elements I thought important to Time To Die.

Silkwood Picked because I liked the idea of September Rose being tenacious and dedicated to her cause, but without being a caricature of a male character. The obvious choice here might have been Alien or Aliens, but I chose Silkwood because of Streep’s feminine take on strength. I think the trap to avoid here is making September Rose masculine in her actions and demeanor. The question really stands as: how would a real unstoppable woman handle this?

Speed I’m sure this is where the idea of the road trip movie started, and this is where I fell on my face. I picked this movie not because of the driving, but because of the non-stop forward momentum. So, let’s take this one off the table until I think of one that better describes the action I see in my head.

I’ll make an effort to describe better my left-field choices, and I know these weren’t perfect. I just didn’t know we had the option to post without the blank meets blank statement (Oooooooooo! Smack!).

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Jun 27, 2007

Re[4]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by Martin

I always pictured her getting a call on Earth that her husband won’t be coming home. I find the story compelling because she needs to find a way to the prison and that seems like a huge hurdle to me. But, believe it or not, I don’t think we’re really speaking that different of a language here.

Are you saying the second act is mostly her journey there?

Not at all — this isn’t a road-trip movie in my mind either. The journey could be instantaneous, but it is a huge hurdle she needs to overcome to prove how fucking absolutely impossible-to-get-rid-of she’s going to be in getting her husband back in time for the regeneration (But we could make the trip back to Earth a balls-out, chased by the law and bad guys, running on fumes sort of thing. Or it could be the final break into the prison and pulling a big show to get the body out).

I mean, think about the Warden sitting on his lily white ass (figuratively, at least) up on a rock wondering how the hell he’s going to contain the massive prison riot he’s got, when suddenly the soon-to-be grieving widow that he thought he had contained with patronizing words over the space-phone shows up and taps him on the shoulder?

So, we still have the triangle. We still have her on the rock, she just doesn’t start there. And we can have her in communication with Okkervil before she heads out. I mean, what if Okkervil is losing control of the riot and he helps her get there?

Looking back, I think we were probably both saying things our way and reading things the other. For instance, in my first take on her I made her work for a space ship company just to give a nod towards solving this dilemma.

Of course, I also gave her a dominatrix and stripper roommate, so not everything I do is rational, even though I will defend those choices quietly to those who are interested because I had reasons. I swear, I had my reasons.

Honest to God, I thought I did this.

If we define back as “back to life” you did. If we define back as “back to Earth”, which is what I was getting at, then I don’t think it’s there. But then, I don’t think Earth figured at all into your concept, so that’s splitting hairs.

I think I gotta get working on my treatment. But first, let’s have a few more goes at the pitches. Whattcha think?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Jun 27, 2007

Re[3]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

Waitaminnit. When you say the struggle is getting there, you actually mean that the ship is just there in orbit, and the trouble is getting into the facility, not what I said below — is that right?

(I’m not totally taken with that, but that’s 100X better than what I thought you meant.)

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Jun 27, 2007

Re[2]: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there.

Um, I always thought that was the whole idea. Remember when we were talking about it offline last year, and the idea of the power struggle between the three factions (September, Inmates, Warden)?

I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Are you saying the second act is mostly her journey there? If so, you’ll need to expand on that immensely. I don’t see that as a movie. No, that’s not true — it’s kind of a road movie, then. She goes X miles in space, meets someone or something. Goes another X miles, meets another someone or something. That may be a workable concept on its own, but I don’t see how it meshes with what we have of the Time to Die concept.

I say: okay, he can be brought back, but more importantly, can she get him? That�s the question we want to raise in people�s heads.

Honest to God, I thought I did this.

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Jun 27, 2007

Re: Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by Martin

First things first: iPhone.

Okay, that satisfies our Union of Bloggers and Hipsters June 2007 requirement. Now back to your regularly scheduled Spitball!

Not a bad first pitch. One very interesting thing that I just noticed: you have September Rose going to the Prison Planet to meet her husband. So, the struggle all takes place there. I picture her on Earth, and a large part of the struggle is getting there. And then getting back.

