Genre: TV Pilot – Medical
Premise: A freewheeling drug addict physician runs a discreet medical call service to Los Angeles’s rich and powerful.
About: Even if you’re sitting pretty in the feature world as one of the big up-and-coming directors like Jonathan Levine, you STILL gotta be writing pilots. TV is where it’s at. This show is being made on USA, which, while it hasn’t quite found its way into the same class as the prestige networks (HBO, AMC, NETFLIX), it’s definitely in the second tier, with shows like Burn Notice, Royal Pains and Psych. Psych was pretty good. But I never watched Burn Notice cause whenever I saw the poster, I couldn’t see anyone who was burned, which confused the hell out of me (I’d later learn that “burn notice” was some kind of CIA code that had nothing to do with burning, leaving me to wonder how many other people never gave the show a chance for the same reason). Rush was one of the hotter pilots in town and was recommended highly to me. You may know writer Jonathan Levine as the director of 50/50 and the writer/director of Warm Bodies.
Writer: Jonathan Levine
Details: 58 pages (June 2013 draft)

PA-13514360Tom Ellis will play William Rush

Hey. It’s fun reading scripts again! I’ve been on a reading sushi roll lately. We had Cake, which was like a Caterpillar Roll, Hot Air, which was like a Spicy Tuna Roll, and Tyrant, which was like a Dragon Roll!

To keep this analogy going, every writer starts out with a bowl of seaweed and rice. It’s what they do with the rest of the roll that sets them apart. Your signature dish is your “voice.” Do you want to keep things conservative and make a solid California roll? Or do you want to deep fry that center and give your diner a crunchy surprise in the middle? Are you a big wasabi guy? Or do you think that extra bit of spice overrides the other flavors?

All I know about sushi is don’t go to a place called “He Said Su-Shi Said” on Sawtelle and Olympic. I can promise you right now, your experience will not be good. And with that winning bit of advice, on to Rush!

Our show title is derived from our main character’s name – William Rush. Our introduction to Rush (the character, not the show) attempts to do something all writers should be doing when they introduce their main characters. Give us a reason to like them and give us the flaw that haunts them. Rush is making a move on an attractive club hopper while doing coke (ah, his flaw!) who then overdoses. He calmly walks over to his suitcase, takes out a syringe of adrenaline, and jams it into her neck (he saves her. We like him!). Rush, it turns out, is an on-call doctor.

But not the kind who takes Obamacare. Oh no, Rush runs a different kind of operation. He performs medical jobs for high-class clients who prefer to keep their personal fuck-ups… discreet. For example, the Los Angeles Dodgers clean up hitter, Red Cummings, beats his girlfriend up regularly. Can’t have that making the papers, so he calls Rush in to treat her injuries privately.

Obviously, the temperature of Rush’s moral compass rarely rises above freezing. This is a man with no feelings, no judgments. He just wants to do his job, get paid in cold hard cash, then go home and do drugs. Anything to keep him numb. From his actions? From his thoughts? We don’t know yet. But there’s no question this dude has some skeletons in his closet.

Rush is surprised when his one true love, Sarah, comes back in town, and since she’s the only thing that’s ever been good to him, he decides he wants to be a part of her life again. The problem is, Sarah doesn’t fall for his bullshit like all these dumb aspiring actresses and club-hopping cocaine addicts do. She knows that when you date Rush, you date his addictions, and howdee-doody time, that always ends badly.

It’s probably for the best, since Rush’s job is getting more dangerous by the day. Turns out Red has some gangster friends, one of whom gets shot and needs attention pronto. As if trying to save a gun-shot victim with spurting blood and no tools isn’t hard enough, Rush has to do it with a gun to his face.

But that’s the crazy thing about Rush. These surprises don’t phase him. Maybe, just maybe, they might even excite him. But if Rush ever plans on getting someone like Sarah, someone he respects and loves, he’s going to have to give this life up. And we get the feeling that no matter how much he wants to, that ain’t going to happen. This is who he is.

burn_notice_ver5So where are, like, the burned people?

I’ll give Rush this. It lives up to its title. This pilot flew by, one of those rare reading experiences where you look up at the page number and it’s actually BIGGER than you expected.

Here’s my thing with the show, though. And it’s funny I wrote earlier that USA hadn’t cracked the top tier of programming yet, because that’s exactly what this feels like. An “almost edgy” show.  And heck, that may have been what Levine was going for.  Maybe that’s what USA wanted and so that’s what he gave them.  But Rush isn’t edgy enough to hang with shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards.  It was definitely edgier than shows you find on network TV, but that doesn’t get you a seat at the cool kids table.

The biggest chance it took was Red and the girlfriend-beating. Walking in after Red had teed up on his woman and Rush not doing anything about it was hard to watch.  But that’s what you have to do as a writer if you’re writing this kind of material.  You have to create uncomfortable situations.  It’s what helps you stand out from the competition.

With that said, it still felt too safe. There was never a moment where I felt something truly shocking was going to happen. Like at the end of the “Shield” pilot where our hero cop just shoots a man in cold blood. Once that shit happens, the relationship changes between the writer and the audience. The audience no longer feels comfortable. They feel like the floor can slide out from under them at any second. And that’s a great place to have an audience because it keeps them excited. The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have become famous for this. Here, everything felt like one of those USA posters with their Kardashian lighting and that big safe blue sky in the background to let you know everything was going to be okay in the end. I wasn’t scared.

That’s not to say this was a bad pilot by any means. It had a handful of really good scenes, including a star-maker in the middle where Rush is performing surgery on this gangster using clueless fellow gangsters as nurses and working with practically no equipment. The highlight is when they blow a fuse and the lights go out, leaving the room dark, and Rush tells everyone to get their phones out and hold them over the body to light it as he continued to save the man. It was a cool image and something I’d never seen before.

