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Hiawatha (updated)

by Crazy Horse Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 08:54:14 AM EST

One wonders if what follows isn't the beginning of a good, even powerful, film. Hiawatha is a tale about the real people who brought an end to the cycle of revenge which permeates human culture. Who created a lasting Great Peace.

*How strange to learn that much of it became Avatar.*

(This edition of the script is the dumbed down version, at 6th grade level, so beloved by Ivy League-educated Hollyweird execs. Where the most important value is the amount of blank space on a page.)

Despite healthy deals, it was never made, as the CH would not accept Johnny Depp or Val Kilmer as Hiawatha, and held out for an all native cast.


FADE IN:

TITLE: MANY YEARS BEFORE COLUMBUS REACHES NATIVE AMERICA, IN THE VIRGIN FORESTS OF THE NORTHEAST

MONTAGE: FOREST LIFE (TITLE SEQUENCE)

Awesome antlers on that moose. Doe and fawn grazing low sumac. North-side moss; hidden ginseng; spider spins her web. How beautifully diverse the net of life in deep woods before the Europeans arrived.

Rattlesnake sunning on exposed rock, abrupt menacing HISS AND RATTLE as rabbit comes too close.

SLAPPING and SPLASHING; beavers, diving with mouths full of branches for their dam. Arc of open-mouthed trout, leaping after his snack.
Strange to our knowledge, buffalo graze the salt licks of Lake Onondaga, majestic even in Iroquoian woodlands. Panther keeps his distance.

Bear and playful cub. PULL BACK to hawks circling. THWOOP of eagle wing right over our heads, Eagle soaring along the eddy currents.

TRACKING the Eagle, great vistas appear as the forest stretches to the horizon, valleys of hardwoods, birches and vast groves of pine and hemlock. In the distance, PLUMED SMOKE, RISING.

CLOSING ON THE SMOKE

What remains of a Haudenosaunee village SMOLDERS. FOOTSTEPS OS. Branches crack as the steps pound the forest floor. Agitated wildlife in CHORUS. POUNDING louder as we search the forest.

FRENZIED WARRIOR BURSTS RUNNING INTO VIEW

Tall, lean and hard; his fluid muscles are long, not thick. Left arm dangles limply. Coming at us now; he's fast. HEAVY BREATHING, more like lungs bursting. Torn deerskin breeches. His body's painted, dark reds and black, accented in dark yellow lightning. Paint's smudged; he's dripping sweat. Looks like blood all over him. Now we see it: open jagged wound in left deltoid. He's mangled, a battered warrior in the prime of his life. This is HIAWATHA, proud Mohawk Turtle Clan.

BUT HIS EYES!

Wild frenzy frozen on his face. Scalp shaven except the swath of spiked black hair from the center of his forelock. Fierce anger, rage burns in his eyes. OR IS IT FEAR? In his hand--a BLACK OBSIDIAN KNIFE, flailing away at the branches crossing his path. GASPING BREATH, HEAVING CHEST as Hiawatha darts through the forest.

CONTINUED:
Looking over his shoulder this way and that, absolute TERROR digs into his face. What follows him?

We sweep the forest, but see nothing chasing him, just Hiawatha's POUNDING FOOTSTEPS AND EXPLODING BREATH.

HIAWATHA'S P.O.V.

Sky seems bigger as the forest thins out ahead. The far side of a great gorge... closer, closer. Sheer cliff walls broken by pine and scrub oak clutching the rock. Now, the edge!

Off into air, hanging, then dropping; tumbling view of cliff walls, streambed, sky. A strange SILENCE suspended over the gorge, broken by a PIERCING WAIL exploding inside our skulls...

TUMBLING BODY AND ROCKSLIDE

SLIDING down the cliff. JARRING THUD of body hitting rock. CRACK AND SWISH of body snared in branches and brush; as if the trees are saving him. The fall seems endless.

At the base of the cliff, what was once the warrior Hiawatha rolls to a stop...

HEAD INCHES FROM THE RUSHING STREAM

One eye, half-open on the senseless, beaten face, takes no notice of the onrushing waters. Is he breathing?

FLASHBACK TO:

Poll
You want more?
. Yes 70%
. No 0%
. What, you think i'm gonna post a $1M script here? 30%
. Don't ask Sven, he won't send it. 0%
. What about Leo's father? 0%
. He read it, thinks it's brilliant. 0%
. What, no cartoon explosions? 0%
. No, only real humans doing violence which hurts. 0%

Votes: 10
Results | Other Polls
Display:
What (no, I'm not asking for the flashback content, but what is on screen in the intro above) links Hiawatha to smouldering village? What does he see, are there any details? Ie do we understand it's what he sees in the village that drives him to the cliff-edge, or the terror-inducing whatever it is behind him (or both)?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 10:02:51 AM EST
[Disclaimer: haven't seen Avatar]

:)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 10:15:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Avatar is worth seeing in 3D for the techie-joy of it all.  WETA Digital went beyond their usual superb work and created a world needing to be seen.  The digital capture has gotten evolved -- how is beyond me -- beyond Gollum of LoTR and needs to be seen to be believed.  As with other Art and Entertainment genres the technical aspects of the craft are of sterling quality.

