September 17, 2008

Reel Life #1

I've been a pretty serious news/current events/world affairs junkie for as long as I can remember, going back to the days when I would read TIME magazine as a wee young'un on my family's couch at home. Suffice to say, I get a little uncomfortable when I don't know what's going around my daily surroundings and around the world.

Recently, either because there have been more news stories appropriate for the occasion or because I've just been thinking cinematically in other parts of my life as I've been blogging, I've realized there is a ton of potential material for movies and documentaries that is flying through the news wires every day. With so many hundreds of sequels coming out this decade, it's more than a little frustrating to see Hollywood lazily sit on their hands instead of trying to identify new stories to adapt to the big screen.

With that in mind I present the first installment of Reel Life, an occasional feature where I'll pick out bits from the news that, from my personal viewpoint, would lend themselves well to a film adaptation. Obviously, this fits within the greater umbrella of my blogging/film philosophy: bringing that which I see on screen into real world applications for my daily life. With these examples, the flow just happens to be in the opposite direction.

Please share your comments on these stories and feel free to suggest or email me others that you find. I've got a working list that I'm taking from for these first few and I'll always be looking to collect more.

Also, at the end of each I'll rate the potential that the story has for an adaptation (it would not necessarily need to relate to that specific story, just to a subject in it), and the most appropriate ways in which a film could be produced.


"Decades of details flood woman with unmatched memory"

I've always boasted about my excellent memory, but I've never gone so far as to call myself Jill Price, the 42 year-old school administrator who recently wrote a book about her experience with hyperthymestic syndrome. This is a condition that I have an incredibly hard time wrapping my mind around: the ability to remember every detail of every day of your life going back decades. Can you imagine how much of your brain space would be filled with meaningless information like what shirt you wore on July 6, 1989 or what your friend ordered for lunch three years ago on November 19th?

Obviously this could make for an incredibly amazing character trait, and some producer needs to get on it before one of the TV networks comes up with another moronic primetime drama about a supernaturally powered detective. Maybe it's already been done; I wouldn't know.

Story Potential: Very high
Project Possibilities: Feature length film franchise; feature length documentary

"Italian outrage over Roma drowning photos"

Something is horribly wrong in the beach community of Torregavata, Italy. Four girls went swimming, two of them drowned. As their bodies, shown on the left here, were laid out on the sand and later placed in coffins and carried off the beach, numerous Italians reportedly ate lunch and sunbathed just meters away from them. I actually saw a different photo of the situation that was much more shocking.

The key detail in this story, of course, is the fact that the two girls, cousins aged 12 and 13, were Romanies, more commonly known as Gypsies. Apparently, discrimination and contempt toward the Roma people is a major issue in Italy, and this incident was an extension of that unfortunate attitude. I don't know much about the circumstances, but if it's anything like the Turk situation in Germany, someone like Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven) could bring it to light.

Story Potential: Limited to Moderate
Project Possibilities: Feature length film; feature length documentary

"Albinos, Long Shunned, Face Threat in Tanzania"

Albinos are another group of people that have received about as much attention on screen as they have in reality: that is to say, very little at all, and I'm not counting 1995's bizarre Powder.

In Tanzania just in the last year, at least 19 albinos, including children, have been killed or mutilated. It has been a long held belief in Tanzania and several other countries that the body parts of albinos have magical powers. And so, those who suffer from albinism (a genetic condition that impairs normal skin pigmentation) not only have to deal with being ostracized from society and facing almost certain skin cancer, but they have to constantly, literally fear for their lives. The paranoia must be crippling; some carry whistles to call for help and/or shut themselves into their houses after dark. I can't imagine.

Story Potential: Limited
Project Possibilities: Feature length documentary

"Ready-Made Rockefeller"

From an idyllic hamlet in New Hampshire comes the story of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a native German who moved to the U.S. as an exchange student decades ago and eventually assumed the identity of one "Clark Rockefeller". Playing up the famous name, "the man with the eccentric accent, the tantalizing hints of family fortune and the impressive conversational knowledge of everything from physics to art to the stock market" even claimed to have "the key" to the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. Incredible.

His con lasted for more than 27 years until blowing up after he kidnapped his daughter and brought her from Boston to Baltimore this summer. His true identity stunned those who knew him, many of whom are probably also reeling from the suspicion that he may have been involved with the murder of a California couple in 1985. The details of his outrageous con that are outlined in the article would make for a riveting film.

Story Potential: High
Project Possibilities: Feature length film; feature length documentary

By the way, if any of these ever happen, I'm claiming royalties.


  1. Hyperthymestic Syndrome freaks me out! Considering that there is so much in my life I would like to forget, I can't imagine remembering all of the between-the-cracks details.

    I don't know the science of it, but it seems to me that the women in my life have much better memories than the men.

    Maybe Hollywood could package this idea into a Phenomenon type movie... but with like Sophia Bush instead of John Travolta. Why Sophia Bush? Cuz she's hot.

  2. Wow, cool idea here, Daniel. I like it, I like it.

  3. Thanks, Alexander. Like I said, I've been noticing and collecting these for a couple of months, and I don't expect that I'll run out of material as the world turns.

    Pretty wild, isn't it, Fox? From what she describes it definitely doesn't sound like a comfortable existence:

    The constant onslaught of memories is both a curse and a blessing, Price says. Especially under stress, the good memories give her great comfort. "I have this warm, safe feeling, and I can get through anything." The dark side is that she recalls every bad decision, every insult and excruciating embarrassment. "Over the years, it has eaten me up."

    Peaceful sleep is rare because memories assault her, she says. "It has kind of paralyzed my life."

    You just made me Google Sophia Bush. Turns out I've never seen anything she's in. I'll take your word for it anyway, and you also get the points for the day for connecting two of these stories by mentioning Phenomenon after I mentioned Powder.

    But seriously, this memory thing could have major legs for a movie or three. I don't know exactly how, but it could...

    Maybe like an opposite of the Bourne series? I don't know.

  4. Fabulous idea Dan! I was wondering, will you be covering all the election news for the next two months?

  5. Haha, thanks, Sam. I think Oliver Stone already has that in check with W., but here's some food for thought anyway.

  6. Dad Hedaya as Huckabee?

    Come on, I'm not exactly a Huckabee fan but Hedaya looks like some kind of gremlin these days (or maybe he always did, come to think of it).

  7. Haha, well I'll let Fletch defend his choices if he finds his way here, Alexander. I have to give him credit for the effort - some of those are great fits!

  8. I like it too, Daniel. Great idea for a column. If I ever get my filmmaking career off of the ground, I'll be stealing some of your ideas.

  9. Thanks, Evan. Keep in mind all of these are in the public domain - that is, until I identify them in this way. Then it would be stealing...but don't worry, taking things from friends isn't stealing. Is it?

  10. I'll be sure to ask pretty please first. :)

  11. Actually if you end up making a movie, I'll probably be kissing up to you.


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