Conan – A Little Conversation About The Frost Giant’s Daughter

Posted in Conan, Making Movies with tags , , , , on September 4, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Thank you all for taking the time to read the short piece. I just wish people would be more open about their opinions. ;-).  Considering the actively voracious nature of some of the comments, both here and on the REH site, I thought I would maybe expand a little bit on what I was trying to do.  I am going to do this because I think you might be interested in the screenwriting process and why some decisions are made in adaptations. I’m trying not to write defensively, which trust me, is difficult. I’ll try to keep it pure, ’cause we’re all Conan fans here.

As I said, my intent was practice, but what I had in my mind was actually writing what I fantasized might become a teaser scene for one of the new movies, released as an extended trailer or as a pre-title sequence. This means I was really aiming for something very short. It could only be a couple of minutes long. I chose FGD because I felt it could be condensed most easily. This is because the action is simple: a fight, a chase, a fight, an escape. (I know there’s more to it, but those are the basics)

So now I say to myself – what is essential? Obviously many of you disagree, but in THIS INCARNATION of the story – a very short film – I felt that the opening battle was not needed to tell what I thought was the most interesting part – Conan being tempted by Atali, chasing her, fighting her brothers then having his prize taken from him. What convinced me of this was that I was going to get a marvelous battle with the FGs anyway. So that rendered the opening fight extraneous. As for information, do we really need to clock that Conan is a stranger in this land? Not really. He’s merely the survivor of a battle. In this incarnation, do we really need to know anything about the battle itself?

A few people commented on the sword in his belly rather than being bonked on the head. Those are purist thoughts and while I understand them, they are really just staging. All one needs is for Conan to be out of it for a moment so Atali can have the upper hand.  Without a battle, woozy was difficult.  Unconscious was boring.  I decided on badly wounded. The sword just seemed very cool to me, as I imagined a low angle shot across his body and the blade sticking tall from the wound. And I can show Conan being tough by freezing the wound shut.  (However, I take very well the point that Conan would have had a big reaction to Atali toying with the sword.)

Also the ending is not as graceful as I might like. Too rushed, a result of not thinking out clearly how to get the impact of the cloth without Niord’s dudes.

In matters of dialogue, I might very well choose to add back in some of REH’s words, especially “Conan of the Black Hair”, and “I’ll pile the heads of your kinsmen…” etc.  I can’t tell you why I chose not to put them in at the time, except, well… let me think.

No, that’s not true. I can. And it goes to why I wanted to practice on this one. To me, FGD has always been about mood, not plot. The wildness of the landscape, the breath in the wind, Atali’s impossible beauty. Its essence seems purely poetic to me. And, it has its roots in Greek mythology, which I devoured as a child. I think that as I wrote it, the dialogue fell out because I was seeing it from middle and long distances. It seemed more magical without words. And this is the great difference between the stories and a film – REH has to give you everything – all the feeling, the emotion, the sound of the snow. A screenplay doesn’t, and in fact shouldn’t. That’s because it’s a blueprint to which the actors, director, dp and editor will add their skills. So I know as I write that my words will be filled out by many many people working on the project. This is not to dodge responsibility – if I write badly, then that’s on me – but screenplays are different than books. Books are commandments; screenplays are suggestions.

Which brings me to character. You all may have a point here about me missing the boat on showing who Conan is, but I have to admit, this never seemed to be a great character showcase, even in the original. It has always been a little more poetic, perhaps even primal, than many of the other stories. Maybe that’s why it’s always been a favorite. Because let’s face it, Conan was going to rape this woman at the end, as was the character in the Greek myth it’s taken from. (Apollo chasing Daphne I think, who implores Zeus to save her, which he does by changing her into a tree).

