An interview with FilmCon winner Carole Starcevic ("Mind Out of Time")



Carole, congratulations on winning Best Feature Screenplay! Before we chat about the script, please tell us a bit about yourself and how did you become a screenwriter?


I am a woman who likes teamwork and travel, and I have always been an avid consumer of movies, TV series and books. Although I am a Dutch citizen living in Europe, I was born in Egypt and grew up in an international environment. I am therefore fortunate to be fluent in several languages such as English, French, Dutch and Greek, and have some notions in Italian, Spanish and a little German. I have traveled extensively, and my initial profession was as an organizational consultant. This brings me a lot of experience in structuring scripts and leading teams. The screenwriting profession is almost always a lonely job, and I had the idea of bringing the concept of teamwork into this profession, becoming in the process a member of the team of screenwriters that I have created.




You signed your script Mind Out of Time under the name of Rapsodies, which is a team of international screenwriters, correct? Who are the team members of Rapsodies, how did the team come about and what's the particular concept behind it?


Our team’s name is Rapsodies. Rapsodies is a start-up that specializes in writing high-concept scripts for feature films and TV Series. The company is based in France, but our multicultural team draws on the talents of American, English, French and Dutch writers. Our scripts are homogeneous because our teams are stable and always managed by the same, skilled lead writer. The lead screenwriter is chosen from the three most experienced writers at Rapsodies, and the rest of the team is assembled to meet the specific requirements of each project and genre. Our professional screenwriters are not beginners: they have individually written 40 feature film scripts, 10 TV series scripts, 10 animations and 20 short films that are in production or that have already been produced successfully. Our skilled team members have also written plays, musicals, radio shows and audio stories. Hand-picked, they have won prizes in a lot of screenplay competitions.


Several team members are high-level scientists (engineers, PhDs) who contribute their technical know-how to ensure the scientific accuracy and realism of various sophisticated concepts developed by Rapsodies. Some team members come from the gaming world and have intimate knowledge of the genre. Rapsodies is associated with Mythic Games, a company that has had a series of successes in the USA and Europe with games such as Salomon Kane, Time of Legends: Joan of Arc, Hel, the last saga and Darkest Dungeon. Several Rapsodies feature film and TV scripts are based on adaptations of these games.


Mind out of Time was written by four people: Terry, Orso, Lee and myself, with an excellent South African proofreader named Sonja, who has a degree in technology for language learning.


Terry is an English award-winning, commissioned screenwriter, playwright, drama and comedy writer - with over a dozen BBC commissions - with experience of writing for television, stage, film (both live action, documentary, docudrama and animation), new media and radio.


Orso is French, and has a double degree in engineering and business school and specializes in innovation and AI. He initially comes from the gaming world. Orso has a strong career development in business, engineering, innovation and game scenarios. His high-level of scientific knowledge helps make our science fiction and fantasy scenarios plausible. He is the high concept expert at Rapsodies.


Lee is a professional American writer, who worked on the first draft.


Other Rapsodies members who have worked on other scripts include:


Toby, an award-winning American produced screenwriter with 20 years of experience in the film and television industry, working on projects with producers, directors and studios/networks including Viacom, Netflix, Amazon Studios, Sony, Universal, Entertainment One and Origo Film Group.


Richard, an American produced screenwriter with 20 years of experience in the film, television and theater industry.


Aurèle, a promising young French screenwriter, who has already produced short films.


How do you usually work together? Can you take us through your creative writing process?


I select a clear, fleshed-out high concept from the wacky mind of one of our main writers, and we then we work on that concept as a team in successive iterations. I centralize and coordinate all the exchanges, which ensures that everyone is working on the right version. We always have the same proofreader. Then, I ask the team members who were not involved in the draft to read the script. Finally, I enter the script in screenwriting competitions and submit it to Black List, whom we respect very much. Eventually, we do a new draft at the end of this process.



Together with the team, you worked in multiple genres- Mind Out of Time is a sci-fi thriller, but you also wrote the war/drama screenplay Rails Run Parallel, the romantic comedy Born to Pull, and many others. Which genre do you feel most comfortable with?


Half of our scripts are in the Sci-Fi or Fantasy genre. It's probably the genre we're most comfortable with, especially if it's hybrid with another genre, like Sci-Fi/Thriller or Comedy/Fantasy type projects. However, Rails Run Parallel, which is a Drama/War screenplay, has won six awards in major competitions, and our RomCom Born to Pull has just been optioned by a producer. I truly believe that our diversity of culture, gender and age opens us up to almost any genre.



Let's go back to the brilliant screenplay you wrote, Mind Out of Time. What was the inspiration for writing it, what is the context and how were you able to come up with something so unique and particular?


Mind out of Time is a Sci-Fi/Thriller feature film based on a high concept by Rapsodies. Its premise is the arrival of an alien object that gradually causes humanity to lose all personal memories – four days at a time. Addressing many of the challenges and concerns of the C21st, such as the impact of artificial intelligence, while retaining the breathtaking implications of alien first contact, Mind out of Time is a high-concept science fiction that follows in the footsteps of pioneering films such as Inception, Interstellar and Arrival. It also shares the DNA of genre classics such as The Day of the Triffids and War of the Worlds, in which scientists struggle to defeat an ‘alien’ threat. With its exploration of memory, identity and the nature of love, Mind out of Time is an intensely moving film project and, like the best of SF, raises important questions about humanity and what it means to be fully and truly human in today’s world.




