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In Prep for my coming RAMBLE on REVELATIONS, here's the memo I wrote to Story Editor Cary Bates in response to his outline...
Notes on "Revelations" Outline...
I was very concerned that the first act and much of the second act came across as prologue to our adventure. And yet most of it is necessary stuff. So I think we should open the story with GOLIATH trapped in the "house that Jack built" (HTJB) and flashback from there. Probably with MATT narrating the whole story in Voice Over.
I've suggested act breaks, but you don't have to feel married to them, if the timing or page count seems wrong.
Also, I didn't suggest any specific revisits to the HTJB (after the prologue) until our story brings us back there chronologically. If you want to revisit the present in the HTJB a few times to remind the audience of the current situation and to up the action with Goliath facing another death trap, go for it. Totally up to you.
I also moved the Hacker scene up, so that he can bookend the show a little more. In his first scene, he'll still be telling Matt that the Society is a myth. In his last scene, he'll be inviting Matt to join.
HTJB/MOUNTAIN RETREAT/TOWER OF TERROR/SEEDY HOTEL
It's a bit of a stretch to believe that Goliath would go to this "Mountain Retreat" with Matt. What do they hope to accomplish there, besides illegal search and seizure? Matt's "informant" is fishy beyond belief. So is the gizmo that gets them past the security perimeter. The point of which is lost on me, since they are immediately spotted by security forces. How does defeating these forces help? THEY'VE BEEN SPOTTED. What can they hope to accomplish now? These security guards can't radio inside to hide or destroy whatever data there might be? It's all adding up to a big old fishy mess. And yes, I realize that the Illuminati want Goliath inside and that Goliath wants to get "trapped" in order for Matt's plan to work out, but it's too convenient to say everyone is intentionally acting like idiots. The audience won't be in on it. They'll just be getting frustrated. By the time we reveal the truth, they'll just generally feel the whole story was contrived.
So let's start by ditching the mountain retreat. I like the Seedy Hotel better. Someplace that from the outside seems like a totally non-descript Manhattan building. Maybe it's boarded up and condemned. Getting in is not a problem. They land on the roof and sneak inside. But getting out is impossible.
The hotel is really the "House That Jack Built". Yes, steel shutters slam shut, trapping Goliath, but more importantly, we should really lose our bearings inside. Goliath rips open a window that he thinks leads outside, only to find it's a false facade that leads into another room. At another point, he thinks he has gotten back onto the roof. But this turns out to be another interior room, with a domed ceiling painted with stars. Another room has all the furniture on the ceiling and the razor sharp ceiling fan on the floor. Maybe another room rotates. Think about optical illusions, Escher paintings, etc. The death traps are fun, but we've done them before, so it's the mind-bending surreal stuff that will make this place special.
Also since the powers-that-be have asked, and since it fits our story, please refer to this place at least once as the "TOWER OF TERROR" and do at least one death trap with a rapidly falling elevator. This is "Synergy" with the Disney/MGM theme park's TOWER OF TERROR ride in Florida. I wouldn't suggest it if it didn't fit, but it fits just fine and that kind of goodwill never hurts. The name of the hotel should be the Hollywood Tower, cause that's the name in the ride. Now I know that seems like a weird name for a manhattan hotel, but if you figure it was built in the thirties or forties, during Hollywood's heyday, you can RATIONALIZE that even a New York Hotel would want to associate itself with the glamour of Hollywood. O.K. It's a stretch, but go for it.
MATT AND SECRECY
THE THEME OF OUR STORY IS TRUST. Hit it as much as possible. However, I don't want to replay Matt's emotional arc from Silver Falcon. He learned his lesson in that story. He no longer runs off without telling Elisa where he's going or what he's doing. Matt's honesty at the beginning of the story will contrast nicely with Elisa's deception about the gargoyles and with Matt's later bitter, furtive behavior. He can't feel too betrayed by Elisa's lies if he opened the story lying to her as well.
In your beat #9, Goliath is behaving completely out of character. He may never have been introduced to Matt, but he's seen him from a distance and knows who he is. He must know from Elisa that Matt is a good guy. His long-term goal in Manhattan is to find acceptance with a growing number of humans. Elisa was the first (and is still the foremost), but Renard is a friend of Goliath's now. Jeffrey Robbins the novelist is a friend of Hudson's. Goliath tried to convince Elisa to tell the truth to her brother, etc. And in any case, he's not likely to physically assault someone for doing nothing else but looking at them. I know you want to set up a tense dynamic, but the one in beat 9 is totally artificial. So drop it.
