I wanted to add a note about any potential “casting diversity” or, for that matter, character diversity issues in my own manuscripts (last taken up in January 2016).
It’s true that many of my manuscripts (novels and screenplays) focus on “me” or my avatar as a central driving character, and that my tastes in what is “desirable” (Fort Eustis memories) drive the tension.
In fact, there is a certain pattern in many of them. A character like “Bill” meets a charismatic, larger-than-life and tall young white male hero (symbolizing “virtue”) in the early chapters (rather like Ayn Rand’s fantasy for the young John Galt). Later, he loses his “individual contributor” job and has to face becoming more “sociable”. He gets contacted to go to some sort of re-regimenting “re-education academy” in the country (in West Texas in a couple scripts, in West Virginia in another, and a simple “intentional community” in DADT III last story). He has to learn to do “real jobs”. It sounds a little like Maoist re-education (the right and left come together at the other side of the Moon, you know). At the “academy” he encounters the hero, and builds up to an intimate confrontation. In the meantime, the outside world has an existential catharsis.
“Bill” is different but he’s not supposed to get off as a “member of a group”. He has to learn to share the risks that others had to endure. It’s seen through a moral lens.
But a couple of more recent manuscripts present the narrative primarily through a separate, heterosexually married white male character, with “Bill” inn his backstory, and with some gay interests. In the novel, the character is a good family man whose marriage will be challenged by a gay college student, as well as “extraterrestrial” events (and a mystery virus to boot). In another screenplay “Titanium” the protagonist is a white male journalist whose fiancé has been abducted (possibly by aliens) when she “went up”. But the reporter has another girl friend, who is of opposite race, and helps the girl friend raise a child. But I’m in the background. It get’s pretty complex.
I grew up in a world where most movies and entertainment catered to conventional white stereotypes of what is desirable from men and women. People did not think about the idea that other kinds of people should be presented as “attractive” then as they often do today,
Here are three little video clips, however crude, of the model railroad representing the Angel’s colony on Titan (most of it conceived as a Cylindrical city) in my screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”
I have recently completed a shooting script for “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” (formerly, “Conscripted”). It is quite detailed except for the secondary backstory flash scenes. The script notes in Final Draft 9 are quite helpful with tracking the details. I had explained this on Blogger Dec. 30 here.
Although the July 30 post is still a fairly accurate overview of the story, I have changed some significant deals in how the story progresses. There is only one visit to each of the “ashrams” until near the end, so the physical journey around the space colony has been simplified.
I think it’s useful to review Mchael Hauge’s “Screenplay structure: Five Key Turning Points” link and map the screenplay onto his outline.
Scene 1, Page 1
Bill (me) gradually regains consciousness in a dark room in bed, and feels like he is in a “paralysis of sleep” state.
Two other young men, both tall, Brutus and Randy, watch through a one-way window and try viewers (similar to the idea in “Strange Days” (1995, Kathryn Bigelow). . Elmo, the geek arrives, and does some shell scripting on an older-looking computer terminal to set up “remote viewing” levels for the other arrivals in the space station. The other young men don’t exactly know where they are either, but can look out on a landscape that resembles Titan, a moon of Saturn. Gradually, some other young men from Bill’s life arrive, including “Tompom” and Aaron.
Bill relives his own fictitious screenplay, called “The Sub”, where a precocious student comes on to him (when he is teaching), and where he sinks into legal trouble. The fiction is shown in black and white. Past real incidents that fit the screenplay occur in color. Bill momentarily experiences a fleeting memory “before anesthesia” of returning home from a party and concert (Elmo had been there) and being surprised to find his mother returned from hospice, before getting a mystery email and leaving the house. But the memory disappears, like a dream that is hard to remember. The other guys, especially Randy and Brutus, practice reading Bill’s fictitious mind/
The Turning Point (Scene 39, page 21) occurs when Nolan arrives (“Opportunity”). Though he resembles the other young men, he seems to be in charge, and is regarded as an “angel”. As Bill completely regains consciousness, Nolan escorts Bill underground through some chambers to a subway system called the “Mobius”.
