OK. So Tom and Mary have just left the movie theater and have gone on to a party. There they got to talking with their old friends, John and Diane, who asked about the film.
“It was the usual sort of thing,” Tom said.
“So you didn’t like it?” asked Diane.
“Well…” said Tom, shrugging.
“Was it an action picture?” John asked. “Sometimes those follow a formula but are still kind of fun to watch. Was there some outstanding or surprising feature in it—a completely original kind of detective or a new way of killing somebody?”
Tom shook his head. “Nothing new.”
“Personally, I think we could write the story for an action movie right here, right off the tops of our heads,” Mary said. “We could probably come up with something Hollywood would pay for.”
“You mean,” Diane suggested, “like an alcoholic detective, divorced, maybe because his child died? And he got fired, and now we’re watching him try to keep a replacement job?”
“Let’s make him an air marshal,” Tom said. “That way we can do almost the whole movie on one set—the inside of an airliner crossing the Atlantic.”
“But then I’m not sure you can put broadcast TV news into the movie. And almost all action pictures have TV news cutaways. I guess we could pretend planes get TV reception.”
“We can work in cell phones, too. People are really conscious of cell phone use on planes because we’ve got the idea using your phone is going to screw up the operation of the plane somehow—you know how the airlines always make us turn stuff off.”
“Yeah. The air marshal could keep getting text messages from a high-jacker who is going to kill somebody on the plane unless a bunch of money is transferred to a bank account. Wait. Put the bank account in the air marshal’s name so the authorities will suspect he is the high-jacker.”
“And then work in the ticking clock—you know, with the marshal only having twenty minutes to have the money transferred or the crook will kill somebody on the plane. Or a series of people. Somebody on the plane will die every twenty minutes unless the demands are met.”
“Have at least the first one die in a fight with the air marshal. That will suggest he’s the criminal. In fact, have most of the passengers get suspicious of him. Maybe they try to subdue him. And maybe the pilot is one of the early victims. This is all falling right in place.”
“And have some passengers the audience suspect—you know, a guy in a skull cap and such like. And throw in a little girl who is afraid. She can be a reminder of the daughter the marshal lost.”
“What we’ve come up with is all pretty routine and predictable. But I think somebody would pay to make it. Maybe the French. They’ve been making movies like this. Studio Canal. So we’d want Liam Neeson for a star. French producers have found him to be bankable.”
“Yeah, but adding a couple of other recognizable actors might help. Julianne Moore’s making every movie in sight. Add her. And somebody from TV. Since we’re skewing semi-serious in the casting, get somebody from a hit British series. Maybe that Downton Abbey one.”
“And we need a title that refers to what happens but also sounds exciting. It doesn’t need to make any sense, really, as long as it seems to have to do with air travel.”
“Our villains are going to be terrorists?”
“Well, if they are, they can’t be from any of the most likely types. In pop culture you’ve got to be brutally politically correct. So the villains have to be all-Americans. Maybe veterans of the Gulf or Afghan wars.”
“And as long as we’re on a plane, let’s have bullets go though windows and an explosion.”
“You’ve got to have at least one big explosion if you’re doing an action movie.”
Maybe this is how the ideas for Studio Canal’s new film “Non-Stop,” starring Liam Neeson, were generated. Might as well have been.