It’s the end of the week and there’s no energy left in the universe to smoke the place up with a really good rant. It’s all goth-dark out there in the world so it’s probably no surprise that the most promising feature script I’ve read in a while is one which holds out a candle in that darkness. A candle sputtering bright flames to illuminate the tragically beautiful redemption and loss of five unknown characters in beautifully decayed Detroit.
Robert Fox’s script is dark. Really dark. I’ve had his scripts for months now but I met up with him on Tuesday, after a chamber of commerce networking event and before Cinema Slam (now with added forums–go on post, you know you want to). Bob, like more than a few others I know, once worked on a local newspaper but has latterly devoted himself to screenwriting. He’s also big into comics. Needless to say, we clicked.
So there we were in the closest place to hell suburbia has to offer, Starbucks, discussing his scripts. Awaiting Identification starts with all the main characters in body bags and flashes back from there. It wasn’t my first choice of his scripts, but it’s definitely the most tightly written. My first thought was to get a comic artist to start drawing some cool storyboards. My second thought was that I’d really like Mr Ricketts to take a look over this material and see if I’m missing something. I mean something other than the hard sell of all the blackness. I await a pdf to forward.
That was Tuesday, more or less. Cinema Slam was a great show although I sucked at publicity. My opinion. There were quite a few in the audience, I just wanted more because it really was a great show. Wednesday was a Leadership Ann Arbor day. Leadership Ann Arbor is a course I’ve signed up on through the chamber of commerce (sic) which is all about discovering everything there is to know about the local area. It’s also a fantastic networking opportunity. We’ve already had a two-day retreat in Ohio. This time it was all about economic development and our guide was Peter Allen, a local developer, who turned out to be a fascinating, enthusiastic and thoroughly knowledgeable guide.
We started in downtown and worked our way out. Things that struck me were the real opportunities for growth here, Peter’s enthusiasm for things like cycle routes, the zoning problems that hold back development (but protect the character of the city), costs of parking structures versus surface lots, costs of dealing with water problems in Ann Arbor including floodwater storage requirements and the way A2 deals with affordable housing. It’s not like St Albans, UK, where affordable housing means someone gets it cheap then sells at market value. Here the property price is locked to inflation, so there’s no chance of building equity. The drawback of that is actually two-fold because, not only does the buyer not benefit economically but the builder has to incorporate the true cost of the property in other buildings, which means the middle value market is lost.
We visited many many places on our day’s travels, among them the new U of M Life Science’s Institute. Two things struck me there. First, the chairs were ridiculously small. I was hanging over the arms in a brand new lecture theater, and I’m not overly large by American standards. I wouldn’t be able to take notes in there. Second, the university is the major player in local economics, employing one in five people directly, another 1.5 indirectly and generating huge amounts of money with its activities. Just the income for hotels and restaurants for visitors attending a football game is colossal.
What else? There was tons. The information was almost overwhelming but it was fascinating and detailed. The day finished at the Arbor Brewing Company (same place we held our wedding evening event), where I tried to chat to lots of people simultaneously, with the result that I didn’t get a chance to talk to half the people I wanted to. However, I did get to talk to Terry who works at Ann Arbor Public Libraries and she knew a comic book artist, Chuck Yates. Which takes us back to Awaiting Identification.
He’s already sent some samples. They’re very good. Very detailed, very clean. But perhaps too clean. I’m looking for grungy, rougher, more spontaneous. Chuck’s focussed my mind, though, which is a good thing and maybe he works in other styles. Maybe someone else will come out of the woodwork. Can I really be contemplating a feature, this feature?
Last Sunday, Laura and I were driving home when she noticed lights in the sky. The northern lights. Aurora Borealis. Way cool. I’ve never seen them before and they’re apparently really rare this far south so we drove out, away from the city lights for a better look. The sky shifted patterns in green then red. Curtains then smoky drifting cloudlike effects, but not clouds. Beams of light the drifting smokelights in the sky. I don’t know about omens but it was, as I say, exceptionally cool.
So I was thinking about Bob’s script some more yesterday and again today and I realised something. I’m thinking about it. Well. Well, okay. That’s actually more than I’ve done with a lot of other stuff I’ve been sent. Also I was thinking I need a casting director, a production designer, I already know an editor (Simon) and two cinematographers (both here in MI). And I know how to break the script down for production and budgetting. We’ll see what happens next. Is this really something I can remain interested in for four, maybe five years? We’ll see. I await a pdf.