The Opportunity (Scene 63, page 29) first shows Randy checking into a hotel, having trouble checking his social media, but looking up a former mentor, Tobey, on line, and learning it takes time for posts and messages to process. He has dinner with the other men, who have similar experiences.
Bill checks into barracks of what are called “Ashram 3”, with technology of about 1900. He meets Tovina, who looks about 40 but who hints he dated her in the past and took her to the Senators’s last baseball game. Bill has to learn the housekeeping and cooking chores, sees an unusual garden. He finds a piano that doesn’t work on more modern compositions. He plays some yard and board games with the kids and finds gravity is a bit weird.
Bill meets Richie, about 50, an old nemesis from his social life years ago in the City. Richie continues to “domesticate” or “feminize” Bill. Randy arrives, and explains the rules for using the Mobius Metro. Other college kids “Wechsler” and “Kip” arrive. Wechsler stays “overnight” in the Ashram to monitor Bill, who starts noticing the days seem like a perpetual twilight, like summer at the North Pole.
Bill travels by Mobius to Ashram 4, which looks colonial, mid 1700s. He learns piano tuning and glassblowing, and finds out that he can’t even play Mozart on the “fortepiano”. He meets (“Change in Plans”) a former music chum from his days at William and Mary, “Jonesboro”, with whom he refreshes his memory of how he got into music (which got “into his blood”).
In the “Progress” stage (Scene 81, page 43), Tompom, Kip amd Wechsler set up a stage play at Ashram 1 (based on year 2001) after traveling from Ashram 3. Then they put on the play, showing what went on behind the scenes to get Bill “fired” when he was subbing after the school found out about his screenplay.
Bill visits the low-gravity softball field and plays some workup, and has chest discomfort.
In the “Point of No Return” (Scene 93, Page 51) Bill gets a keyhole heart treatment, which will not be disruptive, in the “City” near the hotel, under normal gravity. Then Sydney (also from William and Mary) visits him. Elon trains Bill in managing the software that controls the access others have to his own “telepathic broadcast” which more or less replaces social media.
Bill is recovered enough to visit Ashram 5, which shows a village as it might have looked at the time of Christ. He learns how “money” works in the ashram, and among angels (where there is a galactic “bitcoin system”). He interacts with Sydney, who confronts Bill about what used to make him tick. Bill learns he will choose a “messiah” among the other young men there.
At “Ashram 2” (1960) Bill helps build a recital hall where his music will be performed.
In “Higher Stakes” (Chapter 106, page 71) Bill travels back to the City, gets a nanobot injection to help with his memory, and sees the setup: much of the colony is set up as a cylindrical rama with artificial gravity, perpendicular to Titan, so when on it there is a Coriolis effect.
He returns back to Ashram 3 and gets some practice in “just living” before the young men assemble and trade stories as to how they got there. The travel together by “train” to Ashram 1 to re-enact the story of Bill’s 1960 expulsion (although that could have fit Ashram 2 better!)
They travel to Ashram 2 (now!) to do the concert. As a Setback, some of the music still doesn’t work. But the Nanobots start to work, and Bill finally remembers how they got there
In the “final push” (Chapter 141, page 97) Bill plays his music (with Elmo’s help), and the “tribunal” ritual (“Climax”, quite literally) starts. Brutus stimulates Bill, who impregnates Tovina. The ritual poses the question, what in people really should matter?
(Aftermath): Bill returns to the world, which has been placed in upheaval by repeated power grid failures, while accepting that UFO’s are real because they have been seen publicly. After Tovina gives birth to Bill’s child, he can return to the spaceship and join on a journey with the angels to other planets.
The people on Earth will rebuild, another cycle of history, but for the next couple hundred years, doomsday preppers (like “Survival Mom” on Facebook) will take over. History will have many up and down cycles before man is ready to move to the Stars. Only the chosen few seem to go now. Oh, please, how do you deserve to be “chosen”?
