May 2016 Winning TV Pilot
THE REAPER REBELLION “AFTERLIFE” by Mark S MacDonald and Darsey Meredith
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Eva, who may or may not be Eve from the Book of Genesis, inadvertently creates Death in the world by inciting her siblings and lover to eat the Divine Apple from the Tree of Life. It’s an interesting spin on the immortal story about how the humans lost paradise and incurred the wrath of God.
Get to know writers Mark S MacDonald:
1. What is your TV screenplay about?
My TV pilot is a fantasy/adventure series loosely based off Christian mythology about The Grim Reaper, or Death, invading the afterlife in order to confront God and his tyrannical legions, and ultimately find a way to die.
2. How should this Pilot be made into a TV show?
I feel that The Reaper should be made into a TV show because it has a strong female lead that gradually learns to trust and love others again throughout the series, as well as come to terms with thoughts and feelings she’s had to bury deep down just to keep herself together. It also has action, a world full to bursting with history and lore, a story and a diverse cast of characters that would appeal to variety of viewers from teenagers to adults. Not to mention numerous thought provoking themes like the concept of free will and whether or not there ought to be boundaries to it.
3. How would you describe this script in two words?
Epic and intense.
4. What TV show do you keep watching over and over again?
The Legend of Korra. While it may not be as violent and gritty as the other shows I watch (Game Of Thrones chief among them), it has great animation, it’s well written, it’s full of well developed characters, and it handles mature themes and subject matter like regicide, betrayal, and totalitarianism in a way that younger audiences can handle, yet respects the intelligence of older viewers.
5. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
Nearly three years.
6. How many stories have you written?
I’ve written numerous short scripts and a feature during my time at Vancouver Film School, plus several other short scripts prior, an animated pilot, part of the script of an independent video game, and I’ve worked as an ADR Writer for Ocean Productions in Vancouver, BC.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
I’ve always wondered where the being Death came from, what if anything would such an entity want, and what kind of story could I make based off that. One day when I was having coffee with my friend/co-writer Darsey, we were talking about story ideas we had, I told her about my take on such a story, she was immediately hooked, and we spent the rest of our get together just talking about the possibilities of where the story could go. In the years since, I’ve spent countless hours of my downtime working on it, meeting with her periodically to discuss and enrich what I had. Before long, the pilot was done alongside a hundred some odd page document describing the world and the characters in it.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Finding a balance between the action scenes and the story was tricky, but my biggest challenges were the characters Death and Maalik. Death was hard because I wanted to make a character that stood out from the other interpretations of The Grim Reaper. I didn’t want her to be just another ominously enigmatic entity or a literally unstoppable badass (at least not entirely). I wanted her to be a character that people can connect to and sympathize, even if only in a metaphorical sense. Maalik’s challenge was more to do with how to establish the sub-plot that he’s persecuted at the hands of his subordinates due to his ethnicity, yet not be obnoxious about it and have dialogue that’s straight up xenophobic. Thankfully, Darsey was there to help.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I’ve been acting for about 16 years, and part of my journey into acting on film led to me discovering my love of writing as well. Aside from that, I love collaborating on projects with people I’ve met on set and off, and I rediscovered my love of theatre through a play I was recently a part of: Comic Potential by Alan Ayckbourn.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
When I initially submitted, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when I got the email saying that I had it was selected along with my feedback, I was ecstatic! The feedback was very helpful and I couldn’t be happier. It was constructive and pointed out the importance of simmering down the profanity I originally used so that it’s not immediately written off as too vulgar for TV, as well as pointing out little things I didn’t notice or consider the first time around.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
My advice to other writers is to have an open mind, never take feedback personally, never stop writing, never, EVER spend your days wondering what might have been, be nice to your body, get plenty of sleep, take a breather if you’re stuck, and if you have an idea that excites you, WRITE IT DOWN!!!.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson