Category: Story Element Possibility

Chat From Sack

Posted by – February 21, 2013

Rolled into Sacramento on the train yesterday for the Movies on A Big Screen event. It was great — probably about 60 people, warm and diverse crowd. Really fun q&a afterwards where the first question was whether Sanford Kong was a trained mime — they were as spellbound by his performance as the doctor as we were.

Toronto-bound folks will be thrilled to hear that it’s a lovely 13 degrees here & sunny. The people I’m staying with have an orange tree in the backyard, and I got to eat one for breakfast. Tasted pretty much the same, but it was still pretty awesome.

Last week’s run at San Francisco Indie Film Festival saw close to 200 folks come through on the three nights. Got to hang out with Jamie, a fan of the film, at the amazing goth bar he owns called the DNA Lounge. And I met with the guys who are working on Overgrowth, a rabbit-ninja fighting game, and they seem open to working together on a future project. So lots of interesting developments developin’!

Subtle Influences of Asian Culture

Posted by – August 17, 2009

Hi Folks,

I’ve recently become enamored with the ancient Asian game Go, and it got me thinking to how Chinese culture may influence western culture, now that they dominate us economically. How could we background these influences by showing instead of saying. For example, perhaps Anton and Toth could be playing Go in their make-shift home at night, or when they go to trade in the webbing they caught for water, Harry might initially be sitting down with a friend playing Go before he gets up and does the water trade with them. Maybe there’s a Go club or Go games at the bar the business folks play in Serena’s scenes. That said, I’d like to offer my services as a Go consultant to the movie. (I just watched A Beautiful Mind, because I knew it had Go scenes, and I found it disenchanting to see how they got some elements about it wrong). Go’s influence on western culture today, limited as it is, is mainly from Japan and Korea, but it was invented in China and is still immensely popular there (as evidenced by the included image). In Korea, they have TV channels dedicated to Go (the way here we have Golf TV channels).

About ten years ago I spent some time in India volunteering, and one piece of clothing I brought back that has stayed with me since is a “lungi”. It’s a sarong that either middle and upper class men wore in place of pajamas, or as very casual house clothes, or that lower class men could wear at any time. Indian locals would get a kick of seeing me, a wealthy westerner, ignorantly wearing a lungi around the town. I still wear one today (and in fact, only recently bought a pair of regular pajama pants at the urging of my son, who I guess wanted me to be more “normal”, or at least more like himself). They’re very comfortable (and cheap and simple to make). Perhaps Oscar could wear one when hanging casually around his home (i.e. drinking beer in the evening). I thought I had a good image of me wearing a lungi, but I can’t find it. Included is an Indian man wearing a lungi down, and a westerner wearing a lungi up (a common way to wear it, especially in hot weather).


Ghosts With Shit Jobs

Posted by – March 5, 2009

Ready for a sharp turn?

I got some feedback from Craig on the Advantage outline that he didn’t feel like it was visual enough. My natural inclination being to fix rather than ditch, I went through it looking for the problem areas, and realized I had to get one of the characters a more interesting job. So I started thinking about jobs in the future.

I then had a meeting with Rose where she was wondering why people would care about the Advantage kids. I realized I didn’t really care too much about these overadvantaged underachievers myself. Then Sanford offered to do some matte paintings for futuristic backgrounds and I started thinking about the CN tower covered in giant space spider webbing. So this is the new idea:

Ghosts With Shit Jobs is a 2040 documentary for the entertainment of the Chinese mainland, “ghosts” being slang for white people. The western economy has completely collapsed and China and India are the new first world. While laughing at the North American slumdwellers, the documentarian (a tiny fly camera who follows them around) also cultivates a paternalistic concern about these people.

Subject one is, Oscar, a pixelator. The future of Google streetview is an immersive experience indistinguishable from reality, and they’re planning to unroll the Wayback feature — where you can visit every moment in the past fifteen years from when they started filming. However, for legal reasons they have to blur out copywritten images. This is obviously a huge task, and has to be done by humans. It’s a boring job, and the sustained time required in the virtual world gives most employees nose bleeds.

Subject two is Anton, who’s in silk recovery. In 2025, giant arachnoid egg sacks landed on earth, and quickly hatched. Before they left in search of octopi prey, they covered the CN tower and many other buildings with space spider webbing. The webbing turned out to be an exceptionally useful building material, favoured by the big Shanghai architects, and so people like Anton spend their days collecting it from increasingly difficult spots around the city.

Subject three are Karen and Gary, who are freelance robot assemblers. However, the main demand for robots in 2030 is in lifelike babies, so Karen and Gary must care for these very demanding products for months before they can certify them as tested. They have sworn an oath never to become parents.

The documentary brings them together over beers to discuss why they don’t get better jobs. Oscar wants to go back to school to learn an Asian language. Anton’s saving up to bring back his girlfriend, a nanny for a wealthy technocrat in Mumbai. Karen and Gary started out planning to make customized robots, but the robot fairs where they could pitch their designs are so expensive to attend. Money is an issue for all of them. Karen has an idea about the Wayback feature Oscar has access to — doesn’t that mean you can watch someone unlock a safe? Or type in a pin number? or a password?

