A peculiar day in the life of our fictional Hollywood super developer, presented as satirical short story. Part of 5M Projects. Written by Rogue Saint.
Late last night, I received a phone call. A pleasant female voice on the other side of the wire asked if I was the man giving aspiring writers or even seasoned pros free ideas to develop into screenplays and TV pilots.
"Yes. That's me. Who wants to know?"
"I'm calling from a local Hollywood mental hospital..."
"Wait, wait a minute. You're calling me from a nuthouse?"
"Sir, we'd like to think we help people," the lady responded. "Anyway, we have a writer here who left your number as an emergency contact."
I admit, this kind of call was the last kind I wanted to receive. But somewhere in me, there's still a little bit of empathy left, so I dressed and visited the local mental hospital. In room 3C, I found you, an aspiring writer or a seasoned pro, lying in bed attached to a cocktails of drugs that made your eyes spin like a broken tire on a 1988 Chrysler.
"I'm glad you came," you greeted me, your voice weak and shaken. "I'm not sure I can go on any longer. This industry is killing me."
"What exactly is the problem?" I asked.
"I went to the movie theater, but they were showing a reboot of a famous movie from the previous century. I fork out a hundred dollars every month on cable for them to offer reboots of popular TV shows from the '70s or from another country. I read the Deadline blog every day, only to find out the executives in Hollywood have approved another reboot. And yesterday, I was in Urth Caffé on Melrose only to hear two young wannabe producers trying to find the best movie or TV show to reboot and bring back to life. Reboots. Reboots. Reboots. Is this town ever going to accept a new idea again?"
"It is part of the business." I tried to approach the problem from a rational point of view. "Reboots are easier to produce and sell to the public than original ideas. It’s about money. That doesn't mean your spec script is bound for a trash can at the Warner Bros lot."
"Mine was bound for a trash can at the Nicholls Awards this past summer." Despite my attempts to cheer you up, you still sounded desperate and hopeless.
"Look, Warner Bros, Nicholls, trash cans... it doesn't matter. You're in this room because of reboots. The fact is, reboots aren't going anywhere. They're here to stay as long as there's a TV and film entertainment business. I can give you an idea for rebooting a TV series that can make a splash on TVs across the USA."
"Really?" Your eyes came back to life. "What’s the name of the show?"
"Shaka what?" You sank into despair again. "What is this TV show about? Is this something about Voodoo, because if it is, I'd rather listen to my wife talk about shopping or getting her nails done."
"Shaka Zulu is a 1986 TV series produced by the South African Broadcasting Company (SABC), based on the story of Shaka, king of the Zulu nation from 1816 to 1828, and the writings of the British traders who dealt with him. The SABC produced ten episodes of fifty minutes each, and I'll tell you something... the series is awesome. I still get chills when watching an opening scene with African drums pounding and a chorus of deep voices repeating BAM! BAM! BAM! I saw it first a long time ago as a kid, and I loved it. I watched it again several months ago, and it hadn’t lost a bit of its appeal in the decades that had passed."
"Wait, wait, wait a minute," you stopped me. "You want me to reboot a foreign TV show about an African tribe and its leader? Who exactly would watch that?"
"People would. The original show played in more than thirty different territories across the world and was a huge success. This project could be a similarly great success. I'm as far away from the Zulu tribe as most of us. I had never even heard of them before watching this show as kid. I didn't know people like them existed, but the show... is excellent, to say the least, and has only one bad side. I'll talk about that bad side later, and it is the main thing you could improve beyond imagination in your reboot."
"Okay. Okay. You’ve convinced me… Let's hear more about this TV show."
"Shaka was a king of the Zulus who reinvented the art of war among local tribes and brought the less-populous Zulus to the top. His main ‘invention’ was shortening the length of a weapon used in battle to increase the mobility of his troops, as well as creating a ‘bull formation’ for use during fights. The TV series depicts the brutal childhood that formed him to be a brutal man and his battle victories as he rises to the top. On the other side, British traders, sent by the British colonial government in this part of Africa, have a very important part as well. They meet the young, smart, but power-hungry king of the Zulus, and both sides try to take as much as possible from this more than inconvenient relationship."
"It sounds compelling, but if the original show was so good, why reboot it?"
"The answer is simple and includes the only weakness this show had. That was the battle scenes. The battle scenes that accompany this great story are disastrous. They are disastrous even by 1970s standards, let alone the '80s when the show was taped, or today. I'm not sure whether this was because of lack of funds or ability. It really doesn't matter. The fact is, this great story has the worst battle scenes I've seen. Improve the battle scenes, stick with the already-great narrative and phenomenal characters, don't get too politically correct or try to make political statements, and you will create a great reboot. Probably one of the best."
"So I should stay away from promoting positive stereotypes for no reason?"
"You're not a TV pundit on news media. You're also not minister of tourism for South Africa. You're not rebooting the show to promote positive stereotypes, but to put your own stamp on a great story."
"How should I start my pitch to a production or studio executive for this reboot?"
"'In acquiring rights to bring the TV series Shaka Zulu back to life, we're committed to bringing a spectacle rarely seen on our TV channels. This was a man who changed the way of life and death for his people, a man they loved and worshiped a man feared yet admired by his enemies like nobody else south of the Sahara Desert. I truly believe viewers across the country will respond well to the amazing, mystical world we're about to present to them...' I'll stop here."
"Stop here? Why? I need to know more about this project to have any chance of success."
"Like virtually any other project, this reboot has both pros and cons. Some of the pros for green-lighting this would be: 1. Great story and characters. Make sure you find somebody like Henry Cele, who was outstanding as Shaka...
“2. By improving the battle scenes, you get a flawless TV show that will wow an audience...
“3. Award-winning potential...
“4. It would bring a little spice to American TV viewers used to seeing TV series created on a few typical patterns...
“5. As I mentioned, the original Shaka Zulu aired in many countries across Europe, and in virtually all of them the show was a big success. Your marketing team should be aware of this info...
“6. Shows with such strong historical content have usually done great on TV."
"What are the cons I should really worry about?"
"The price for acquiring the material as well as the budget may be high. The second con is not actually heavily against you, but this project may not be suited for network channels but rather for cable. You need to make sure that you have solid backing before production... Now, I want you to get out of this claustrophobic room, and first thing tomorrow, make a phone call to your powerful producer friend. Convince him to recreate this show with the original great story line but fantastic battle scenes. I'll be watching you."
Find more ideas for movies and TV at VillanLabs' Five Minute Projects - 5M Projects
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