Levine also shows how to hide exposition well. Remember, when you’re trying to give the audience information, you can’t have your character stand up on a podium and call out all the facts. The audience will groan. You need to be clever. So let’s say you have to tell the audience that Sarah and Rush have been together for four years. How would you go about conveying that without drawing attention to it? Go ahead, write the dialogue now then compare it to below. Notice how Levine hides the info inside a comeback line from Sarah.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 12.44.06 AM

That’s good writing!

But in the end, while I’d probably recommend reading it, Rush had too many traces of ‘formula’ for me to really get behind it. I like my TV serialized, so it takes a good procedural to win me over. And this felt like House mixed with Royal paints (or how Royal Pains looks, since I’ve never seen it). My hope is that they’re going to push the boundaries with this show and take things up a notch. No more big, bright, and pretty. Give us rusted and broken. We’ll see what Levine has in store for us soon.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: (The Uncertainty Factor) Remember, one of the best types of TV characters are the ones with a shitty moral compass. Give us a protag who lives right on that line between good and bad, so that every situation they’re in, we’re not sure what they’re going to do. So when Rush walks into a room, is he going to help the client (Red), even though it means someone else gets fucked (the battered girlfriend), or is he going to do the right thing and save the person in need? That’s what makes shows like this exciting, is the uncertainty-factor whenever our character walks into a situation.

  • GYAD

    Seems kinda like a medical “Ray Donovan”.

    That problem I had with that show – and that I imagine I’ll have with this – is that for all the patter about being edgy, the protagonist is helping scumbags to escape their actions.

    That’s kinda hard to sympathise with.

    I have to say I’m getting burnt out on morally dubious protagonists. Sure, as script readers the “edgy” character appeals to our jaded palates but there have been so many of late that seeing a morally upstanding hero in a (non-network) series is becoming unusual.

    Right now my favourite show is “Longmire”, in part because by being so old-school it’s different to everything else on TV. Also, the hero threatened a criminal with a bear.

    • Randy Williams

      I think the character in this gets a pass because he’s a drug addict. We understand his weakness and the enablers he surrounds himself with are only to protect his fragile ego. We can imagine eventually their sordid experiences will gnaw at him until eventually he sees himself as they are and changes. In the meantime, we can delight in the sordidness knowing we are stronger than that.

      Had a friend into pills surrounded by others into the same. I’m not into that. Steered my friend away from it. Who was the most suspect when some shit hit the fan? Me. What was my intention being his friend, huh? How about friendship? We’re all burnt out.

      • GYAD

        I’m not sure that ‘I fix the medical problems of scumbags for cash…but only to feed my drug addiction’ is much more sympathetic.

    • ripleyy

      I remember they showed a part in a Ray Donovan trailer that never made it to series, so I kept watching it to see when it’d come into play but it never. By that time, I was so engrossed in with the series that I didn’t really care. I can stomach Ray but “Game of Thrones” is so full of morally-gray characters that it feels like every character is morally-gray. I feel like I need to watch Grey’s Anatomy just to feel better about myself.

    • Matty

      Glad to see someone else who likes Longmire. Also currently my favorite show on television (that’s currently airing – Justified would be my favorite show still running, which is ironically very similar to Longmire, and yet Longmire is almost the anti-Justified).

      • GYAD

        Longmire is great. It’s like John Wayne made a TV series.

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      The problem I had with Ray Donovan is that it doesn’t deliver on its promise/premise. I thought it would be about a Hollywood fixer, but instead it turned out to be about him and his fucked up family. They should call it “The Donovans” instead.

      And speaking about favorite shows, the only pilot that got me really excited was Halt and Catch Fire’s pilot. Truly badass.

  • koicvjr

    50/50 was good but Warm Bodies was painful. I know it’s for a younger demo but we gotta give teens and tweens more credit. Give them something smarter. The style of Warm Bodies was kind of nauseating.

    • gazrow

      Warm Bodies did pretty well at the box office – teens and tweens liked it!!

      • koicvjr

        Opened for 20 million. Not good enough. Our expectations are not high enough. But I would agree with you that some people did like it. This does not preclude us giving them something better.

        • gazrow

          Budget was: $35,000,000. USA Gross was: $66,359,959. Worldwide: $116,980,662 – Seems to have turned a healthy profit!

          Not saying it’s a particularly great film or that it can’t be improved upon. But there’s no denying it was quite well received by its intended audience.

          • astranger2

            It was in my queue so I started watching it — only ten minutes in, but thus far, I have to admit I like it’s tone and dry undead humor…

          • koicvjr


  • Magga

    Change the genders of the two leads, move it to DC and switch the gangsters with politicians who are horrible but need to be protected because a scandal will endanger a very important program that will benefit people and you’ve got yourself a show.

    • Magga

      Uh, I actually just realized i pretty much turned it into Scandal. Either way, female antiheroes’ time has come

      • UrbaneGhoul

        I thought that was intentional. But I think having this be a female doctor would make the girlfriend beating scenes more interesting. The girlfriend starts saying she doesn’t need to hear from her that she’s too strong to take this and the Doctor is just nope. Just treats her and leaves her till next time.

  • Randy Williams

    Reminds me of the recent short lived series, “The Mob Doctor” I really liked Jordana Spiro in that.

    • IgorWasTaken

      I love Jordana Spiro, but IMO that show sucked doctor-balls.

  • kenglo

    Anyone have the script?

    • drifting in space

      I’d love a copy. I think everyone here has my email address already haha.

  • Brainiac138

    What do you think about stating the drug addition is the character’s flaw? I’ve always been told that addiction should be a symptom, of the character’s flaw, but if you were to make the character’s flaw be “needs to escape the world to deal with the world” then wouldn’t the addiction and flaw be one and the same?