They trap the documentary maker’s fly cam in a beerglass and go out to change their destinies…

I started the script on this new idea today.

Feedback welcome, especially brainstorm ideas that start “In the future…”

Indexing The Advantage

Posted by – February 20, 2009

UPDATE: We have ditched this idea in favour of this one! I’ve taken a few different runs at plot lines, and have found one I like — it starts with the Advantaged kids unravelling a conspiracy only to find that the “bad guys” are normal humans just trying to keep their jobs. I’m excited about developing the characters of the shadowy surveillancers until they become just as fleshed out, and maybe even more likable, than the Advantaged. Certainly there’s more potential for them to be funny than the intense Advantaged.

On the issue of backstory, I’ve hit upon something modelled from the super 8 crowd: it starts with a party at a bar where Advantaged 20somethings are showing their home movies from when they were babies. This will deal with some of the exposition and establish the Advantaged “scene” at the same time.

Also, I finished watching the Up Series, and have done some reading about the interviewer Apted’s continuing and complex relationship with his subjects. I’m using this to inspire the character who is assigned to counsel the Advantaged kids after the recall, but instead of us seeing the actual interviews (difficult because we’d have to find kids who look like the 20something actors) I’m working with an audio voice over solution perhaps combined with photographs of the actors as children, or brain scan imagery.

Anyway, I’ll be doing an index card scene breakdown between now and Mar 2 to keep things in the non-specific until I get the location and actor potentials stirred into the mix. Then I’ll have a first draft of the script for March 23rd. I don’t want to give too much away until then, I have a lot of twists and turns that need to be told in a certain way to give them impact. But here’s the index cards I’ve written so far — and currently it’s breaking down into 4 key characters, which might mean a director attached to each as a structure contender.

1. Home Movies at Drink’n
An event screening childhood movies that
features the Play’n Advantage toy with some
vintage ads and PSAs thrown in for extra
backstory. We meet Alexander, the cognitive
Advantaged, Jessika, the empath, and Carson,
the dexterous bar owner. They are part of the
same Advantaged scene and know each other but
are not together. Jessika sings a song called
Recall Blues.

2. The Morning After – Alexander
Hungover, Alexander stumbles into his work, a
medical testing facility where he is a guinea
pig. He’s chastised humourously by a worker
he’s on good terms with, Will.

3. The Morning After – Jessika
Jessika has breakfast with her boyfriend, who
breaks up with her — she sells access to her
life to a few thousand subscribers, and the
pressure to perform’s too much.

4. The Morning After – Carson
Carson, cleaning up his bar explains to someone
trying to book a show at his bar that he only
books Advantaged bands.

5. Alexander’s Power
Alexander is filling out crossword puzzles as
fast as he can write. Will, observing from a
distance away, talks to a doctor saying that
being hung over doesn’t seem to affect his
abilities. The doctor says that killing a few
braincells is probably good for Alexander.

6. Jessika’s Power
Jessika walks her ex to work, sympathizing with
him to an almost insane degree. A guy suddenly
appears with flowers for her and is immediately
knocked out by a trank dart — she explains
that her subscribers protect her from other
subscribers who break the fourth wall, in order
to keep her willing to be online.

7. Carson’s Power
Carson is on a chair, which is balanced on a
chair, writing tonight’s specials on the board.
He’s being observed by two unseen people, who
comment that he’s a hard worker, and
practically normal. Then he jumps down with
uncanny ease.

8. Testing Unit
Alexander is still working on the crossword
book and conversing with a fellow test subject,
who asks him why he’s doing this when he could
be working for way more money. He explains that
they’d want his brain, and here they just want
his body.

9. Jessika’s Interview
Jessika finishes walking her ex to work and
gives him a big hug. He is baffled. She walks
home. In the background is the audio from Dr.
Robinett, talking to her about relationships.
She says that the same thing that draws people
to her eventually pushes them away.

As usual, ideas are welcome!

Brave New Politics

Posted by – January 3, 2009

Ordinary Politicians

This idea of political reform occasionally comes to me, and last night I was thinking it might make for good sci-fi. It’s at a time in the future where technology allows for voting to happen on the fly. There’s no more routine elections, but rather everyone has the opportunity to vote on every policy in the government (through the Internet). But like today, people are busy, working, raising kids, going out, and also like today, it’s just too much effort to stay engaged in politics. So a person can give another (a friend, or someone’s values they share) the ability to vote for them (i.e. by proxy). Some people actively collect votes, and then they in turn can give the votes they’ve collected to more prominent people, and in turn, they can pass their votes on…etc

So what happens is, you have the guy in your office always trying to convince you to swing your vote over to them. He collects 80 votes from co-workers, friends, family, and puts them behind a well known local activist, who has accumulated a few thousand votes. The local activist might use their big vote count to vote directly on policy or they may put them behind an even bigger politician.

