Mulling A Scifi Screenplay Concept

by Shelt Garner

I’m officially at an age where I am constantly reminded of how precious my remaining days of life are. I wasted way too many years grieving over the demise of ROKon Magazine and now, here I am, at 50, troubled by all the doors that have closed behind me for good.

And, yet, I continue to be consumed by delusion to the point that I still have hope that somehow, someway, I will “blow up with my DJ money” and pull of a third hattrick — this time for a national / international audience.

As such, I continue to chung away at a mystery-thriller novel that I hope will be the cornerstone of a six novel project. What’s more, despite all the mental energy devoted to such an endeavor, I still find myself dreaming up other story concepts.

That sort of thing just happened to me today when I returned to a time-travel story that has been rolling around in my mind for some time. I like it because it deals with multiverse concept while also addressing some major issues of the day.

The more I’ve thought about the idea, the more I’ve come to realize it has the storytelling dynamic of a screenplay rather than a novel. The thing about screenplays is you can get away with a lot of things that you simply can’t with a novel.

I have long wanted to write a screenplay, but I fear I’ve just waited too long. Or, to put it another way, a screenplay would be something I might be able to pull off once I blow up with my DJ money. I’m delusional, yes, but I am still connected to reality enough that I’m not prepared to spend all that much time on a screenplay when I’m both too old and live in the wrong place for it to ever be produced.

But I just don’t know. I really like this scifi concept enough — and I do continue to have a lingering interest in writing a screenplay — that I might just dabble in writing such a screenplay to get it out of my system.

Actors As ‘Ringtones’

by Shelt Garner

Everyone in Hollywood needs to read David Brin’s scifi novel “Kiln People.” One could posit it as an allegory for what may be about to happen to Hollywood within a decade or so. In the novel, as I recall, scans of actors are treated much the same way as ring tones were in the past.

As an aside, I think we’re all going to have to get used to the idea that Hollywood may soon be in an eternal “now” in which the stars that existed about the time of the AI revolution are forever making the same content over and over and over again as if they live forever.

The need for this to exist for Hollywood was grazed — but not touched directly — by Matthew Belloni when he said, rhetorically, that it’s not like Michael C. Hall is going to want to make Dexter shows for the rest of his life.

Well, lulz, what if he didn’t? What if the producers of the show just used his body scan and kept making the show forever — or at least as long as it was profitable — allowing Hall to live passively off the use of his scan?

I think that is a very, very real possibility. There may be a pause in the adoption of such technology because we have a Second American Civil War and WW3 to get through, but in the end, I think AI could totally transform the very idea of what entertainment is.

Or, to put another way, instead of paying $15 for a monthly Netflix subscription, you will pay the same amount for a license of the body scans of your favorite actors to use in, I don’t know, the metaverse or some shit.

All of this plays into my belief that we’re careening towards a Petite Singularity. Things could change so dramatically in the infotainment industry that we just can’t keep up.

Movie Pitch: ‘Bottom Rail’

by Shelt Garner

There is a famous anecdote from the very end of the Civil War when a former slave is claimed to have told a bunch of white people that, “bottom rail is on top now.”

Ok, here’s my movie pitch.

The movie opens with a montage about a virus that wiped out much — but not all — of humanity. After a lot of chaos, death and destruction, humanity manages to bounce back. But here’s the twist — white people are now in the minority and pretty much the entire globe is run by black and brown people.

You would have to be very careful how you approached this story, but in general, the point would be to confront white people in the audience with how systemic racism is real TODAY. The movie would be an excuse to highlight the macro social injustice that POC have to endure in our modern world.

You might suggest that white people in this future world are blamed for the the destruction of the old world and that only adds to the prejudice that they face. Now there are obvious risks to this move in the sense that Right wing nutjobs might completely miss the point of the story and latch on to it as a parable about the perils of illegal immigration.


This is why we can’t have nice things.

Anyway, it’s an interesting idea. It’s a more realistic end-of-the-word scenario than is in most fiction these days.

How I Would ‘Fix’ The Movie Babylon

by Shelt Garner

There was a lot for me to like about the movie Babylon. And, as I’ve written before, there were times — especially early in the movie — when I was really digging it. It was giving off “Wolf of Wall Street” vibes, in a good way, and I was prepared to make it one of my favorite recent movies.

Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy and Diego Calva plays Manny Torres in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

And….then….the movie’s plot became rather trite. How many times were we going to have to see Margot Robbie’s character screw up, only to get rescued? When the movie seemed to on course to replicate the famous fire cracker scene in Boogie Nights, I bounced out of the theatre.