  • IgorWasTaken

    Huh. This is the very same conceit as “Royal Pains”, except it’s moved from NY to LA: A doctor does concierge service for self-involved, uber-demanding, really-rich people. Both shows are/will be on USA, but I thought usually one net rips off a different net. Not this time.

    The similarity is not just like, when Friends was running, doing a show about a bunch of 20-something friends. It’d be like, way back when, doing a copy of the A-Team, but making the team guys former Navy Seals instead of Green Berets.

    And so now, USA will have a new prodco doing a derivative show based on one it’s now buying from a different prodco. I wonder what the “politics” of that is.

  • Nicholas J

    BURN NOTICE had 7 seasons. CHUCK had 5. MONK had 8.

    Some people like “safe.” Not every show has to have brothers raping sisters and fathers running meth empires. If USA airs a show like that it becomes a whole different station. That’d be like CBS adding ALWAYS SUNNY to their sitcom lineup.

    Sometimes a show/film just needs to be judged on what it set out to be.

    • Nick Morris

      “Sometimes a show/film just needs to be judged on what it set out to be.”
      Absolutely. Sometimes it feels like this mentality died with Roger Ebert.

      • Matty

        This is exactly how I try to judge scripts when I read them, and how I feel most people should judge scripts if they’re giving feedback on them. Unfortunately, most people approach scripts in a “this is what I would’ve done” way, rather than evaluating it on the merits of what it was obviously trying to be/what the writer wanted it to be.

    • Logic Ninja

      Agreed. If the only kind of show allowed a seat at the “cool kids’ table” is “rusted and broken,” I feel we’ll have lost a big chunk of TV’s potential. It IS possible to push the artistic boundaries of screenwriting without making a scene more f***ed up; a scene can become more beautiful, more resonant, or more cathartic, without becoming a single note darker. Beauty, resonance and catharsis do not preclude darkness; nor do they require it.

      • Hadley’s Hope

        Reading your post made me think of Farscape. That show had interesting and lovable characters but could switch from adventure to slapstick comedy then to weird sci-fi stuff and back to adventure again. It also had some darker elements such as villain Scorpious’ tortured past. All wrapped up in a vast space opera setting which gives Star Wars and Star Trek a run for their money.

        Sure it is no Game of Thrones, but it was more fun IMO. I miss that kind of show. Now I feel old.

    • ThomasBrownen

      There’s a long-running debate in my family about which is better: Burn Notice, Chuck, Monk, or Psych. I’m firmly on team Chuck. Burn Notice was good, but always seemed a tad slow and predictable for me; Monk’s humor wasn’t quite funny enough for me; and although Psych was funny, it was weak on plot.

      But still, something about these shows clearly works for people. I agree that not every show has to be “edgy” and “dark” to do well, and it’s good to remind ourselves of that. Sometimes TV shows are best when they take the advice of that Bop-It game: “Do it the same, but uhh, better.”

      • Hadley’s Hope

        I’m gonna go with Psych since I never watched Chuck, and Monk got on my nerves. Burn Notice was fun, but the comedic chemistry between Shaun and Gus puts their show on top. Just as HBO is known for darker and more serious or edgy fare, USA is good at lighter shows that just want to have fun. That’s not a bad thing. Although, I do miss the days when they had The 4400 and The Dead Zone on back to back. A show like that would fit in well with the current line-up, but also adding a bit of variety to the channel.

        • ThomasBrownen

          Also, I should point out that Chuck was on NBC, while the other three were on USA. Maybe there’s a difference in the resources and budget available at those networks that affected the quality of the shows.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Aren’t USA, NBC, and SyFy all part of Universal?

            I remember this because back in the days of Battlestar Galactica (before SciFi became SyFy) season one, they aired a couple episodes on NBC one weeknight to see if the show could potentially catch a bit of interest from the larger primetime network audience.

            Of course it didn’t pull in big NBC numbers and stayed inside the borders of cable. Which was probably a good thing for BSG, since it likely would have died on NBC when they got to the end of season two, that is if it even lasted that long in such a television landscape. Those were the early days of this TV renaissance, when Lost was still picking up steam and Desperate Housewives was a shockingly bold risk for a major network to support. Just shows how much has changed since then in terms of TV versus feature films.

      • Paul Clarke

        I loved Chuck. Having worked at a big department store that’s pretty much what it’s like. Plus Yvonne Stahovski – enough said.

        It was all downhill once they left the Buy-More and Chuck became a proper spy.

        • Steex

          I couldn’t agree more.

    • Mike.H

      I wonder what is Tony Shaloub doing with his residual MUUNEY?

  • kenglo

    Seems like a good place to put two cents in here – Is this true?

    • astranger2

      Great article, kenglo! Thanks for sharing. Found this part particularly interesting:

      “Television, on the other hand, works differently. There are too many networks now competing for attention and they don’t have the luxury of spending the huge sums movie studios can to cut through the marketing clutter and get the consideration of the potential viewer. So, they have no choice but to make shows that stand out from everything else based on their quality and distinctiveness. That is why, in recent years, you’ve gotten to watch not onlyBreaking Bad, but also The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy, and Homeland.None had pricey CGI, huge stars, or a flashy, unavoidable ad campaign; all they had was terrific writing, acting, and originality that made people want to recommend these shows to their friends.

      Fortunately, the movie studios have just been hammered hard enough on such derivative summer movies as Battleship, Dark Shadows, and Total Recall that they are seeing a need to change what they’ve been doing before the audience pulls farther away from them. “There’s a certain amount of disenchantment out there,” Exec A said at the end of our interview. Exec B summed it up this way: “I think as recently as two years ago, a mediocre big action movie could be made at a price point where the international numbers let you get out alive. This year it is different. You can’t get away with it. Audiences are too money-conscious and tickets are too expensive. Particularly domestically, they’re not showing up for the middle [i.e. stuff that is just passable]. Quality is everything.”

