Instead of our submission being met with further consideration or even discussion, the junior execs informed us that Mark and Hunt wanted to have a conference call. We were given a heads up that our partners felt the best way to move forward was to pitch only the property – without any story at all – to the remaining three studios. This decision made no sense to me, as it completely contradicted all of the evidence we had: namely, that no studio wanted to develop a story; they wanted a good story delivered to them. For all intents and purposes, it was for this very reason that we had been rejected by every studio to which we had pitched. Where was the logic in walking into another studio with less than we had before?
For me, we had reached a tipping point. In the days prior to the scheduled conference call, I spoke with the members of my team and expressed that it was time to draw a line in the sand. I had reached the conclusion that if the partners weren’t willing to allow us the opportunity to pitch the story that we had earned the right to pitch, then we could not continue forward with the partnership. At the end of the day, it was our right to do what we believed was in the best interest of the property – a property over which we’d been given responsibility and whose integrity we’d been charged with safeguarding.
My decision was met with agreement by some and resistance by others. Isaac, in particular, emphatically disagreed with my change in tack. He made it clear that he believed the best way to get a movie made – not matter what that movie was – was to stick with the partners we had. It became more about making any Myst movie and decidedly less about making a good Myst movie. Additionally, Isaac expressed concerns about damaging his relationships with Mark and Hunt. He, as I mentioned before, had other projects in the works under the Delve Films banner and was either partnered with or in talks with Mark and/or Hunt regarding those projects. And so, the conflict of interest that I pointed out earlier finally reared its dangerous head.
Without a consensus within the company, I chose to contact Tony personally, in order to seek his opinion on the matter. After all, it was ultimately Cyan’s property and I felt that they should have a say in a decision of this magnitude. I explained to Tony the circumstances of the situation and that I was potentially going to sever the partnership with Mark and Hunt. He agreed with my position that pitching with no story at all made absolutely no sense. I asked him where Cyan’s limits were. I asked him what he wanted me to do. Tony told me to stick to my guns.
Confident that the direction I was taking carried the blessings of Cyan, I resigned myself to presenting an ultimatum to our partners. This was a terrifying proposition for me. There were so many unknowns associated with ending this partnership, but I firmly believed that the movie had a better chance of getting made –and made well – by walking away if our strategy was not adopted by all involved. Despite Isaac’s disagreement with me, he acknowledged that it was his responsibility to the company – and to me as Co-President of that company – to stand behind my decision.
As Isaac was scheduled to be on vacation in Florida when the conference call was scheduled, he requested that he not be a part of the discussion. I saw this as an attempt to avoid sharing the responsibility in the conversation that was to come and thereby preserving his relationships with our partners. This was unacceptable. His first and only priority needed to be “Myst” and its future. As such I made it clear that as a producer on the project, he was absolutely required to be present for the call.
And now, onto the phone call that changed my world forever. Everyone from the partners team – junior execs on up to Mark and Hunt – were present on the call. From my team, it was just me and Isaac. Conveniently, Isaac’s cell-phone reception dropped out about five minutes into the call, leaving me to face Goliath alone. From the get go, the partners proper maintained their position that it was better to press forward by pitching the property with no story attached. I immediately expressed my disagreement and stated my case. Again, the partners reiterated their stance. I acknowledged their experience and expertise, but stated that, in this particular case, I respectfully disagreed. Once more, they stated that their strategy was the best way to go. At this point, I told them I believed we were at an impasse.
What followed was a long silence, during which, I presume, it became clear to them exactly what I was saying. Suddenly, a voice of reason interrupted the awkward lull. Mark acknowledged that, perhaps, I was right and that we needed a story to sell this property. With this revelation, discussions then turned to the fact that they didn’t believe BoT to be a viable story. Their reasoning was that we had pitched it several times and it had failed. I countered by reminding them that we had never actually pitched BoT. What we had pitched was an unrecognizable, watered-down version of BoT. I then stated that MFG had long had a strong adaptation of BoT, which had been repeatedly ignored by the partners.
It was then explicitly stated to me that I had to decide if I was going to be a “writer or producer” on this project. I cannot tell you how many times since this phone call I’ve wished I had reminded them of the agreement we’d reached when Patrick and I stepped down as screenwriters *– namely, that we were assured we would be the writers of the screen-story upon which the screenplay would be based. Instead, I kept my focus on the good of the project and explained that our only obligation at this point was to come up with a great story and that it didn’t matter where that story came from. It could have come from a writer, a producer, or my Uncle Joe, so long as it was a strong story.
Again, they pressed forward with the fallacious argument that BoT had been proven not to work. Naturally, I was forced to remind them that we had pitched BoT in name only and that MFG’s faithful adaptation had never been acknowledged, much less pitched. There was another long silence, again broken by Mark, who asked me to what version was I referring. My stomach fell into my feet.
I responded, “I’m talking about the story we sent over a few days ago.” In other words, the story we’d been repeatedly pushing to the partners, in slightly revised iterations, since the beginning.
And yet a third long silence, again broken by Mark. Justifying my worst fears, he stated that he was unaware of any such story. Upon hearing that, I explained that this was the very reason for my frustration. We had, since the beginning, been treated like baggage on the project. Our input, our creative contributions, and our wishes were being routinely ignored or disregarded as irrelevant. I stressed that, due to these conditions, this partnership had never operated on an equal and fair basis.
After another round of back-and-forth, it was decided that the partners proper would review the story that we had submitted and that we would reconvene in a few days, to discuss our strategy moving forward. Awkward and difficult though it was, I believed that the phone call had resulted in a positive change in the working relationship with MFG and our partners. I was willing to forego severing the partnership and took a wait-and-see approach.
This would be the last time I would ever speak to any of these people.
A few days later, I picked up Isaac and his family from the airport upon their return from Florida. The atmosphere during the car ride was friendly. There was very little discussion about Myst, as I had not heard from the partners and neither had Isaac – or so he led me to believe. Over the course of the few days, I began to notice a strange tension between Isaac and myself. He, his family, and I were roommates, but they were strangely absent during this time. I suspected that he was avoiding me and began to worry that something was greatly amiss.
Roughly four or five days after his return from Florida, Isaac finally mustered the courage to have a talk with me about the reality of the situation. He took me outside of the apartment, sat me down on a bench, and told me that he had been in communication with the junior execs. I was told that, because of the conference call, the partners were angry with me and no longer wished to work with me. Isaac then proceeded to tell me that he had spoken to Tony at Cyan Worlds. Cyan’s position was that, in order to keep the partners happy and to keep the project moving forward, they were going to revoke MFG’s option, with the required 30 days notice, unless I stepped down as a producer on the project and took a much less involved role.
I cannot adequately convey the level of disbelief and rage I felt at this turn of events and for this perceived friend – one who I had personally invited to partake in MFG’s collective dream – who had so cunningly stabbed me in the back. I stood up from the bench, looked Isaac in the eye, and shamed him. I then turned and walked away.
This would be the last time Isaac and I were ever face-to-face.