Update: July 20, 2017
The “fiction” screenplay, which would be shown in black in white, which “Bill” relives in his mind starts on Scene 3, p. 1 and runs through Scene 55, p. 23
The “stage play” (put on by “students” at the Ashrams, “Hamlet” style, play-within-play ) showing what must have happened behind the scenes at the high school where “Bill” had been subbing run from Scene 81, p. 43 to Scene 89, p. 48.
The account of Bill’s William and Mary Expulsion, running through Army service, runs from scene 113 page 73 to Scene 134 page 90.
Bill speaks to an audience in the “2001 Ashram 4” and some of it is again acted out by student “dancers” on a stage.
(Return to original post)
The “City” on Titan should look like the art work in this video of Alexander Scriabin’s Symphony #1 in E, with the “famous” choral conclusion.
Play the grandiose ending!
(Published Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 10:30 PM EST)
PBS Digital Studios offers a series of 10-15 minute “science teacher” monologues about various topics in sci-fi and possible future space travel.
One of these is “What’s the Most Realistic Artificial Gravity in Sci-Fi?”
The 11-minute short discusses the artificial gravity of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Ringworld”, “Halo” (game), and “Babylon 5” (a sci-fi series from the 1990s).
Most of the problems in science fiction have to do with the Coriolis Effect.
A small space station would have to rotate quickly to achieve enough “force”.
The film considers “Halo” to have the most realistic idea. But that depicts a ring about 4/5 the diameter of Earth. The ring could be expanded to a cylinder. In my “Epiphany” screenplay, you could imagine an alien civilization (maybe from Tabby’s Star and a possible Dyson Sphere 1450 light years away) being deposited near Titan, but eventually NASA would detect it. My setting is more like that of Babylon 5. Since it is a cylinder mounted on Titan, the gravity of Titan (1/7 that of Earth) would add to Coriolis problems.
Artificial gravity from “centrifugal” and “centripetal” force does not have the “benefit” of the gravitational field of a nearby body of much larger mass than oneself (that is, a planet). Maybe gravity plates with some sort of neutron-star stuff could be constructed by an alien civilization.
Here’s a sample “Game Movie” from Halo that may convey an idea of what this world could look like (it’s long).
And here’s a doc about the making of “Babylon 5” which might convey the feel of that world.
Back in the 1998-2003 period when I was living in Minneapolis, IFPMSP held many forums on filmmaking technology, including film stock.
I wanted to give a few links about concepts regarding image color and focus, because they would become relevant to filming my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”.
Of course, people pay tuition and get degrees from film schools to learn these things.
Leighcotnoir has some valuable links.
Look at this explanation of hue, saturation, and value, particularly the 3-D cone near the bottom of the page that gives an example based on “red”.
It’s also important to study the concept of “primary colors”, as explained here, along with color wheels. Note how primary “additive” colors (red, green, blue) work, where as “subtractive pigments” (Yellow, magenta, cyan) work in tandem, because when paints are mixed, the light wavelengths that may be reflected are “subtracted”.
There is also the “hue-saturation grayscale”, as explained here.
And “Filmschoolonline” explains the “attributes of the visual image”, including Brightness, Contrast, Quality of Light, Focus, perspective. Here, color is explained in terms of saturation, hue, and emphasis.
There is also the opportunity for 3-D without glasses, “autostereoscopy“, a kind of holography, as explained in Sciecemag,
I do want to discuss the color scheme for the “flashbacks” or “backstories” of my Epiphany screenplay.
The Final Draft document shows several color modes:
White — Black and white presentation (the embedded screenplay “The Sub”).
Blue — scenes at ashram, in mild color-blindness called green-weak deuteranomaly (see a color blindness “simulator“).
Red — backstories in full color as they would appear in nature (moderate value and saturation)
Orange– backstories known to and told by characters other than Bill, higher saturation.
