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Screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris (The Game, The Net, Terminators, etc)


Lane Visitor
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So by now some of you guys may know about my obsession with the David Fincher film "The Game" which I went as far as to create multiple tribute albums/alternative soundtracks to (as well as a comprehensive online and IRL scavenger hunt based on the film).

 

Anyway, I thought instead of creating a thread on the film- which I may do as well- that I'd draw focus to the screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris--which not much is known or published about them outside of just their list of credits, at least that I could find. This screenwriting duo who penned the film's story, have a vast resume of films - and they all share a similar thread: very paranoid, conspiratorial thrillers that are usually psychological, often creepy, and typically very mind bending and puzzling. I also think they deserve an IDM award for the types of movies they write. :biggrin: Naturally, the 1997 pair up of Brancato and Ferris with Fincher for The Game was just a dead on perfect move. And adding Michael Douglas as character Van Orton just put the icing on the cake.

 

Here is a list of their films:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brancato_and_Michael_Ferris

 

What I've been finding most fascinating lately is the detailed connection I discovered between several of their films- namely The Game and Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines...

 

No true spoilers here or anything (soft spoilers at best)..

 

In The Game, fraudulent corporation Consumer Recreation Services are a massive part of the film's focus and the company behind the "game" that Michael Douglas plays. They are referred to in various parts to the film (partial spoiler alert) as CRS - but using different words for the same acronym all under the guise of different offshoots of the same company (Cable Repair Specialists, California Regal Sedans, etc).

 

In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, (and for the first time in the series), its revealed that Skynet project's parent company (who built the Terminators themselves) is called Cyber Research Systems which uses the same acronym CRS. There's even a wiki on it: http://terminator.wikia.com/wiki/Cyber_Research_Systems

 

I can't help but think there may be a connection--at the very least a simple nod to the evil corporation theme of Brancato and Ferris' previous films... but possibly even more deep and complex of a link (which would be amazing). I've scourged Google for any published mention of this connection, and found 1 mere sighting where another person mentioned something, but was very surface and wasn't really intentional linking. Either way, it seems hard to imagine these were coincidental, and now I'm on a quest to watch every Brancato/Ferris film to see if there are other threads running through their various screenplays. So far, I've seen The Game, The Net, Catwoman, Terminator 3, Flight of Black Angel, and an episode of The Others.

Anyone else familiar with their work, or keen on any of this?

 

:beer:

 

p.s. Fun side note- and [spoiler ALERT for both The Net and The Game] In their 95 screenplay for The Net, an evil corporation is also featured- called The Praetorians- computer hackers bent on stealing people's identity and using anti-virus software to actually infect computers with viruses to create mayhem and steal information-- almost identical to the goal of CRS in The Game. (Also, found it pretty cool that the software company Sandra Bullock works for is called Cathedral Software ... ahem... CathedRal Software. I know I know, that's a stretch).

 

p.p.s. this thread is literally the first time I've seen any mention of these screenwriters on the web that i could find (outside of databases, wikipedia's, credits on product pages etc). I know screenwriters are often behind the scenes, but damn, it's crazy to me how obscure these guys seem to be as far as information, etc. I did find their production company website, but it's outdated and seems to be more of just a framework. I was excited to hear their narration on the directors commentary feature of The Game's Criterion Collection edition though. :)

Edited by Lane Visitor
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The Game is one of my all time favorite films which I watch every single Thanksgiving whilst drinking champagne lol.

 

Never seen the other movies mentioned tho, am intrigued.

 

 

Nice man and cheers to our fandom of The Game! That actually sounds like an awesome tradition... And would be especially relaxing in my case after those long drawn out Thanksgivings that can be be full of family awkwardness lol

 

As far as their work, yeah you may wanna start with The Net, and then some of their other stuff.

