I've written more than 25 screenplays in the past 20 years, and one that I'm proudest of will probably never get made.It's called The Sea Artist, and I wrote it off a two-line pitch from a producer (see note to screenwriters, below).
The pitch went exactly as follows. he said: "I want to do a modern-day pirate story. Bad guys vs worse guys." That was it. A lot of times, that's all you get, and it's your job as a writer to put meat on those skinny bones and make a story come to life.
I went off, did some research, came back with a detailed pitch.
And when I say "research", I mean scores of hours finding out just how a small group of men could hijack an armed oil tanker and substitute it for its twin in the Indian Navy. I mean learning about guns, rocket launchers, tides, gear, lingo, world currencies, exotic locales, etc. Note to writers, research is not for sissies, it is part of what we do.
And when I say I "came back with a detailed pitch", I mean characters, motivations, plot, sub-plots, reversals, fake-outs and switcheroos designed to keep a pitch audience on the edge of its seat. Also not for sissies.
We took the pitch out to studios. Beacuse the world I created was so involved, because it was a big, big action movie on water (daunting for anyone), the feedback we got was, "perhaps you should write it as a spec." Since so much of the work was done in creating the pitch, I said "sure". So I wrote The Sea Artist, and here it is.
Here's what the reviewer at The Black List had to say about The Sea Artist:
Logline: Ex Navy Seal turned modern day pirate, John Bryant, is forced to take on a dangerous mission when his crew's assets are frozen by Frank McKee, a US Naval Affairs officer desperate to take them down. But the job Bryant and his crew take on is not what it appears to be and they find themselves unwittingly being used as pawns in a deadly international event.
Strengths: While the script is on the long side, once the action gets going into the second act, it's a very compelling read. The action-packed second and third acts deliver the edge-of-your-seat set pieces you hope to find in big budget action flicks. The fact that everything is unfolding on large ships on the high seas makes it all the more entertaining. The stakes of the situation Bryant and his men find themselves in are about as high as it gets and the central plot is well developed and works as an unrelenting engine driving the piece forward. The level of knowledge of modern day pirating is apparent from page one with a highly detailed and thrilling ship takeover by Bryant and his men. The detail oriented nature of the script lends it the kind of authenticity that elevates these types of action flicks and attracts high level filmmakers intrigued by the world. The exotic locals give this piece a bit of a globetrotting feel that works well given the swashbuckling world in which the story is set.
Weaknesses: The script runs a little long, but mostly due to a heavy amount of set up in the first act. Most of it is necessary story and character development, but a few scenes run a bit long and feel overly talky. Trimming a few pages off of the front end of this script would help alleviate the feeling that it gets off to a slow start. Scripts that introduce a team of people working together towards a common goal tend to struggle with defining team members in a manner that prevents them from blurring together. This is no exception. Creating clearer distinctions amongst the team members as early as possible can only help to promote them as individuals and strengthen their bond with the audience. The central relationship of the story is the rivalry/lost friendship between Bryant and McKee, but when their past history is finally addressed, it feels a little glossed over and it's still slightly unclear why McKee still harbors such deep seeded resentment towards Bryant. Giving this moment the emotional weight it deserves is vital to the story's central relationship.
This is a really fun, action packed story that tackles the fascinating world of the modern day pirate. A director with a penchant for big set pieces and cool high tech gadgets would definitely be attracted to the challenging, but exciting elements of this script. There are two strong lead male roles that are rife for big name talent. This is a very expensive project though and buyers are weary of original concepts with high price tags these days. But with the right director at the helm and a high class package, considering the high stakes and the nonstop action, this could become very attractive from a marketing perspective.