What are some of the characteristics of the world of Mind of Out Time, and what was your approach for the main characters? How did you make sure the audiences can relate to them?


At some point in the film, the main characters have the mental age and/or the physical age of the target audience. The nationalities are diverse, which gives the project a global aspect that is essential to make it realistic: the fight against the extinction of humanity necessarily generates a global reaction.


Mind out of Time is a serious work of science fiction, featuring realistic science and authentic scientists. Although the central concept – the progressive loss of personal memory, which has obvious parallels with dementia-related diseases – is bleak, the script is not without humor and, eventually, optimism. The female lead, scientist CAROLE, is a pop culture vulture, and so the script is shot through with both scientific and science fiction references that appeal to audiences enamoured of both Star Trek and Hard SF.


Both Carole and DAVID’s character development is riveting. Carole (mentally at least) becomes younger and younger, so her outlook, passions and concerns change during the course of the script. Something similar happens to her husband David, although to a lesser extent, because he is stoically English! This ‘remembrance of things past’ becomes an effective character arc for Carole – a ‘relearning’ – that allows her to help address the problems the group and the world face, not just with regards to the alien menace, but also with regards to the AI designed as part of the solution. Thus, it is Carole who puts in place the precautions that eventually give them all their freedom back.


Steady, reliable David – Carole’s husband, also a ‘computer wizard’ and the main designer of the AI Network – does not recognize the threat AI represents, partly because he believes sufficient safeguards are already in place. Rightly, his main concern is for the tangible threat represented by the alien Flake. Nobody could have foreseen that the need to overlay the memories and personality of Head Scientist John Strickland on the AI network in order to save his invaluable knowledge could cause a problem.


Head scientist JOHN STRICKLAND is a brilliant man, plagued by the regret he feels for neglecting his late wife in favor of his career. When she died too young, John took a long time to recover from the loss. As John’s memory starts regressing, he starts to fear the subjective point at which he will once again be forced to relive the death of his wife and the subsequent agony of mourning. This development is a touching elaboration on filmic themes concerned with memory and what makes us human. Unfortunately, when the objectively older John has a heart attack, the team layers the memories of the ‘mourning’ John onto the Network AI. The resulting fusion: AI-John is capable of continuing Project Ragnarok, the ambitious plan for destroying the alien Flake, but AI-John now has a major failing when it comes to protecting humanity.


The android CHARLIE is also a central character. He is the only ‘individual’ who can grow with the passing of time, because he is capable of true learning. As an early iteration of Carole’s android program he is not fully integrated with the Network AI, and thus has a greater degree of independent thought. His observation of Carole’s battle to regain her own psychological essence and hold on to her relationship with David allows him to learn, grow and gradually become more human. Eventually he realizes that he too loves Carole.


Carole and David’s neighbor Emma and her teenage son Roy provide a yardstick for the devastating effects that the alien intrusion has on ‘ordinary people’, who have no idea what is going on. These people wake up confused and frightened every day because they are caught in the paradox of regressing minds and aging bodies without understanding their present circumstances. Their suffering provides a continuous reminder of exactly what is at stake.


The progressive loss of Carole’s and the rest of the characters’ memories presents a unique acting opportunity for actors who will get the opportunity to portray a simultaneous regression in mental age and progression in biological age. Our presentation of this difficult chronology, whereby Carole ages but her memories are those of a much younger person, is achieved by a script that is much more than a ‘device’. The idea, that we – along with Carole – are witnessing a ‘viewing’ of Carole’s lost years, put together as an act of love by Charlie to help Carole deal with her memory loss, actually harks back to the central question of what makes us human.


The screenplay features some major futuristic questions that are almost metaphysical - putting face to face artificial intelligence, a first Alien contact scenario- how did you approach these topics?


Mind out of Time eschews the traditional pulp SF ideas of bug-eyed (or extended- jawed) monsters in favor of the approach the award-winning SF Classic Roadside Picnic (filmed as Stalker) followed: the motives of the aliens are as alien and inscrutable as anything we could expect from their physiognomy. All that can be concluded from their arrival is that their presence is causing human society to collapse! This brings the story back to the central question we are asking: what is more detrimental to human wellbeing – alien intelligence or artificial intelligence? Interestingly, the threat of artificial intelligence proves to be not the obvious – a malevolent self- interest – but rather a benevolent desire to protect all of mankind from itself. This attitude unexpectedly turns out to be very dangerous.


What's next for you, and what's the for Mind Out of Time? Are you planning to produce it down the line?


Mind out of Time is a Sci-Fi/Thriller feature film project, with a medium to high budget that makes it difficult to finance. I think I’m going to have to use one of its strengths, which is its ability to attract great actors, if only for the challenge of playing characters whose bodies age on screen, while their mental age and speech patterns go the other way.


Where can our readers follow more of your work?


Yes, of course! We are active on Twitter and Facebook, up to date on IMDbPro and we have a website with descriptions of our projects, including an active Blog.


Our web site:

https://www.rapsodies.fr


Twitter:

https://twitter.com/RapsodiesSAS


Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Rapsodies.screenwriters





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