Alas ...

The story is strictly from crudsville.  As with other Art and Entertainment genres the "creative" people have no idea what to DO with the high technical skills and so they recycle the Same Old Thing.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 11:34:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point. He's running from the village.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 11:47:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's running from the village.

Been done.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:16:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Everything's been done.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:43:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[Waves from Mars]
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:44:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's been done, too.



Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:56:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gosh, for real?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:56:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some people may not know The Story of the Peacemaker.

Some say it was a thousand years ago.  Some say that it was two thousand years when there was a dark period in the history of The People. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nations were at war with one another. It was a terrible time of cruelty, bloodshed and mourning. But then a Huron man, referred to as the Peacemaker, canoed from the western shore of Lake Ontario.  He brought with him a message of peace and unity.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 11:18:31 AM EST
N'yahweh ATinNM.  that's the story.

the only difference is that the traditional version is filmicly boring. a white friend had asked me to write something about it. so one evening, i asked myself, "given the way the oral tradition is told, if one believes that something way back then actually happened to bring about the oral tale, and it happened to real humans despite the magic, so, what actually happened?"

went into some form of trance, saw (lived?) the story, and set out to write it down.

Interesting regarding your choice of the many links on the Peacemaker. This one talks of how Jigonsahsee was the first to embrace the Peace. In all my research, including with the elders, there was always talk about her, but nobody knew much about her.

So when i first showed the script to a Mohawk friend, being groomed to lead he was, he told me he couldn't believe I found the missing link to Jigonsahsee. Made me feel pretty good, it did.

Not good enough to accept any deal though.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 11:38:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The quality of the script has nothing to do with whether a film is made.

The First Thing to realize about the Hollywood film industry is everybody wants to be first to be second.  The Second Thing is anything outside the "normal," i.e., the top grossing film of the previous year, stays in "In-Development Hell" until a film like it becomes the top grossing film of the year.

Once those two hurdles are passed it becomes possible for a film to be made.  If it meets ALL other requirements.  One of the latter is a massive battle scene in the last 10 minutes.  

So, you'll need to re-write the ending to show the Peacemaker slaughtering all his opponents.

:rolleyes:

And I'm not kidding.  (See the latest Disney rape and pillage of Alice in Wonderland starring Depp.)

Another barrier you'll face is the bankers and other Angels are no longer 'fronting' the money needed for the pre-production work.  Rumor Hath It Spielberg is having problems getting financing for his next project.  And if HE can't get it ...

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:36:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ATinNM:
The quality of the script has nothing to do with whether a film is made.

Same thing is true of a decision to invest in the "production" that is the promotion of a blockbuster book.

Some people know this and it suits them because they couldn't write a quality (script, novel) if they tried. Others... don't necessarily deal with all the other shit that has to be lined up.

Massive battle scene in last ten minutes may be the in thing now, but I'll go with Griffin Mill:

Griffin Mill (Character) - Quotes


Griffin Mill: It lacked certain elements that we need to market a film successfully.
June: What elements?
Griffin Mill: Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart, nudity, sex. Happy endings. Mainly happy endings.
June: What about reality?

Mainly happy endings.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:55:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Slaughtering all your opponents IS a "Happy Ending" you silly person.  How can the protagonist achieve satisfaction until he has splattered Buckets 'o Gore all over the silver screen?

:-)

A friend is going through Non-Promotion with his latest book.  A bit of judicious advertising, in the right venues, should increase sales by 30 to 50 percent.  The Publisher won't do it because they don't understand the market.  WHY they would buy a book directed towards a market they don't understand eludes my little mind.  However, that's what they did.  

The consolidation into Entertainment Mega-Companies has put cretins in charge of the decision making.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 01:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Slaughtering all your opponents IS a "Happy Ending"

Conan the Barbarian (1982) - Memorable quotes

Mongol General: What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 08:43:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I so love that film, including the brilliant long opening tracking shot. I even remember how well Tim Robbins fit the part, and the Range Rover, and him getting Greta Scaatchi, who i adore. best film ever about killing writers.

Now if only i could remember the name. I know it started with The...