Green — historical narrative told to characters other than Bill (higher value)
Purple — immediate, quick flashbacks (higher value and saturation)
Yellow — acted historical narrative (treat as red)
Gray — historical relative to “Sub” screenplay, black and white
Some directors change aspect ratio for different kinds of backstory. I think this creates problems, because different theaters handle cropping different (in many auditoriums, 2.35:1 is accomplished by vertical cropping, so presenting some backstories in smaller aspect can require more cropping). I would prefer 2.35:1 for all scenes, but use different color schemes.
Much of the action takes place in an “ashram” which is envisioned as the inner surface of most of a cylinder mounted near the space station on Titan, about 2 miles in diameter and 10 miles long, rotation for artificial gravity, that is, a “rama”.
I’ve talked about Clarke’s novel here before, but it seems that there have been few movies about societies of people raising generations while on an evacuation ark (like “Evacuate Earth“). These situations certainly could explore the idea of “social capital”.
There has been some “whining” about the supposed lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominations, as in this Washington Post Style article by Lonnae O’Neal, “Only role reversals will end all-white Oscars lists” — online, it’s “Maybe Hollywood’s not racist; it just has a processing disorder”.
My own experience at the movies (and with television mini-series) is that I see plenty of black actors in favorable roles — especially as police detectives, politicians (especially presidents), athletes, and physicians. No one would quarrel with Viola Davis’s effectivness as a law professor in “How to Get Away with Murder“. It would have been well to nominate Will Smith for his role in “Concussion“, no argument there. I recall Morgan Freeman’s role in David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995) alongside Brad Pitt (remember the “chest shaving” scene before they both wear a wire for the climax). And, by the way remember the climax, “What’s in the box?” (maybe an inspiration for Richard Kelly’s “The Box”), with Kevin Spacey as the satanic villain.
There is a problem, however, in my own mind, with some scripts. Suppose I get my novel “Angel’s Brother” published and it gets interest, or I get some traction for my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” screenplay.
In both of these, it’s important that some of the leading characters be attractive young white males, for what I have presented as “gay sexual tension” (however stereotyped and potentially prejudicial) to work. I wonder if films like “Judas Kiss” or “The Dark Place” could have worked with African-American young actors in at least one leading role, for the same reason.
“Epiphany” particularly has some supporting characters in the “ashram” scenes where the characters can be cast in a race-blind way. And, for example, in “Angel’s Brother”, the leading characters (Randy, about 40 and Sal, about 21) are conceived as white, the CIA chief could very well be cast as African American (Morgan Freeman would be perfect).
Don’t forget, by the way, that Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce “Rendezvous with Rama”.
(Published: Monday, January 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT)
In the screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” which I am about half-way through rewriting (as a shooting script) in a modern Final Draft 9 (which has a lot more facilities for identifying scenes and making notes), I presume that a character, Bill Ldzet, like me finds he has been abducted and is living in an ashram inside a large space station (part of it on a huge centrifuge to increase gravity) created by “angels”. He undergoes a certain amount of “re-education”, maybe with a slight amount of Maoist purification.
One problem is identifying all the other characters, and tracing their past association with Bill on Earth, and how that creates tensions among them. Then, there is the question, why is “Bill” special enough to get all this attention? What about the life narratives of everyone else there?
Part of the answer is that there are not that many other senior citizens on the ashram, who would have a life narrative as long and convoluted as mine. (The movie “Youth“, for example, as a point of comparison, presents Michael Caine playing a conductor/composer at a spa, retired and apathetic, gradually getting the back stories of a couple other seniors there, especially an aging film director/screenwriter (Harvey Keitel) and an aging actress (Jane Fonda).)
In fact, I do believe my own life story, through age 72, is indeed very unusual. That’s one reason I remain “stuck” on mining it for more ironies, rather than getting hired to write other peoples’. But there are a couple of books, both self-published and from iUniverse, that tell stories of comparable complexity.