      • kenglo

        Yeah, but what does that say about us little guys trying to break in now. Where does that leave US??

        From the get go, all I heard was “Write a great script, keep it low budget, contained, minimal cast, so a producer/actor will want to do it (Low Dweller, Drive, Killing Them Softly, and on a higher level, Bourne, Jack Reacher, Ride Along, 21/22 Jump Street ???)

        Seems to me, the answer is creating a film YOURSELF, something on a shoestring budget, that creates buzz, then, and only then, will you get some attention. I’m really leaning towards that….just need 100k…or so…

        • astranger2

          Maybe I read the article with rose-colored contacts — but I felt it more optimistic about having “quality” scripts being purchased and produced. It’s not happening right now, but unless I’m misreading the article, the “certain amount of disenchantment out there” with high budget films like Battleship and Total Recall represents some hope for us in the future.

          After all, it’s an easier gamble with a relatively cost-effective Ted, or a Terms of Endearment, than a 250 MM sic-fi — maybe the studios will give stronger consideration to quality, like Hot Air or Cake?

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Or how about something like District 9?

            Making three films of that scale for 30 million a piece and then bringing in say 70 million in profit each sounds more logical than dumping so much into one big mega-tentpole. Instead they always seem to go for the 200 million dollar blockbuster that has a 150 million dollar marketing tab tacked on, which if not a 600-700 million dollar hit ends up potentially crashing the studio.

          • astranger2

            Well, as I said, unless I’ve misread the article — which I have been known to do, lol — I think it gives a glimmer of hope. If you look at Neighbors (didn’t see it), it was made for $18mm and took in over $230mm.

            Might it then make logical sense to make a dozen of these, where you only had to make good on a few to capitalize? It’s no longer a secret television writing has better quality than most movies.

            District 9 was like a well written Twilight Zone episode. Poe was discussing Richard Matheson the other day. I really believe the future holds an opportunity for quality scripts.

            I had forgotten Matheson had written Duel. Talk about a low-budget idea (TV movie if you didn’t know, and what launched Spielberg. I think it started as an USC student film)

            — a businessman is stalked by an unseen trucker. A Man and a Truck. Can’t get much simpler than that. Dennis Weaver wasn’t even driving a Ferrari… some old Dodge or something.

            My point is, MAYBE the studios will look for more cost-effective gambles? Better to gamble with $14MM than $250MM. The Fault in Our Stars was made for around that.

          • kenglo

            Yes, perfect examples… gotta look at Neighbors though….who was behind it, the stars. Of course they took a chance on a low brow comedy with sex jokes and a college demographic with Zac Efron and Seth Rogan (whom I will forever hate for taking the Green Hornet away from Master Stephen Chow!!).

            I’m just saying, unless you have an ‘in’, there is a pinhole for all of us to squeeze through.


          • Hadley’s Hope

            Forget squeezing through a pinhole, take inspiration from Duel and steal a semi truck and crash through the studio gates!

            Do your rewrites in jail.

            Emerge from prison generating mega buzz as the next bad boy writer-director ready to take the industry by storm.

          • astranger2

            That’s got Mega-hit written all over it! (… and you could probably bring it in for under $15MM, depending on the economy when kenglo got out… jail locations are relatively inexpensive. ) ; v )

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I already see the three acts for this:

            Act I – done in a found footage style as the desperate screenwriter films his truck heist and movie studio gate crashing.

            Act II – is a prison film. Fights and a plan to escape, as things get really bleak… then our fledgling screenwriter turned convict is released early for good behavior.

            B story – the media and twitterati hyping up this jailbird scribe, counting down the days until his release.

            Act III – the noirish Hollywood satire of fame and overexposure. Ultimately ending in a krocodil infused surreal Gatsby-scale party at a massive mansion where one of the now superstar scribe’s enemies from prison shows up armed to the teeth.

          • astranger2

            lol… that’s good… and you have a built in sequel…

            As you’ve written, the posh crowd ingests Krocodil,

            From a CNN article:

            “A flesh-eating drug that turns people into zombie-like creatures seems to have made its way to the United States.”

            So the superstar scribe’s enemies ingest the Krocodil, and in the final scene, and after he THINKS he’s killed them all… voila, Krocodil Zombies!!!

          • Hadley’s Hope

            The twist for the sequel could be that we never really know if the entire krocozombie thing is real or a hallucination that the drugged out scribe is experiencing.

          • kenglo

            LOL U guys are nuts!

          • kenglo

            Penitentiary !! Or as it was rewritten by Isaac Florentine – Undisputed I, II, III !!

          • kenglo

            It’s hard out here for a pimp…. :)

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Speaking of Duel, there was a similar film made a little over a decade ago which used the same premise. Joyride, which starred Paul Walker and Steve Zahn, was a good updating of the premise. Here we had two guys and a girl instead of one frieghtened motorist. This allowed them to play off one another as things escalated. Another addition was allowing the evil truck driver to speak and taunt the young driver and his two passengers via a CB radio.

            The whole thing ended on a mysterious note hinting that the sick and twisted big rig driving murderer had done these kinds of evil deeds in the past. I’m surprised they didn’t make sequels. Maybe Joyride didn’t make a big enough profit even though it was a low to moderate budget thriller.

            Anyways, the thing I liked about Joyride was that it wasn’t exactly a remake of Duel, but it was obviously inspired by it and proudly wore that inspiration on its sleeve. Compare this to the remake of another road movie thriller, The Hitcher. The remake was okay I guess, but too predictible. Looking at how Joyride riffed on Duel, I’m surprised we haven’t seen a good horror movie franchise built from the concept of a killer hitchhiker. Not a remake, but a new injection of blood into the basic concept of The Hitcher. Could be done for cheap yet has the potential for a decent return on investment.