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 01:48:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I love that film too.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 03:34:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... made the movie. Especially if he'd have been willing to work for scale and points of the gross.

When many young native American actors have resumes filled with young hispanic gang member thug number 2, it'd be worth it for the co-starring roles available.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 11:27:07 AM EST
Easy to say with hindsight... but in those days i believed the power in the film would only come if it was all native actors, including Hiawatha (Ayonwatha in Mohawk). this after discussion with many native actors, including those from Dances and all the rest.

Besides, the offer came from the secretary of the director of Geronimo, just before they went into production, and was not official. She said they would have it set up in 3 weeks if i would agree.  i didn't.

I liked my partner in crime Wes Studi in Heat (with some other actors) much more than Geronimo, though it did help to make his career. Weird to be in Germany and hear his voice on a DVD of Avatar.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 11:45:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wes Studi was the first name that came to mind when I read your diary early this morning.  Everything I've seen him in has impressed me.

At the time I thought about a should-have-taken-Depp comment, heavy on the snark, but it would have been a first comment and I didn't have the nerve.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:24:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Easy to say, but...

  1.  to be fair to the power of the story, i felt it needed a native cast. Star Wars had no star. this film is about one of the most potent stories in all native america.

  2. at the time, native actors were just over some big acceptance hurdles. It was a heady time, and i wanted to stay true to it.

  3. Who knew there wouldn't be more offers?  In fact, I've done nothing about this script for a decade.

  4.  with hindsight would i do it different?  don't know, likely not.


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 08:38:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I agree completely.  My comment would have been snarky, not serious.

Dude, you turned down Johnny Freakin Depp??  Dude!

To be fair, Depp probably would have delivered.  The guy has done some amazing stuff.  I think we're on the same page here.

I would like very much to see your script come to life, and I would like to see the many native actors, who have had to make do with bit parts and shifty mexican junk roles all those years, get a chance to do something real, something worthy of their talents.  There are some who could pull off serious lead roles if they were given a chance.  Wes Studi and Adam Beach come to mind, but I know there are others who haven't gotten the attention or the recognition they deserve.  What they get instead is all too often one shitty stereotype after another.

And yeah, hindsight is always, always perfect....

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 12:58:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for sure, but i thought it still wouldn't be the same.  Wes and Adam were always in the picture, and Tantoo and Gary Farmer and many more. And someone dear to me (and the whole native film community, Floyd Westerman). even Ben Bratt, who still did sweat lodges then. and actually, many native actors with little recognition, but who knew they were born to do a film like this.

Tantoo put me in touch with a Mohawk writer who pitched in. First met Adam when Smoke Signals was filming, under the helm of Chris Eyre.

but i've got something else to post here, so i'll leave this for a bit.

appreciate your comments, n'yahweh.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 05:37:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a thought ...

Have you gotten in touch with Michael Blake?  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 06:02:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Met him at a press screening of Dances. Liked him. Don't think we ever had any traction at Costner's Co. He was working Waterworld then, i think. Can't remember all the places that had it.

Good thought, though. But long gone.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 07:40:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having read the script in full, (and I was very impressed by it, as CH knows) there's a strange thing that a) would have been great if it was done back then, but b) CH's script requires, in some important scenes, the creation of an environment and characters that are only now technically possible to do seamlessly.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:07:40 PM EST
If you're talking heavy-duty CGI you're talking $100 million and that's a tough sale for a bunch of Unknown Wanna-Be's.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 12:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it's heavy-duty - I've seen stuff being made in Finland that would do the trick. It's more  about creating the required sense of magic than photorealistic fantasy. Poetic CGI perhaps or Suggestive CGI. It doesn't need the concave street roll out of 'Inception' for instance.

It's possible, fairly simply, to do stuff like suggestively anthropomorphize running water, so that it can build that sense of 'magic' in the audience. And, as I've discussed with CH, the sound design could be a powerful factor in that too. I always say movies are 50% sound - not all pros agree. But I've always been amazed in editing and mastering how sound (music and FX) can change the feeling, rhythm and drama of a sequence. Most effective, imho, when subliminal.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 01:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Haven't seen Inception.  Won't until it comes out on DVD as I have strong objections to paying for being subjected to 30 minutes of commercials before they bother to roll the movie I paid to see.

I expect the next "Idea" will be to break into the film with commercials.  They do it in TV-land, right?  

grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

You've read the script so you know more better what SFX it requires to carry it.  I only wish, here, to remind you Avatar and all the rest of the CGI stuff is pre-conditioning audiences to a certain level of "Realistic Visual Expectations" that other films will have to match or exceed.  Anecdotal Evidence: when I first saw the dream sequence in Kagamusha I was blown-away; when I watched the film Thursday night my reaction was, "How cheesy."