However, I don’t think I painted Conan as some staggering dunce. I think your own fears and memories of the horrific earlier movies may be informing your reading.  I think at worse I underpainted him, which if so, is obviously a mistake. My viewpoint of Conan has never been that he is an oaf, so I will always imagine him with a fierce, intelligent face, whether he speaks much or not. (I’ll tell you this – in the script my partner Howard and I just wrote, he speaks quite a bit. I’ll bet half of you complain that it’s too much. 🙂 So perhaps my mistake is this – I wanted to enter the world myself and see where it took me. In doing so, I paid little attention to convincing readers who Conan was, because I already knew. (For myself of course, not in any pretentious, ‘only I know who Conan is.’)

And the last thing I ‘ll say is this, and I think it’s very important. (For the three of you still reading.) There were a few comments about not straying from the material. I mean, not at all. I can’t be any clearer about anything than about this: you don’t really want that.  Here’s why.

Point of No Return

If you haven’t seen Point, it’s based on La Femme Nikita (great movie!) by Luc Besson. Point is awful. Why? Because it is literally a shot by shot remake of Nikita. Someone evidently thought the original was so good it shouldn’t be fucked with. Well they were wrong. The remake became a lifeless mess.  This is because the artists had abdicated their responsibility – to interpret the world through their own lens.

I bring this up to make a point that being too faithful to the original can be stifling. It squashes artistry. And please, make no mistake – filmmakers are artists. Every one of them wants to bring their POV, their life, their words, their gestures, to bear to create something new, fresh, alive.  If they feel too constrained by the material, they won’t bring their best game to bear. And then you get Point of No Return. A dead thing.

Please understand – you will never have the REH that is in your head. You wouldn’t get it even if you wrote it and directed it yourself. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If the artists are good, they will take the essence and the soul of Conan and give you something different… and fun as hell. If they’re not good, then faithfulness to the material won’t matter anyway. From my own experience I can tell you I didn’t miss Tom Bombadil in LOTR but hated The Shining… the first time. Now I think it’s a marvelous movie.

Allow me to clarify a couple of things. First, none of what I said is to convince you that what I wrote is ‘good’. Either you liked it or you didn’t. I only hope that some of my words can perhaps frame` the upcoming movies a little for you so you have a better chance at enjoying them. And this should go without saying, but it seems little does these days: REH’s source material is marvelous. Wonderful words and images and characters that have survived a long year. I am merely pointing out that purism is both impossible and undesirable. Some of you asked a very interesting question: ‘why do you think you’re better than the material?’ Truly, nothing could be further from the truth. Shakespeare wasn’t thinking he was the cat’s pyjamas when he cherrypicked Gesta Danorum for Hamlet. Peter Jackson didn’t think “whoo, glad I was able to clean up Tolien’s mess”. Barbara Eden didn’t think Jeannie Riley’s song was shit when she starred in Harper Valley PTA. Anyone who adapts is doing so precisely because they were inspired and thought the original material was worthy of retelling in another medium.

Wow. Longwinded. Sorry. But then, you didn’t have to read this far if you didn’t want to. If you did, hopefully I was helpful. If not, well that’s on me, too…


Conan – The Frost Giant’s Daughter

Posted in Conan, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 28, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Since some of you seem to be interested, I am posting my version of The Frost Giant’s Daughter. I wrote this as practice for the Conan script, to see if I could get in the mood, so to speak. So let me be clear – this was NOT commissioned, is NOT for profit and is simply to be considered fan material.  It has nothing to do with the script we were hired to write. That said, it is short, little more than a quick adaptation that would produce maybe a 5-6 minute film.  I hope you all like it. (And if you don’t, don’t panic about the script itself. What’s below is just a first draft, written very quickly. The script itself has been combed through. I really like it.

Click on each page to open it in new tab.  I hope.

Page 1

FG - Page 1

Page 2

FG - Page 2

Page 3FG - page 3Page 4

FG Page 4

Now wouldn’t that be fun?


Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


HELLO YE FAITHFUL.   I received the following info about exchanging the frightful blue ray copies you got screwed with.

This is exactly the info I got:

“Consumers should contact Dione Baxter at Alliance Films in Canada:, and they will be happy to exchange the discs for a new copy.”