BOTHERSOME QUESTIONS THAT MUST BE DEALT WITH IN THE SCRIPT
1. Why was it necessary for Mace to vanish in the twenties? (Perhaps he was recruited by the Illuminati, but was about to get busted for his criminal operations with Dracon. So he vanished with the money, and the Illuminati set him up with a new life. But why did they want him? Why would they bother?)
2. Why would Mace give up his glamorous gangster life to live in a seedy hotel for the Illuminati? (He obviously wouldn't. So let's not imply that he did.)
3. How did Matt make the connection between Mace and the Illuminati in the first place? (This question must get answered in this episode. In "Silver Falcon", the old photo of Mace and Dominic will depict Mace wearing the Illuminati pyramid/eye emblem. But don't count on the audience noticing or remembering that. And don't forget that Matt thought Mace was involved with the Society long before he saw that photo in Benton's office.)
4. Did Matt just get phenomenally lucky that he happened to go to Flo's grave at the same time as Mace? Was he planning on setting up 24 hour surveillance? Did he have some way of knowing that Mace visits and when?
5. How does Mace being alive prove the existence of the Illuminati? (Hint: it doesn't, by itself. See question #3.)
Mace was a prominent gangster when he disappeared in 1924. If you figure he was about thirty, he'd be 100 now give or take five years. I think we should make a point of this. He looks great, thanks to the Illuminati's rejuvenation techniques. Like a man of 75 or 80. But he proudly tells Matt that today's his 100th birthday, or something like that.
1. Establishing shot of the Seedy Hotel. It's Friday night. Inside, Goliath is already alone. The steel shutters slam shut, trapping him inside, a mysterious voice (Mace) welcomes him to the "Tower of Terror". Maybe activate a death trap or two. Maybe Goliath finds an open window, but it leads back inside. Maybe the ceiling comes down on him or something.
2. Cut to the control room, where we see Goliath on a monitor. Mace is at the controls. (We don't yet know who he is.) And then pull back to see Matt looking over Mace's shoulder. We can't believe Matt is helping to trap and kill Goliath!! Push in on Matt. In his voice over, we find out he can hardly believe it either, it all began last Tuesday....
3. First flashback begins. Last Tuesday. It's the FBI target range and the scene with MARTIN HACKER. (Don't take for granted that the audience knows Hacker. Reintroduce all the necessary, pertinent info about him, Malone and the Illuminati -- pretend they've never been mentioned before this episode.) Hacker can't believe Matt is still chasing Mace Malone and the Illuminati. It's a wild goose chase that got him fired from the Bureau. When will he learn his lesson? But Matt is determined. He's going to prove the existence of the Illuminati, prove that he's not a nutcase. So Hacker gives him the info that he asked for: the location of Malone's step-son, a mobster who's part of the Federal Witness Relocation Program. (Hacker gives him this location because he knows that Malone's step-son has no idea where Malone is.)
4. Tuesday Night. Later at the precinct house, Matt sees Captain Chavez coming out of the Ladies room. He asks her if Elisa is in there. She says no. Matt doesn't get it. Her car is here, but he can't find her.
He finally finds Elisa exiting the broom closet. Has she been sitting in a closet for the last twenty minutes? Of course, not. She was just, uh... returning a mop. One of the sinks in the ladies' room overflowed. That's where she's been (yeah, that's the ticket) cleaning up a flood in the Ladies' Room. Matt is so stunned by her obvious and clumsy lie, that he doesn't immediately confront her with it. Unaware that she's been caught in a lie, Elisa quickly changes the subject. Why was Matt looking for her? He's got a lead on the Illuminati. After the Silver Falcon debacle, he's learned his lesson about keeping his partner in the dark. (He says pointedly.) He just wanted to let her know where he's going to be tomorrow. (As with Hacker, Elisa likes Matt but seems to only tolerate his obsessions. There's the tiniest bit of a patronizing attitude toward them. Perhaps Matt invites her along on his investigation, but she thinks it's a waste of time. She's nice about it, but Matt's V.O. narration lets us know that he knows she thinks he's a kook. Same with Hacker in the scene above.)