Unreality has gotten more Real over the last 30 years.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 01:40:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can solve the commercials thing by waiting until the end of a run at a cinema and turning up late or during office hours.

If you're lucky you get to be the only person in the theatre, with the best seat in the house. (And no ads.)

Re: SFX - it would be interesting to make a movie like this with no obvious CGI at all. It would be an epic challenge, but it would be more likely to be memorable than something like Avatar which is mostly visual MSG.

Admittedly it's very professional visual MSG, and I enjoyed watching the framing, colour and composition.

But still - there's a certain creative inconsistency in using computers to simulate Eden.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 01:53:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In drafting Hiawatha, the intent was to have any cgi so completely seamless as to not distract from the graphic real human violence. back in the mid-90's, when the script was finalized, i thought then we had just entered into the possible.

while we did have a snake-headed sorcerer with 7 crooks in his back, and a Peacemaker who arrived in a stone canoe, and an ndn floating in space, the real problem was being able to show primitive weapons tearing through soft human tissue.

But now, slam dunk cheap.

(If i recall, the budget then was something like 12M, but what do i know.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:05:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Visual MSG"

I'm going to steal that.  ;-)

AVATAR SPOILER ALERT!!!  

The Epic Moment in Avatar, for me, was the forest scene, after the "dog" fight, when we got to see the forest/jungle under its "natural" light.  It was so beautiful I wanted to stand and cheer.  And it wasn't just eye-candy.  It really brought-out, visually, why the Forest People were violently against its destruction.

I don't think I've ever seen a "natural" environment more lovingly presented in a film.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Visually, there were many very beautiful moments.

But it never quite gelled for me. The natives - sorry, the Na'avi - lived on the beauty, but the splice wasn't seamless or organic. Would they have been less motivated if the scenery had been 50% less beautiful?

I was more moved by the Sigourney Weaver scene where she was being carried to the tree and the scaling made her look child-like.

Not so beautiful and more ambiguous, but I thought it was a more enthtralling 'Wait - what? Oh...' moment.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:50:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But it never quite gelled for me. The natives - sorry, the Na'avi - lived on with [Edited to match my prejudices.  That's what editors do, after all.] the beauty, but the splice wasn't seamless or organic.

Me 2.

For me the jarring was the ripped-off, dumbed down, Dances with Wolves Lowest Common Denominator story we were forced to endure.  Granted, that was one reason the film made the money it did; it didn't challenge the audience in any way.  

Cameron made, all things considered, a good film.  He had the chance to make a Great Film, even a Classic.  He blew it and it was frustrating sitting in the audience watching him blow it.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 03:06:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Giving Cameron his due ...

When you've got $200 million into a film, and you want to get money to make another film, your options are limited.  Got to sell 85,714,285 first run tickets to make your backers happy or, roughly, 17,000 tickets/screen -- figuring 5,000 screens.  (A LOT.)  The fewer the number of screens, the high number of tickets per and there's only so many screenings per day one can do with limited seating per showing.

So, I'm aware part of the problem with Hollywood films is the sheer costs of making the damn things limits "experimentation."


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 03:19:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with all that, and the tacky day for night sky matte in the last fateful canoe trip in  'Deliverance, still makes me shudder uncontrollably.

But I think this kind of pre-conditioning is a dead-end street. Even the reality shows are going to end up one day with a pitch for "Male Models Crapping - the search is on for who can evacuate their bowels most entertainingly". Because escalation has a limit. Or does it?

When you've reached a level of resolution that approaches human optical acuity, there's not much further to escalate in this area - in terms of drama per buck. What I've been seeing is people working on particle and other areas of CGI that are much more 'impressionistic'. And I could imagine a reaction to 'hard-edge' and thus the commercialization of 'impressionist'. Of course, these movies, if they happen, will not follow conventional drama structures.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:06:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it's a dead end street.  Can't survive on Visual MSG.  (A term I just came up with.  Like it?  :-D)

In Avatar - SPOILER - Cameron had the chance to use the plant's 'neural net' to fight the bad guys - which would have been REALLY INTERESTING and even more exciting.  (IMHO.)  And what does the asshole do?  Show an off-the-shelf battle.  Jerk.

The dramatic beats of the conventional drama structure only work if there is drama to beat.  Now anybody above the (mental) age of 13 knows the Plunky Band of Fighters Facing Overwhelming Odds is going to win, the Crusty Old Man is a Softie Underneath, and The Prostitute Has a Heart of Gold; unless it is Tarentino in which case everybody is a Homicidal Maniac.  The only "drama" is which of the supporting actors are going to eat it and of those which are going to get a "death scene" with sad music running on the soundtrack with the lead weeping sad tears on their upturned faces.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:32:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:54:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A good resource and fascinating reading.

