Look at the title. I bet you don’t have a freakin’ clue what it means, right? Allow me to explain…
In 2002 (or 2003; don’t remember), I stumbled across a Web site entitled Producer’s Chair. This was a site where you participated in an online community consisting of mostly teenage movie geeks who not only wrote their own screenplays but also imaginatively produced them. You’d “hire” your director and your actors/actresses, budget the film accordingly and then release it, accompanied by a homemade film poster, into an imaginary movie theatre.
The idea boggled my mind. Not only did it sound fun as hell but it also came across as something completely revolutionary. Sure, I’m sure there was online movie games before this one but considering how this was the first one I ever came across, I was blown away. There’s was so much work behind it all and it included a great community. I had to partake.
I started putting together a film entitled DreamStalkers, a thriller “starring” Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell, Edward Norton and Eliza Dushku, through my production company, Cosmic Productions (or as it was originally known as, Cosmic Filmz). As soon as I was ready to release it, though, the administrator behind Producer’s Chair decided it was time to close the doors on the site. I didn’t stay upset for long, though, as a member of the community decided to step up and develop their own Web site; enter Film Tycoon.
Film Tycoon was around for a good year or so and it was here that I strived to make myself a better writer and creator. Once the new site’s doors opened, I immediately scheduled DreamStalkers for a February 2004 release date. I don’t recall the number of screens it opened on but I do remember that its final box office tally totaled $144-million, making it one of Film Tycoon's first box office hits.
As a member of the game, I was ecstatic by this. However, the criticism I received for DreamStalkers wasn’t all that promising. There was a good idea in my story but unfortunately, it downright sucked. I took the feedback into consideration and decided to work a little harder on my next film. After all, I didn’t actually write a screenplay for DreamStalkers. It was more or less only a two page summary of what a screenplay could be. Even I would admit it was horrible.
I decided that for my next film, I would try to put together a drama. This ended up ultimately becoming a love story entitled The Salesman. Released at the end of March 2004, it featured an all-star cast and a much-better story. I was definitely prouder of this work. Once again, I used my summary-style of writing instead of writing an actual screenplay. The difference this time, though, was that it was longer with more thought put into it. It was also well-received. It would later go on to make $78-million at the box office as well as receive several nominations at Film Tycoon's annual movie awards. It never won but the nomination was a sign to myself that I was getting somewhere. To this day, I still love the story of The Salesman and I plan to one day transfer it to an actual screenplay.
Next up, in April, was a film called Love on the Run. It was an action/romance featuring Ashton Kutcher and Zooey Deschanel. It wasn’t the best of ideas but I decided to go along with it, anyway. It ended up being my first box office bomb. I remember this film fondly as I was working out of town in Fort Frances at the time as a plumbing apprentice. I’d go to work for 10 or 12 hours, go back to my hotel and then work on this story. Clearly my heart wasn’t in it because it was complete rubbish. I try to forget about this one.
I took a month and a half off from Film Tycoon to work on a passion project of mine; a vampire flick entitled Eclipse. I ultimately envisioned it to become a trilogy if the first did well but we’ll get to what happened with that later. Eclipse was released on America’s Memorial Day in 2004. Directed by Peter Hyams and starring Tom Cruise, Rachel Weisz and Joaquin Phoenix, Eclipse was my most expensive film yet. It became critically-acclaimed throughout the Film Tycoon community and ended up making $178-million in the end. It was a victory for myself and Cosmic Productions.
For the most part, I was overall quite pleased with the final product. There was still some stuff that I would later change but the story that I released to the public was almost identical to what I imagined for Eclipse. Cruise’s protagonist, Jake Douglas, was a tortured vampire hunter who I enjoyed creating. It was safe to say that I wasn’t done with the character or his story yet.
Next up was my largest film yet; a summer marquee film that would be one of that season’s tent-pole movies for Film Tycoon. I was finally getting my chance to write a film adaptation for the ’80s cartoon, ThunderCats. On July 2nd, ThunderCats roared into theatres. It opened against another highly-anticipated film so it ended up opening 2nd on its first weekend. Still, though, the amount of effort I put into that one short month to come up with a faithful adaptation of my favourite childhood heroes astonishes me even to this day. The film ended up raking in $244-million at the box office. It was safe to say that I was happy.
After ThunderCats opened, I announced to the community that I was taking a break for a while. I told them that there was big plans down the road including an adaptation of Conan, an adaptation of the CrossGen comic book series Sojourn, DreamStalkers II, The Listeners (a John Carpenter film), ThunderCats: Thundera Reborn & ThunderCats: The Return and another small-budget drama. All that was coming but I needed a break.
I took that break and began to work on that small-budget drama. The film would be a slow, character piece about a teenage boy with cerebral palsy who falls in love with his guardian even though he can’t express his feelings to her. The film was entitled Life Through the Eyes of Benjamin Smitt.
In mid-September 2004, I returned to Film Tycoon with Benjamin Smitt. It was released at the end of September and became a critical darling amongst the community. It received mostly A’s and was considered to be my best work to date. Quite a beautiful swan song considering that a week after I released Benjamin Smitt, it was announced that Film Tycoon would be closing its doors, too. My theatrical run was cut short but I didn’t care because I already received the positive feedback that I had wanted. I still had some more ideas, though, so I was in need of a new movie site to call home…
* PART 2 CONTINUES NEXT WEEK! *