MZPtv proudly presents... THE BLACK ZERO NETWORK Aug 11, 2013 11:30:44 GMT -6
Post by Tony O'Black on Aug 11, 2013 11:30:44 GMT -6
In the first of a series of interviews with our launch project writers, BZN sat down with producer Lee A. Chrimes to discuss ALICE'S ADVENTURES, his feature length movie based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - premiereing exclusively on BZN on Sunday September 2nd...
Alice in Wonderland has to be one of the most well known stories in historical fiction - what made you decide you wanted to take this on now?
I wanted to write something pretty dark and nasty, taking a cue from American McGee's Alice games, but with more of a Gothic spin - like we thought Tim Burton would do. Alice is a young girl in a lunatic asylum who undergoes some kind of rudimentary hypnotic regression, causing her to lapse completely into her fantasy world. As a fan of Alice, American McGee’s games and of course gothic, dark adventure and fantasy in general, it was a perfect fit.
In terms of why now, you can also point to a gap in my production schedule. In recent years a change of home city and a few job changes have left me with much less writing time than I enjoyed in the first five years of MZP, so as a result I have to pick my projects more carefully and also allow for longer production lead times.
Committing to a two-hour screenplay to be ready for the start of September felt very feasible, especially given my interest in the subject matter, so while I was at a loose end in terms of active projects (the second half of Natasha Tyreen’s first season is still in development), the timing was spot on for me.
Your script is called ‘Alice’s Adventures’ as opposed to Wonderland – will we still be getting the traditional origin story for Alice or do you have in mind something different?
Something very different, otherwise there’d be no point approaching this!
I’m going for the ‘secret history’ approach here – taking broad beats of the real-life exploits of both Lewis Carroll (AKA Charles Dodgson) and Alice Liddell, as well as events of national importance at the time (such as the near-fatal illness of Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales), and weaving a new timeline around them to suit my narrative.
My conceit is that while recorded history shows Carroll and Alice breaking off all contact a few years after the publication of Adventures in Wonderland, I instead play it as though they’ve still been in contact during this time, and that Alice has continued to visit Wonderland and tell Carroll of her exploits, leading to the composition of Through the Looking-glass, which is about to be published when we start the story.
It’s a way of paying homage but also advancing the universe’s own continuity – the events we saw in Wonderland have all ‘happened’, and both Alice and Wonderland itself have matured in the meantime. I liked the idea of a feisty, intelligent young woman on the cusp of adulthood (and marrying-off age) with one foot still firmly planted in a fantasy world, acknowledging the popularity of the stories Carroll wrote (my revision here being to suggest that rather than it being Carroll who narrated the early version of Wonderland to Alice, it was the other way round).
The main structure of my plot is still built around an homage to the classic Wonderland story, with my own spin on the locations and characters (plus avoiding some of the more obviously satirical scenes like the Caucus Race and Mock Turtle).
Tell us a little about your Alice. Lewis Carroll's eponymous girl has been well depicted, what fresh approach are you bringing to the table, character wise?
All we’ve ever seen of Alice is her as a fictional representation, a seven year old avatar for the young girl Carroll was so fond of. Nobody’s ever approached her as the real girl before – Alice Pleasance Liddell. There was a below-the-radar SyFy miniseries a few years back but I don’t think it was much cop, and American McGee’s Alice is a heavily stylised take that still feels like an extension of the fictional Alice.
McGee fused his two Alices together – the Victorian London one and the Wonderland avatar – and I’m running a similar sort of path to him because that approach fits what I want to do. My Alice is now older (19 at the start of the film), and her maturity has helped her understand Wonderland a lot better. She can deal with the absurdity of it because she understands dream logic – how to travel within it and interact with the characters there.
Where we differ is that McGee’s Alice is a troubled, possibly crazy individual, locked up in a mental home after she allegedly burned down the family home and killed her parents. She’s been told all her life she’s insane, and is more downtrodden, sour and rebelliously punky as a result.
