Developing Off Grid's Script
Off Grid has been kicking around my hard drive in one form or another since 2014. I’d written three feature length scripts by that point, and as with most writers starting out in a field, had encountered a slew of rejections. So I decided I’d film something myself on a micro-budget, and try and persuade friends to be in it. I even went and bought a phone with a highly recommended camera on it for the task.
The script I came up for this was the first draft of Off Grid, a short, future-shock style, post apocalyptic tale of a man in the role of protector for his sick wife, slaying the demon-possessed survivors who come to try and take her. Or was it? In this early draft, the viewer was left wondering if John Tanner was the hero, or was he in fact a delusional psycho killer. At this point, I had two different endings in mind, and had provisionally committed to one of them.
Thematically, I wanted Tanner’s isolation and paranoia to reflect the increasingly polarised, fractious times we live in, and if anything, things have worsened since then.
The demons in the story are called Lloigor, or Shining Ones. I’m a big fan of the Lovecraftian Mythos, and Lloigor come from that genre. There have been various interpretations of the Lloigor in different Lovecraftian tales, ranging from Lloigor being the name of one of the Elder Gods, to them being a race of dragon like extra-dimensional creatures that normally exist as pure energy.
Anyway, many years ago I ran a game of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game (in the role-playing game, Lloigor are the dragon beings), which I’d based on an old pulp horror novel called “The Curse of Loch Ness”. I’d taken the plot of that novel, about a reptilian intelligence with psychic powers inhabiting Loch Ness, and changed the adversary to a Lloigor, which had the ability to possess weak-minded humans. Hence the “wearing people like skins” line that Tanner comes out with in one of the scenes. Tanner can see the Lloigor’s energy shining in the eyes of the possessed like a blue flame, that’s how he knows he’s dealing with a possessed puppet.
I never did get around to filming that early draft, because shortly after that I met Carl at a networking event. On learning we had some very similar tastes in horror and genre material, including Lovecraft, I pitched Off Grid. So Carl duly read the script and got back to me, saying he liked it and wanted to direct it, and we set about developing the script a bit more.
Rewrites underway, we changed the opening scene, so rather than a short, sharp shock, it became a longer scene, with more dramatic tension. For the final scene, we went with the provisional ending, but then added another scene after it. The ending is now definitive, but you’ll have to wait to see the film to find out what it is.
These were the only structural changes we made to the film, as the beats and the pacing work well as a short. See my last blog about writing process for more on structure, and yes, I did do a board for Off Grid, even though it’s a short.
Within that structure, we added a lot more dialogue and interaction between Tanner, his wife Grace, and the Stranger who comes to their cabin. It is this which elevated Off Grid to another level, giving it an emotional core and impact the shorter, first draft lacked. By final draft, the size of the script had doubled, and we’re now looking at a fifteen minute short, rather than a seven minuter.
So what next for the Off Grid script? The short script is complete, and we’ve had a fantastic response to it from actors, crew and other industry professionals. People who read it want to be involved and support it, which is great for us, but there’s more. We’ve shown the script to a producer who is interested in backing a feature length version, so right now we’re working on a treatment for that.