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Thread: Script ideas for a train movie?

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    Default Script ideas for a train movie?

    Hey guys! I happen to own a complete movie-making rig that I put together last year (below), hoping for a long-term rental which never materialized. The heart of the system is the vastly underrated Sony FS100, which has the distinction of housing a Super35 large-format sensor designed specifically for cine applications (later versions used re-purposed still-image sensors which aren't as light-sensitive). I also have a full array of geared Nikon lenses and ND filters. Well, it's just been sitting in my office for more than a year and I thought with my renewed interest in trains, maybe I could get interested in filmmaking again.


    Sony FS100 Super35 cine rig.

    Heres' some of the guidelines:

    • Ultra-low budget, guerilla-style production.
    • Thriller/horror genre.
    • Main protagonist is a pretty girl.
    • Most of the film to be shot on the Los Angeles Metro light-rail system.
    • Some shooting at LAX.

    There is no pay, but any script contributions will be fully credited (if the film ever makes any money, compensation will be arranged). Horror is generally the easiest/cheapest genre to produce. I also own a complete Steadicam rig which is perfectly balanced for this camera.

    I have quite a bit of experience shooting in and around the Metro and at LAX. I shot a short in 2006 on the Metro and was stopped by Metro police three times (I just said I was shooting a student film, and they let me continue shooting). Surprisingly, there's no restrictions at LAX for taking photographs or video. Obviously, full-blown production requires permits, insurance, and a $90/hour fire marshall to be hired. If need be, there is very affordable production insurance available. Permits to shoot on the Metro are actually free, but you still have to pay the fire marshall. Permits to shoot in any state-owned agency are also free, but you need insurance and a fire marshall.

    The fewer actors the better. One female protagonist, and possibly one male actor (my friend Rick). Additional day-players are fine, but the principals have to be kept to a bare minimum for scheduling/availability. I have a very pretty young Latina girl (a popular beauty YouTuber) in mind for the main role.

    I live only three miles from a Metro station located in Redondo Beach (the same station seen in the final scene in Michael Mann's Collateral). Not busy at all and ripe for tons of guerilla-style shooting. In addition to the elevated Metro track at that station, there's two freight tracks below, at-grade, with a gated crossing. The much busier Metro station seen in the first scene of Michael Mann's Heat is also nearby.

    Possible story threads:

    • Unseen character surveils girl on her daily commute, until one day . . . something happens.
    • Girl in trouble, running, "escaping," etc.
    • Girl terrorized throughout the night (e.g., Jack Bauer's daughter in 24, season 1).
    • Some sort of psychological thriller (e.g., is she insane or is what she is experiencing really happening?).

    The simpler the story, the better. Simple premises with a single "gimmick" can often be very successful story vehicles.

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    Minimal script
    LA girls have gone missing
    Girl kidnapped, drugged
    Wakes up inside a locked up light rail car that is really in a darkened storage structure (controlled location minimizes outdoor shots/ locations)
    Antagonist (*clearly a washed up model HO RR-er) has set up projection system to make it appear that the girl is trapped on this train alone riding through a desolate nighttime (post apocalyptic?)LA. Trying to get girls to submit to him as their only hope to get out.
    Her drug induced state and POV hysteria make up for most of the film. Less dialog. As she overcomes her fear to find a way to escape. Perhaps he is the train operator? but says little as he enjoys the game.

    That is my off the cuff 2cent pitch....

    Good Luck!

    Edit * - or train memorabilia collector

    Would love to see him with a model railroader, playing with miniatures of people, but don't want to make us all out to be psychos...
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    Very interesting premise! Good fodder for a "twist" ending. Also, some very good potential sci-fi elements worth exploring. Now, all I have to do is to build a Metro car interior in my living room!

    Some things that make movies good:

    • Interesting technical things that are true/accurate that you never knew.
    • Some screenwriter once said that a good movie needs at least "six things" to happen.
    • "Show it," don't "tell it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jugtown Modeler View Post
    Would love to see him with a model railroader, playing with miniatures of people, but don't want to make us all out to be psychos...
    Interesting add-on! My friend Rick would fit the part of model railroader perfectly! Older guy with a mustache. One possble twist is that the audience may never really know who's actually watching the girl. In the end, the "weird" model railroader guy could turn out to be the good guy and save her life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    Now, all I have to do is to build a Metro car interior in my living room!
    You don't think a real collector/museum or LA Metro has a spare one you could use?
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    Okay, so here is my take on this:

    Title: Model
    by Michael Rountree

    Characters:
    Guy - obsessive, watches Metro and builds model of it
    Girl - pretty office commuter
    Photographer - minor role, sketchy credentials
    Friend - Girl's friend, minor role

    Opening credits are overlaid on footage of model trains running, then transition/morph from one model train passing by to real Metro train rolling to a stop at station.

