Almost three years ago I told a brushstroke story about how two of my favorite screenplay ideas had been scooped: first “Sliding Doors” in the late ’90s (which I actually liked) and then “The Butterfly Effect” in 2003, a movie so embarrassing that it might be Required Renting for macabre purposes. The ending is so insane that, well, describing it here wouldn’t do it justice.
My original screenplay, one that I finished in 1998 and tinkered with for years, was basically a time travel mystery with a unique twist. The basic idea still remains intact and unassailable, but “Butterfly Effect” did temporarily ruin my chances at being taken seriously, especially when their protagonist’s mode of time travel was vaguely close to mine.
I haven’t mentioned what happens at the end of my script to anybody, because it turned out I was scooped by nature itself. In my screenplay, Hurricane Helen, a category 4 storm, blazes into New Orleans and drowns the Ninth Ward, uptown, and the garden district. Seven years after I wrote it, Hurricane Katrina did just that, only sparing the Garden District (and the house the script is based on).
Not to be outdone, I got scooped by the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, as Hurricane Helene churned through the Atlantic this week, a name that didn’t even exist for hurricanes in 1998. It won’t threaten New Orleans, but it still seems bizarre.
Oh, and the hero of the screenplay? A little girl named Lucy. Written two years before Tessa and I began dating.
I’ve discussed my definition of “cognitive resonance” on here before, but briefly, it states that the second you have an idea, someone else in the universe has the same idea, and from that moment on, it’s a race to the finish line. In scientific circles, it’s referred to as the Hundredth Monkey effect, which tries to explain why monkeys on isolated islands suddenly learn things taught to other monkeys hundreds of miles away.
Sitting here on our computers, dreaming of worlds that don’t exist, we are those monkeys. Maybe that crossword is easier for you in the afternoon because so many of your fellow monkeys did it in the morning, even though they were thousands of miles away. I do indeed dig on the spiritus mundi of it all, but it can be real hell on your scriptwriting.