Sunday, February 1, 2009

Steinbeck's Point-Of-View

Info: "Steinbeck's Point-of-View" is one of the biggest spec sales ever. Back in 1999, this spec sold for 4 million dollars (2 mil plus some blind script commitments). Some people believe it's one of the worst scripts ever sold. Yikes! Luckily there's only one opinion that matters - mine.
Writers: Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson


Steinbeck's Point-Of-View is about a man dying of cancer who moves back to his childhood home to start a winery days after an airplane has crashed there.

I am going to explain in detail the scene that, I believe, led to the purchase of this script. Because outside of a satisfying ending, I felt the script had some major faults. The man in question and our hero, TOM, finds out that this plane has crashed on the old vineyard where he grew up. He goes there and meets one of the mourners - a single man sitting alone, wearing a Kansas City Royals cap. The two of them have a quiet conversation. The man informs Tom that he was going to ask the girl to marry him. He even shows him the engagement ring. But the crash destroyed all of that. Now he's lost the love of his life. Uncomfortable with exchanging emotion, Tom excuses himself and leaves. A few days later he spots a newspaper that's printed pictures of all the passengers on the plane. Tom grabs the newspaper, looks closer...can't believe it. Right there on the the picture of the man in the Kansas City Royals cap.

Bam! (as John Madden would say). You've got yourself a movie. He wasn't talking to the boyfriend of the victim. He was talking to the victim. I would go so far as to venture that when this script went out, the executives who were reading the script, stopped right here and started bidding. Because the hook is so strong. Unfortunately, until we reach the somewhat satisfying ending, it doesn't seem like the writers really know what to do after that hook. It's like, "Okay, we got a hook. We got a all we have to do is come up with 90 pages of filler." But as any good writer knows, those 90 minutes are the movie. And in that sense, I think Steinbeck fails. In all fairness, the draft I was reading was the spec draft, and the script has had numerous rewrites since then. Still, if someone paid 4 million dollars for this, I'm assuming they were pretty okay with what was already on the page.

So now that Tom knows he can see dead people, his purpose becomes, a la The Sixth Sense, to help them somehow. He meets up with the woman who was going to marry the Kansas City guy (beginning a romantic storyline that never quite works - this guy is the essential component to your 4 million dollar hook - now we're supposed to believe it's okay for Tom to move in and start a little nookie-nookie??) and the two set off to help the family members of the crash victims.

The movie picks up when Tom starts regrowing the vineyard - a vast dusty field that hasn't been fertile in ages. Yet something about the crash brings the field to life, not unlike it did the victims of the crash. Through all this, Tom's cancer is getting worse, and he realizes he has to help these people before he himself dies. It's almost impossible not to compare the film to Field of Dreams - and when you're banking your story on mysticism, you walk a very fine line. 99% of the time, you get it wrong. Field of Dreams is one of like 3 films that got it right. So you're already treading in some very stormy waters. Yet somehow the script comes together in the end. It makes sense, in a weird wild sort of way, and it made up for some of the disappointments experienced earlier in the screenplay.

I've read some people attacking the "new agey-ness" of the story but I liked it. I think it's a preference thing based on your beleifs. I like to believe there are things out there that we don't understand. And even if this is the movies, it's fun to keep your mind open to new ideas.

Rumor is this will come out in 2011. Yet I have a funny feeling it's "supposed" to have been coming out in 2010, 2009, 2008, etc., etc. I'm curious to see what they've changed since the sale draft. I think if they can somehow make that romantic subplot more plausible and authentic, it's a whole different ballgame. Cause then you actually have a middle of the movie :) Either way, I'm intrigued to see how this one ends up.

Reporting from the shadows...