One could use the page addresses with a random number generator and churn out "product" by the ream.

He wrote.

Cynically.


Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 03:30:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As a graduate of the Extended DVD School of Film Making ...

:-D

I've always been amazed in editing and mastering how sound (music and FX) can change the feeling, rhythm and drama of a sequence. Most effective, imho, when subliminal.

Oh yes.  A film is "done" three times (at least):

A film is written and turned into a shooting script.

<insert>storyboarding</insert>

A film is shot on location.

A film is made in the editing room and during post-production.  (Why the @#$%! is it still called post-production?)

During the last, the impact, tone, tenor, & All That of a scene can be morphed many different ways using the elements of the soundtrack: dialogue, ADR, music, Foley, & etc.  Music is, perhaps, the most subliminal of these (?) that can used for tweaking.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:00:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
amen.

and Sven is spot on when talking about the sound of this film. Back then i had even thought about using only samples from the forest to create the sound track.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A good composer can and will work with "natural" sounds when creating the film score.  The sound design people absolutely should or you've got the wrong people.  The sound mixers should be able to jumble and patch all of this into a coherent Whole; really good ones know how to use silence to emotionalize the visual; they seem to rare, these days, however.

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot
by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:50:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Music is powerful, but sometimes less successful when pushed into consciousness - mainly because what's happening on screen is LESS interesting than the music. I only 'heard' the 'music'  that accompanies the shower murder sequence in Psycho when I saw it (and heard it) a second time. Now, it's a cliché driven by the sound.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:13:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a cliché now.  Everybody stole it.

mainly because what's happening on screen is LESS interesting than the music.

Not a lot one can do with watery ink going down a shower drain intercut with a knife descending through the air.  We're not talking a huge heaping helping of visual excitement here.

:-)

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 02:38:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... the Lawyer's Cut, the first several screenings of Holy Grail were flops. They decided for most of the background music to go from what they had produced (which was all, given their budget, done with 12 musicians) to the BBC library to get historical epic-cy sounding background music ... and it got a big step up toward the film that turned £100,000's into £10m's.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 03:08:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I"m glad it didn't hit me all at once Saturday night. Better that I simply enjoyed watching Avatar, almost off-handedly skipping over the similarities.

Tonight I've been through it again up to the Home Tree being destroyed, the father giving his bow to his daughter, a woman, and dying.

there's more similarities than i thought at first, little and big, but i hadn't realized that whole concepts and themes were more importantly used.  In fact, the most blatant was the woman warrior theme. She came directly from Jigonsahsee, who i created completely out the virtually nothing of the oral tradition

In fact, the first time i spoke with a Mohawk writer after he read the script, he told me couldn't believe i nailed the woman who all we knew was the first to accept the Peace.

I'll never know for certain whether cameron read Hiawatha, but it's likely. I'm still a bit shell-shocked from the second viewing, so i'm glad it's hitting in stages.

Hiawatha was stolen once before, at the end of the 90's somewhen, by some schlock shop. I ended up with 40 pages of direct comparisons, including verbatim dialogue and scene description, and all kinds of cheap steals like changing the animal from a panther to a cougar.

I sent a very strong letter, letting them know that one further move on the film would unleash top lawyers, and they disappeared.

this is of course completely different.  i have no wish whatsoever to initiate a legal proceeding of any kind.  in fact, on one side it's an honor to the spirit and effort i put in writing it, on another, it's a rape.

My only wish is to see Hiawatha on screen with my own eyes before i pass on.  Even though most of those envisioned for key parts are now likely too old, there'll be the third generation who followed in the lineage of grandfathers Dan George and Will Sampson.

i could cry, though. or maybe not.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 06:07:47 PM EST
As the reality begins to settle in, and my thoughts begin to gather, I can only say this hits very hard.  Because i feel so much so much a part of this community, i'll try to discuss it a bit. Doing so may help me understand where i'm at, and what to do.

What i can't do, of course, is post the script online for comparison.

The most galling is that the concept of a woman warrior was used completely. While there are many examples of women fighting bravely in emergencies, to my understanding there are no native women warriors, or at least very rare. In the script, Jigonsahsee only wants to be a warrior to protect her people, but can't because she's a woman.

Thus it is very powerful when she is the first to accept the Peace of the Peacemaker, saying, "then I will be your warrior."

At the same time, Hiawatha, the real warrior, is continually struggling to embrace the work of the Peacemaker, and falls back into his own ways over and over. It is Jigonsahsee who finally makes him see.