5. Wednesday. Matt confronts Malone's step-son, JACKSON DANE (or whatever) at the gym (or wherever). (Jackson's 80 if he's a day, but he can have Ferrigno-sized goons. Though you need to be careful that Matt doesn't come across as a dirty or rogue cop. I don't want him to break any laws.) Matt asks Jackson about Mace. Dane hasn't seen Mace since he was a little kid. Matt pulls out a photo that was taken at the memorial service for Jackson's mother (Mace's ex-wife), actress Flo Dane, when she died fifteen years ago. It was a big deal thing. We see a picture of Jackson in the front row. Did Jackson see Mace at the funeral. No. Matt takes out a second picture. A blow up of people in the back row. He points to one. Jackson looks carefully, and whaddaya know? It's Mace. Now Matt wants to know where Flo Dane is buried. Jackson says that his mom didn't want her grave to become a tourist attraction, so she was buried under her real name, FLORA DREEDLE. Did Mace know that name? Yes, he did.
6. Wednesday, just before sundown. Back at the precinct, Elisa asks Chavez if Matt's checked in yet. No. Elisa goes up to see the gargoyles. We follow her into the broom closet. The pull-down ladder is already down. She nervously pulls her gun and goes upstairs. Only to find Matt there. She's under time pressure to get him out of there, since it's nearly sunset. He points to the t.v. set. He remembers helping her bring that into the precinct the day they met. She had said it was for a friend. She pretends that this is her little getaway spot when police life gets too intense. Some getaway spot. An old lounge chair. A hot plate. Video game equipment. Books. Enough food for a family of gorillas. She says she may be bending a few regulations, but she's not breaking any laws. Don't tell Chavez, o.k.? (She has got to get him downstairs.) So how'd it go with Mace's step-son? He's still highly suspicious, but enthusiastic enough about filling her in on Mace that he allows her to guide him back downstairs. Matt has checked with the funeral home. Some old man shows up there every Thursday and leaves a rose for Flora Dreedle. It's a long shot but Matt is going to be there tomorrow to find Mace Malone.
7. Thursday. Matt finds Mace Malone, who goes into a bit of denial, but we'll give him an Illuminati tattoo on the palm of his hand (or something). Mace relents, impressed. The Illuminati has been aware of Matt's quest. They've thrown multiple roadblocks in his way, and still Matt found Mace. The Society has clearly underestimated the boy. Mace offers Matt membership based on a loyalty test. Matt: You want me to prove my loyalty? How do I know I can trust you? Mace: Fair question. What if I prove good faith by revealing a bit of information donated by one of our lower echelon members, David Xanatos. Matt's listening.
8. Very late Thursday night. Elisa and Matt are driving in her car. She's driving. She asks him if everything's all right. The shift's almost over and he hasn't said three words all night. "Let me drive," he says [exactly three words]. No way -- it's my car, she replies, only half-kidding. He INSISTS. She relents, realizing he's pretty upset about something. It's a very awkward moment. She has to stop the car, get out and switch sides with him. He's silent the whole time. He drives. Where are they headed? He ignores the question, but tells her that today he found Mace Malone. That's great, she says, but you're driving awfully fast. He ignores that too, saying he feels like he's on a streak. Now that he's proven the Illuminati exists, he's about to prove the existence of another urban myth that he's been taunted for believing in. Matt, she yells, you're driving us right into the path of some kind of danger!! That's right he says, and the only way we can be saved is if your gargoyles save us.
9. Elisa manages to wrest the wheel from him and turn the car into a very uncontrolled 360° skid. Thank god for seat belts. They barely survive. Elisa is furious at Matt! What the heck does he think he's doing?! He's trying to get his partner to tell him the truth. He gets out of the car and yells to the sky. "I know you're out there! Show yourself!" Nothing happens. No gargoyles appear. Elisa gets out of the car. Matt's expecting another lie. But all she says is, "They don't follow me everywhere I go." They look at each other. C'mon, she says. I'll drive. (NOTE: I don't think we need to bring up informants. Elisa can believe that Matt has put two and two together from all the lies she's had to tell in the first act.)
