NOTE: The following contains a lot of spoilers for the biggest murder mystery currently playing in theaters. If you won't want to be spoiled, please leave now. Also don't watch the 1974 version or the 2001 TV movie version or the book that's been around for almost 100 years. You get my point.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Rough Cut 5 Network Notes
Hello! Thanks for addressing our last round of notes so efficiently. I do feel we are edging every closer to our ideal but we aren't there quite yet. We'd like another rough cut after this before we can move on to Fine Cut. (We know it's not in our contract but what are you going to do, hold us to what we agreed to? We're the network.) Right now, we really need a clarity pass. It's so confusing right now. It's hard to find a proper follow-through on everything as the story is slowly unfolding like this. In reality TV, we like mysterious, not actual mysteries. If we come across as too opaque, our audience will switch on over to The Voice faster than you can say "Blake Shelton - Sexiest Man Alive!" (I do think that's a good choice, though he's almost too edgy for me, you know?) You are assuming that our audience is following along too closely. Per our research, our key demo is watching our network while messing around on their iPads and clipping their nails. We have to make sure we are leading the audience along carefully, not expecting them to following every word and image we give them. This is basic cable, not THE JINX.
We really need more information about the train itself. The audience really wants some take away info. How fast does it go? How is the cuisine? How busy does it get during the winter months? Is it a desired location to be mysteriously murdered? Have an AP do some research and then let's pepper some info-graphics throughout. Let's make our audience feel smart without them having to do anything.
(Also, one of our millennial interns suggested it should be called "The Asian-American Express". What do you guys think? Maybe something we can fix in online? Let's discuss!)
A restructure is absolutely in order right now. (See our notes below) We also really, really need a bite pass. How can we tell what Hercule is thinking if we aren't checking in with him in bite as much as possible? Once we get a bite pass, a chyron pass, and a comedy pass (c'mon, all these people on a train and nothing funny happens? I find that hard to believe), then we're give our time coded notes. But only until then.
POIROT IN JERUSALEM.
Okay, do we really even need this section? A lengthy bit where some random kid we don't know is bringing eggs to a man and we don't even see his face? No, no, no. Just start with juicy Jerusalem b-roll and Hercule walking into the square with the chief of police then launch into a huge intro package. Get him to say something like "My name is Hercule Poirot. I'm considered by many to be the world's greatest detective. I have brought over 30 people to justice. And oh, I'm from Belgium. It's a country right next to France in Europe. That's why I talk this way!" (Please also include a graphic of a map of Europe; our market research has shown that about 62% of our audience thinks "Belgium" is the name of a fibromyalgia medicine.)
Okay, the mustache. He definitely comes across as an Echo Park hipster, which is great! That sort of ironic-unironic facial hair will make us seem more hip to the younger audience. Work in some bites about how he takes care of his mustache and if he can work in a couple Harry's Razors mentions, that'll do wonders for our product integration goals for the quarter.
Since we are way over time right now, make Hercule solving the mystery of who stole the artifact from the temple into a snap-in. Since we don't know the priest, rabbi or imam, then the audience won't be invested. (At least the American audience. Who cares about the Swedish audience, amirite?)
We are met with a flurry of intros of all these characters coming unto the train. Mr. Ratchett, his assistant, his butler, the Count who's a big dancer but attacks people in bars, the old lady and her German maid... this is a lot of people, you guys; I feel like I'm at a receiving line at a wedding! Let's rethink this and go way outside of the box here. Maybe a breezy montage introducing each character with a bite and a lower third? Like "Hi, I'm Princess Dragamiroff. I'm Eastern European royalty and I love train travel!" or "I'm Pilar and I'm a pious missionary. I really could use a makeover. I hope nothing awful happens while I'm on the Orient Express!" Let's discuss.
For clearance purposes, we can't mention that the Count was on Dancing With Stars. Make sure his lower third says "Professional Ball Room Dancer On Network Television."
The sweeping b-roll looks amazing, almost like it's CGI or something. Let's add to this with a map graphic showing the route of the train. Comb your interviews for a few bites about the history of the Express. The audience is craving some take-home information, so let's give it to them!
RATCHETT MAKES POIROT AN OFFER
First of all, we definitely need to give Ratchett a big intro package. Have him say something like "I'm Sam Ratchett. I work in art sales and I think someone's trying to kill me. Can you believe it?" (in his own words but saying this verbatim) Since he gets killed so quickly, we have to establish who he is and why we should care. Let's establish him first before we kill him off - that's storytelling!
RATCHETT IS FOUND DEAD
Why is everyone on a train? Oh wow, I completely forgot they were on it! Let's add a flashback of Poirot boarding the train and a bite re-establishing he's heading off to England to help out Scotland Yard. Remember, the more we spoon feed the audience, the better the show. It's storytelling!
The camera is currently outside of Ratchett's compartment when Poirot and Bouc find the body. Are there shots of them actually discovering the body? How can they say that they found the body if we don't see them finding the body? This is really poor producing, you guys. If you say it, you have to see it and if you see it, you have to say it. That's one of the first rules in our Style Guide.
Also, can we add in a bite from Poirot re: the weight of Ratchett's murder? Without this bite, it really doesn't seem like he cares that there's a dead man on the train. Have him say something like "Ratchett's murder is really bad news because murder is one of the worst crimes in the world." If we don't know how Poirot is feeling in this moment, how am I to know he thinks murder is bad? Just through centuries of law and moral teachings and mores? I think not!
ARMSTRONG CONNECTION & THE "MYSTERY"
Wait a minute, slow down, hold the phone! There's another murder that occurred years before back in the States? This is MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, not MURDER OF A KIDNAPPED GIRL IN UPSTATE NEW YORK A FEW YEARS PRIOR. If Ratchett was actually this Cassetti who kidnapped and murdered this Armstrong girl, let's have this play at the beginning. Put this first and jettison the Jerusalem section. You're expecting the audience to want to start putting the puzzle together for themselves here. For themselves?! NO no no no. Our job is isn't to put the clues out for the audience to be the detective. Our job is the lay out the story and then tell the audience exactly what is happening in the story every minute step of the way. That may work for PBS, but not here! If you expect the audience to do the work here, expect them to change the channel to This Is Us. And none of us want that.
Considering we have some shaky goPro footage of Ratchett actually being murdered, Legal wants us to add a disclaimer saying you should never kill someone, especially on a high-end train.