View Full Version : Universal Consciousness
11-04-2000, 03:29 AM
Does it exist? 2 examples:
A while back I had an idea, and wrote this "logline" in my ideas file. "A woman is framed for murder by her husband and his lover. She's convicted and sent to jail. When she's released, she discovers how she was set up and sets about seeking revenge, knowing that she cannot be charged for the same crime twice." I even had a cool title for it - Double Jeopardy...sigh, I could've met Ashley Judd.
I recently had another really high-concept idea which I thought would be just the bees-bloody-knees for all those Hollywood execs who want only big budget megahits. Here's my idea: "On the way to Armageddon, the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse are accidentally destroyed by a group of bumbling College students. The students now find themselves forced by a mightily peeved Satan into replacing the horsemen and seeing to the destruction of the world…something that doesn’t fill them with a great deal of warmth. A “Bill & Ted” movie meets “End of Days”."
Now, on Zoetrope, I find the following logline: "Four college friends find out that they're the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Now they must break up with their girlfriends, win the NCAA Track finals and save the world from destruction, and all before graduating. And who said college was easy?"
Damn! The only good thing is that in neither casr had I actually written the script, it was still in idea form. I'm starting to understand why prodcos insist on release forms.
So, universal consciousness, does it exist, or is this coincidence?
11-04-2000, 04:57 AM
Don't mind me. It's very late and I've been watching this horrible movie and I can't sleep, so here I am.
Just rambling and asking questions of myself and us'ns.
"High Concept?" How many stories in any form are great and memorable and lasting and influential based on "High Concept?"
That aside, we are bombarded with internal and external stimuli. We don't always know where our ideas come from or if they are even really ours.
If you, me or anyone else has tapped into a "high concept" idea and it's been done, well, DOA. A unique or highly personal story or one that doesn't rely on a three sentence terrific idea, may appeal even if sounds like something else.
But given the current crop of films, who the hell cares, write those stories, someone may say "Hey, it's the next _______."
It's like that, for eons, reworked joke about the numbers in the joke book and the guy who shouts out the number and no one laughs. As he wonders why, someone says "some people just can't tell a joke."
The joke is on us as most films become more film derivative, with the cheapest, most imitative ideas possible. And we as writers, wanting to succeed (financially, egotistically, or whatever) succumb to the formulas and "the way" just to try and get our work read.
Yes, there are ideas in the ether, but most of us are influenced by huge bodies of information, often not even remembering the source.
lil-who doesn't really have a clue what she is talking about.
11-04-2000, 08:15 AM
Lily---Ideas, where do they come from? Or, to put it another way, whose muse is news? I had an idea for a script, and like you, one day I logged onto this very website and found an almost identical logline had sold (for big bucks, I might add). My feeling is that the best ideas are really somehow available to everyone, and that it's only an attitude of the mind that allows us to reach up and pluck them from the tree of life like a ripe pear. And it's amazing, in our times, how powerful an idea can be. Boy wizard in training? 40 million Harry Potter readers around the world liked that one. I see dead people? It worked for a $250 million-plus box office on The Sixth Sense. So much of my fiction is an attempt to mine for gold in this way, and find those nuggets (or boulders) that can capture the popular imagination and bring me the success I've worked so hard for.And really artists have always done this. I have a script with a producer now, and we are close to a financing deal with a fairly well-known comedian, which relies almost entirely on a single, unique and compelling idea. It's low-budget, but "high concept" in the sense that the story is unusual and I've never seen it on the screen in any other form. My hope is that this seed, this kernel of a notion, will take shape and grow in the minds of millions of film-goers, and produce for us a modest hit. And in the process, carry my own dreams into the future. Ideas are a dime a dozen----but a single idea can literally be worth millions.
11-04-2000, 09:52 AM
For the most part, we all absorb and process the same media/enviornment. From this pool of media/environment we pluck our ideas. It is the way we filter our ideas through our sensibilities that make them unique. It is our personal execution (be it a script, play, novel, painting, poetry, etc.) of these ideas that make them wholey our's.
A yes, the dreaded curse of being "scooped", as a past writer-friend used to say. Yup, it happens, and all the time. Just the other day I commiserated w/ a fellow writer over The Fearing Mind; we'd both been trying to do something like that for years...
11-04-2000, 12:55 PM
I haven't had any major "stolen plot" moments, but I recently experienced an odd coincidence. I finally got around to watching Magnolia [yeah, yeah, I know, where have I BEEN?], and I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when a character named Sydney Barringer appeared... one of the leads in the first feature screenplay I wrote [begun three years ago] was named Sydney Barringer [my Syd is female, PTA's Syd is male]. I re-wound the tape to make sure I'd heard right, and the closed captioning even spelled it the same. That's a reasonably distinctive name... I ran a search on all the major search engines, just out of curiosity, and the only Sydney Barringer that turned up was the Magnolia character, so it's not like PTA and I both heard the name and thought, hmmm, that's a good name for a character. Weird. And kind of an appropriate thing to have happen in a movie about synchronicity...
11-04-2000, 01:35 PM
This is why we get a half dozne scripts about volcanos in the same year - all written separately. Maybe you could trace them all back to a NOVA episode about the "ring of fire" or a volcanic eruption that made the news.
But even with your 4 Horseman idea - it's reasonable that two (or more) screenwriters would have stumbled on the same idea. The seed of that idea is just sitting there, waiting for someone to discover it.
On my site I've been taked "This Day In History" and trying to come up with a movie idea based on whatever happened. It's a great challenge, and has produced a handful of really good ideas... but ANYONE could do the same thing.
One of the good ones was about Woodstock - I wondered what a guy who went to Woodstock was like now - probably a stuffy conservative businessman (we all get older). This guy had a wild past, but now he's living the exact opposite lifestyle. What would happen if that flowerchild woman he had sex with 30 years ago at Woodstock had gotten preggers? And she moved to a commune and gave birth? And now that 29 year old man was looking for his dad? Suddenly, ex-hippe businessman Richard Dreyfus discovers that he has a son... Adam Sandler! Sandler forces Dreyfus to go back to Woodstock with him (yada, yada, yada).
Anyone could have followed the exact same thought pattern as I did.
Part of our job is to come up with an interesting, exciting, creative idea for our story. Since we're all looking for those great ideas, it's only logical that we sometimes find the same ones.
How many killer asteroid movies did they make?
11-04-2000, 02:02 PM
There is absolutely a collective unconscious that drives the creative output of all artists, even we screenwriters (calling us artists is a little bit of a stretch, because as Joyce said, those that write for others or for money are "pornographers")...strangely, the writers getting rewarded out there, in this wonderful moment in American cinema are those that are stretching the boundaries of what we thought acceptable by the powers that be. Charlie Kaufman (for God's sakes do whatever it takes to get a hold of his three unproduced specs, "Adaptation", "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind", and "Human Nature") is the single best screenwriter working right now, because he is servicing no force but his own absolutely middle-of-the-night insane imagination. Who among us would "waste time" writing a screenplay called Being John Malkovich when the script would be basically unproduceable without the participation or at least cooperation of a specific actor? Kaufman is the current standard-setter, because he is bringing to American mainstream cinema what Beckett brought to the theater forty years ago - post-modern rebellion. He is an absolute original, and he just doesn't give a @#%$. He'll probably wind up doing a J.D. Salinger. It often seems there's a movie fairy, and that writers are "stumbling" onto the same concepts because so many are using the same rigid, dull, parameters in designing their story ideas. One key reason: the High Concept bunch are writing for one reason - money and status. Nothing wrong with it. I'm chasing it down like anybody else. But if it's the primary motivator, the imagination is limited - by definition. The thought is "what will They like? what do They want?", when the question SHOULD be: If there were no rules, if I was being paid to write whatever I wanted, what would the silliest, craziest most ridiculous part of me want to write just to entertain myself? Writing from that place - and having talent for execution to begin with - is the single best formula for "success" (define it how you will) that I know of.
11-04-2000, 02:29 PM
When I see that an idea I had already has been made into a successful film, I try to get past disappointment, and focus on the fact that I am tapping into the same conciousness that talented and prosperous writers are! It gives one hope and inspiration, and more confidence in my new ideas.
Funny, I started screenwriting because I had one particular story aching to be put to page. My greatest fear was that that was the only story I had to tell. But once you open your mind, the floodgate of creativity pours forth! I know you are all having the same experience, from reading your posts. Too many ideas, not enough time!
11-04-2000, 02:33 PM
Hey TaoTropics- I read somewhere that Being John Malkovich was first called "Being Danny DeVito," and when he declined, it was "Being Courtney Love," but she didn't like the idea of the hole. Well, you get my drift.
11-04-2000, 02:41 PM
And you missed mine, Daneah. A). That story isn't true. It was always Malkovich. and B). It doesn't matter. Thinking that movie could be considered "high-concept" or acceptable in the traditional "can-I-set-it-up" way producers normally think is patently insane. He wrote it for himself. The rest took care of itself.
11-04-2000, 04:02 PM
Wee bit of semantics getting mixed in here. I differentiate (rightly or wrongly) between a good idea and "high concept."
To me the ultimate "high concept" was You've Got Mail. A great classic comedy could have been made with that premise. What did we get -- empty calories -- could have stayed home and read the logline.
I won't even go into anything described as "_______ meets _______"
Me thinks this is one of the most interesting threads we've had in awhile.
11-04-2000, 04:08 PM
Charlie Kaufman did not write "Adaptation" on 'spec' - he was hired to do it. I'm pretty sure the producers never expected what they got... but then again, that's why you hire Charlie Kaufman. In any case, they're going to try and make what he wrote... which is probably good for everyone concerned.
11-04-2000, 04:36 PM
Your disdain for high concept as espoused by the Hollywoodian powers that be is understandable and even commendable. You want to write stuff with soul, you go girl. I also have a few stories I'd like to get written one day, stories about people, stories with heart. Problem is, as unknowns and especially as foreign unknowns, the best way (so the "wisdom" goes) of breaking into the film business is by writing a high concept script that will attract the salivations of your standard Hollywood exec.
A lot of good working writers started with crap. Frank Darabont, for example, is credited with writing "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors", "The Fly II" and "The Blob". Now he's a multiple oscar winner.
Seems to me, once you're established, you can write things with soul...getting established is the problem.
Oh, and using the " __________ meets __________ " method is one way of getting through to the notoriously short attention spanned execs.
11-05-2000, 04:37 PM
Personally, I think "Malkovich" is a little over-rated, not quite as clever as it thinks it is. But I've read "Adaptation" and that's a work of genuis. I hope Robert Mckee plays himself.
11-05-2000, 10:52 PM
I know he didn't write it on spec - that's the part that impressed me the most. My assignments have been for increasingly more intimidating people - and having the guts to hand something in that (I know his UTA agent warned him of this) could have at least derailed his career (granted, he was already hot - but hot can vanish fast - just ask Danny Rubin or Chris McQuarrie) was an act of creative courage. I am sitting with a book right now that I can't feel...I'm desperately trying to find out how to crack it and I am hemmed in by the constipating requirements of my employer. The idea that Kaufman decided to write his own lack of juice about the article into the screenplay itself was so organic (esp. since it's about orchids and the adaptation of nature)....it's sort of analogous to the kind of post-post modern "truthfulness" of writers like David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers (Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius). Stop acting cool. Just tell the truth. Inspiring.
11-06-2000, 12:23 AM
Tao, I would have posted this on One on One but I haven't seen you down in the sometimes wacky underworld.
I hope you stick around. I like to hear a professional perspective that I suspect is not totally commercial yet versed in "The Way of The World."
I worked several times with the director who was granted first American production rights of Beckett's work. Despite several Tonys (cheap, funny looking things) and some material and family successes, his most prized possession was a small fireproof box -- filled with papers with scribbled, tiny, tiny, writing -- his letters from "Sam"
11-06-2000, 05:55 AM
Frank Darabont - a multiple Oscar winner?
Please elaborate. It's such a great movie that most people forget that "Shawshank" walked away from the Oscars totally empty-handed. I believe that the same is true of "The Green Mile". So, what did Darabont win these Oscars for?
11-06-2000, 08:25 AM
Really? Damn, screwed up.
Okay, sorry for spewing forth just to try strenghten my argument. I am not worthy...I am not worthy... :O
But my point remains the same. He's a fine writer who maybe should've been a mulitple oscar winner, and he started off writing The Blob etc.
11-06-2000, 12:12 PM
A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll Give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly
somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.
11-06-2000, 01:48 PM
Carl Jung wrote a book about it: Synchronicity. He was fascinated by the "plate of shrimp" phenomenom and similar situations. It's a pretty interesting book.
11-06-2000, 02:07 PM
I thought the Police came up with that.
ps my "plate of shrimp" comes from a source more pedestrian (or is that automotive?) than Jung.
11-06-2000, 02:24 PM
In your earlier post, you lumped "Adaptation" in with 2 other 'specs' that Kaufman wrote, that's the only reason I pointed it out.