LMK if anyone follows this path and how it works.




Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Well for those of you out there who got their hands on the Canadian Blue Ray release only to find out it was a piece of crap, your voices have been. For those of you who don’t know, there was another fantastic screwup, and the wrong files were delivered/sent/who knows? to create the blue ray, so instead of the letterbox presentation everyone was expecting, well, let me quote Dave Dodson, the editor,

“What we have is a full 16×9 presentation. Not letterboxed. Not 2.35. And not even properly pan&scanned for 16×9. Most shots simply use the entire Super35 3-perf image area, thereby allowing all the extra headroom and lower space that was never intended to be seen. Careful widescreen compositions are thrown out the window. Shots that were composed for intensity or any other particular, professional use of the 2.35 frame are now just ordinary.

But it gets worse. Since many of the CGI shots were only finished out to 2.35 and not to the full 1.78 frame, many VFX shots are cropped on the sides in order to accommodate the 16×9 frame. For example, the Moorwen’s first rampage out of the trap truly needs the full 2.35 frame to be legible. But instead all we have is a 16×9 center-cut. As a result, the sequence feels cramped and hard to read.

Said it much better than I could. Anyway, the upshot of this is that TWC was evidently furious at the screwup and intends to fix the problem. Now this is not official – I just heard it today – but I gather the plan is to offer a rebate to anyone who bought the crappy blue ray and an opportunity to purchase a new one with the correct format.

I also gather that they are quite pleased with its rental and sales performance. Who knows? Maybe there’s a sequel to be had someday.

Outlander – 5/29/09

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by outlanderthemovie

title1Picture 4

Picture 5

Well I’m heartened to see a nice response regarding Outlander.  The feedback on Amazon is nice – average 4.5 stars, and the feedback on itunes is good also, averaging 3.5 stars. So if you liked it and haven’t left a rating yet, please do so!  (And if you didn’t like it, well do as your mama said, and keep that to yourselves.)

What’s so nice is that these are from actual people, not critics. What I’ve painfully learned recently is that critics often have their head so far up their ass they can watch their own heart beat

And on that cheery visual, good night!

CONAN UPDATE – 5/28/09

Posted in Conan with tags , , , , on May 28, 2009 by outlanderthemovie


Hey Conan fans, long time no see. Sorry about that. It’s been one crazy motherf-ing ride, I will tell you that. I’m sure you have all heard the news that Brett Ratner is finally out of the picture. I think he came onto the scene sometime in September of 2008 and only now has his involvement been settled. Millennium is now searching for another director and will hopefully have someone soon. I hear they’re out to Uwe Boll. I kid.

As for the big news from our side, we are actually writing Conan 2, not Conan 1. For reasons that I am happy to tell anyone should I meet them at Comicon, we never got the chance to write a single page of Conan 1 although that was what we were hired to do. Instead, they stuck with their original script, the Donnelly/Oppenheimer draft. As a result, we were asked to come up with a new tale and we are presently at the end of the second act on that one. So yes, we are writing the sequel to a movie that has not only not been shot, but which does not even have a director yet.

So there’s a little bit of news for you.

Anyone out there read the O/D draft? Any thoughts?


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by outlanderthemovie

title1Picture 3

My oh my, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything about Outlander. Well I guess I was a little stung by the absolute dump that TWC perpetrated on the movie. I don’t know if I mentioned in any of the previous posts but to my knowledge, there were no posters for the movie available on opening weekend. Spectacular, no? Ah well. So anyway, it’s now out there on DVD, complete with commentary, deleted scenes, concept art and some very cool animatics. I hope everyone who has been following this gets a chance to rent it. (But even on this I have to bitch – what the fuck is with that cover they designed? You can’t even tell it’s a creature movie.) Hopefully it’ll do well out there – as you can perhaps see from the pic up top, as of this writing, it was the number 3 rental on itunes, and that without the slightest bit of promotion.