In Avatar, the guy actually says, "I was a warrior who dreamed he could bring peace."

The key scene where Hiawatha falling off the cliff is saved by the trees was used twice in Avatar, just as in Hiawatha it opened the film, and the first act is a flashback leading up to the same scene from a different perspective. As he lays lifeless he is attacked by a panther, changed just a bit in Avatar.

What Cameron created was a different story, one i enjoyed while not being unaware of the "machinery of manipulation," words of a friend of mine.  But that he used Hiawatha to make the Na'avi a real native culture is obvious at least to me.

The concept of uniting the clans is the key theme of Hiawatha, far more developed in the script than in the oral tradition, and that's what saves the Na'avi.

The climax in Avatar is the Avatar's battle with the captain in the transformer suit, or whatever, just as in Hiawatha he finally faces the Sorcerer.

It's not blatant what Cameron took, though the scenes of speaking into the killed animals ears is taken direct, as is the line "it's a clean kill." As are the scenes of the Avatar learning to be a warrior, taken from Hiawatha's way of being in the forest. and there's more.

Not time to write more now, just an anecdote.  I spoke yesterday with my ex-wife and still friend, who of course had taken Hiawatha deep inside her.

She told me, "As i walked out of the theater, I felt as if I'd seen Hiawatha.  I didn't tell you about it, because I'd hoped you wouldn't see it."

But now I have.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 12th, 2010 at 04:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PS.  In the climax scene of Hiawatha's re-awakening, he flies a giant eagle in space.  Strange, innit?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 12th, 2010 at 04:24:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is as close as you say you need to document it to have any hope of getting the project funded.  This isn't something that can be done over the internet or ad-hoc'ed.  You need a professional to lay-out what you need to do.

Once you've done that you're in a position to market the script, or have the script marketed for you.  Following the success of Avatar is a wizard time to re-introduce the project.  I'm not kidding when I say "In Hollywood everybody wants to be first to be second."  An elevator speech consisting of, "It's like Avatar but ..." should, if the people marketing the script know their jobs, open doors and increases the chances of getting the script sold.  

Another thing, and this is forcibly being brought home to me (again,) you need A Player: someone with the clout and contacts such that people HAVE TO talk to him/her.  Otherwise you're going to end-up in Pre-Development Hell where nobody will commit themselves with a definitive statement just in case Money magically appears and they can grab a piece of the action without having to do anything.  (BTW, If you figure-out how to find that person ... let me know!  :-)  

Last, "Open Season" for scripts for 2011 production is about to happen.  Avatar has opened a window for your script.  Right now there should be people looking for 'The Next Avatar' and ready to buy.  There may even be people who saw the script 'first time around' and be looking for you; I've known that to happen.  

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Thu Aug 12th, 2010 at 11:41:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks AT, some sage counsel.

Please remember though, i've been through Hollyweird, at sometimes pretty high levels. I do understand how it works. I've had Players behind me at times, including the producer of two of the first three Star Wars.

I've had Jon Voight (2 Oscars? but politically crazy) bow down to me in public (at the native Oscars), and have me come down to LA to discuss the script he loved, where he said he'd get it made.  (I sat next to him as he saw his work for the first time in a John Boorman film on some irish gangster.)

I'm not using this diary for advice on what to do or how to do it.  I'm using this diary to help me come to grips with what's happened.

A few days since the last update, and i'm realizing i've made a major, and i mean major, contribution to the biggest film of all time.  without credit, and of course without pay.

if you read the previous paragraph, please try to imagine what that means to me.  It took me nearly 7 years to perfect the Hiawatha script, and 11 years total of working the game.  When i say rape, i mean rape, of all the effort and inspiration it took to write something so good Cameron could copy it... i feel violated.

This diary is just to help me get my head around it, and work out my most sincere feelings in public, because however this works out, it's going to be in the public.

It's also important to get a sense of what ET people feel. Not in terms of judging whether there was indeed theft, since you can't really do that without the script. But in terms of how people perceive it when a writer says, hey, they took my idea.  We've all read about such matters before. Often, it's merely an attempt by a non-player to get some money... but sometimes the theft is real... part of the game in H'weird.