    Guy routinely sees Girl waiting at train station as he watches trains, but too shy to talk to her. He notes the time, suggesting that he likes routine. Cut to showing that he has modeled the station and the train, somewhat explaining his voyeurism.

    One day, he sees Photographer approach her (the way he cannot), they talk before getting on train together to continue conversation. He is asking her if she has interest in modeling, offering enough money to tempt her. Finally she agrees.

    Next day, Guy notices Girl is missing (she's at the modeling job), and he gets a little bit freaked out by it. Maybe show this by how he interacts with his train model, like he's angry at it.

    Girl's modeling job goes bad, when Photographer asks her to do creepy things. Don't really need to show anything; we can learn secondhand when she returns to commute routine. Guy finally gets courage to ask her "I usually see you on this commute but you weren't here yesterday." Girl gives explanation, begins crying, catches herself before giving full description of events to a stranger. At this point, Guy is presented sympathetically.

    Guy wants her to be on his train - shown by scene of him adding a figure of her seated in his train model. Guy asks the figure, "What did he do to you?"

    Cops detain Girl one day, investigating death of Photographer. They catch up with her in the station, preventing her from boarding train; Guy doesn't like this. Flashback to Guy killing Photographer.

    Next day, Guy boards same train as Girl (he's never gotten on board before), to follow her home and make sure she's not interupted. He does this several days, getting off where she does and seeing her home (unseen stalker mode). Cut to him building model of her house for his layout.

    One day, she goes to Friend's house instead and he follows, confused. He is outside Friend's house watching Girl, Friend sees and gets gun, goes outside to confront. Friend and Guy fight, Guy wrestles gun away and kills Friend then flees, but Girl doesn't see (dark). Guy walks several blocks back to Girl's house, approaches it and stashes gun somewhere.

    Final scene Guy follows Girl all the way home; she starts to get feeling of being stalked. "You should stay in your home!" Guy bursts in right after she closes door. He ties her up, holds her hostage - tense, creepy, obsessive dialogue. She says something defiant to him (need to set this up, some kind of trigger that sets him off - maybe along the lines of "you don't belong here"), he rises and points gun at her forehead (no shot before cut).

    Cut to Guy adding a figure of himself to the interior of the house model. Then he paints a red dot on the Girl figure's head. END.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WP&P View Post
    Cut to Guy adding a figure of himself to the interior of the house model. Then he paints a red dot on the Girl figure's head
    Creepy and twisted...

    But just the kind of movie that will make us all look like psychos....
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    How about a girl taking a long journey, yet the station they stop at always seems to be the same (because it is, but this is not obvious at first).
    A mysterious figure tracks her while on the train. The figure is not actually a person, but is representative of her past life that she is trying to escape from.
    Dialogue with passengers involves regret about past life events, and whether it is possible to move on with life.
    Dialogue could also include people not on the train, via cell phone. Perhaps even people from her past, ie: dead.
    She must confront her past before she can move on with her journey.
    Could have an upbeat ending where she moves on, a downbeat ending where she is stuck in the cycle, or an ambiguous ending that is left open to interpretation.
    Daniel Dawson

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    The year is 2287. It has been two hundred years since nuclear armageddon rained down, and your heroine finds herself in what used to be a sizeable city, charged with getting a large amount of people moving away from that area and off towards a safer place on the east coast. To do so, she'll have to make her way through all manner of post-apocalyptic horrors...people turned into monsters by radiation, bioweapons running amok, scorpions and spiders the size of hatchbacks, the works, she'll have to secure allies, find a locomotive and some cars that are still repairable, to get the tracks themselves passable again.



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    Wow! These are great!!! Who knew @WP&P had such a twisted (and creative) mind??? Are you a modeler or a former screenwriter? That's some pretty good stuff! Lots of good elements to visualize. Super-intriguing modeling reference. @Mobile One, I love it!!! I really like the surreal but subtle sci-fi elements. Metro stations are often completely empty, so that's an easy one to shoot. @JennyC6, I love where you're going, but I'd need $100 million to shoot that one!