Overall, I do like your pitch, but as you mentioned it’s too long, and doesn’t really snap yet in my opinion.

I feel like so much real estate needs to be devoted to setting up the conflict that comes within the first ten minutes or so

I think that’s why we need to find a way to focus attention back on September Rose. Also, I think the hook isn’t in the idea of cheating death, but in the race to cheat death. So for me, ironically, the setup of the world holds little interest.

I say: okay, he can be brought back, but more importantly, can she get him? That’s the question we want to raise in people’s heads.

Okay — just my few thoughts. Please lay waste to my first attempt, and we’ll continue hammering away until it snaps and sparkles.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Jun 26, 2007

Burley's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by Martin

I have some things to say about yours, but I’ll post mine first and then we can cross-post about stuff. What worked, what didn’t, how to refine.

Oh, and for me? Think of this as Silkwood meets Speed. Doesn’t that jangle the WTF bone?

Here we go:

Six Months. September Rose hasn’t seen her husband in six months. He’s on rotation as a guard on a the prison planet. But during guard rotation, the prisoners riot and seize control of the facility. September’s husband is murdered.

Now she has seven days to get his body back to Earth in time for revivification — he can live again! After that, he’s gone for good. Problem is, the prisoner’s rule the rock, and nobody — especially not a mourning wife stuck on Earth — can get inside the gravity of the maximum security lock-down. His body is prisoner.

But the security officers who have already given up, and the prison planet management who won’t return her calls, and least of all the prisoners — one of whom seems to actually sympathize with her — have seen a woman like September Rose before. And nobody will keep her from retrieving her husband’s body in time to bring him back to life. Not until every moment is used. Not until it’s Time to Die.

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Jun 26, 2007

Shockah's Time to Die Pitch: 1.0 posted by kza

Here’s my first try, and I’ve already failed, by the standards of the challenge: I’m pretty sure it’s too long, and there’s no blank meets blank statement. That’s what iterations are fer.

It also may seem strange, at first glance, that there’s no new information about the story. But again, that’s not what a pitch is. A pitch is an attempt to sell the idea of the story to someone who knows nothing about it. Or put it more bluntly, a pitch is an attempt to sell the sizzle, not the steak. It is not the place to tell the story — it’s simply the means to get your hook into someone so that they’ll want to read the story themselves (i.e., the screenplay).

Here’s my pitch:

What if death had a cure? What if there was a serum that you could inject into someone and, as long as they weren’t dead for more than an hour, they could come back to life, good as new? You could be with the one you love forever. September Rose has a love like that. He proposed to her on the moon, and they honeymooned aboard a personal starship, waking up each morning, literally amongst the stars.

But her husband has a job that keeps him away half the year: he works at a high-security prison on a desolate asteroid. Since no one can really die, the lifers here are more like forevers, and the stress of their existence is a simmering pot, always threatening to blow.

And then, the day September Rose arrives to pick her husband up, it does. And in the riot, he’s killed by one of the inmates. If his body is recovered, he can be revived… but the warden tells her: sorry, but I’m not sending in any more men, when the riot will burn itself out. My condolences.

Hell no. She escapes from the guards, arms herself, and ventures into the chaos of the rioting wing to get her husband’s body back and revive him within an hour. Little does she know that the body is being held by the man who killed him — the most dangerous murderer there. And he’s going to use the body as his ticket out of there.

Time to Die’s gonna be a tough one to pitch, I think, because I feel like so much real estate needs to be devoted to setting up the conflict that comes within the first ten minutes or so. To me, this feels even more like a tease than most pitches.

Then again, the pitchee — catcher? — doesn’t know that this is only the first ten or twenty minutes. But then again then again, it seems like a selling point that this is only the tip of the iceberg — that there’s more. How to get that across?

Comments (0) — Category: communications

Jun 21, 2007

RE: I challenge thee! posted by kza

Dude — it’s like you’re reading my mind. Like, trippy. I just picked up “Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read” from the library, for crying out loud.

