Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Epic - A Hero's Journey

Epic was a fantasy story I had been compiling over the years. I had originally planned on doing this “world” I created as a children’s book, but one day sitting in the Century City Shopping Center patio area, I began writing my story in scenes as if in screenplay form. It just started flowing. Before I knew it I had written about forty notebook pages worth. It was wonderful. I escaped into this surreal island and sea world. I was sketching as I wrote. I had missed the movie I had been there to see twice and was still sitting there when they were turning the lights off.

The Langston Dominion was fresh and vivid in my imagination and yes it resembles Star Wars, The Goonies etc… You’ve got a group of kids that fight the most evil army in the sea on their quest to find a mythical magical relic that will free their people of their home land’s dictatorship. It is your ‘Hero’s Journey’ story, Joseph Campbell wrote about for years and years. This theory is also used in half the novels, movies and even video games that are out there now. It is basic mythology and Mr. Campbell’s philosophy of how the hero in a man or woman is found through conflict and what they call thresholds.

My story is just completely different in its setting, time and location. My world is a jungle infested Greece BC with a slight turn on Never Never Land.

The boats do not have motors, yet they have discovered a propeller style mechanism that four men put their backs into a gear system to get it moving. They have cannons yet utilize the catapult systems quite often. They call days, “moons”; seconds and minutes, “ticks and shades”; coins, “stones”; boats, “floats,” and that is just to name a few.

They have creatures, humans and creature humans on these island countries. There what they call “Fathers” who are in a sense the leaders or mayors of the particular villages. They have a high class as well as a middle and low class of people. Biased politics run the islands that tend to cause trouble for the lower class as it does in America today. The island where the group we are following live in sort of, capitalistic society to an extent.

Now that I’ve given a little description of some idiosyncracies of my world and we’ve stopped on politics, it’s time to get into the heart of the story and how it’s become to be Epic.

If you know me, you know the story of my father and I leaving the local cineplex years back. The story where we had just seen ‘Raiders’ for the first time and I looked at him as he unlocked the car doors, and said, that’s what I want to do when I get older. Dad thought I meant, be an archieologist. I meant filmmaker. And since those old days of watching Star Wars, The Goonies, Batman and Indy on the celluloid I had dreamt of writing a fantasy/adventure script. Movies of this genre have always fascinated me. They’ve touched the imagination inside of me, spawning many days in the woods with my childhood friends, re-enacting these movies and even adding our own little sequels and stories to them. These movies also spawned my drawing ability. Instead of playing Nintendo like my friends at a little older age, I chose to draw my own adventures with my hero character I called, Elan. He was the heir of the Village Leader in this Jungle/Fantasy world. There were all sorts of evils, goods and monsters in this world and paper just wasn’t enough to tell my story. I had been animating on my Apple IIc since I was light so I sat down in front of it and started animating a kind of “which way book.” If you don’t know what that was, back in the day they had these books you would read where you would have to turn to page 13 or turn to page 69 depending on which action you chose to do and you either died, went on a different adventure or conquered that particular book. Well I did this in a computer program. Back then, (God I hate saying that,) computers still had green monitors and came equipped with just 2x2 block pixels. I would pixel by pixel create these monsters, bad guys and good guys that Elan, my hero, would meet on the way and would have to make decisions in your adventure just like a role playing game, where you would either prevail or parrish. It was quite tedious, but my friends and family would fancy me by sitting down and doing it forcing themselves to play the Atari-Esque game.

Flash Forward, nearly 16 years later, to my sophomore year in college where I wrote the screenplay, Epic. The first draft of it was 370 pages long and it was the well polished real vision of my jungle/fantasy world come to life. I cut the script down to a lean 134 pages and started shopping it. The story engulfed my life. I drew storyboards, cartoon characters, location sketches, I mean this was all I did for a year.

Nothing came of that script. This was before the Lord of the Rings and after the 13th Warrior bombed, so studios were not looking for this kind of script. The only thing I had going for me was it was right after the Titanic Craze where studios were indeed scooping up spec scripts involving young love stories set on a large scale adventure canvas. After accepting that I would probably have to be in the “Hollywood Circle” first to shop this script I put it away, but only after writing two sequels to it, (treatments only.) I guess what I’m getting at with this is that movies like this are the movies that now are coming back into popularity.

These are the movies that stimulate your imagination and skew your vision on everything. You see so many irrational “blow ‘em up movies” that don’t hold their weight in water. On the other end you have the movies such as Wizard of OZ, The The Goonies, LOR Trilogy, and heck, Indiana Jones for that matter are movies that are YEAH completely farfetched but work. These are the movies that Hollywood should be making. They say the reason they don’t do these movies more than they do are because the American people have gotten “dumb” over the years and don’t want to think or use their imagination anymore.

Contrary to what “money men” say, I believe the American People have become smarter, but have gotten brainwashed and dulled through “reality shows” and their attention spans have been shortened due to the computer and internet age we have found ourselves in. With that said and the marketing value of films like Indy Jones IV, Transformers and even Pixar Studios Midas Touch imaginative risks are being takened again. My agent spoke of this and had read my treatment for Epic and another Post Apocalyptical slash Western and DEMANDED me to break out the blue pencils and get them short and tight so instead of pursuing my original schedule of doing some productions, I’m cutting back the actual camera time for some more typewriter time while I wait the fate of Jeopardy’s acceptance to film festivals. “You gotta’ make it in the door fast at this point, son. If you shoot more films, you’re spending another couple of years developing, shooting and editing and by that time Jeopardy will be obsolete. You can’t bring two kids to New York or Los Angeles at this point to spend three years shooting music videos and other small time productions so I will employ you to take your best and biggest ideas you have and get them to me ASAP. You get in on a Spec Script, doors will open in many different avenues,” my rep told me being honest about my idea to continue working on “independent films.” I have no ego. If a guy who’s been around this business a lot longer than I have is telling me to do it his way, by God, that’s what I will do.

Here are some of the old sketches and things I did while writing Epic years ago.

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