During the trailer for “Return of the King” tonight, I was overcome with horror – not for the usual reason (trailers suck and give away the ending), but for something much worse.
Y’see, before I wrote “The Pink House,” my second screenplay was called “Try to Remember,” and was the story of a woman returning to her home in New Orleans, falling in love with a ghost that may – or may not – be haunting her room, discovering a mode of time travel based in something really cool, then setting off on several time trips to save him and their family. She is able to assume her own body in her past ages, and is struggling with a dark secret from childhood. And it’s also sort of a comedy. ” Something like “Donnie Darko” combined with “Somewhere in Time.”
I have been working on this script for about five years, and I was planning on making it a priority assuming all goes well with “The Pink House.”
Sounds cool, right? Well, you’ll never see it. The trailer I saw tonight was for a movie called “The Butterfly Effect” starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart, and the plot is exactly the same, just the gender roles are reversed. It’s so close that if I were an absolute paranoid fuck, I’d think someone had cribbed a copy of my 1998 screenplay. Of course, that’s not the way these things work.
I’ve harped on and on about cognitive resonance in here before, but put in perspective of the movie business it works like this: the second you have a great script idea, another person, unrelated to you in every way, will also have the exact same idea. From that moment, it’s a race.
This has happened before, most devastatingly with the movie “Sliding Doors.” I had already outlined and pitched a romantic comedy that follows a woman through two alternate paths of reality (even distinguishing the two by haircuts), and then I paused for a couple of years to write a novel about something else. The second I finished my book, I saw the ad for the Gwyneth Paltrow movie, and knew I had fucked myself into a cocked hat.
Tonight was especially hard, since I had poured so much of my heart and random thought processes into the New Orleans script. Five years. I even brought it up to the farm to finish over Christmas. But “The Pink House” has taken so long, and the mountains have been so steep, that some other guy has gone ahead and made the other movie. I don’t think it’s possible to express what a body blow to the gut this is, I suppose you’ll just have to trust me.
I have been beaten twice, badly, by cognitive resonance. I can fucking promise you there will not be a third.