I’ve been thinking about pitches for a couple weeks now, ever since the debut episode of On The Lot, that new reality show/director contest thingy. (Show’s crap, btw; it started off well, but they kept changing the format and, incredibly, skipping stuff — at the end of one episode, the contestants are given an hour to direct a one-page script, and then we never hear about it again. WTF?) Anyway, in the first episode, the contestants are given one of four loglines to build a one-minute pitch around, and after some remarkably embarrassing attempts, this one dude gets up and just throws one straight down the plate, 100 mph.

(See what I did there? I literalized the phrase “pitch”. Comedy gold!)

I have the episode saved so that I could transcribe his pitch — it really was terrific. And between that, and a book Burley and I talked about offline a few weeks back, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” , I’ve become interested in the idea of simplicity, and how it applies to screenwriting. And the most direct way it applies is the pitch.

Burley and I haven’t really thought much about pitches, generally speaking. (Or if he has, he hasn’t been telling me.) I suspect that, for me at least, the main reason is a kind of artistic snobbery. Pitches are what those slick, know-nothing Hollywoof types do, right? It couldn’t have anything to do with art and film, could it?

Yet, I’m beginning to believe that they have everything to do with art and film. No, not every kind of film — pitches would seem kinda meaningless for a Brakhage piece, and maybe even certain David Lynch films. But that’s not what we’re trying to do here at Spitball!. I think the ideal here is for something that hits two targets that are rarely hit together: mainstream and smart. And in order to hit that first one, the pitch is absolutely necessary. Nearly every movie that’s considered mainstream (and I imagine quite a few that are considered smart) began life as a pitch. So we’ll begin there as well.

But what is a pitch, exactly?

A pitch is both an idea for a movie and the attempt to sell said movie — “sell” in this case meaning to persuade an audience that your idea is a good one. The pitch itself tells you just enough about the main character, what they want, what kind of obstacles they might face, and most importantly, why the hell you should care. This last one is key. Everything in the pitch is completely worthless if you can’t make the audience care about the main character. (Which is what makes the pitch so tricky — you don’t have time to go into detail about the protagonist’s dead dog. Time is running out! Press A! Press A!)

Note again that the pitch is just the idea for a movie — although the pitch might be based on a completed work, it will only communicate the bare essentials. It’s likely that the pitch will never detail the obstacles, or the name of the protagonist, or even how the story ends. (Note: our Time to Die pitches will include the ending.) It’s understood that the pitch will only bear a passing resemblance to the finished screenplay, in the same way a TV Guide entry only kinda looks like the real movie. There’s always going to be a sense of “yeah, but…” about the enterprise. That’s normal. Go with it.

In fact, I’m starting to think that a lot of “blank space”, so to speak, is a pitch’s secret weapon. Since a pitch is by definition just a sketch, there’s a lot of room for the listener to mentally inhabit the idea, either by imagining the rest herself, or just by enjoying the unresolved tension created by the idea. For example, I really love the idea of Fred Claus: Santa’s bitter older brother is forced to move to the North Pole. The contrast between the standard image of Saint Nick — jolly and goodhearted — with an older brother, who is probably an asshole (it’s Vince Vaughn!) — is just delicious. I have no idea if the actual movie will live up to these expectations it’s created in me, but that’s not the point — the point is to create the expectations in the first place.

(OT: Santa is gonna be played by Paul Giamatti!? Holy shit!)

Now, most pitches (barring the bad ones that go into too much detail) have blank space anyway. But I’m wondering: is there a way to, I don’t know, maximize the blank space payout? A way to create expectations, only, y’know, better? I don’t know, but it’s something I’m going to think about when writing the Time to Die pitch.

Comments (0) — Category: technique

Jun 21, 2007

I challenge thee! posted by Martin

Mr. Shockah — I throw down the gauntlet. You must (as will I) come up with a Hollywood Elevator Pitch (H.E.P.) for Time to Die. It must not be more than one minute to recite out loud, and it must include a blank meets blank statement.