One of the best is “Damages“, by B. K. Bazhe (2002). The author (from the Balkans) tells a complex story of eldercare, dealing with communism and Islam, military service, sexual orientation, and even some cross-dressing requiring “depilation”. I have a detailed review on a legacy site here. I met Bazhe in Minneapolis in the summer of 2003 when he was on a speaking tour, shortly before I moved back to the DC area to start looking after my own mother myself. Don’t confuse the title with “Dispatches” which is an HBO-Channel4 (Britain) film about anti-gay discrimination in Russia. The books was well reviewed in Minneapolis gay papers in early 2003, as a story that needed to be told, maybe even filmed.
Another such book is “The Sound of One Horse Dancing“, an autobiographical novel by Tom Baker, reviewed by me in 2012 on Blogger here. Baker was caught up in an incident at the College of William and Mary in the fall of 1963, two years after I was expelled from there in the fall of 1961, but he would eventually graduate and has been active with William and Mary GALA (I met him first at a book fair in New York City in March 2012). I’m not sure how much of the “novel” is “true” but it presents rejection by family, a lot of conformist social pressures to compete in conventional ways to get business, a job firing, and then making a living as a hustler in the days just before Stonewall. Baker has authored at least two other books.
I suppose these narratives would deserve “special” status in the plot logic behind the “ashram”. But the way the screenplay is set up, some sort of effort would have been set up on the space station in advance to receive anyone chosen as “special” enough.
I’ll add that I talked to the William and Mary libraries (Gregg Swem and Law School (Marshall-Wythe) by phone last week. The Law School has my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book (don’t know if it is the original 1997 printing, or the 2000 iUniverse which is expanded, more durable, and has some typo fixes). The 1997 printing it completely out of stock (and a collector’s item). The library also has my little 98 page 1998 booklet “Our Fundamental Rights and How We Can Reclaim Them: A Psychological Approach” (original printing only, no POD). I did encourage the LS library to purchase the next two in my DADT series and to check to see if it has Baker’s book (since Baker graduated from WM). I would echo the encouragement for Bazhe’s book, which is a complex narrative relating sexual orientation and gender identity to other social issues (like inherited family responsibility for elders) and political issues in an international context — even more critical today given what happens in Russia, Africa, and the Islamic world.
Two particular science fiction novels by Arthur C. Clarke need to be noted on this blog.
“Childhood’s End” (1953), will soon be aired as a 6-hour, 3 part series on the SyFy Channel starting Dec. 14, 2015 (link). I read the novel in 1969, while in the Army at Ft. Eustis. I recall the arrival of the Overllords, the leader Karellen (who was depicted as looking like an eagle but capable of looking human), and the period of peace and prosperity for Earth (as the Cold War with the Soviet Union was getting going more after Eisenhower took office). Then a gifted star child is born, and, as I recall, his charisma spreads to other kids, who finally become a group-mind, leading to a ritualistic apocalypse on the final page.
“Rendezvous with Rama” (1972) is relevant to my own “Do Ask,, Do Tell: Epiphany” screenwriting project. There has long been a film project involving Morgan Freeman which Wikipedia describes as being in “development hell”. It would be possible to imagine crowdfunding, given the popularity of the novel.
The story starts in 2077, when an asteroid hit causes huge casualties and damage on Earth, coming close to permanent extinction. 60 years later, in 2037, Earth has set up better early warning systems, and sends out a space party to examine the approaching craft, which turns out to be a 50-km-long cylinder, rotating to create artificial gravity on the inside surface, and with interesting landscapes and cities inside, divided into two “hemi-cylinders” by a “cylindrical sea”.
There is a scene where an astronaut jumps off a cliff in this world. My understanding is that artificial gravity requires contact with the inner surface to work, so that the actual surface presses on you and creates “weight” from your mass; there is no “field” to pull on you without contact (that requires mass, which “Star Trek” gets around with super dense (like neutron-star material) gravity plates underneath).