Anyone can switch their vote at anytime — they can take it back, or put it behind another. Also policies could end up switching back and forth… for example, let’s say 49% of the votes are going towards abolishing meat as a food, and then after some grassroots campaigning, it passes the 50% mark, all of a sudden meat production stops and everyone is forced to eat vegetarian. An underground meat market develops. But then it swings back, and more people support meat as food.

Perhaps there’s no central head, political parties, or hierarchy, and the only power held is how many votes a person has behind them.

It’s a world where anyone can be a politician, there’s way more politicians, a lot of people are trying to gather votes, and it’s considered much more democratic.

Then we could take all the follies of this system and play them up. i.e. it’s kind of like government by polls, except real power transfers as soon as a vote is changed; majority has power over the minority; it’s unpredictable – many policies may be in constant flux.

The system was brought on by a collapse in the current political system, but now, because of it, the world is much worse. Everyone’s stuck in it, and because of this new system, it’s impossible to reform it again. Finally, there’s an underground movement trying to over through it.

Stack Overflow

Posted by – December 26, 2008

My favourite talk at Defcon, the Las Vegas hacker convention that flew us out to screen Infest Wisely, was one on social engineering.

The speaker brought up the idea that by asking questions of someone you can increase the chances of getting what you want from them — somewhat similar to opening several applications at once on a computer can crash the system. I came across this idea again on a recent Radiolab piece on Choice:

…again, focusing on the idea that the human brain has limited analytical power. But it also explores the idea that a Vulcan like rationality causes indecision, since there’s no emotional “tilt” one way or the other.

So I’m imagining a duo of scientifically grounded con men (or women) who get what they want by exploiting this limitation of the human platform. As the movie progresses we discover their relationship to an artificial intelligence that needs their emotive decision making ability to function, and who has given them this training as a reward.


Posted by – December 18, 2008

A couple of super-talented illustrators and animators have offered to help with the movie — Michael Cho, a high-school pal Sanford, and Matt Hammill:

Interstitials might be one way to take advantage of this, but what about a low-rent Waking Life treatment? With the artist doodling faces over live actors faces?

I’m thinking the Doodlefaces are from the future — it’s an avatar-type thing for them. But it’s kind of hard to tell. They just start showing up, speaking mostly incomprehensibly, pointing and laughing at totally commonplace things — like we might do if we were dropped a few hundred years back and saw a pirate and started saying “aaarrrrr!” to the pirate’s befuddlement (but our companions hilarity).

“What happens in the 2000s, stays in the 2000s” is their attitude. They treat us like bit players to their starring roles, are totally irresponsible and create paradoxes and chain-reactions to amuse and annoy people back home.


Posted by – December 10, 2008

In 2014, the hottest toys for babies are Play’n Advantage brand. Backed by studies and reports, the odd but undeniably engaging products are sold out two weeks before Christmas… and then never go into production again. A year after that, the sought-after toys themselves break and disintegrate, dissolving in a similar fashion to the corporate entity that produced them.

It would all chalked up to eccentric inventors, but the Play’n babies are testing off the charts. Twenty years later, their emotional, intellectual and creative capacities (depending on which toy they played with the most) make them valued but somewhat ostracised members of society.

They form a weird subculture that’s parts toy nostalgia, hyperdevelopment, and mystery: what was behind the Play’n company? What were they given Advantages for?


Posted by – November 27, 2008

I was talking about the alley theme with Sean last night and he brought up this guy who gives alley tours, which made me say “Alleyologist”. It rolled really nicely off the tongue, and I’ve been picturing a trailer:

A tall, good looking young man with a doctor’s bag walks through an alley.

He’s peering at small things in the alley very closely, an earnest look on his face.

A close up on his mouth as he speaks into a small dictaphone: “The city… is sick.”

A hipster girl, arms crossed, gently mocks him. “So what — a bit of garbage in an alley makes you panic?”

He responds intensely: “Of course not. Alleys are the lower organs of the urban organism. Garbage, grafitti, all these things are like flora in the lower intestines. They’re natural. It’s something else.”

I’m seeing alleyology as being this slightly arcane practise passed down from his father — they’ve been monitoring, and in some cases treating, the cities they live in for generations (I’m imagining a great great father who was an ex-flâneur in France). He’s slightly out of step with modern life due to his passion and focus, but the girl has a serious crush on him…

Minorly Alternate Universes

Posted by – November 24, 2008

Instead of the universe being one where the Nazi’s won, it’s a tiny tiny change — it’s a universe where all water is actually blue instead of clear (excepting seawater, which is green). Or a universe where people’s internal clocks are so slow to adjust that it takes immigrants years to sync up, condemning them to years of a nighttime existence. Each world could be a different episode.

I’m thinking they could be accessible via the alleys, since alleys are betwixt and between, themselves.