          • astranger2

            I loved Joyride. “Can-dy Cane…” voiced eerily by Silence of the Lamb’s “Buffalo Bill.” There was some nice humor to it also.

            Because of that, not as riveting as Duel, but still a nice “ride.” One thing it lacked in comparison, is the feeling of isolation Weaver had. He was truly terrified, and alone… But joyride was good, definitely.

            Hitcher idea is good. When you posting it on AOW?

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Hitchhiker idea? AOW? I’ll send in a hastily written first draft, constructed over the next 72 hours, typed out in a fury during an insane bender fueled by Cherry Dr. Pepper, Chipotle, and cocaine powdered donuts.

            Carson will love it.

          • Poe_Serling

            I guarantee it will get a [X] worth the read if it features a scene involving a severed thumb.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            A severed thumb stuck in the hole of a cocaine powdered donut while they stop at a diner outside of the Tannhauser Gate.

          • Poe_Serling

            Plus, it pays homage to one of the most memorable scenes in Hitcher… when C. Thomas Howell finds a severed finger in his french fries.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Yes. That was a good scare. The Hitcher was one of those films I came across late one night on cable long ago. I should have went to bed, but then there’s Rutger Hauer who was so great in Blade Runner. So I watch a bit more and am eventually hooked. Stayed up and watched the whole thing.

          • klmn

            You shouldn’t have mentioned the donuts. Carson will go crazy.

          • Hadley’s Hope


            Goal – Steaks – Urgency – Donuts

          • Poe_Serling

            Joyride is a solid thriller. There’s a ton of tense scenes in that pic. The one I think that really kicks the film into high hear is where Rusty Nail is tricked into bringing pink champagne to the motel room.

            Also, there have been two direct-to-video sequels to Joy Ride: Joy Ride 2 – Dead Ahead and Joy Ride 3 – Road Kill. You see them pop up occasionally on the Chiller Network.

            And I agree that Duel is the gold standard for these kind of films. Richard Matheson’s inspiration for the story:

            “When he heard news of the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas on 22 November 1963, Matheson abandoned a game of golf and was returning home when he was continually tailgated by a truck. This inspired a long story, Duel, which he adapted for Spielberg’s terrifyingmade-for-television movie. Spielberg added scenes for a cinema release,but Matheson preferred the TV version.”

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Matheson is Legend

            Sorry, I just had to do it.

            Speaking of contained low budget thrillers, one of his best was Nightmare at 20,000 Ft. I’m waiting for the day that gets made into its own standalone feature length film. Or was that recent Liam Neeson airline thriller too similar?

            I wasn’t aware of there being two sequels to Joy Ride. I’ll have to seek them out to see how they compare to the first film.

          • Poe_Serling

            Oh yeah, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet is a classic TZ. My other favorite TZ episode from Matheson – Night Call. It’s the one where the elderly woman is haunted by mysterious phone calls.

            A few years back, I recall that the screenwriting team of Michael Brandt and Derek Haas were trying to bring Matheson’s TZ episode Death Ship to the big screen. Premise: An interplanetary expedition from earth finds an exact duplicate of their ship and themselves crashed on the planet they were surveying.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Was Death Ship the one DiCaprio was interested in remaking? Or was that an Outer Limits episode? The premise is cool though. Thinking on how they would possibly need to expand upon the original episode for a feature, would the crew maybe find some of their duplicates still alive, or all dead? I’ve seen quite a few TZ episodes, both the original and the 1980s revival, but Death Ship doesn’t ring a bell. I’m gonna have to seek that one out and give it a look.

            As for favorite TZ episodes, in addition to Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, my favorite might just be Eye of the Beholder. That one really got under my skin. The 1980s revival of TZ had some good ones too. The Helgramite Method is just begging to be adapted into a feature by someone like Guillermo del Toro or David Cronenberg.

          • Poe_Serling

            I know Appain Way (Leo’s prod. co.) was planning a Twilight Zone film with Warner Bros. The leaked plot at that time:

            “A test pilot who winds up breaking the speed of light; when he puts
            down his craft, he discovers that he’s landed a bit late for supper – 96
            years late.”

          • Hadley’s Hope

            That rings a bell.

            Also, sounds slightly reminiscent of one of my favorite books The Forever War, which was once in the works with Ridley Scott in the director’s seat.

          • Poe_Serling

            Just recently I caught a few reruns of the short-lived horror anthology series Night Visions on the SyFy channel. The one episode I recommend is “Now He’s Coming Up the Stairs” starring Luke Perry. It’s a really fun and scary story that fits perfectly in a 30-minute time slot.

          • astranger2

            The Alfred Hitchcock black-and-whites were great too.

            Two of the shows remain indelibly etched in my memory…

            One features a young bride, portrayed by Hitch’s first “girl,” Vera Miles. She is sexually assaulted and found in a catatonic state by Francis Bavier (Aunt Bee) and her husband, Ralph Meeker.

            Left in this vegetative state, all she does is stare vacantly ahead. But while driving through town, though still in a trance, she mutters with some life, “that’s him! That’s him!”

            Her husband stops the car, looks at a man walking the sidewalk in a business suit. He asks her, “are you sure?”

            “That’s him! That’s him!” She only replies.

            He shakes his head, grabs a pipe wrench from under his seat, and tells her to wait in the car.

            He follows the businessman into a hotel room and crushes his skull.

            He goes back to the car and says to his bride, “he won’t be hurting any more innocent young women.”

            As they drive away, his wife sees another businessman walking, and mutters with agitation, “that’s him! that’s him!”

