Monday, June 29, 2009

Karma Coalition

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller
Premise: An ex-professor seeks the truth about a secret organization known as the "Karma Coalition."
About: A high-profile pick-up from Warner Bros. in late 2008 to the tune of 1.5 million. Christensen is the lead singer for a band called Stellarstarr.
Christensen also co-wrote "Sidney Hall" which has been set up with producers Ridley and Tony Scott.
Writer: Shawn Christensen

"I just sold a script for 1.5 million dollars suckerrrrrs!"

Now I've caught a lot of flak for liking this script so much. People barrage me with arguments like "It's got plot holes you could drive a semi through!" They say it's cheesy, clunky, and all over the place. You know what I say? You're wrong. You're 93% stinking wrong! This script was a hell of a ride. Not to mention I'm a sucker for a good "ordinary man in extrodinatry circumstances" tale - and Karma Coaliton takes care of my fix.

Beware. Major spoilers follow. Part of the reason I liked this script so much was that I didn't have any clue what it was about going in. So if you plan on reading it, tread carefully.
There are spoiler landmines everywhere.

A recent flap of deaths has been occurring all over the world - deaths of very important people: Archdioceses, scientists, celebrities. But why? What's the connection? There's someone who knows. Someone who's been betting on these deaths from the beginning. And getting it right every single time. So we're going to find out who this person is and how they're making these amazing predictions right? Wrong. The prognosticator is killed on Page 6.


William Craft, a relatively young college professor who just lost his job for sleeping with one of his students (wait a minute, don't all college professors sleep with their students? I thought that was one of the perks.) is just trying to make it to the next day. He's a widow. His soul mate/wife/love of his life died in a car accident six years ago. Without her, he's been stumbling through life, looking for a purpose.

William's life is turned upside-down when the police blow into his place and arrest him. Remember the prognosticator? Turns out William used to be friends with him. He's thrown into an interrogation room and told that he's under suspicion for the murder of this man. Before they deal with that, however, the cop slides a mysterious box across the table and asks William to open it. The box belonged to the prognosticator and was left to William.

William carefully pries the box open. Inside are five things. One, a note that tells him the cop opposite him is one of the dirtiest cops in the city. Two, a gun. Three, smoke bombs. Four, a DVD. And five, a note. A note that simply says: "She's still alive."

Have I got your attention yet? Welcome to Karma Coalition. I don't know about you, but I'm hooked.

I'm not going to tell you how William gets out of the room because it's pretty obvious. He's got smoke bombs! After escaping, he takes his newfound possessions to a friends' and pops the DVD in. The DVD is of the prognosticator, who informs him that in 2013, a huge catastrophic event takes place that wipes out 90% of the earth's population. Because of this, a secret organization called the Karma Coalition is faking the deaths of very important people all over the world, in order to get them onto a secret island called "Parista," where they will be safe and the human race will continue.

Guess whose wife is on that iiiiiiiii-sland?

Naturally, William will do anything to get to the island. And the good news is, he's on the Parista list. But the cops chasing him have other plans. Will William make it to Parista? Will he be reunited with his wife? I'm sorry but you'll have to read the script to find out. Or the rest of the review.

I loved the heart-pounding unpredictable nature of Karma Coalition but it did have its faults. (Major spoilers) When William finally gets to Parista, we have about 7 minutes to wrap up the storyline between him and his wife. He charges into a restaurant where his wife and her parents are having dinner and it just feels...wrong. Clunky. Weird. This is the love of his life and it's not the way to reunite them. Part of the predicament of Karma Coalition is that you do have the main character getting to his destination late in the screenplay, forcing you to wrap up a lot of storylines in a very short amount of time. As a result, all of the storylines get short-shrift. None more than him and his wife, which should've been an incredibly emotional moment and wasn't.

But the final sequence of Karma Coalition is ridiculously fun. The cops are tracking down the island of Parista, trying to find William. Yet they're being led deep into the middle of Wyoming. How can there be an island in the middle of Wyoming? The answer leads us to "the big twist," which I suspect put Karma Coalition over the hump and secured it that huge sale. Many people point out that the twist doesn't hold water (ahem, island reference). And if you really think about it, there are definitely some inconsistencies. But I had so much fun getting there and the twist was so unexpected, I didn't care. It's one of those things you know they're going to address in the rewrites anyway, so I just went with it.

Sure Karma Coaltion can be silly at times. And it's not afraid to toss in a few cliches. But the script is so fast and its imagination so vibrant, I'm going to prematurely vanguish all you Negative Nancies out there and highly recommend it.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Probably the best "ordinary man in an extraordinary circumstance" movie is either "North By Northwest" or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The reason we've been so light on this genre lately is because Hollywood demands more realism these days. Your character has to behave in a realistic way. I don't know about you but if a terrorist pointed a gun at my head, I wouldn't go for a Bruce Lee sweep of the legs combined with a Trinity wall climb, simultaneously grabbing his gun and forcing him to shoot his own partner. I'd probably scream like a little girl. The problem in these movies is that sooner or later, your character will be forced into choices that require extraordinary actions. How he/she goes about them in a believable way is the key to making the genre work. I'm telling you this after highlighting a scene in KC where our "ordinary" hero escapes an interrogation room with smoke bombs. So obviously these rules are not hard and fast. But I guarantee you this issue will be brought up in any script you submit. So you might as well nip it in the bud now.