So I’ve been running silent for a few weeks, but not because I’ve become besties with my PJ’s and Netflix’s run of HIMYM (I’ll write about that in the fullness of time as well.) but because I’ve been neck deep in a couple projects. Those projects wrapped last week, so here I am now, free and clear to get back to hours of daily writing with no results or successes to speak of.
Those projects are currently battling it out with other projects as part of Storyhive’s latest (and possibly ‘Final’) funding blitz for a cool $100K to make your ‘longer than a short, shorter than a feature’ production – essentially a TV pilot or webseries is the directive here. I signed on to be part of two different teams, and the results are gonna be yuge.
Today I’m here to draw attention to the most innovative of the two pitches: A story about Fred Mulholland, a tough-as-nails homicide detective who’s just lost his best friend and partner in the line of duty, and the detective assigned as his new partner, a hard-drinking, womanizing, swarm of bees in a jar named ‘Swarm Of Bees.’
Yeah, you just read/saw that right. A swarm of bees in a jar as a police detective. Look, if they can make Colossal with Anne Hathaway, there HAS to be room in the world of entertainment for a jar full of bees.
But seriously, why bees? Like WHY?
I grew up watching 80’s & 90’s action movies (along with just about anything else that was on TV or rentable) – BTW – 80’s/90’s action movies are in serious need of a revival, you don’t get movies like the Lethal Weapons or Die Hards anymore. Everything is a giant tent-pole uber-film that has been shot and re-shot and re-edited until there can’t possibly be any glaring flaws left in the material – I’m looking at you Every Marvel Movie Ever.
That love for all things shooty/punchy/actiony has left me with a pretty good sense of what makes a good action movie work, and what an audience wants to see in an action movie. I’ve enjoyed playing with the tropes cemented in ’87 (Go back and LOOK at ALL the films released in 1987, it’s seriously like some bizarre locus in movie time, the way 1955 was a cosmic locus for BTTF.) throughout my struggling screenwriting career, but had never found a ‘proper’ way to bring an idea to the masses.
Until one day in film school…
Alasdair, a screenwriting super-carpenter/gay-jesus type, great friend of mine and sometimes collaborator once wrote a script in film school that involved a gag where a character is crushed under a falling bees nest multiple times. Or at least it was once, and we perpetuated the SHIT out of it into ‘multiple times. Man, the concept was so hilarious to my… 25yr old brain. We tried to work it into the final product, but bees have strong unions and there was no way any swarm was going to come on a student shoot for scale, we couldn’t even rustle enough honey for the crafty… Anyways, the bee-hive became a running joke amongst the writers, until one day someone (I wish I could remember who…) just randomly spit out the most epic bit of inspirational dialogue I’ve ever heard:
“Goddammit Swarm Of Bees! The mayor is up my ass about this! You get your shit together or you are OFF the case!”
Was that an angry police captain just yelling at an officer identified as a swarm of bees in jar? Yes. Yes it was.
When the laughter died down (radio telescopes [radio, because they can ‘hear’, get it? Ahh you don’t get it…] tell us that was 0.0004 seconds ago) I knew we had struck literal absurdist gold. “One’s a hardened police detective, the others a Swarm Of Bees.” It’s so beyond the realm of expectation or conceivability that to this day it amazes me the concept has lasted (in our minds). I enjoy comedy, but I don’t consider myself to be a ‘comedian’…
Awwe thanks not-yet-Negan!
I write things that ARE funny, but I’m not convinced I’m the ‘comedy writer’ that some are. Like so many folks, I’m better at riffing on existing funny things, airplane food, the differences between men & women, sex, you know, the low-hanging fruit of comedy, than I am at devising my own entirely original hilarious concept. But here you are, hilarious concept achieved.
It IS hilarious though right? I mean, he’s a cop that’s a jar of bees, it SHOULD write itself. And guess what? It kind of did. Because I didn’t set out to write a comedy, I set out to write a five X 20min episode action webseries that featured a swarm of bees as one of the leads. Bees doesn’t talk to the audience (as you can see in The Stakeout – and if you didn’t watch it and read all the way to here, now you’re busted) as such, he buzzes the way R2-D2 bleeps & bloops, and everyone can understand him. Unless Bees is speaking Spanish (he is from south of the second border, which is much further south from our south of the border) in which case he gets subtitled into english (can’t expect the audience to accept a swarm of bees AND speak Spanish, now can we?) The whole point of the hilarity of Swarm Of Bees (or just Bees, as we call him) is that for all intents and purposes, Bees is a REAL, living, breathing character. No one EVER points out that he’s a bunch of insects in a jar. That would be rude, and un-called for. Think of it like BoJack Horseman, only Bees is the only anthropomorphized character.
And Mulholland & Bees, they’re action stars! Car chases! Explosions! Fruit Stands! Fist-fights! (yes, Bees too!) Sexy-Times! The new duo are chasing the man who killed Mulholland’s partner and his boss, the Queen B. Puns! Sooooo many ‘bee’ puns. Cuz’ if you’re gonna make something ridiculous, you should go all out, right?
And I ask this because there are a lot of people we pitch this to who DO NOT GET IT. They stare at us for a moment, and usually follow with a question: “Wait, so he’s a guy made of bees?” or “But… it’s just a jar of bees?” and we know who our audience isn’t. If you saw the initial concept and just thought ‘that’s funny’ then YOU’RE our audience.
Ferengi Rule of Scripting #303 – The audience comes to you. Not the other way around.
I think I just insighted something there. (Insighted is a word in my book – I’m also adding ‘cowardry’, “…committing acts of cowardry“) I’ve spent time lately trying to construct work for an existing audience, and I’m realizing that’s simply the backwards way to go about it. I want to APPEAL to a certain kind, or a variety of, audiences, but I find MY audience not when I show them something they’ve already seen, but instead something that is unique from me. I have so many concepts sitting, waiting to be actioned on. I need to do more with them.
S.O.B (serendipitous acronym…) is me and the team I was part of at our wackiest. (Ugh, I said wacky – anybody ever grow up with the children’s book ‘Wacky Wednesday?’ My grandma used to read that to me all the time. Wack.) We know that Mulholland & Bees are such a wicked combination of the WTF and Huh? that they’re bound to capture the hearts and minds of at least a small corner of the internet. So wish us luck in our knock at Storyhive’s door, and one way or the other, we’ll have Swarm Of Bees out for all to see soon!
(says every filmmaker about every project…)