            The look on Meeker’s face is priceless…

            Hitch wasn’t so bad either… ; )

          • Poe_Serling

            I usually watch both Thriller (hosted by Boris Karloff) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents on MeTv on Sunday nights… a great way to unwind and relax before the start of a new week. ;-)

          • astranger2

            I apologize then. I was going to include *SPOILER* but figured you’d either had seen it, or wouldn’t… ; (

          • Poe_Serling

            To be honest, the plot sounds vaguely familiar. There’s a good chance I’ve probably seen it… so no need for the SPOILER alert.

            Often when you watch a bunch of these type of shows (Hitch, TZ, Thriller, Outer Limits, Etc), I find there can be quite a bit of overlap in regard to themes, characters, and even general storylines.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            The more of them you watch, the easier it becomes to spot a lot of the twists or final reveals. Which isn’t really a problem since these types of shows are basically made up of a bunch of short films. They go by pretty quick and it is time for another episode.

            I’d love to see some feature length horror/thriller/sci-fi anthology movies made nowadays. There are the V/H/S low budget horror anthology flicks as far as I know. A big budget Twilight Zone or Outer Limits movie could be a lot of fun.

          • klmn

            There was a Twilight Zone anthology movie in 1983. It was only fair, IMO.


            Vic Morrow was killed during the filming and there was a trial, no convictions.


          • Hadley’s Hope

            Oh yeah. That one also had an adaptation of the classic Nightmare At 20,000 Feet. I think enough time has passed for another crack at a Twilight Zone movie. That or one of The Outer Limits.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            I’ve seen only a few episodes of Hitchcock’s anthology show. One that I distinctly remember is the episode titled Night Caller. A young Bruce Dern portrays the villain.

          • astranger2

            I remember that one… young house wife threatened by a young teen neighbor, or something like that…

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Yeah, a peeping tom.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Speaking of scary stories, there was this trilogy of spooky story anthologies I used to love when I was a kid. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, by Alvin Schwartz. They featured some really cool black and white illustrations. A lot of the stories were kind of tame by today’s standards, and a bit urban mythic, but a lot of fun.

            Supposedly a feature film adaptation of these books is in the works. I’m guessing a lot of folks out there who grew up during the 80s and 90s would be interested in a movie anthology of these stories.

          • astranger2

            Eye of the Beholder was great. I think it starred Elly May Clampett. Two, starring Charles Bronson and Liz Montgomery. So many — Stopover in a Quiet Town.

            But The Invaders is high on the list, about the addled old country woman being stalked by “aliens” in space suits…

          • Malibo Jackk

            JA looked into this issue in a podcast sometime ago.

            Decided it made more sense to develop a big budget picture
            and get it right, than put the same amount of effort into EACH of a dozen or so smaller pictures. (12 TIMES THE EFFORT)

            And then there’s the need to spend 50 MILLION PLUS on promoting the movie.

            (There are only two ways to get to heaven:
            Write a good movie that’s easy to produce with a MINIMAL BUDGET.
            Or, write that HUGE CONCEPT BLOCKBUSTER that everyone’s got to see.
            God loves a great movie.)

          • Hadley’s Hope

            What happens when God gets addicted to Netflix, young adult novels/movies, and Call of Duty?

            The Apocalypse?

          • astranger2

            That probably was an interesting chat. But he was speaking from a director’s perspective. From a studio perspective, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to spread the risk, as opposed to the eggs in one or two baskets fashion. It would be 12 times the effort, but potentially from 12 different directors?

            But maybe with CGI the days of a Cleopatra potentially bankrupting a company is less likely. Especially as Hadley had pointed out, with all the ancillary merchandising deals with the Burger Kings and the like.

            In fact, wasn’t Cars 2 made solely for the merchandizing bonanza already in place? … Capitalism, what a concept.

          • Malibo Jackk

            He was speaking from a studio perspective.
            (Imagine a studio executive having to eat 12 times as many lunches.)

            Studios are control freaks.
            The execs keep their jobs by convincing people that everything
            that works was their idea.

            (Cleopatra resulted from turning over control to Liz Taylor.)

          • astranger2

            Twelve times as many lunches? Harvey Weinstein looks as if does that anyway… ; )

          • Hadley’s Hope

            The Twelve Lunches: A $atire

            Somebody write this! It could be the next “The Player.”

          • klmn

            Twelve Lunches And A Funeral.

            Coming soon in Cheeseburgervision.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Tuesday Night Twelve Lunch Fever

            How many times can an aspiring producer eat at In ‘N Out Burger during a single day? It’s got GSU. He has to get Grendl’s script greenlit and fast tracked at one of the major studios, because a crazed Sean Penn (deep in character as an insane drugged out mogul for an upcoming remake of Sunset Boulevard) is threatening to chop up Carson and turn him into a human spring roll if this task is not accomplished by midnight.

          • klmn

          • Hadley’s Hope

            It’s a rock and roll musical of Creature From The Black Lagoon meets Star Trek, with massive fast food merchandising potential.

          • Malibo Jackk

            The H-man has being looking good lately.
            (He’s a fan of this web site.)

          • klmn

            Check out this book:


            I’ve read it and it is definitely [XX] Worth The Read.

            I just noticed that this came up on the same page:


            Now I’m jonesing to read this. The price is pretty high – I think I’ll wait till I can get a used copy for less.

          • astranger2

            Captured this on Wiki:

            “Actors who obtained their career breaks working for Corman include Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, Sandra Bullock, and Robert De Niro. David Carradine, who received one of his first starring film roles in the Corman-produced Boxcar Bertha (1972) and went on to star in Death Race 2000.”