Edited by Lane Visitor
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p.s. this is the alt soundtrack/tribute album i created based on The Game:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0ToRgtjBcI

 

Did a limited tape run via Adhesive Sounds:

 

https://adhesivesounds.bandcamp.com/album/crs-20

 

This was the description:

 

Dark, mysterious, and emotive, CRS 2.0 is a heavy concept EP based on the mind-bending 1997 David Fincher film, "The Game". All original production/composition as always, the release travels through plot/emotional aspects of scenes of the film, but is musically narrated from the perspective of CRS (Consumer Recreation Services) - the fraudulent corporation that scams Michael Douglas' character Nicolas Van Orton. CRS 2.0 is an imaginary mini-soundtrack of the movie, as if it were composed by Jim Feingold & co.'s stock composers and film score musicians, serenading Nicholas Van Orton during his "game" from behind the scenes. But it goes deeper- production on this EP was specifically executed with synths and drum machines (software versions/derivatives) made between 1993-1996, so as to capture the sonic essence of the era and atmosphere of the film's setting.

 

For those that want to travel even deeper down the CRS 2.0 rabbithole, there exists an additional supplemental secret tape "CRS 2.1" (one copy) that's currently hidden in San Fransisco, where the movie was shot. A key along with a special map will be delivered to an already chosen person living near San Fransisco, who will attempt to find the tape. In the meantime, a virtual puzzle (with limited players) is in the works that upon completion will grant access to a digital copy of CRS 2.1 as soon as the chosen one finds the secret cassette. Reserve a slot for the virtual puzzle at: www.reddit.com/r/Vaporwave/comments/3b5a1j/the_next_donovan_hikarurelease_will_be_a_dark/

 

Then for the second companion release (CRS 2.1 secret tape), I set up an elaborate one person scavenger hunt in San Fran where the film was based (which used scenes and places and the story from the movie as the basis) and virtual puzzle to find the sole copy of the tape, which was then found and then this was found/released:
Here's the photo journal of the guy that found the secret tape: o
Trailer for the CRS 2.1 scavenger hunt:
Good times!
p.s. there are more series i have in the works too
Edited by Lane Visitor
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Saw the Game twice in the cinema when it was released. Apart from the ending which was very typical where the woman gets in the taxi. The bit where his brother Sean Penn says "Found myself laying naked on a beach in Ebisssa" I always thought that he pronounced it wrongly it's Ee-bee-tha. After looking at the script, it seems this changed from Spain to Ibiza during filming. Makes more sense being from there, Spain is not high brow enough for a Van Orton.

 

Yours truly, Pedantic Twat (and Trainspotter)

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Saw the Game twice in the cinema when it was released. Apart from the ending which was very typical where the woman gets in the taxi. The bit where his brother Sean Penn says "Found myself laying naked on a beach in Ebisssa" I always thought that he pronounced it wrongly it's Ee-bee-tha. After looking at the script, it seems this changed from Spain to Ibiza during filming. Makes more sense being from there, Spain is not high brow enough for a Van Orton.

 

Yours truly, Pedantic Twat (and Trainspotter)

 

 

Hahaha precisely! The Van Orton line needs to maintain its exclusivity and elite nature... St. Thomas, Ibiza, etc is more fitting. Speaking of the original script, did you read the early 1995 version as well? I started reading the original script where Nicholas' original name was Schuyler, and a younger more chilled out guy. It's fascinating to see the revisions and how the early script was transformed into more of a cutthroat, darker vibe.

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the game is fincher's best movie but all of his movies are sort of dull like lacking an inner life and pulse.

 

 

Wow, that's a super interesting analysis.

 

I'd actually have to agree with maybe part of what you're saying, or maybe what you're trying to say but using a sweeping statement instead of deeper analysis?

 

Here's what I gather from his films in terms of feeling/color/mood... They are gray, stormy, cold, serious and intense. They lack a warm vibrance or color. This I will certainly agree if that's what you mean. I think though, amongst that coldness and darkness, there is much life. It's just not apparent or on the surface--it's in the cracks or between the lines or in the small moments of resolution (Gone Girl twists, end of The Game). Fincher films like Social Network feel heartless (and esp with Reznor/Atticus' score) because a lot of his themes center around the heartless/cold aspects which describe many of the themes.

 

Further, there are barely any moments of comedic relief- which i think is a super gutsy move - to remove almost all instance of humor. But Fincher still injects these little passing moments of dark humor or absurdity- just enough so to keep his films from having such dread and moroseness that they are unbearable--that technique is actually something Fincher is self-aware of and he goes into it at length in the director's commentary of The Game. But I think that extremity- that grayness is the effect Fincher intends to have his audience feel from his work.

