Back in the day, I got hired by a good friend to rewrite a string of movies for the Sci-Fi Channel (before they became the cooler SyFy Channel!). It was a new network looking for product and they’d just made a deal with Universal TV to make a number of $2M movies. At the time it was a great gig, but also a stressful one. The script should always be in a good place well before a project goes into pre-production, but that was never the case with these babies. On several of them, I was brought in at the 11th hour to do a complete rewrite and that’s never a great formula for success. I was also, inexperienced and a little raw. The TV movies range from good to okay to bad, but all-in-all, I’m glad I had the opportunity to work on them.
Terminal Invasion was the first project and I was stoked to learn I’d be working with Bruce Campbell. I was a huge fan of the Evil Dead series and wrote the first couple drafts with Campbell’s character in mind. I was really proud of that early work and everyone seemed to love it, but at the last minute, the director decided to pull all the smarta@@ comedy out for fear it’d lose the horror aspect. Ironically that fusion of genre would become very popular later on. Terminal Invasion isn’t a bad movie, but it could have been so much better had they stuck to the original script.
Encrypt was my favorite experience of this lot. Not just because I completed the rewrite well in advance, but because when I went to Toronto to do a polish, I got to hang with my favorite producer, Dara, and the movie’s lead, Grant Show. We tooled around for a week, blowing through our per diems eating great food, drinking a ton, watching movies, shopping, and generally enjoying our paid vacation. Encrypt is a project that could have been great had the budget been higher, but some of the monster costumes and effects are weak. The military squad also failed to get the jocular tone I was shooting for, so they feel a bit cliched. Still, a decent affair.
Several months after Encrypt, I got a call asking me to fly that afternoon to Toronto to work on a movie that was to start shooting five days later. And they needed a full rewrite. I got to Toronto, was locked in a hotel, and never saw the light of day. Out of all the movies I worked on for Sci-Fi, this one is probably my biggest disappointment because I love the genre, but I was afraid to have fun with it. It was a learning experience, but had I an opportunity to do a project like this now, things could have been so much different. Then again, Richard Grieco mailed his performance in, so it’s not like I had Benedict Cumberbatch at the help.
The last project, Bugs, is by far the worst of the lot. Again, I share some of the blame, but the movie was set up to fail. The day I got off Webs, they put me on Bugs with another five days to do a complete rewrite. I wasn’t used to that kind of pressure and I was already burnt, but I gave it a go. the big problem was that everyone wanted a say in the direction of the rewrite, and none of them aligned. the studio, the network, the director, the producers, the actors all wanted to give notes and in the end, we ran out of time. This was another project I could have had a lot of fun with had I been hired weeks if not months in advance, but c’est la vie. It is what it is. If you like movies that are so bad, they’re good. Then this one is worth checking out. But not really.