But here's a chance to watch the drama live, from someone you knew (and trusted) previously as someone knowledgeable regarding windpower.  You can help me come to grips with my role, and perhaps can help me understand what's really happening here.

let's just say i'm not letting my vision die easily.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 06:33:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading your comments, I can sort of see a documentary of the non-making of the film, and how several major attempts have been made over several years to make it. (Although no doubt the  last section of allegations of rape and theft of story by a major Hollywood studio would cause  lawyers involved to go white at the sign of any documentary edited final version)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 08:52:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ceebs:
to go white

Isn't that a big part of the training at law school?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 10:13:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ceebs, the doc film idea is interesting. For one, Hiawatha was always intended to have a making of doc attached, to explain the real history of the Iroquois Confederacy, and its survival today. now we can make it an action adventure doc as well.

for two, i remember being at the premiere of At Play In the Fields of the Lord.  I remember thinking the biggest Players in H'Weird had tried to make the film along its course, but it ended up being 26 years for Peter Matthiessen. i remember thinking i wouldn't survive so long, and that was for a really successful book!

it's now 21 and counting for me.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 06:38:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
five years to go then :)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 07:54:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well. There's also:

And:

James Cameron rejects claims Avatar epic borrows from Russians' sci-fi novels | Film | The Guardian

Director James Cameron is facing claims that his 3D blockbuster Avatar owes an unacknowledged debt to the popular Soviet fantasy writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

And:

Did James Cameron Rip Off Poul Anderson's Novella?

James Cameron's Avatar has been championed as an attempt at original science fiction storytelling in film amongst a sea of remakes and adaptations. But Cameron may have borrowed some of the key aspects of his tale from author Poul Anderson.

Reader Goldfarb pointed us to Call Me Joe, a novella written in 1957 by Golden Age science fiction writer Poul Anderson. Many fans of Anderson suspect that the story was an important influence on Avatar, and some are calling for Anderson to be credited on the film. And it's easy to see why.

And:

Is Avatar A Rip-Off Of An Obscure 1993 British Comic Series? « ecorazzi.com :: the latest in green gossip

When a movie reaches the height of Avatar, surely similarities to previous works will be compared. Parallels have already been pointed out between the mega box office hit and Fern Gully, Pocahontas, Halo, and Dances with Wolves. Now the entertainment website Heavy.com is making a case for the uncanny resemblances between James Cameron's Avatar and a comic book series titled Firekind.

Firekind ran weekly in 2000 AD, a British science fiction comic anthology best known for its Judge Dredd stories. Created by John Smith and Paul Marshall, the comic series features a human botanist named Hendrick Larsen who travels to Gennyo-Leil, a jungle alien world with a toxic atmosphere, large dragons, blue-skinned natives, and floating rocks.

And...

Avatar Isn't A Delgo Ripoff, But It Is A Matthew McConaughey Movie

While James Cameron's Avatar has many ardent supporters, it's unlikely that the release of fifteen minutes from the film last week had the effect Fox was hoping for. More than a few fans have decried it as, well, rather silly. Others have even gone so far as to label it a rip-off. Worse, the makers of the animated movie Delgo not only think it's a rip-off, they appear to think they may have a lawsuit.

And...

Vancouver man files first 'Avatar' rip-off lawsuit

The first claim actually comes from a Vancouver restaurant owner, Emil Malak, who says that "Avatar" bears a striking resemblance to his screenplay, "Terra Incognita," copyrighted in 1998. In Malak's story, a tree is a focal point of a community of indigenous people and contains their collective memories. His characters are odd-looking creatures, some with braided hair and others with tails. They are protecting their home planet from militaristic human intruders who want to mine precious minerals. Here's a point-by-point comparison put online by the plaintiff.

Malak says that in October 2002, he sent the script and some graphic designs to about 20 movie studios, including Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment. He never got a response. Now he's suing Cameron, Lightstorm and Twentieth Century Fox in B.C. Supreme Court. Fox hasn't immediately commented on the case, filed yesterday.

So I'm guessing, odds of anything legal are not good - unless everyone gets together and tries a class action suit.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 10:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Danke, TBG.  Who woulda thunk it?  (Didn't realise there was a whole industry of this stuff on Avatar, though i've realized for two decades or more that plagiarism is Hollywood's second biggest industry.)


Should the similarities between Avatar and Call Me Joe cause problems for Cameron, it wouldn't be the first time. After The Terminator came out, writer Harlan Ellison sued the production company for plagiarizing two episodes he wrote for The Outer Limits. Even though Cameron took Ellison's ideas in a very different and novel direction, the company settled with Ellison, who is now acknowledged in the film's credits.


Literature, film and art are derivative of past efforts. The extent to which one is influenced does matter, but it's wrong to pick and chose who gets scorn and who gets praised. There's nothing wrong with seeing a great story and being inspired by it, and that is how some of the best material was created. Without that, we'd have a tiny collection of books and film.