Edited by Lane Visitor
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i believe his films in the 90s up until fight club (so se7en, alien 3 and the game) were elegant and steeped in noir and pulp style. those are also his best films. with fight club his editing (no clue who his editor was for that film) got kind of wild and breakneck, the movies started to feel more like music videos. i don't like fight club. panic room felt like a film length demo for his later use of cgi tracking shots through environments. zodiac is a strong film and maybe his most mature on some level, but it's with that film that i start to notice this kind of "smoothness" to all qualities of the movie, from the camera work to the editing to the performances. nothing stands out, there don't seem to be any set pieces, sequences that do stand out are only notable due to that hyperkinetic editing and music cues (the social network's first twenty minutes). benjamin button was this weird misfire, fincher attempting to do a sentimental fairy tale for adults but again, it's made with his trademark noir smoothness, so tonally it just feels off. gone girl was basically trash, but i found parts of it captivating in what it felt like he was attempting to do (an 80s sexual thriller a la de palma's dressed to kill mixed with procedural elements and the sharp satire of paul verhoeven). it could have been extremely good in a different director's hands. i'm just not sure fincher knows how to play with tone in his films. i'm still waiting for him to make another sf movie, maybe take over that dormant neuromancer adaptation, but i feel he's gone the hack for hire route. can't say i blame him, that business is tough, but he's one of the few filmmakers with a recognizable style working within the studio system, shame he's wasting his talent adapting airport novels.

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i believe his films in the 90s up until fight club (so se7en, alien 3 and the game) were elegant and steeped in noir and pulp style. those are also his best films. with fight club his editing (no clue who his editor was for that film) got kind of wild and breakneck, the movies started to feel more like music videos. i don't like fight club. panic room felt like a film length demo for his later use of cgi tracking shots through environments. zodiac is a strong film and maybe his most mature on some level, but it's with that film that i start to notice this kind of "smoothness" to all qualities of the movie, from the camera work to the editing to the performances. nothing stands out, there don't seem to be any set pieces, sequences that do stand out are only notable due to that hyperkinetic editing and music cues (the social network's first twenty minutes). benjamin button was this weird misfire, fincher attempting to do a sentimental fairy tale for adults but again, it's made with his trademark noir smoothness, so tonally it just feels off. gone girl was basically trash, but i found parts of it captivating in what it felt like he was attempting to do (an 80s sexual thriller a la de palma's dressed to kill mixed with procedural elements and the sharp satire of paul verhoeven). it could have been extremely good in a different director's hands. i'm just not sure fincher knows how to play with tone in his films. i'm still waiting for him to make another sf movie, maybe take over that dormant neuromancer adaptation, but i feel he's gone the hack for hire route. can't say i blame him, that business is tough, but he's one of the few filmmakers with a recognizable style working within the studio system, shame he's wasting his talent adapting airport novels.

quite a good appraisal, although my own view is less negative. idk wtf happened with fight club. perhaps it was the source material that encouraged him to break from his more mannered and elegant first films and try to be more edgy and bold? I do get the sense that his commercial and music video endeavors may have had an ultimately corrupting influence on him around then and some of the defining aspects of that film strike me as shallow in the context of a feature film but perhaps better suited to the flashier nature of commercials. panic room strikes me as an incredibly empty film and I totally agree with your "demo" description. this seems to me where the "smoothness" started to take over. imo zodiac was his next genuine success in the evolution of his style. in some sense it partakes in the "smooth" style of his later stuff but for me that really worked for the length both of the film itself and the timeframe of the narrative. It seems to me to be the real deal, something of a genuine link between his earlier work and his latest larger works. Benjamin button was wtf is this shit? dragon tattoo & gone girl strike me as attempts to find his footing as a visionary (or at least a master stylist) within the broader scope of major blockbusters based on already really successful material. I think they fail to achieve a compelling, original work but I don't know if I feel as negatively about them as you do (I really like your de palma/verhoven observation, I'd never thought of that). Another scifi would be great, something genuinely dark though. I'd like to see him combine the kind of engrossing tone in his earlier films with the expansive smoothness of his recent work.