As far as Dave Eggers is concerned, you cannot - with a straight face at least - claim that he was not being 'cool' in much of the writing of his memoir. (He was so cool at times I almost had to stop reading.) However, he was clearly able to find 'truths' in his feelings and experiences (however muddled, weird and esoteric they may have come out), which served to better illustrate the harsh (i.e. more 'real') contrast of a "Real World" generation's perception (both by themselves and others) vs. their actual feelings. What has been this generation's big struggle? And if it has been mainly only internal and personal, then does that make it less than others'? (I don't know... just a question.)
11-06-2000, 02:49 PM
I had a meeting over at Fox Searchlight last week and the VP of Production was very eager to work with me and asked if there were any books I'd like to adapt. I told him "Infinite Jest." He was very interested, said he'd look into it. I should find out soon if the movie rights are available.
11-06-2000, 05:09 PM
REPO MAN - Tracy Walters
11-06-2000, 06:24 PM
11-06-2000, 08:38 PM
For the past couple of months I have been working like a dog on my 6th screenplay...I'm 42 pages into it. It's a concept I had over two years ago and now finally getting around to completing the screenplay. Here's the dilemma...I checked other movies of this type and came up with nothing similar...which is good since I want it to be different...guess what...10 years ago a movie was made called Class of 1999 that uses some similar ideas (about Robots who take over a school) my storyline is very close...I have never seen the movie. Talk about the unconscious stream of thoughts...whew! Should I go ahead and finish my plotted outline...or go for a drastic rugpull that will change the entire direction of the story...so it won't look like I'm remaking this movie...
Ouch, that sucks. I feel for ya. It's one thing to be scooped by a good flick, but to be scooped by something that Pam Grier shouldn't want on her resume... double ouch.
Regarding universal consciousness, even monkeys have access to it. Thinking now of "the hundredth monkey" phenomenon.
Screenwriters, being monkey's uncles, certainly have it. Impossible, then, to be certain whether any particular idea is yours or whether you're tapping into the common Borg mind that all writers suck inspiration from.
On the outside chance a great idea is yours, take advantage of the small "lag time" between your inspiration (or theft) and the time it takes the idea to gather critical mass, reach the hundredth writer, and explode in the mind of every writer on the same wavelength.
John Truby had good advice: Since the likelihood of selling a script is miniscule, write something that will change your life. Then you get something out of it by just writing it. A sale is icing.
11-06-2000, 09:41 PM
Ksk...you're so right on. The reviews were horrible...I understand they even made a sequel...well...here goes...I may be running my head into a concrete piling on this one...but hell...watch out humanoids here I come...can't stop now...too late. gotta finish what I start...always have and always will. I think I will break all of Issacc Azimov's rules and then some...
11-06-2000, 09:49 PM
It has been said that if you gave an infinite number of monkeys typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they would eventually type out the entire works of Shakespeare.
Well the local university's psychology department could only afford fifty monkeys and fifty typewriters.
In three and a half hours they finished "Valley of the Dolls".
11-06-2000, 09:54 PM
I think the internet has nixed that "put enough monkeys at keyboards and they will type Shakespeare" theory.
11-06-2000, 10:00 PM
11-06-2000, 10:05 PM
I know the producer of CLASS OF 1999 and once pitched sequel ideas (for #3 - so far, they haven't made one). CLASS OF 1999 was a sequel to CLASS OF 1984 - worked with the director of that one. CLASS OF 1984 was the sci-fi remake of BLACKBOARD JUNGLE...
These ideas have been kicking around for a while. No reason why we can't have another one.
PS: My Tip Of The Day tomorrow is 800 words long - it's a darned ARTICLE! Check it out before it disappears.
11-07-2000, 12:12 AM
Thanks Gig, I just spit Cran-Grape juice all over my keyboard.
11-10-2000, 11:17 AM
Crash: Good luck - but it's been around for a couple years and HBO was going to do an "earth to the moon" type" mini-series based on the book. Frankly, I think it might be impossible to adapt (that's a creative opinion, not professional).
RP: I starkly disagree that Eggers was "posing" in his book - when he felt like he was trying to act cool, he acted as his own critic and turned his desire to be a martyr, or a success or whatever into a dialectic (similar to "Adaptation"). The book is certainly not perfect but I think it's a little cynical not to celebrate the wild swing for the bleachers he took.
11-10-2000, 05:52 PM
We all might draw inspiration from the same place but you have the ability to put your own personal spin on the idea.
I wouldn't necessarily change everything but maybe implement
subjects that are hot right now. Instead of robot teachers, suppose they're genetically enhanced clones, A Ben Franklin clone to teach Social Studies, Shakespeare for English, Einstien for math, whatever...
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