Such as: It’s Steel Magnolias meets Tootsie.

I think it will help frame how we see this movie we’re writing. What say ye, cad?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

Jun 20, 2007

Time for Time To Die: Update Edition posted by Martin

For those of you who may be new here, and are too busy or lazy to read our archives (as I myself sometimes am), let’s get caught up.

Shockah and I came up with 50 story synopsis, and then whittled it down to a single idea that we are going to write. That idea was inspired by the kick-ass Charlotte Hatherley (who has just released a great new album, by the way) song called Kim Wilde. The original concept was this:

In a World where death itself is beaten by genetic regeneration, a guard is killed during a riot on the prison planet. One woman—his wife—faces sure death to retrieve his body in time to bring him back to life. It’s a race against time, with one nearly resourceless woman willfully fighting like a juggernaut against the prisoners who are holding his body hostage, and the powers that be that think she should just give up. All to simply save the man she loves from eternal death.

We talked about this idea a lot during intervening posts before it was picked the winner. A lot of that is meta-discussion, but here I’ll link to posts where we actually expand on the story ideas:

During the second heat, I expanded on the story, and named the protagonist: September Rose St. Germain.

Shockah introduced us to the antagonist James Crowley Okkervil in his second-heat expansion on the story.

Which brings us to Shockah’s rough first treatment of the story.

If you read those three posts, you will literally know everything we do about the world of the movie. Where to now? I owe Shockah, and you, gentle reader, a treatment of the script. One I had written got flushed away accidentally, so I’m starting it again, and hopefully it will be up soon. I’ve also started a new category called ‘Time to Die’ where you can track the progress from here on out, now that we have a story picked. If we’re good, we’ll also put it in the ‘the screenplay’ category, so if you’re looking at this by category, you can follow along nicely.

Free to You

Just a reminder that we’re releasing this entire thing, as well as the story ideas we’ve already written and the script we’re about to, into the public domain. This script is your script, this script is my script. Although we’re going to write the version we want, take it and remix and rewrite and do what you will. Just leave comments in the forum and let us know, would’ya?

Comments (0) — Category: the screenplay

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What is Spitball!?

Spitball! is two guys collaborating to write about writing and collaboration. We're writing partners who have worked together since 2000, and placed in the top 100 in the last Project Greenlight for our script YELLOW.

Currently, we are both working on multiple screenplay, short story, and novel ideas independently and together, and collaborate on this blog.

What Spitball! used to be

Spitball! started as an attempt to collaborate on a screenplay online in real time. From January 2006 to July 2007 we worked on an interactive process to decide the story we were going to make. A full postmortem is coming, but you can find the find all the posts by looking in the category Original Version.

During this period, we affected the personalities of two of the most famous spitball pitchers from the early 20th Century. Look at our brief bios for more info about this, and so as not to be confused as to who is talking when.

We rebooted the franchise in early 2009 in its current form.

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Kent M. Beeson

Urban Shockah pic

Kent M. Beeson (aka Urban Shockah) is a stay-at-home dad and stay-at-home writer, living in Seattle, WA with his wife, 2 year old daughter and an insane cat. In 2007, he was a contributor to the film blog ScreenGrab, where he presciently suggested Jackie Earle Haley to play Rorschach in the Watchmen movie, and in 2008, he wrote a film column for the comic-book site ComiXology called The Watchman. (He's a big fan of the book, if you couldn't tell.) In 2009, he gave up the thrill of freelance writing to focus on screenplays and novels, although he sometimes posts to his blog This Can't End Well, which a continuation of his first blog, he loved him some movies. He's a Pisces, and his favorite movie of all time is Jaws. Coincidence? I think not.

Martin McClellan

Burleigh Grimes pic

Martin (aka Burley Grymz) is a designer and writer. He occasionally blogs at his beloved Hellbox, and keeps a longer ostensibly more interesting bio over here at his eponymous website. You can also find him on Twitter.