 

edit: I think the hyper-clinical style he's moved into just might not work with the shallow source material. He needs to take up a richer and grittier script if he's gonna keep being a fucking visual clinician.

Edited by Alcofribas
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there was a rumor a while ago that he was adapting dracula. i don't particularly care about that source material anymore after coppola's lush adaptation which, imo, lol, cannot possibly be topped. but if he went in a horror direction, like cronenberg body horror, or a lovecraft adaptation, i'd be down. i really respect fincher and i think he's obviously a very technically gifted filmmaker but a lot of his post-zodiac work feels like a sustained one note dirge, regardless of source material (there was great potential in both the social network and gone girl to make a kind of zeitgeist defining pop masterpiece and i blame sorkin's usual bs writing for the former's failure and fincher's own workmanlike devotion to source material that he should have thrown out for the latter's).

 

on topic, i have never heard of these guys and for some reason i thought the game was written by like akiva goldsman or someone. feels like such a 90s script elevated to lushness by great direction and production value. i guess that kind of script can be deceiving. i know when i first saw the game i was disappointed. felt like a technical exercise, fincher doing a hitchcock movie, and weirdly inconsequential even in terms of the characters lives feeling changed or affected in some way. over time i've grown to admire how restrained it is, and it's probably michael douglas at his best.

wish joe eszterhas would come back on the scene and team up with whoever wants to make an nc-17 sex thriller. i think the world is ready.

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  • 8 months later...

LaneVisitor your soundtracks to the film are fannytastic by the way. Pure night contemplation muzak for geeks like me.

 

Wow, thank you man, really appreciate the words, and glad you connect with it.. That was the idea.. a late night noir vibe, both relaxing and a bit suspenseful, and based on the film. 

 

I enjoyed The Game - your ARG/scavenger hunt thingy is impressive. Rest of their films are weak. 

 

Ahh, thanks Chim! Means a lot :) I have some future plans for another interactive thing tied to my upcoming crs 4 called "crisis revelation solution" (kind of a different beast from the rest of the series, and more trip hop-oriented than vaporwave. which im sort of taking a little more seriously), possibly involving a conspiratorial vhs tape/mini-documentary - crs related, but still working it all out. 

 

In the meantime, not sure if you guys saw this, but Midnight Moon Tapes just put out my latest in the series CRS 3.0--which funnily enough the majority of was actually created before 2.0, so some of it might be a little dated in terms of my sound, this one is a split with Cat System Corp out of the Netherlands- legit vaporwave dude. Side A is me, and Side B is him. Was honored that the 110 tapes sold so quickly, very humbling feeling. I'm hoping 4.0 will get similar attention as well.

 

Here's a bandcamp link: 

 

https://midnightmoontapes.bandcamp.com/album/crs-30

 

and the album on yt:

 

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  • 2 months later...

Taking myself out to a movie today on my day off to see the new Brancato / Ferris- scripted flick "The Hunter's Prayer" which was also directed by Jonathan Mastow (of Terminator 3 which they also wrote the script for). Will report back on how it was and if there were any more CRS acronym / shady corporation / hacker / id-theft connections that these guys seem to mysteriously implant in these movies.  :emotawesomepm9:

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Just got back, it was decent, agree with imdb's 5.5, but id say maybe 5.8- 6. Drfinitely crossover stuff in the story, talk of Swiss bank accounts, fake fbi luring ppl, mind games etc. has the watermarks for sure :D

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There's a chair in the hospital where i work with the initials CRS on it. Makes me laugh every time.

 

hahah that's great! never know who you're working for ;)  you should take a photo of it and post it in here lol

 

Also just seen the writers penned The Unborn which i watched countless tomes as a kid. Pure tree giving birth horror. Would like to track down mind warp now.

 

oh man ive been wanting to see that, would you recommend it? the trailer on youtube is so gritty and low budget looking, it's great. Yes, I NEED to see Mind Warp, looks so cyberpunk and kitsch but also kinda disturbing!

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  • 3 years later...

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