10. But by the time they get back to the precinct it's dawn, early Friday morning. Too late, she says. He doesn't buy it. He knows that set-up in the clock tower must be for them. She's still reluctant to tell him the whole truth. Look, she says, you have to be patient for a little while longer. (Note: she has not actually apologized yet.) Meet me back here this evening. Ten minutes before sunrise.
11. Friday. Mace and Matt meet again. Has Matt seen the gargoyles yet? Tonight. But the information was correct? Yes, she friends with them. The Society has demonstrated good faith. Does Matt still want to join? Yes. Then you're willing to take the loyalty test? Yes, what do I have to do? Bring us a gargoyle.
12. Friday at twilight. Matt and Elisa head out the clock face's door (at roman numeral VI) Matt sees the statues of the gargoyles and gets pissed again. No stone statues are going to fool him. He knows they're flesh and blood. He's seen them (in previous episodes). She says hold on and stand back. The sun goes down. The gargoyles explode from stone. Milk this for all the awe and majesty, etc., that it's worth. Seeing it from Matt's point of view, we should all feel like we're seeing it again for the first time. The gargoyles approach. They all know Matt, even if he doesn't know them. Even Bronx is friendly. Matt is awestruck. Speechless. Elisa tells Matt that the Gargoyles have adopted the city and protect it as they once protected their castle in Scotland long ago. She asks him to keep the gargoyles' secret. He says he will, but he wants something in return. Goliath doesn't love the idea of being blackmailed into anything. Matt says he's tracked Mace to a seedy condemned hotel. He's sure he can get proof of the Illuminati's existence if he could just get into the hotel, but it's locked and boarded up on the ground floor. He needs Goliath's help to enter via the roof. The other gargoyles offer to help, but Matt isn't trying to lay siege to the place, he just wants to sneak in and sneak out. All he needs is Goliath. Elisa wants to go, but Matt specifically doesn't want her to. Why? Because I want to find out once and for all whether you trust me. So Goliath takes off with Matt. (AND I think we can assume that Matt filled Goliath in on his plan on the flight over to the seedy hotel.)
13. Friday night. They land on the roof of the hotel. With Goliath's help, they break into the stairway and go inside. Almost immediately, Matt is forcibly separated from Goliath and spirited away to join Mace in the control room. Mace is very pleased with Matt. He presses a button and steel shutters slam home in a repeat of scene 1. Which brings us up to date, end on a cliff hanger and go to commercial.
14. Play Goliath in the HTJB. Have fun with it. You've got most of the act. Meanwhile, Matt asks Mace how long they plan to keep Goliath here. Why, we can keep him here forever. He'd never find his way out without help. So Matt has to secretly help Goliath. But you can't have that signal device. Where would Matt get it from? He's not Batman. So think of something else. Ultimately, they escape leaving Mace hopelessly lost inside the surreal world of his own making. (That's the Illuminati's punishment for him. He can die of dehydration there, some time in the future and we don't have to portray it or worry about S&P.) All this is done in such a way that the Illuminati would later blame Mace not Matt. If you need help to choreograph this, give me a call.
15. Pre-Dawn Saturday morning, Goliath and Matt return to the clock tower where Elisa and the others are waiting. We find out definitively that Matt tipped Goliath off to his plan on the way to the seedy hotel. He was hoping to join the Illuminati -- so he could bust them from the inside, but in order to escape, they had to trap Mace, his only Illuminati connection, in the HTJB, so it was all for nothing. Matt watches with Elisa as the Gargoyle's turn to stone. (Again, milk this. Through Matt's eyes it should feel like the first time.) Elisa and Matt have their little scene. She finally apologizes. He asks why she kept it a secret from him. And etc.
16. Matt walks outside and there's Hacker, who reveals that he's a member of the Illuminati who had been assigned to Matt to keep him away from the Illuminati. Matt can't believe it: Hacker helped him with info. Only info that Hacker thought led down a dead end. Matt just figured a way to do an end run around the dead ends. No hard feelings. Anyway, he always liked Matt, so he's proud to give him his official Illuminati membership pin. Matt doesn't get it. The society lost the gargoyle. Mace's fault, not Matt's. Hacker promises to keep in touch. He hops in an unmarked car and drives off. After he's gone, Matt says something determined about keeping in touch too. This isn't over.