Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TODAY'S NUGGET: Prison Escapee Wannabe

Today I was given a contained thriller inspired by a true prisoner escapee story (in the vein of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood).

I have to admit, the title didn't inspire me. There are lots and lots of prison break stories...how was this one going to stand apart?

The script was well paced with characters with significant flaws. The story pushed to Act 3 and had an ending I did not expect. I liked the strong conflict because I knew what the characters wanted. And the dialogue read well.

However (and you knew there was a however), I do not think the writers understood the marketplace for this genre. It's not enough that it's based on a true story, that it's unbelievable a family went through this horror, that there were moments of true heroism.

I thought about how I was going to pitch this to the exec. I didn't know. I couldn't find any hook that differentiated it from the last 10 prison escapee movies....something that's also integral to the plot, not tacked on like more gunfire or explosions.

ex. I recall the trailers for the Shawshank Redemption. Do you remember how they played up the fact that the Tim Robbins character had a secret? It gave something mysterious to the plot that the audience had to uncover. Also, the average moviegoer who didn't like prison movies might still be drawn to the mystery aspect.

ex. The facts of In Cold Blood were shocking for its time. But other than that, Capote, who was known for lighter fare, got so personally invested he didn't write much after that. The prison break was one component, but the aftermath was fascinating as well.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I know you've heard it before, but I need to see something that twists the expectations of the genre.

ex. Maybe a prisoner sets a mouse free outside the prison and it causes the plague. And now the prison is the only safe place. Maybe prisoners who want to stay. Gotta turn the genre inside out.

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