I’ve just got off the phone with three Hollywood moguls and they’re all in agreement that the following guidelines will be in effect for disaster movies for at least a fortnight. Use them to pitch the studios.
1. Disaster vs disaster
Competing disasters are hot now. Examples:
– Volcano threatens coastal city. Throw in some soap. Start the eruption. But then, a tsunami happens. Which of the two wipes out more people? Can the big wave put out the volcano? Movie’s characters are caught between the lava and the water. How do they survive?
– Volcano threatens midwest city. Throw in some soap. Start the eruption. But then, a meteor happens. Does it wipe out even more people than the volcano? Does it plug the volcano by landing right in that middle part where the virgins get thrown if you go South American and where the lava comes out?
– Volcano threatens L.A., like in that other volcano movie. Soap. Eruption. But then, an earthquake happens, like in that other L.A. earthquake movie. They try to figure out which is causing the greater total devastation. The volcano menaces the dad and son, the earthquake menaces the mom and daughter and the dog. The dad and son have a dog too. Does the earthquake open a big crack and the volcano falls in? Does the earthquake just shake all the lava out of the volcano through that top hole?
2. Return of the disaster
Popular disasters of yesteryear, which come back today, could work.
– That volcano in L.A., with Tommy Lee Jones? Well, now it’s later and they’ve used bulldozers to tear it down and cart it away as landfill for the new suburbs out around Needles. The whole area where it erupted, at the La Brea tar pits, is back to normal with fake tar pits now but otherwise just L.A. sprawl. But now the volcano comes back. Just use the same plot as before, only Tommy Lee is more philosophical this time. Although he was pretty darned philosophical the last time, too.
– That earthquake in L.A., with Charlton Heston and Eva Gardner? Well, now it’s later and they’ve used bulldozers to fill in the cracks and rebuild everything just like before. The San Fernando Valley? Just begging to be flattened again. Now the earthquake comes back. Use the same plot as before, only Heston is dead now, so get Tommy Lee Jones to do it.
– Those meteor movies, with Bruce Willis and, and that guy in the other one who always plays the President? Well, now the meteor comes back but this time to L.A. It’s so big we can show Reagan’s library in Simi Valley getting blown up, and Disneyland, and, and Mulholland Drive, and all the darned Valley, and pretty much anything else you want to get rid of. The dad’s been playing around, so you can kill him off or not, your call, but the mom and son and daughter and the dogs all get saved by Tommy Lee Jones.
3. Go small, not big
Have you noticed how in the movies the twisters and ice storms and solar flares and so forth just keep getting bigger? Nick Cage signs up for Knowing and spoiler the whole world gets destroyed by something relating to solar energy. That movie 2012? I don’t even remember what caused that. Some voodoo American Indian tribe? Whatever. The point is, you want to sell now, go small. For example:
– Guy is fooling around on his wife. He goes out in the backyard, a small volcano erupts, maybe just enough to teach him a lesson.
– Woman is fooling around on her husband, played by Tommy Lee Jones. She goes out in the backyard and a little meteor kills her.
– Guy and his wife are both fooling around. Now they’re in the backyard with their family having a BBQ. The guy’s girlfriend is there, it’s his secretary, and the neighbor guy is there who works at home and that’s how he can fool around with the wife while the kids are in school. I don’t know how the dogs handle this; figure it out. A small earthquake hits. You can’t blame the dad for fooling around; his wife doesn’t understand him. So, say, his girlfriend gets swallowed up and he’s sadder but wiser. The woman, it’s not right what she’s been up to, right under the noses of her pets, so she and the neighbor and the neighbor’s house all have to get swallowed up. Tommy Lee Jones plays the dad, in a philosophical mood. His wife can be Lindsay Lohan if she’s out of jail, or Paris Hilton. Somebody like that.
I almost forgot. Try to work quicksand into any of those plots above.