            Didn’t realize how well-thought of he is… Even James Cameron praised him…

          • klmn

            Francis Ford Coppola directed Dementia 13 for Corman.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            James Cameron worked for Corman in the years leading up to The Terminator. While there he designed a spaceship with tits for the low budget Star Wars inspired Battle Beyond The Stars.


          • kenglo

            This kinda makes my point. We probably have to wallow in making these type of films (B-Movies) with a small company in order to break into the big time. Unless we have an awesome script, we cannot break in with just a script. It happens, but more often it doesn’t. So the strategy should be to make a movie with your iPad or iPhone (HD Camera) and get a MAC with movie magic or whatever it’s called, and edit the crap out of it, perfect the sound, add music – WALA!

          • kenglo

            True story – I have a ‘pass’ letter from Roger Corman (hope I’m not dating myself!). It was my very first screenplay. Typed. Brass binding. I still have that letter. It was nice actually.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            All this talk of B movie moguls has me craving a viewing of MATINEE.

          • klmn

            You tell ‘em, Rev!

          • kenglo

            That’s the thing Hadley ( I can call you Hadley right?). If someone fronted me 10-30 million, I can almost guarantee 30-75M return. All you need is BALLS! Balls to go out and find the right script, and believe in the project, and find the right people to make it, and the right people to star in it, and the balls to say, dammit, we are gonna make a MOVIE. And I’m gonna blow you away on a 5M $$ budget! The little production companies have to be smart with their 3-5M budgets, and not make some ‘pet’ project. They have to really want to make a quality film that will make money, and NOT be afraid to do it. You play to win, not play to just…play…

            GRRRRrrrr! I’m mad!!

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Yeah man!

            We need more Ripleys and less Burkes in the movie industry.

            “This is a multi-million dollar franchise. He can’t make that kind of decision, he’s just a screenwriter… no offense.”

          • kenglo

            But looking through the last year or so, films that are drama and low budget haven’t really set the world on fire. Look at Dwayne Johnson and Wahlberg, who still take a chance and do ‘little’ films like FASTER or SNITCH. Look at OUT OF THE FURNACE. Those are the films that used to garner 60-75 million on a *low* budget. Now they are lucky to break even (20-30M). If I write the greatest low budget actioner (say THE MARINE 8) would someone buy it? Would an actor hear about it and want to do it? CHances are slim and none, coming from someone who can’t even get a query returned. Okay, I’m venting, but you get my drift?

            I saw EDGE OF TOMORROW for Daddy’s Day (thank God for Father’s Day!) and I LOVED IT. Totally different from the original (2) scripts I have read, but still GREAT.

            But after I watched it, I felt sad. I had the same feeling I felt after watching AVATAR – How the HELL can we compete with these guys???!!

            GGGRRRRrrrr! I’m mad….

          • astranger2

            But the article is saying PERHAPS there is a shift in the Big Blockbuster mind set beginning. Not a 9.0 type seismic, L.A. swallowing shift… but a small tremor… building…

            If you write a quality script, I think you can compete. Now, I’m not talking your good, or great script — I’m talking a page-turning “impressive” or “genius” read where Carson even forgets he has the internet, and doesn’t try to sneak a peak at Screenwriters Gone Wild, while Miss SS is watching Sense and Sensibility for the twelfth time.

            I think the door might be opening just a crack, for a great spec script. Great writing is great writing. If your script is written well enough, no reader cares about typos or wrylies, or bolding, or italics.

            They only notice it on boring scripts. I was talking to a friend about a Nicholl’s script I had recently read. An older winner, late 90s and obviously not done on Final Draft, with multiple typos, formatting issues, and other problems.

            But as Malibo had noted, the Nicholls is more a contest for screenwriters, not screen plays. It’s about your writing ability. And this script was a haunting, and gripping read. For me, anyway.

            The screenplay, Mama and Me, won because the writer had a distinctive voice, and the tone and writing was disturbingly unique… oh, faux paus, no degrees of uniqueness…

            But if you can write Duel… I think instead of being angry, you should be glad… there’s hope for the flowers, imho. @}—-

          • Hadley’s Hope

            The ultimate rub with Edge of Tomorrow is that it barely flickered across the silver screens of the world before it was declared a flop, since it didn’t make a bajillion bucks on opening (Thursday 8:00pm?) night. What really hurt was that it was a good flick.

        • Hadley’s Hope

          That’s what I’m thinking as well. Except then not only are you limited on budget and resources, but if you go with too mainstream of a story for your film, you run the risk of producing a poor man’s blockbuster that no one wants to watch. If you go too far in the other direction then you are too deep into a specific niche territory, which may or may not be big enough to make any money back (just breaking even on production and post costs would be great, let alone making a profit). All this in an age where a lot of viewers will likely just torrent or stream your indie movie for free.

          So what do we do to monetize any of this? Take the George Lucas route of merchandising, which nowadays probably requires a whole transmedia campaign to seed the public consciousness with your film’s setting and background mythos. This means action figures, a webseries, comic books, maybe a novel tie-in, plus lots of advertising through social media and Youtube. Watch what you say on those, as these days there is always someone or some group looking for their next witchhunt.

          Kickstarter you say?


          Sorry, but that is now the platform for known entities and already successful people.

          Yes, it does all feel hopeless. Maybe we as a society are just so backed up with previous IP that the big media conglomerates can siphon from for awhile. It sure seems that way.

        • andyjaxfl

          Look at the people getting the big gigs these days. Gareth Edwards and Colin Trevorrow made low budget ($500k) science fiction films. Edwards is making a Star Wars movie and Trevorrow has Jurassic Park IV. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that kid who directed The Signal gets a significant increase in his next film’s budget.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            The director of Chronicle is also going to make one of those Star Wars spin-offs. There’s also Neal Marshall, who made a groovy little low budget werewolf action-horror flick called Dog Soldiers, then The Descent which made a nice profit. He did a few more low to medium budget films and is now directing episodes for Game of Thrones (he does the big battle episodes like the Blackwater Bay siege).