My Alice is a bright, well-adjusted and intelligent girl who just has a good appreciation of the importance of fantasy in her life. She’s already weary of the toil of Victorian society, particularly the social pressure that she should be married off now she’s ‘of age’ when what she wants to do is take the adventurous spirit and imagination that brought her to Wonderland and apply it to the real world – go travelling, broaden her mind and live her life her own way, not be some brooding husband’s pretty little housewife. Very much an Austen-mould heroine – spunky and independent, a proto-feminist without sacrificing the fact she’s still a woman.
And then as the story develops, I’m going to be expanding on Alice’s connection to Wonderland and what it means for her in a hopefully unique and original way…
A surfeit of iconic characters circle Carroll's tale - the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat etc. - will these well known players all be in evidence?
The bulk of the important characters in Wonderland will be, yes. I’m not going near the Looking-glass players just yet to avoid overcrowding this first story.
What I’m aiming to do is apply a different filter to them. The way Alice visualised these dream-like characters as a seven year old will be very different to how she views them at 19 years of age – rather than being stylised, childlike caricatures, they’ll be a dozen years ‘older’ in a non-literal sense.
I guess a good comparison here will be the movie Labyrinth – Alice is a grown woman and will see these former childish playmates in a mature way. Whether that means a Danny John-Jules style ‘human’ Cheshire Cat strutting around is something I’m still developing.
What I also want to do is give the relationships between the various characters, and thus their role in the Wonderland economy a spruce up too. The Duchess and Queen of Hearts have a warlike rivalry – so what if I upgrade that to make the Duchess more of an underground freedom fighter, waging an endless conflict with the Queen? Would that make the baby Pig into more of a human sidekick?
Would the Queen’s entourage still be actual playing cards with hands and feet, or humans with stylised touches to show off their card origins? Once I started thinking along those lines, all kinds of neat interpretations came to mind so they should make my version of Wonderland a nicely fresh take on the material.
And then of course there’s the real world side – a good chunk of the story takes place in Victorian London, and I have a great mythology dreamed up to connect Carroll and Alice in new ways. I won’t spoil any of that for now but it will make this a very original spin on Alice’s adventures!
Given the Alice story is in the public domain, might there be a chance your script would be eligible to air on MZPtv at some point?
I don’t see why not – I think with BZN we want to create a ‘first look’ mentality, where projects that don’t affect our stated ‘all-original’ push on MZPtv can potentially air over there down the line. That’s something we’ll have to work out in time, I guess.
And last but not least, as the creator of MZPtv, how do you feel about BZN launching & returning to your fan fiction roots? Can you give us any hints as to what else might be coming?
At the time, I didn’t have a problem stepping away from fanfiction because I wanted a new challenge. I’d closed off my ‘fanfic’ series of Buffyverse shows, and while there were plans afoot for numerous spin-offs and continuations, I was focusing more on my original projects on MZPtv – Natasha Tyreen, Nine Lives, Somewhere InBetween and so on.
What we didn’t anticipate was how much fun it would be to dip back into fanfiction – how many great ideas and fresh takes we’d still be able to throw out there – I’m already resurrecting long-dormant ideas for a Star Wars series, my Godzilla VS that mashes up Fringe and Primeval with added giant monsters, the once-abandoned Ghostbusters project, even a steampunk alternate universe Lara Croft series!
And not just from me – pretty much every writer involved in the initial burst of ideas on the board had about a dozen things they wanted to do. Large scale collaborative projects have brought together the brightest and boldest, and all those little nuggets of ideas we had at various points over the years can make a comeback – I’m working on resurrecting the pitches for both the epic MZP Buffyverse finale miniseries Ragnarok and the clutch of new shows that were to springboard off that…
I think the schism needed to happen, though, because there were always going to be some people who favoured original over fanfic and vice versa. Splitting the content into these two networks means writers can now tackle any kind of show they want and still have an avenue for it – same goes for our audience. Some are only interested in reading fanfic, not original works, and vice versa once again. I’ve already seen a few old faces pop back up because BZN gives them something MZP doesn’t any more – that should strengthen both sites going forward.