    @WP&P: Really love the texture of this one. The twistedness really helps the interest-level.
    @Mobile One: I think this idea is so good (and so different than WP&P's) it deserves its own movie. Perhaps this could also be a series of shorts, all taking place on the Metro.

    I had an inkling this may be a good place to mine for ideas, but I had no idea they would be THIS GOOD! Thanks a bunch everyone!!! (Keep 'em coming!). Once we get further along, I can also purchase copies of Final Draft, professional script-writing software which also allows for collaborative writing via internet.

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    Model

    The GUY becoming jealous of the PHOTOGRAPHER is good for character development. It's good way to show how "off" this guy is. The modeling aspect may be a bit of a challenge. To pull this off, this guy must be an expert modeler, on the level of a Pelle Søeborg, with the layout to match. This is where the "learn something real you never knew" [for non-modelers] part comes in. The authenticity of the layout brings authenticity to the character and to the film.

    While the photographer as sexual predator may have been a bit cliche a month ago, this character fits right into today's headlines. Good one!

    Watching the GUY meticulously cultivate his layout with expert precision, calmly, thoughtfully, and with care, while evidence of, or something actually seen in the background suggesting something far more sinister is a good way to convey tension.

    There was an actual story about a hobbyist who sold a small line of model train products ("Golden Caboose" or something?), if anyone can recall. It was found that he had kidnapped some girls or something creepy. Anyone remember the story and the company? [While searching for this, I found another story here].

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mobile One View Post
    Could have an upbeat ending where she moves on, a downbeat ending where she is stuck in the cycle, or an ambiguous ending that is left open to interpretation.
    I find that jaw-dropping, down-beat, negative endings are always better than happy endings. Ambiguous endings are also always good cinema. Possibly one of the best endings ever written is in the 2007 feature film version of The Mist, directed by Frank Darabont. While the film itself is somewhat mediocre, the impact of the final scene is what filmmakers strive for.

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    Neat stuff!

    Loved WP&P's thoughts. But, lets untwist the model railroader.

    The girl gets asked by the cops to answer questions because they are investigating the photographer for "something."

    Then, towards the end, when at the friends house, he catches the photographer 'snooping' with his camera. The friend comes out to confront the Guy and after an arguement in the dark, ( Vincent Price/ HG Wells styling in my mind,) They catch the photographer and pop him before he pops them.

    Then, at the end, the Guy/Gal are playing with his model RR and she is putting a new figure of the cop scene around the dead photog on the layout.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    if anyone can recall. It was found that he had kidnapped some girls or something creepy. Anyone remember the story and the company? [While searching for this, I found another story here].
    That is the story and the guy. @P-LineSoo will recall the business. dkmtech - decals possibly...

    ed: http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...kmtech-on-Ebay
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    I understand wanting to make the serious modeler into a good guy, and casting him in this psycho role isn't doing our community any favors, but I'm not sure how the story works otherwise. I'm basically using his model building as a window into his thought life. I'm hoping that the cuts to his hobby endeavors can turn into a clue that actually tells the audience his gruesome intent... such that the camera doesn't actually have to show things in order for us to be impacted by them. So, while the modeler being depicted isn't all that nice, the plain fact is that the model itself is integral to the story. I'm picturing that there'd even be more shots that are closeups of the model than there are of him, as if we don't really get to know him, we just get to know the model.

    The Guy will need to be played by a competent actor, one who can pull off this obsessive/shy/autistic personality. And another big factor will be the soundtrack; jumping from real-world to model-world needs to feel right, because the idea is that this Guy isn't all that in touch with the real world, preferring his model. Some of the dialogue when he invades her home at the end could be confusing statements such as "I made this house for you!" which confuses the Girl. "I took you off the train and I seated you there on your couch!" which we've seen him do in a previous cut, but of course she knows nothing about his model. The creepiness of ending on the red dot on the model would need to be carried by the soundtrack.

    As for the modeling, that probably needs to be done in O scale or larger, to show up on camera, and so that the figures can clearly be seen to represent the characters.

    Yes, I was specifically going for the double-meanings of the title, "Model", and as I was thinking about it we might need to spend more time at the beginning getting to know the Girl, see that she does want to be a model. Maybe her Friend is with her one day, at the station, and they are playfully taking photos... this could be what catches the Photographer's eye in the first place. At some point she can even say, "when I moved out here I thought I was going to be some kind of model! Instead I'm taking this train back and forth each day..."

