NOTE: The following contains a lot - and I mean, a lot - of spoilers of one of the highest-grossing Best Picture nominees of 2016. If you do not want to be spoiled, go see the movie first then come back. But, I may have told you this already...
ARRIVAL Rough Cut 2 Network Notes
Hello to you and your team! Thanks for turning around our ream of notes so quickly. Here's another one. (LOL!) We do think some progress has been made but as of this moment, this show is not ready at all. We definitely need another rough cut before we can continue. There are some major changes that need to be made. Until all of these issues are addressed to our liking, are done, no time-coded notes will be given. We absolutely need a bite pass. And a comedy pass too! Some goofy or bitchy humor can go a long way.
First of all, the structure! What are you guys thinking? It's all over the place. Whoever edited this should get out of the business. (Seriously, we want a new editor on this. Maybe a new story producer as well, to give us fresh eyes? Give me a call in the next 20 minutes. I have to go to set to another show; one of our stars has locked herself in a bathroom and refuses to a reunion show. No rest for the wicked! [You didn't hear any of this from me.]) We need to think more linearly. Just because we're all sophisticated storytellers doesn't mean that our audience is! Let's keep this in mind. Maybe we add some reset bites every 9 minutes? Some flashbacks? Let's open up our bag of tricks and shake it until it's empty, people!
Secondly, we need to refocus the story. The outline I approved focused on a fun, sexy college professor who helps to give some aliens a makeover so they can really strut themselves on Earth. Instead, we have a story where this dowdy brainy doctor tries to talk to some aliens we can barely see for 116 minutes and we spend the bulk of our time playing with giant damn flash cards! This is not witty! This is not urbane! This is not the show we ordered. You guys need to dig through the material and come up with something that feels more on brand for us. Do the aliens have a hoarding problem? Let's discuss.
Finally, our lead. Per our research, our core demographic prefer women who talk about being good at their job without us actually having to see them being good at their job. Sure, Dr. Louise is a brilliant linguist who is suffering from the loss of her child. But does she have any scene work where she's kicking back with her friends at work, complaining about her boss? Are there any takes where she's a fun expensive peasant top with oversized sunglasses? Does she have a favorite label of Pinot Grigio that she likes to throw? Please comb through your footage. Let's make Louise as relatable as possible. Sometimes we need to protect our cast from themselves.
Oh good, VO! Oh no, Louise's child dies? Wait, it's her child, right? Ugh, I'm so confused! We're starting with a death?! (Again, structure, guys!) Let's kick off with a bite like "I'm Dr. Louise Banks. I'm a college professor who specializes in linguistics and my child recently died of cancer." (Please get this in their own words but as close to my words as possible but have it be playful.)
Once the alien ships arrive, let's make sure we use a lower third that says "Alien Spacecraft" every time we see it. Just in case someone comes onto the show halfway through, I want to make sure they aren't lost.
Let's build up some intro packages for the Colonel and Ian. We get good info on them both in scene but let's really milk this for as much as possible. We should make a meal of these scenes and right now, you're just serving appetizers!
GOING INTO THE SHELL
Our first trip into the UFO should be a huge, exhilarating experience. Right now, it's slow and creepy. Wrong-wrong-wrong! It's a spaceship; therefore it's really expensive! This needs to be more flashy and aspirational. Let's play around with the editing here. Think of "Cribs" in Space. Or "Intergalactic House Hunters."
We have scene after scene of the aliens communicating and we have no idea what they're saying or what they want. This is shabby storytelling. How can we tell the best story possible if we can't tell what's happening at all times? Let's get some into bites from the aliens in here, pronto! And some subtitles wouldn't hurt either. "Honey Boo Boo" had subtitles; these aliens aren't as bizarre.
Per S&P, please make sure that there are no swear words in any of the communications from the aliens.
BACK AT THE BASE
Louise is having some memories of her daughter? All of a sudden? And she's getting overwhelmed by them? The editing here is very weird. I have no idea what's going on. Let's recut this scene and add a few bites to explain. Enigmatic may go over well in scripted but this is reality, guys! Real people explain every little thing they do! Also, we can't have a flashback for something the audience hasn't seen yet. Talk about confusing...
Who's the soldier talking to his wife on the phone? We met him before? I completely forgot. Let's add a flashback to when we first met him. Don't be afraid of chyrons, either. Let's make lower thirds are friends, not our enemies!
Whoa, is that a bomb? Why are the soldiers bringing on a bomb? Sure, there was the conversation that the soldier had where his wife was freaked out on the phone and everyone is wigged out about aliens giving the phrase "Use Weapon", but as always, clarity is key. Let's recut this scene so even if someone is washing dishes in the other room they can follow it completely. This, guys, is true storytelling!
AFTER THE EXPLOSION
Yikes, another flashback to Louise's child. Let's set up this flashback with a flashback of the previous flashback to the audience knows it's a flashback and they can be ready for possibly more flashbacks.
Also, we really need a big music pass. All of the orchestral cues get monotonous after a while. Let's throw in some hip hop cues. Maybe a Big Sean soundalike? Let's discuss.
LOUISE GOES INTO THE SHELL SOLO
Why is she going by herself? Why are we cutting in another flashback to "no zero-sum game" to her daughter after someone says it in the present? Again, the editing is just baffling. If you are having problems, I'll come to the bay tomorrow myself with one of our promo editors to help out. We love stories!
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Her kid isn't even born yet?! And Louise is looking at the future? And she's been doing this this whole time? So we've been having flash forwards? No. NO NO NO NO NO. This is bad storytelling and highly sloppy. All this does is to confuse the audience and turn them off. This is just too much. The model for this show should be "What Not To Wear", not "Lost."
Louise has the flash forward to meeting Chiang at a conference and he says how important it is for her to call him in the past. This is a super complex idea here. And the only way to sell this to our audience is through a bite, people! Have Louise convey this in a way that can be understood in 140 characters or less. If the idea can't be easily retweeted, then it doesn't belong on this show!
Please do these notes and send us a notes response by 4pm today. Thanks a bunch!