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Monday, March 05, 2012

The New Paranoid Productions

Back in university, when I still had a few delusions of grandeur left, I tagged a lot of my creative work with the Paranoid Productions label, my imaginary multimedia conglomerate. My friend Jeff even designed an elaborate 3D logo on his Amiga, which I later bastardized into a simpler 2D version, seen at left. Together, my friends and I in the University of Alberta Star Trek Club shot about a half-dozen short films on videotape, including Generous Nature, My Love is a Red, Red SpyCarrion Christmas and the infamous Bitter Litter, among others.

I never seriously pursued my idle dreams of being a filmmaker, pursuing a writing career instead. But from time to time I enjoy imagining what kinds of films I would make were Paranoid Productions real and, more importantly, I were rich enough not to care whether my films succeeded or failed at the box office. Given those circumstances, what kinds of films would I choose to make?

The War of the Worlds
While I enjoy both the George Pal and Steven Spielberg takes on H.G. Wells' classic story, I would love to see more faithful adaptation of the novel - one set in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, with tripods fighting the Thunderchild and all the original themes of the novel intact.

Jack McDevitt's 2001 science fiction novel about a scientific expedition to a world about to collide with another planet features a sping-tingling orbital rescue that would provide heart-pounding thrills on the big screen. I was on the edge of my seat reading the text alone; the right director could probably induce near-heart attacks.

Cowboys Versus Skeletons
Long before Cowboys and Aliens was published, let alone adapted into a mediocre film, I imagined a simple shoot-em-up between the residents of a frontier town and a horde of skeletons. Rather than weigh down the film with a complex plot, my story would be (forgive me) bare-bones: it's an ordinary sunny day in Rodeo Gulch when suddenly a lone rider thunders into town on his exhausted horse screaming "Skeletons a-comin'!" There are a few words of skepticism, but in order to cut right to the good stuff, the sheriff decides to take the lone rider at his word and the town sets up defences. What follows is 90 minutes of over-the-top action as cowboys (and lawmen, outlaws, hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, gamblers, railway workers, miners, farmers, spunky children, Indians, sidekicks and smarter-than-average horses and dogs) shoot, dynamite, axe, hammer, trap, trick, fistfight and otherwise murderize the rambling skeletons.

Pratfall Thursday
This violent, virtually plotless farce would chronicle one very bad day in a generic North American city. As soon as the opening title fades from the screen, the movie is nothing but a full two hours of painful (but not deadly) accidents, one leading to another. It might begin with a man on a balcony accidentally dropping a coconut that bounces off the skull of a pedestrian passing below, who, dazed, overturns a garbage can, which rolls downhill to knock over the ladder of a man painting a wall, who of course drops his paint can to land on the head of another passerby, who, paint can on his head, stumbles blindly into a fruit stand, which sends apples and bananas and oranges tumbling down the street, which causes multiple car accidents, etc. etc.

Toilet Chase
The original Paranoid team started making this way back in 1992, but we only finished one scene.With the resources of this hypothetical, we could buy the Bleak House of Blahs, reassemble the cast, get facelifts and personal trainers to get us back into our twenty-something bodies AND shoot the film with state of the art special effects. I think our original screenplay is actually pretty funny, and what discerning film-goer wouldn't go see a movie about a killer toilet stalking a half-dozen friends in a spooky house?

I, Robot
Decades ago Harlan Ellison adapted Isaac Asimov's robot stories into an amazing screenplay. I'd pay Harlan handsomely for the rights, allow him to pick the director and give him creative control over the final cut - anything to get it made.

Girls with Guns
Years ago Leslie and I briefly worked on a novel together about a dystopian future in which a group of women find themselves forced into violent revolution. We only produced a few pages of work, but again, with all the hypothetical resources at my command, I'm sure I could bribe Leslie into finishing her half of the story, bribe myself (or maybe Tom Stoppard) into finishing my half, and pay Quentin Tarantino to direct.

Shadow People
For years I've threatened to write a book about the secret lives of the Shadow People, those unfortunate silhouettes who appear on danger signs around the world, usually in the act of being electrocuted, chopped, spindled, folded or mutilated by machinery. What if the Shadow People came to life and sought revenge on the graphic artists and OHSA officials who consigned them to their gruesome fates? Imagine the irony and horror as the silent, expressionless Shadow People force human beings to take their place in the dangerous situations depicted on those threatening signs!

In this slapstick comedy, two wealthy but bored imbeciles decide to divert themselves by planning the perfect murder at a posh dinner party. Unfortunately, because they are imbeciles, their plans go awry and the film becomes a slapstick comedy of errors culimating in the numbskulls' own ironic demise. I'd hire someone smarter than me to write this in order to have a shot on Oscar night; maybe he or she could turn it into a metaphor for the Occupy movement.

Legion of Super-Heroes
A popular DC Comics team for the last few decades, Legion of Super-Heroes would be pretty much impossible to film today. It features a cast of dozens, is set in the far future, and every character has a super-power. Many of them are aliens. The budget for makeup, special effects, sets and rights to the various characters would break the bank of any studio. But hey, it's my hypothetical and I have unlimited funds! I'd make sure that every Legionnaire and supporting character had at least a cameo role, even Arm-Fall-Off Boy, Double Header, Estimate Lad, Infectious Lass and Fortress Lad. I'd probably structure the story to include the Legion's first journey to the past to meet with Superboy, and then they'd recruit him to fight off a Dominator/Khund invasion back in their home of the 30th century.

That slate of projects should keep Paranoid Productions busy for a few years!


Benchmark said...

I had never heard of 'Deepsix' before so I just picked up the book based on your brief review. Thanks for the recommendation - so far it's really good, and I can see how it'd make a good movie. Directed by you, of course.

Earl J. Woods said...

Glad you're enjoying it, Ron! Most of Jack McDevitt's work is really good.

Anonymous said...

If I ever finish this *&%$#@!!! dissertation, you will likely be able to bribe me quite effectively to reconsider that manuscript. Good times...!

Earl J. Woods said...

Anon: just to mix things up, how about you write all the violent parts while I write all the sensitive character bits?