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    What about a Twilight Zone-ish thing where the girl discovers she IS or has become or is trapped inside the model?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metrolink View Post
    @JennyC6, I love where you're going, but I'd need $100 million to shoot that one!
    Pitch the idea at Bethesda. Who knows what might happen...
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    Great ideas, everyone!

    @WP&P: Your ideas are really good, and may be transferred to other metaphor-devices as well (e.g., a life-sized doll, a man who makes doll houses, etc.). Since the expert modeler's layout is a bit of a high hurdle (especially in 0-scale as you rightly suggest), we may have to adjust this character's backstory somehow. Plus, I'm now seeing that elements of everyone's ideas can be useful. It's just the slog-process of turning ideas into something shootable (i.e., affordable). But you've introduced some very practical character archetypes, necessary to make the mechanics of story progress.

    Your writing evokes another well known film-gimmick: Showing alternate points of view, where the viewer isn't sure who's POV is actually being shown (often used to effect plot-twists). This was used in the climax of Brian DePalma's Dressed to Kill (the policewoman's POV), and throughout Kathryn Bigelow's high-tech dystopian thriller, Strange Days. This is also similar to a Rashomon-style approach to film-narrative, where the same story is told from different characters' perspective (often with contrasting renditions).

    @Mobile One: Your ideas are more easily shot, and can contain more esoteric life-topics, but requires excellent writing and story (story is always my downfall). Nevertheless, this can become the basis for a very ethereal, yet real-feeling world which has lots of possibilities. It's actually very Steven Soderbergh!

    @Jugtown Modeler: Your simple premise is good, too, and despite the set-building challenge, holds a lot of promise for transference as well (I could just change the train interior to a car trunk). The great thing about getting others' ideas, is they often spontaneously create more ideas, and follow-on concepts.

    @TwinDad: That's very similar to a writer friend's idea he pitched me when I was shooting my airplane-themed short (if I have any guts, I'll post the YouTube link to it, since in retrospect, I think it's terrible!). There are actually plenty of Twilight Zone-style concepts which come to mind using the Metro car as the primary transport device (similar to @Mobile One's concept). Pulling these ideas off effectively however remains a bit of a technical and budgetary challenge.

    Additional notes on screenwriting:

    Typically what makes a good movie is surprise. The unexpected. The more plot-twists the better. The trick is making them: A.) Appear credible. B.) Thinking of them in the first place. Surprises are surprises because they're events which we don't see coming (which is why they're so hard to come up with), and when it does, the audience must still believe it's completely plausible.

    Other challenges include making your antagonist "bad enough." In the horror genre that's often a much easier task (e.g., show some of the villain's past handiwork), than say in an action film (e.g., there's only so many Russian gangsters with machine guns you can have before it just seems silly and not scary).

    Suspense. How do you keep it? It's often created in one of two forms: 1.) Option-lock. 2.) Time-lock. The hero generally has to complete some task before something happens (e.g., an election), or within a limited time period (e.g., diffusing a bomb). And that's pretty much about all I know about screenwriting. That, and, "show it, don't tell it," have at least "six things" happen, and inform the audience about something real that they never knew about.

    Another note on writing is from director, Denis Villeneuve, talking about Sicario: [from IMDB:] Working with director Denis Villeneuve, Del Toro began cutting some of his dialogue to preserve the mystery of who his character is; Villeneuve estimates they cut 90% of what Del Toro was originally intended to say by screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. Like Del Toro, Villeneuve saw power in stripping the character down to a brooding silence, stating that, 'dialogue belongs to plays' and 'movies are about movement, character, and presence, and Benicio had all that.'"
    Last edited by Metrolink; 12th Nov 2017 at 06:55 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jugtown Modeler View Post
    That is the story and the guy. @P-LineSoo will recall the business. dkmtech - decals possibly...

    ed: http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthr...kmtech-on-Ebay
    Oh yes! How could I forget????

    I bought some very nice Soo Line N Scale decal sets for wooden cabeese from this creep. Of course, I had no idea that he was a creep at the time.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20...rls_lived.html

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    What dark minds model railroaders have! No simple love stories about two shy people who often take the same train? Guy without courage to introduce himself, fantasy images of heroic acts in train disaster. Girl's fantasy images (whatever those might be, I'm a guy, so I wouldn't know) domestic scene with guy running vacuum cleaner (now that is a fantasy image!)?

    And the Lady or the Tiger ending....do they ever get together, let the viewer decide.

    Yes, I know, the OP specified horror genre, but I'm just a romantic at heart.
    Cheers!
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