QUESTION: The movie treatment idea you are pitching is a doomsday, action-type film called "The Real Threat". It's based in Austin, Texas where a future severe drought continues longer than anyone planned for, that forces municipal systems to start rationing water. Local wars erupt when rich communities have an unlimited supply, while the poorer places are forced to drink dirty water. The climax happens though when everyone's taps run dry and panic ensues. Worst case scenarios multiply based on bad policy-making decisions. Pitch treatment focuses on two different families, one middle-class family in Austin, Texas and one poor family in Liberia, Africa. The film would compare the stark differences in their lives based on having access to clean and safe drinking water, to how they are more similar when they are both without.
So you've written a film treatment for a possible Hollywood movie called "The Real Threat." and you've registered it with the Writers Guild of America to protect it as your intellectual property. It's a doomsday actioned packed film as you envision it, set in Texas in the near future when a severe drought continues on longer than city officials had expected. Can you tell me any more details without giving away the entire plot or spoilers? Like who are the main characters or minor yet important characters?
MELISSA: The American family consists of 4 people, the mom and dad are in their 40’s, they have a daughter that’s 8 years old, and a teenage son who is 15 years old. The dad RICK take a long shower every morning before going to work at the Capital of Texas, where he has a career as a lobbyist for Oil & Gas. He shaves daily after his shower and leaves the sink faucet running out of convenience. The young girl AMY doesn’t turn off the faucet either as she brushes her teeth because she learned the habit from her dad. The teenage boy STEVEN is tasked with watering the lawn every morning. He turns on the hose and walks off with water pouring onto the driveway every day. Stephen bullies a girl in his class named ANNA for her extreme “hippy” behavior. She picks up litter, drinks out of a canteen, and doesn’t eat meat. Stephen secretly has a crush on Anna but is peer pressured to pick on her. He is afraid to be ridiculed by his friends if he expressed his true feelings. The mother AMANDA makes coffee and breakfast every morning. She leaves the faucet running while she rinses the dishes before putting them into dishwasher. Amanda is a bored housewife who drinks alcohol excessively during the daytime and is toying with having an affair via a dating website. Her life has lost its meaning since Amy started school and has been depressed for a long time. No one in the family thinks their water use activities have an impact on the drought.
Across the globe in an African shack, a single mother AZA is trying to care for her 2 young sons and is in desperate need of fresh water. Her younger son PONI is 5 years old and is suffering from severe dehydration. Her older son OBI is 8 years old, and he’s slowly dying from cholera. Her pleas for help go unanswered due to the enormous water deficit inflicting everyone else in the village. The water well is tapped dry, and the nearby pond is contaminated with human waste, trash, and animal carcasses. Most of the tribesmen have already migrated towards the coast. The mother decides she must risk traveling with her sick children to save them. There is ripped up bits of plastic bags, empty soda cans, beer bottles, plastic water bottles strewn all over the barren ground. There are young children going through the trash to find a drop of liquid.
QUESTION: Is the film treatment sci fi or cli fi? Action thriller or whodunit? Spec fiction or romance?
MELISSA: Eco-fiction or cli-fi with an action thriller element.
3. If the film is shot in Austin, is it possible to find a local director, local funding, local crew and local actors OR do you need to do this via a Hollywood producer?
MELISSA: My idea originally stemmed from it being a locally made, filmed, produced movie in Austin. I’d love it if Robert Rodriguez would take on this project.
4. Do you think about the film treatment every day? How long did it take to write it? and what was the first inspiration and motivation to start writing it?
MELISSA: I’d say once a month, but not every day. The story is on my mind frequently though, especially when a new natural catastrophe happens that’s instigated from climate change.
5. Do you plan to use social media to shop the treatment around? How many pages is the treatment? How does one go about contacting possible producers or studio in Hollywood? Have you tried any yet? Any replies?
MELISSA: I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that in non-obtrusive manner. If there is a way, then sure I’ll be motivated to promote it via social media. The treatment is a concise 3 pages. I’ve looked online about how to submit pitches and there seems to be a lot of contests for film ideas that you pay to enter. No, I haven’t tried to contact any directors in Hollywood.
6. I met you when i saw your tweet to Marshall Herskovitz a producer. How did you find his name and how did you find his tweet page and did he reply to you at all?
MELISSA: No he never replied to my tweet, and I saw his name from the Climate Change Symposium in Paris article.
7. Any other producers you have tried to contact? How many so far?
MELISSA: I’ve sent the treatment pitch to several different local film production companies. Most never replied back, but I was in communication with one company in particular since the owner was a strong environmentalist. But after inquiring a few times about the status of my pitch with no response; I stopped contacting them. It’s been a couple years and I can’t remember the name of the production company I had contacted.
8. Do you have an agent yet to shop the treatment around for you?
MELISSA: Nope. My plan was to pitch to local film production companies to see if anyone was interested in the idea first.
9. If the movie gets made, what do you hope viewers will take away from the movie as a message?
MELISSA: This fictional film will be based on facts, so there is a possibility this type of scenario could in fact happen. Because of that, I think it’s far scarier than movies about mind-controlling aliens, vampires, or zombies. I want people to be entertained by the movie firstly but also, understand that there’s an underlining warning label there too.
10. Why are you so personally invested in this film treatment? Have you written other things like this before? books or opeds in newspapers?
MELISSA: I love movies, books, & graphic novels. I’m basically a geek for hyped entertainment based on well-written characters and film plots. My favorite film/book genre is dystopian themes. When I don’t see a neat story out there on the market via either film or book that I would love to read and watch, I think, well why not write it yourself! I’ve only written this film pitch idea but have started writing a young adult sci-fi 3-book series called “The Trinity Project”. It’s about three genetically-enhanced super kids biologically engineered from the top three labs in the United Nations that were created to use their supreme intellectual powers to solve the global crises as World War III erupts.
11. What's next for you in terms of how to shop this film treatment around and any advice for other would be screenwriters with climate themed movies in their minds?
MELISSA: I’d say never stop talking about your idea. If you are passionate about it, believe the story NEEDS to be told, then you’ll get your opportunity.
12. Anything else you want to say re the movie idea and concept?
MELISSA: I’m a water planner with the state of Texas and always thought this type of film needs to be made. WHY? Our state recently went through the worst drought ever on record back in 2011, where some towns actually ran out of water. HOW DOES MY JOB make the movie theme so important and dear to your heart? The agency I work for plans up to 50 years in the future accounting for projected population and economic growth. However, the water planning process does not (and cannot) account for extreme and unique weather events, such as what was witnessed back in 2011. We plan based on the past rainfall patterns and the previous drought on record. Setting new drought records in the future is a scary prospect because someone will run out of water again!