Sample development notes

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Information about Sample development notes

Published on February 17, 2014

Author: Stephenwr


SAMPLE DEVELOPMENT NOTES - First round c Alliance Atlantis Communications ------- GENERAL NOTES Interesting premise, and a wonderfully fertile ground for series production. Overall, I’d suggest strengthening the characters, adding a more emotionally resonant meaning to the central conflict, and clarifying the story arc by reflecting it in all aspects of production. The VFX moments, for example, would be hugely expensive if translated directly from the novel. Since it’s better to do a few things well than many half-baked, we could choose to focus on the moments that build on and relate to core story points and themes. A few thoughts follow, based on the novel and treatment. The Package There’s a potential problem cited on the cover of the document, which reads: "From the mind of -------.” There may be a temptation to treat the material as sacrosanct; in my opinion, the project requires adaptive massaging, both for practical and creative reasons. As for -------, I checked with a few fans. A master of another genre, he hasn’t done any classic fantasy as yet. Which explains some of the challenges I’m about to discuss. ------- is a derivative of his earlier novels; in some ways it’s a reworking of "-------", in which the magical place where the strange critters dwell is threatened by unsympathetic humans, and aided by a heroic young couple. The stated budget is -------. If this is the target, then the size of the cast, the scale of the effects work and the scope of locations will have to be reduced. I have a number of suggestions as to how to achieve this without significantly diminishing production values. The Story Ironically, this is a morality play without a moral arc. The leads learn little from the experience (except perhaps that if you don’t sleep with the woman you really want, you may still get her in the end - but you have to go into a coma first). ------- learn not to trust guys in funny suits. In all seriousness, the dilemma for the ------- is almost Judaic in that it seems to center around the avoidance of persecution, with magic substituted for faith. Regardless, they don’t seem to learn anything from their experiences. This wouldn’t be a problem in an action piece, but this is a shot at mythological fantasy, and the genre calls for some kind of implicit meaning. ------- is not a place distinguished by any particular wisdom or philosophical heritage – in fact it sometimes seems to have been randomly constructed from a dictionary of the occult. This is more than a missed opportunity. Why is ------- such a perfect place, why does it need to be kept protected from humanity, and why are the ------- invested with magic powers if not to harbor some ancient wisdom? The absence of this wisdom goes against the grain of all of the mythologies from which the book borrows. I’m not suggesting that -------- should wear togas and recite poetry, but that they be invested with a culture that sets them apart and informs the development of the central characters. This wisdom could be integral to the drama in that it is resented by men such as ------.

Here’s a first suggestion for a central theme: higher learning/ enlightenment is useless if it requires a rarefied environment, denies the darker side of human nature, or can only exist at the expense of others who have to toil in the muck. The outline calls the book, "a rich allegory that demonstrates for us how hugely important it is to keep the world of the imagination vividly alive." If that is the case, then the illusion and magic runs the risk of becoming gratuitous, as it did in Terry Gilliam’s expensive and unsuccessful romp with the same premise, Baron Von Munchausen. This interesting premise needs to be grounded in something more emotionally resonant. The Fantasy The strongest challenge facing production would be the realization of -------, since a significant amount of the action takes place there. As written, it is a landscape resembling paradise, a sort of Shangrilah. The danger here is that if the place is a persistent "super-reality," then the cost of rendering that reality in sufficient detail may be prohibitive for a series budget. If it is a highly abstract environment, the addition of live actors may not bear scrutiny, repetition, or good drama. Either way, it would most likely have to be digitally constructed as a composite of sets and physical and computergenerated models: expensive, if done well. The compositing would be tricky, particularly in scenes where ------- bursts forth like jiffy-pop. One alternate tack would be to set ------- up as a pair of rose-colored glasses, to assume that it is a state of mind, a parallel dimension, a landscape in which the geography corresponds to that of our world - but the actual look is an idealized version of the everyday. In this way, the appearance (or non) of ------- would depend on the state of belief of the characters in the scene. This would build nicely on the core premise. The look of ------- could be achieved through selective lighting and dressing of sets and locations embellished by a selection of CG extensions and filters, leaving the real money to go into the transitions and embellishing “big moment” magic. This would be a workable alternative if the budget does not permit the realization of a credible persistent fantasy world. And if it does, so much the better - this volume of effects work would be an unprecedented achievement for a prime time live action series today. Having said all this, I’ll end where I began; in my opinion no amount of theatrics will make up for a fantasy world that doesn’t ground itself in the personal dilemmas of believable characters. After all, it worked for Dorothy. All the best, Stephen

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