Premise: Mythical creatures and monsters have always lived here on earth with us, hiding in the shadows. Guess what. They’re tired of hiding in the shadows.
About: Here’s the thing I don’t understand. Hollywood is so obsessed with IP that they’ll prioritize a comic book turned script that nobody’s ever heard of over writing it on spec to begin with. It’s not even about getting something that’s done well anymore. It just needs to have been published in another medium. Anyway, Lore sold a few years ago for seven figures in a huge bidding war. The Rock was attached.
Writers: Jeremy Lott & Cory Goodman (story by Cory Goodman) – Based on the graphic novel by Ashley Wood & T.P. Louise
Details: 106 pages – 3/20/12 draft
I remember that this was a HUGE sale. And with The Rock starring, it seemed like one of those rare projects that was going to go from purchase to production in under a year. But how many times have purchase-to-production projects been destroyed by the Gods of Hollywood? What’s the old saying? We make plans and God laughs? Yeah, well, Hollywood laughs harder.
What I think is going on here is that Legendary, who spearheaded the project, moved from Warner Brothers to Universal and whenever that shit happens, everything gets fucked up. Then after this sold, the similar-feeling R.I.P.D. came out and did badly, scaring everyone to death. And now WB’s got this Fantastic Beasts movie that seems like a period-piece version of the exact same concept.
It just goes to show why it’s so hard to make movies in this town. The smallest thing can derail your project at any moment. Maybe if the script’s good enough, though, Lore can make a comeback. Let’s find out!
Calliope Saunders saw something amazing when she was 12. A man fighting a dragon-woman. Granted, you can see that kind of thing on Hollywood Boulevard three times a week. But she’s pretty sure this was, like, a real dragon.
Cut to Calliope all grown up, and she’s dedicated her life to figuring out where that creature came from. She’s convinced that there are places on the planet where certain electro-magnetic faults cross, and that those crossing-points are doorways to a monster world.
Despite her fellow scientists laughing her out of the room, Calliope learns just how right her hypothesis is when Shepherd guardian Jonathan Bradley comes to her defense just as a fairy attacks her. Calliope gets a crash course in monster history, where Bradley informs her that all sorts of creatures (sasquatches, minotaurs, fairies, vampires, trolls) are real and that sometimes they illegally step into our world, and guys like him have to stop them.
The two find out that Kiyo, that dragon-lady from the opening, has learned where these crossing points are. If she can get to them before Bradley and Calliope do, she can unleash all the nightmare creatures inside of them, and it’ll be bye-bye humans.
I could break this down the way I usually do and point out the pros and cons, but the truth is, this is a solid well-executed traditional screenplay. It doesn’t surprise you. But it moves along quickly and keeps you entertained enough so that you care. No small feat.
What I’d rather talk about today is team-ups. I was just reading a script the other day with a really good premise but it wasn’t working. It didn’t take long to realize that the main problem was the central team-up. It consisted of two women who had zero conflict, zero tension, and who seemed to get along great. Because of this, almost all of their scenes together were boring.
Coming up with the right team-up in a team-up film can be the difference between success and failure. No matter how cool your set-pieces are or how many million dollar effects shots you have, it all comes back to the characters and if the audience wants to follow them.
There are two core team-up options.
1) Buddy Cop Team-Up – This doesn’t mean a team-up that you only use in buddy cop movies. Rather, it refers to a conflict-heavy relationship between two men or two women where the parties are so different that they disagree on almost everything. This results in a lot of conflict and therefore a lot of entertainment. Keep in mind that the buddy cop team-up does not always need to be of the over-the-top variety. Not every movie is Bad Boys 2. You can play a team-up in a much more subtle manner depending on the genre, tone, and concept.
2) Sexual Tension Team-Up – The sexual tension team-up is when you take a man and a woman and you play up the sexual tension between the two. This is one of the most time-tested set-ups in film history and while the initial assumption might be that it’s cliche, it will work if done well. Also, like the Buddy Cop team-up, you will tailor the level of tension to the genre, the tone, and the story. It could be over the top like James Bond or it could be under the surface, like Once.
These are your two staple team-up options. Once you go outside of them, you can still make it work, but it becomes tougher. A third team-up option is friendship, like Eliot and E.T. But since there’s little conflict in a good friendship, you have to bring conflict in from the outside and have forces trying to tear that friendship apart.
Look at The Force Awakens. They went the friendship route with Rey and Finn. Now I ask you: was that a satisfying storyline? I’d say it was okay. But I didn’t leave The Force Awakens going, “Man, Finn and Rey! Wow. I have to get more of those two!” Friendship is tough to do because screenwriting likes extremes. It likes “we hate each other” or “we love each other.” If you’re in the middle, “Oh, we like to hang out on Saturdays when we’re bored,” it’s hard to make that entertaining.
There are other ways to get creative with team-ups. For example, bring someone in from the past! Now you have a different kind of conflict, one that’s built off of unresolved issues from the past, and therefore conflict with more weight. A classic example of this is Indy and Marion from Raiders.
Another way to deal with a conflict-weak team-up is to bring more characters into the group as the story unfolds. Luke and Obi-Wan’s team-up is fine at first. But if that’s all we had the entire movie? We’d get bored, because they liked each other so much. So what did they do? They brought in Han Solo. And all of a sudden there was tension and conflict everywhere.
Lore chose to go the sexual tension route between Calliope and Bradley and did a pretty good job with it. And that leads us to our final lesson. The reason why getting the team-up right is so important, is because that’s what’s going to make or break the movie. Writers erroneously believe it’s the awesome effects or cool set-piece that’s going to make their movie unforgettable. But when people remember their favorite movies, it’s always the characters. So make sure to get that right.
Lore was fun. This is becoming a familiar story set-up that a lot of writers are using though. We’ve got Ghostbusters, M.I.B., R.I.P.D., Fantastic Beasts. I don’t know if this is original enough to stand out anymore. You gotta find another way in. “Bright” is a good example of finding another way into the monster universe. What about you? What fresh new angle are you hiding up your sleeve?
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Think long and hard about the central-team up in your script and if it provides enough conflict/tension. If it doesn’t, that could result in a really boring movie, since that relationship will be onscreen far longer than any other aspect of the movie. You’ll definitely want to re-think the team-up in a way where there’s adequate conflict to explore.