Well, after all is said and done, we have a movie we can be proud of. Is it the finest movie in the world? No. Does it have merit? I think so. Plenty of mistakes made all around, and for those of you wondering about certain budget issues, yes, we lost $10,000,000 not long before shooting and simply had to make do with what we had. It meant moving the production from New Zealand to Canada, and the FX from WETA to Spin. It meant limited extras and just 50 shooting days. It meant not being able to recover from some catastrophically bad 2nd unit days. It meant not being able to even shoot the opening sequence as written, which was a battle between the hero and the creature inside the falling space ship, not just an exterior shot of its crash. It meant Howard, the producer and myself paying for the underwater sequences because we ran out of money. It meant 2 or 3 takes, not ‘do it until it’s right’. It meant limited coverage so some scenes couldn’t be edited properlY.

And for those wondering about the running time, we were told we could not run a single frame over the contractual running time, which is where it stands now. I mean that literally. Not a single frame. As a result, we had to cut out some scenes dear to my heart . (No big; all scenes are dear to the writer’s heart). But it also meant we couldn’t edit certain things properly because we couldn’t spare the frames. And, if you’ll notice, the credits roll by extra fast. This is because we needed the time.

Funny business, no?

In the end, I have a good movie, some terrific memories of great people and a lawsuit that’s still going on



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2009 by outlanderthemovie

title1Well the folks at TWC have sent me not only the theaters for today, but have also included a few that they managed to book for next weekend. I think I’ve finally figured out the release strategy. We’re in the middle of a teaser campaign which is going to culminate in us opening wide against Watchmen. You goin’ down, Zack.

Enough merriment. So our first theater is…

Merrick Funeral Parlor, Brownsville, TX

Ooops. No, here they are.


1 Carmike 10 Newnan, GA
2 Bellevue 8 Nashville, TN
3 Carmike Wynnsong 10-Madison Madison, TN
4 Bell Forge 10 Antioch, TN
5 Carmike Johnson City 14 Johnson City, TN
6 Greenwood 10 Bowling Green, KY
7 Grand 16 Pier Park Theatre Panama City, FL
8 Carolina Pavilion 22 Charlotte, NC
9 Concord Mills 24 Concord Mills, NC
10 Grand Four Seasons 18 Greensboro, NC
11 Carmike 20 Edinburg, TX
12 Sikes 10 Wichita Falls, TX
13 Premiere 18 Theatre El Paso, TX
14 Cocowalk 16 Theatres Coconut Grove, FL
15 Indian River 24 Vero Beach, FL
16 Regency 24 – Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL
17 Merchants Crossing 16 North Ft. Myers, FL
18 Tallahassee Mall 20 Tallahassee, FL
19 Spring Hill 8 Cinemas Spring Hill, FL
20 Las Vegas 5 Drive-In North Las Vegas, NV
21 Horizon Stadium Cinema 9 Laughlin, NV
22 Fiesta Square 16 Fayetteville, AR
23 Carmike 14 Fort Smith, AR
24 Sugar Creek Bella Vista, AR
25 Nova Cinemas the AMP Theatre Oxford, MS
26 Palace Theatre 16 – Westbank Harvey, LA
27 Carmike 10 Lafayette, LA
28 Crossroads Mall 16 Oklahoma City, OK
29 Southroads 20 Tulsa, OK
30 De Anza Four Drive In Tucson, AZ
31 Frontier Village 10 Prescott, AZ
32 Glendale 9 Drive-In Theatre Glendale, AZ
33 Odyssey Theatre Twin Falls, ID
34 St. Charles 18 St. Charles, MO


1 De Anza Starlight D/I Theatre 6 Atlanta, GA
2 Royal Palm 20 Bradenton, FL
3 Galaxy Theatre – Cary Cary, NC
4 Cinema 10-Huntsville Huntsville, TX
5 Colonial Mall 12 Myrtle Beach, SC
6 20 Grand Omaha, NE
7 Village Pointe Cinema Omaha, NE
8 Cinemark Movies 10 Sandusky, OH