But now that I’ve read on Wikipedia how the movie ended, I find myself wanting to “fix” it. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

Make the character arc of the Margot Robbie character one of redemption. Instead of time after time her screwing up and getting saved, why not use some of that time to prepare us for a redemption arc. In the end of the movie, she somehow straighten her life out and ends up living a long, long time.

In fact, maybe give her the last laugh with a faux documentary from the 1960s or something where she talks about the “good old days” and the transition from silent film to talkies.

Anyway, if nothing else, I was reminded by the movie the importance of strong character development.

How James Cameron Could Have For Sure Made His $2 Billion With Avatar 2 — The Way Of Water

by Shelt Garner

Overall, Avatar 2 — The Way Of Water was….good. Maybe not great, but it was definitely good. Though I have to admit that it took a lot of willpower not to leave after I had used its distraction to figure out some issues with the development of the novel I continue to be obsessed with.

If Cameron had really wanted to reach his $2 billion haul, he should have really leaned into making the Red State “Star People” a bit more nuanced and complex. Give them more moral justification for what they were doing other than “Earth is dying.” Make them more human in a way that there were a few red meat dog whistles for MAGA Nazis. Had he done that, the politics of the movie would have been a lot more even handed — at least in the eyes of MAGA Nazis — and they probably would have driven the movie’s success into the $2 billion range.

But here are my complains about the actual story, rather than any political quibbles.

It’s Too Long
This movie is just way too long. I understand that it’s supposed to evoke awe in the audience with all its high-tech image shit, but yawn. Too long. It got really, really slow at times. I did a lot of eye rolling and watch checking. Repeatedly. Again and again. I would much rather it be a tight two hours than a three hour self-indulgent trip through James Cameron psche. There was a really good movie floating around in all that way of water bullshit, but Cameron was just too obsessed with being a show off to let it be seen.

It Draws Too Much From The Cameronverse
Over and over again there were call backs to previous James Cameron movies in this movie. A conspicuous amount. Some of it, it seemed, was an effort to show that he could top himself by doing really difficult shit in water. When I first started noticing all the callbacks, I thought it was fun. Then it became distracting because it was happening so much. There were call backs to The Abyss, Aliens, Terminator 2 and Titanic strone across the three hours of the movie. Give it a rest, Jimmy!

Paranoia Will Destroya

by Shelt Garner

I’ve been feeling pretty paranoid since I saw someone from Hollywood snooping around this blog in my Webstats interested in how long it’s going to take me to start querying my first novel. My fear is that when I sent my outline to a manuscript consultant, she sent it to someone she knows in Hollywood and they’re going to use it as the basis of a screenplay.

This is completely bonkers for a number of reasons.

One, I’m making a connection that I just have no idea is there. Just because I sent the outline to her, doesn’t mean she took the next step of sending it to someone else. And I have no idea if she has any connections in Hollywood she could send it to in the first place. I do know, however, from personal experience that the moment you send something to someone, it inevitably gets passed around.

But, still, I’m giving the two events a connection and a narrative that just doesn’t exist in real life. I can’t let my personal insecurities about such things overwhelm me.

I guess some of it is what happened with ROKon Magazine. Annie Shapiro really did “steal” the magazine from me, bringing it back in secret behind my back, so once bitten twice shy and all that. And I suppose I just have to process the possibility that Hollywood might “steal” my idea, even though it’s definitely just a “possibility” and not a “probability.”

I just can’t let this irrational fear consume me. It’s embarrassing how much time I’ve thought about this the last few days. But I just can’t allow such an irrational fear stop me from moving forward. As I keep saying — make decisions on what you do know, not on what you don’t know.

And I think I’m probably be a bit full of myself to even think it’s possible that Hollywood would “steal” my idea in the first place. I know how hard it is to get ANYTHING produced and my outline wasn’t THAT good.

It’s possible that the person I saw in my Webstats from LA was simply curious when the novel I’m working on might come out and that’s it. No nefarious plot against me. That definitely seems to make a lot more sense than my paranoid delusions.

Burn Hollywood Burn: Death By AGI Logline

by Shelt Garner

The conventional wisdom is that there is going to be a massive Hollywood writers’ strike in 2023 because of the rise of the popularity of streaming. If the leaders of that strike had some foresight they would add something else to their list of demands: a ban on the use of AGI to develop and write movies and TV.

Because if they don’t do something about the use of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and its successors producing media, the very notion of what it means to be a showbiz writer might be revolutionized — and not in a good way. Instead of hiring potentially hundreds of people to develop, write and produce movies, movie studios will simply get an exec to sit down in front a computer and write a logline.

A few moments later, an entire two hour computer generated movie pops out.

I know this sounds extremely hysterical, but it’s better to get such a ban now instead of waiting when the transformation has already begun and Hollywood writers will lack any leverage to get their will.