The story with "The Terminator" is as follows. Cameron admitted in conversation that he had ripped off the plot "from a couple of Outer Limits episodes". At that point, the author of said Outer Limits episodes (Ellison) asked to be paid, and after a bit of litigation and negotiation (perhaps made unnecessarily unpleasant by the caustic personalities of both Ellison and Cameron) he was. This was perhaps entirely unnecessary, as the ideas ripped off were sufficiently generic that there is little chance Ellison would have had a case had Cameron not already admitted it. If the same has happened again with Poul Andersonm, well I hope he gets paid too.


 A lot of these plagarism charges get thrown around far too freely by fans who don't realize how easy it is to accidentally reverse-engineer another story simply by taking a story where it naturally wants to go.

Interesting that Cameron mentions Dances with Wolves as an influence, as well as admitting there were a host of SF stories which influenced him on various films.  The similarities to Pocahantas, a bit overworked comparison in my view, interests me as the star, Irene Bedard, is a friend of mine from the days of Smoke Signals. I haven't seen Ferngully (will rent it today) but i do know the producer, who was the model for The Dude in Big Lebowski.

What sets my claim apart is that most of these are from already published stories, while  Hiawatha  is an unproduced script, and to the degree there are specific elements taken, that could only come from having read the script.  or else two people having the same idea at the same time... which of course has never happened before.  :-))

As stated earlier, I'm not interested in going the lawsuit route at all.  I'm interested in seeing Hiawatha on screen.  I suppose it's time for me to reconnect with the father of the Titanic star (who introduced me to Leo at Tim Leary's wake), as he's told me Hiawatha is a great script.

and i suppose it's time to round up the native film community, from which i've been so distant since i've been focused (re-focused) on windpower here in Germany.  See what we can do now.

Remember, Wes Studi is in Avatar, and he was a colleague in arms.  Tantoo Cardinal from Dances also, and Irene as Pocahantas.

My ex told me that at least this will wake me up again, and apparently it has.  It's already been worthwhile to post here at ET, look what i've learned from TBG's links.

My first internal reaction to realizing Cameron read Hiawatha was that perhaps this will end up to be a good thing.  Wer weiss?

((Postscript:  How wide are the circles in Hollyweird?  One time i was hitchhiking at Sundance, and got picked up by Samuel Jackson. he asked my why i was there, and i told him i wrote Hiawatha. he stopped the van, turned back to look at me, and told me what a great script it was. Of course i had never sent it to him.

Jumpcut.  Jon Voight has taken me out to dinner after the rough cut screening of John Boorman's film (he had a role, and had never seen it before).  Samuel Jackson and a posse of ten are sitting at the next table, so of course he comes over to give props to the legend, Mr. Voight. But when he turns to me and says, "good to see you again" i'm particularly stunned. As is Mr. Voight.))

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 06:30:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me put it bluntly.

The people you need to 'sell' are the distributors.  And for them it's all about getting 'First Run' butts in seats.  If people expire when they get there .... they don't care.  The ticket has been sold.  Generally, you're selling to them at one remove via a Production company.

At any one time there are about 100,000 scripts floating around Hollywood, some of which are even competently written.  The people who are buying don't give a damn about any one of them; it's a buyers market.  They can put their money into just about any one of them and churn a profit.  The only hope you have is convincing them they will make more money with your script than any of the others floating around.  

Unless you form your own production company you will little to no say, and certainly not the final decision, in how the film is cast, made, edited, released.  You might ... MIGHT ... get to write the shooting script along with the director and producer(s) and a contract for additional shooting and ADR dialogue.  As a first time writer?  Probably not.

If you insist on being a Decision Maker during production you will be labeled a PITA and the buyers will move on -- even as I write there are established scriptwriters beavering away, word processors going hacka-hacka, doing 'The Next Avatar.'  The next Production that can grab the label should do between $200 and $300 million because that's what a 'First to Be Second' production does.  To the distributors and production companies it doesn't matter who writes the script or even what the story is: close enough is close enough and the difference can be made-up in the advertising, PR, and other marketing.  

To the distributors and production companies the fact you've written an Oscar Quality script is nice, but lagniappe.  At the same time the more-better the script is, the more powerful the story, the likely the film is to get repeat business and Word of Mouth -- The Golden Light.  ;-)

The American Film Market meeting is looming.  By what you and Sven say the script has a Real Chance of being bought -- even if only to keep it off the market.  (For that reason for God's Sakes do NOT accept an option!!1!!!!eleventyone!!!!!11!!!!! -- unless you really know and deeply trust the people in the production company.)  There will be, roughly, 20,000 'The Next Avatar' floating around, seeking $$$$.  If people in the Business have already seen, and liked, your script you've got a jump on the competition.  BUT YOU HAVE TO GET IT IN FRONT OF THEM!  AFM is the place to do it.

 

Skepticism is the first step on the road to truth. -- Denis Diderot

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 11:36:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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