            I suppose for those aspiring writers out there that don’t fancy themselves as directors, there is always producing. Just as there are writer-directors, perhaps more of us should be open to trying the writer-producer route?

          • kenglo

            I love you guys!!

            I feel better today, you INSPIRE ME!! It can be done, we have the technology. (Pen, paper/Final Draft).

            Back to writing!!

            THANKS GUYS!!

  • Hadley’s Hope

    If you ever catch an episode of Burn Notice then you’ll see some burnt people. Well, sunburned since they all look kind of red from that Miami sun. Oh, and there is Bruce Campbell, which never hurts a show IMO.

  • pmlove

    When’s the deadline for the AOW TV Pilot submissions?

    • drifting in space

      Off the newsletter… I’d say Thursday. I think Carson should formally announce it.

    • bex01

      You know I have been so looking forward to this pilot AOW but now I go back and read my script… and I do not think it’s ready. Can’t bring myself to potentially send it out into the world. Sigh! Back to the drawing board

      • pmlove

        You and me both. If you want a read, hit me up. lovepeterm at gmail etc

        Not sure why it defaulted to guest…

  • kenglo


    • drifting in space

      I can’t find it through any of my covert sources.

  • andyjaxfl

    OFF TOPIC – I read quite a few Brian Helgeland scripts in the last few days. As such, I was curious about his writing process and how he happened into the business and I found this interview from last year:

    It’s a pretty quick read but worth checking out. In short, he outlines the hell out of his screenplays, sometimes taking as long as three months (twice the amount of time it takes to write the first draft).

    And while he started in Hollywood over twenty years ago, he had no contacts in the business and made it on his writing alone. He’s extremely proud of that point.


    • Malibo Jackk

      “And while he started in Hollywood over twenty years ago, he had no contacts in the business and made it on his writing alone.”

      Have heard so many stories about how different it was years ago.

      (His BAFTA speech is also worth listening to.
      Made many of the same remarks when he appeared on a panel in Austin.)

      • Hadley’s Hope

        I love all those crazy stories about “creative pitching” that people used to do to build buzz for their specs. The last I heard of this type of thing was in 2006 or 2007 the script for the proposed big budget Halo movie was delivered by guys dressed up as the Master Chief.

  • successor

    That opening where the doctor saves the bar patron sounds like a ripoff of the beginning of the movie “Playing God” with David Duchovny. Actually, the whole premise just seems like Playing God: the tv series. Not that I liked the movie all that much, mind you, but I think more could be done with the premise of a drug-addicted doctor who works for criminals.

    • Hadley’s Hope

      Now Duchovny plays a role that is more likely to be that of the guy who needs a shady doctor to come in the middle of the night and give him some off the books medical treatment.

  • fragglewriter

    Great What I Learned Tip. I think this works well for script on the straight and narrow path. If a safe character makes a choice unlike his previous pattern, it can send the script in a different direction which will hopefully keep the reader, and audience, engaged.

  • lysdexicuss

    Carson for Goodness sake it’s the Summer time, add Burn Notice to yer Netflix quay next time you need a binge, it never attempts to be Masterpiece Theater yet never fails to amuse & entertain.

  • astranger2

    Rear Window is really an early contained thriller with great high concept. Everyone one of us succumbs to the temptation of voyeurism at times. And the banter and contrast between the characters portrayed by Grace Kelly and Stewart is superb.

    If you think about how simple the plot is, and how inexpensively executed, it’s mind-boggling. (Stewart is just a smoother version of Gladys Kravitz.)

    But while the dialogue in Rear Window sparkles at times, it’s no Lion in Winter.

    Rope was originally a play, and takes place entirely within the confines of an apartment. And Psycho doesn’t have many different scene settings. Both are based on true stories (Leopold and Loeb, Ed Gein) so the spines of the stories are solid.

    You couldn’t have picked three more intricately complex films than American Beauty, Sixth Sense, and The Matrix.

    It’s not easy to come up with great high concept. It’s really oxymoronic — to create something so simple to understand, yet richly engaging. The old lightning in a bottle.

    It obviously is daunting. But Hitchcock used to advocate writing the story without dialogue first, to emphasize the cinematic aspects. Many here, like myself, place too much value on dialogue.

    In a film like American Beauty, however, it would be meaningless without it. And even a film like Rocky, which would be easy to follow without sound, would not win Best Picture without Stallone’s dynamic word play.

    But in films like Psycho, the musical score is almost more important than the dialogue. So, if we can come up with that high concept — maybe we need not be filled with so much dread. We don’t have to have Sorkin’s poetic abilities (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt, lol) to paint the page.

    We just need to come up with that one high concept idea… like the infinitely recurring day for Bill Murray, going back in time to ensure your mom marries your dad, or borrow a story from a feudal samurai film, The Hidden Fortress, and make it about interstellar warfare with bumbling droids as the warrior’s companions, instead of bumbling peasants… not an easy task… but maybe within our reach?

  • shewrites

    I don’t know about that scene where Red beats up his girlfriend. I understand that it’s a perfect way to highlight Rush’s skewed moral compass, but boy, to have the female audience root for him after he witnesses the beating without doing anything? I’d hate him for there on, no matter what.

  • Malibo Jackk

    I much prefer being delusional.

  • kenglo

    I loved the Matrix of course, but it’s funny. Star Wars took from Kurosawa, Matrix took from Ghost in the Shell. Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai. For A Few Dollars More/Yojimbo.

    I’ve been toying with all of those ideas and trying to come up with something the same but different. Stick with what we know I guess….