But no one listens to me. I’m just an aspiring novelist in the middle of nowhere. It will be interesting to see, however, what comes of Hollywood when the only person who is needed is someone to walk the Red Carpet.

Mia Goth As Lisbeth Salander Makes A Lot of Sense

by Shelt Garner

If you stopped even trying to make the Lisbeth Salander the heroine of a story, but instead turned her into something more akin to “Pearl,” I think it’s a setup for success. Let me explain — if you made Salander someone a brutal man-hating woman with some redeeming qualities, that sort of solves the problem of how to properly present Salander to audiences.

Mia Goth as Lisbeth Salander?

This would be rather jarring to people, but it’s also very freeing. You don’t have to use the conventions of a mainstream movie anymore. You can really toy with who Salander is by actually showing her brutal, violent side.

And a horror movie is, in general, far more provocative than a mainstream movie, with things going haywire for no apparent reason on a far more regular basis than a mainstream movie where generally there can be no sudden movements.

But, having said all that, generally no one listens to me. It’s an interesting concept, though. And I continue to dwell on my own American interpretation of the Lisbeth Salander troupe. I have a lot of cool ideas that I think once I finish everything I have in mind, people will really like.

(Spoiler Free) The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Of ‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once’

by Shelt Garner

It’s times like these that I find myself questioning my sanity. For me to dislike so much of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once (EEAAO) and so many other people love it with a white hot intensity really makes me wonder what could be going on. So, let’s review what I liked, disliked and hated about this movie.

The Good
There’s a lot to like about this movie. I found the acting by Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan outstanding. They really stood out in this otherwise mess of a movie. And I also liked the Michel Gondry magical realism elements of the movie a great deal. I went in thinking this would be a lot like The Science of Sleep and, in its own way, it was.

The Bad
There was just way, way, way too much going on with this movie. It just did not know what it wanted to be. When you have all this dialogue that requires an extended zany kung fu scene to pause and have everyone just stare as it’s said — you have a problem. And I’m fully willing to admit that maybe some of this is I just don’t really have any interest in kung fu. I found that part of this movie a distraction to the part that I wanted to see — character and plot.

The Ugly
I really hated who the villain was. All of that was just horrible. It seemed way too much on the nose for my liking. You mean you couldn’t think of any one else to be the villain but that person? What the what?

Anyway, here’s the movie I would have enjoyed: a middle aged Asian woman saves up the money to gain access to Lacuna-like technology that, rather than erasing your memory, gives you easy access to different realities and different fates you might have gone down. The story would focus on strictly on her relationship to her husband and daughter and there wouldn’t be a the dumb multiverse villain angle and far less need for kung fu. It would be seen as a direct spiritual successor to The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and it would be, in my opinion a good to great movie.

As it is, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once was a severe missed opportunity.

Well, That Happened

by Shelt Garner

This is an instance where I don’t know what the fuck is going on. I went into the movie “Everything, Everywhere All At Once” with extremely high hopes. There was white hot buzz about the movie on Tik-Tok and I watched the movie as soon as possible so I could go into it knowing as little as possible about it.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m very confused.

I won’t say I fucking hated it like I did Booksmart, but I was extremely bored for most of it. It’s not that there wasn’t a lot going on that was interesting — there was — but I didn’t have any emotional attachment to the characters until way, way, way into the movie.

And, even then, it was the elements of the movie that could have been an entire movie until itself. I found the movie very muddled and so peripatetic as to be overwhelming.

There was so much going on that there wasn’t much time to establish characters or to make you — or at least ME — care. There was all this bouncing around going on and just kept rolling my eyes, thinking, “So what?”

Having said all that, I could definitely see how the movie could be very influential and be part of a broader “vibe shift” in American pop culture. But nothing about that movie was so good as to warrant it all the glowing praise on Tik-Tok. Nothing. The movie was not nearly that good.

I’m so annoyed with how bad Tik-Tok is at reviewing movies, I think I’m going to lay off using it for a while. I feel suckered. I struggle to figure out what the Tik-Tok reviewers saw that I didn’t and vis-versa.

There were elements of the third act that were pretty strong. And, like I said, you could have cut those elements out of the movie and made a separate, stronger movie with them. But there was just too much going on with this movie.

Was it a kung-fu movie, a scifi movie, a fantasy movie or a movie about the family bonds of immigrants? If the screenwriter had just picked one or two of those elements, the movie would have been much, much better. There was a great movie lurking somewhere in EEAAO, but what I saw wasn’t it.

It was long and irritating.

But I guess I could see how someone younger than me, who had different expectations, might like it a lot. I guess?