In my own screenplay, there is a an alien “angels'” space station on Titan, which has 1/7 Earth’s gravity, so the “ashram” (with the “abductees”, so to speak) is built on the inside of a Rama cylinder that sits perpendicular to the surface. (Of, if NASA has seen it, they just won’t tell us!) But the pull of Titan would still distort the sense of gravity, producing a sense of tilting, and could pull a person (at a velocity of the square root of 1/7 Earth’s) toward a “wall” if he jumped off the group, so people would need magnetic shoes until they got used to the environment. I’ve wondered how you could really jog inside a rotating space station depending on centrifugal effects for gravity.
The Open University has a series on Moons in the Solar System, and two of them are particularly interesting
Video 1 is about Europa, the moon of Jupiter that is covered with an ice sheet and is likely to have a 60-kilometer deep ocean heated by tidal friction.
Europa has been considered by some astronomers as the most likely other place (besides Mars) in the solar system to have (underwater) life. But Ganymede may have a similar structure, and possibly even Callisto.
In the movie “2010: A Space Odyssey” (based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel), aliens convert a “leprous” Jupiter to a sun, so that Europa, which is to be left alone, to another earth.
In the 2014 movie “Europa Report” and undersea creature releases the Earth’s spacecraft so it can go home.
Above is a NASA artist’s idea of what a cryobot might see in the Europa ocean (P.d., wikipedia attribution link).
The Video number 3 in the series is about Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and the only one in the atmosphere with an atmosphere.
The Cassini space proble landed the component Huygens on Titan’s surface in early 2005.
The moon, larger than Mercury about with about 1/6 the gravity of Earth, features methane seas and rain, and low ridges and plains of sandy material. The atmosphere contains thiols, which contain organic materials that could constitute precursors to bacteria-like organisms. Most artists conceptions show an orange sky that is surprisingly bright with reflected light from Saturn.
Titan also appears to have an under-surface water layer, which could conceivably harbor life in a manner similar to Europa.
Above is the public domain photo of the Titan surface from Huygens (NASA), wikipedia attribution here.
Above is a NASA artist’s drawing of what a balloon landing on Titan could look like, Wikipedia attribution here.
There is an 84-minute NASA lecture on YouTube.
My own unfinished script “69 Minutes to Titan” (about the length of time light would take to reach it) views Titan as a place that could be settled by “angels” (earlier descriptive link, March 4, 2014; old treatment); and my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” also imagines a space station on Titan. Here’s a script for a little short film “Suprisie Planet” or “Welcome to Titan”, link.
On a recent trip, a friend, a high school English teacher, mentioned the 1998 film “Dark City“, directed by Alex Proyas, from New Line. I recall seeing the film in Minnesota and that Roger Ebert loved it.
The film is a bit parallel to my own (in development) “Do Ask, Do Tell” script in that a protagonist wakes up in an alien environment and is not sure how he could have gotten there.
It turns out that the “Dark City” is a kind of artificial alien planetoid, with a boundary called “Shell Beach”. The protagonist, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) and has to interact with the mysterious Dr. Schreber (Keifer Sutherland) and inspector Bumstead (William Hurt). It seems as though the city, which is rather like an overgrown toy world, is always being manipulated and changed by the “Strangers” who are endangered aliens. Murdoch is also wrongly suspected of a “murder”.
You could say that the “strangers” are roughly analogous to the “angel candidates” in my script, but then there needs to be an equivalence to the other “proles” (like “Bill”) and even to the kids growing up there.
I don’t have an equivalent concept to “trading identities” or mixing the timeline life memories of various individuals; but that instead is something that happens in my novel “Angel’s Brother” (with the help of a bizarre virus that encapsulates mini black holes).
The movie has been compared to the Matrix Trilogy, which is a bit of a stretch (I did like the surface alien world shown at the end of the third “Matrix” movie). And this film could also be compared to my “Baltimore Is Missing” (discussed Jan. 29, 2014).