Voldemort and other Hollywood outliers pitch their services to writers who dream of selling their work for film and television, and they are as slick as John Travolta’s hair. I’ve never found slick to be trustworthy. However, as a friend (equally oblivious on Hollywood matters) pointed out, slick was exactly what I needed to promote my screenplay. Slick sells. People like slick. Slick is good.
But my movie deals with consciousness and the experience of God! It offers a scientific explanation of the spiritual experience while embracing mysticism and compassion. It’s a movie about BIG IDEAS: how can an individual be happy surrounded by pain and grief? How can you love again after a devastating loss?
It’s a gut-wrenching, intellectually stimulating, and in the end uplifting story. It’s the opposite of slick, it’s revolutionary. It challenges the commonly held belief that God is outside us. It challenges ALL belief systems and demands that every explanation be proven, religion be damned!
But the most basic question in the entertainment industry is more crass. What demographi is this movie “for”? And secondly, how does the movie get “packaged” for that demographic?
To identify your audience, start with the genre. Voldemort asked what genre is the screenplay. I said let’s call it Science Realism sincer it’s an entirely plausible fictional story. Voldemort says you can’t do that, you can’t just make up a new genre. Psychological drama? No, he says, the genre is psychological thriller and it’s not that. Well, what then? On the conference call Jesus broke the news in a comforting voice, as if my puppy had just died. Paul, it’s sci-fi.
Science fiction! Honestly, I never thought of it like that! I don’t write science fiction! This is science, marginal science, but still science! How much does anyone really know about the brain? We’re just figuring it out. Half of psychiatry is just a best guess, and we don’t call that science fiction!
But the distributors who are actually going to PAY ME for my movie (I hope!) want to see, as a Samuel Goldwyn executive put it: “the same thing – only different!” It’s got to fit in the box otherwise they don’t know what it is and how they’re going to sell it.
Do you go to pray at McDonald’s? Do you bury your loved ones at the racetrack? Do you get married in the locker room at the gym? No! But my movie will be science fiction, that’s what people understand. 2001, A Space Odyssey, Ex-Machina and District 9. Does it even matter about the packaging? It’s what’s inside that counts.
God helmet-like technology is in current psychiatric use, and you can buy it on the internet for use at home (I did), and it’s been researched (obscurely) for over 25 years. The Defense Department uses neuromagnetic stimulation to improve the sensory acuity, judgement and intuition of drone pilots. But the movie is science fiction.
Excuse me, I’m off to pray that my sci-fi flick is a blockbuster.