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Prisoner’s Dilemma

Prisoner's Dilemma - Sci-Fi Thriller

Sci-Fi / Thriller

The story: The distant future. A long, bloody war is coming to a close. Rumor has it, a package is being smuggled out of the occupied-zone by a group of gangsters. Only one guy can do it. The Engineer. He’s given three rules: Don’t deviate from the plan. Always protect the cargo. And no matter what… never break cover. All goes well until he receives a distress signal from a life-pod. He breaks the rules. He rescues the pod. Inside are two badly beaten women, a half-dead soldier and a whole world of trouble.

What the reviewers had to say:

PRISONER’S DILEMMA is a well-written script with a great premise, fun action, clever plotting, interesting characters, and epic world creation. The premise, a ship captain who must navigate the contradictory stories of two prisoners with hidden agendas, creates excellent character dynamics.

Every scene is full of suspense and intrigue created by characters who are always questionably motivated. Information comes out at a smart pace, just fast enough to satisfy the audience. Ethan is a cantankerous, but sympathetic protagonist whose anguish is relatable, humanizing, and deep.

Both Petra and Molly have a fun, sexy edge that makes them reminiscent of femme fatales. The script does a great job of making their sexuality not a weakness, but a tool in their arsenal of deceit. Every character is complex and sympathetic; they’re all at odds, but no one is a cartoonish villain, and all are sympathetic.

The script skillfully blends epic space battles with intimate, contained drama. The contrast between the universe wide war, and the three-way intrigue on a claustrophobic spaceship is delightful. The ironic ending is quite cinematic. An original, memorable, and clever script.

Blacklist Review 1
This is a great vehicle for a strong dramatic actor, and could be a great sci-fi thriller. The world is interesting, and the action is strong enough to attract a cast interested in hand-to-hand combat and futuristic settings.
Blacklist Review 2
A fun space adventure with well executed film noir elements, Starts fast. Entertaining script with strong writing that should easily garner attention from the large sci-fi action audience.
Blacklist Review 3

Production notes:

In the distant future, a long and bloody war is coming to a close. The fighting is technically over, but there is still a fortune to be made in the occupied-zone. Rumor is, a package is being smuggled out by a group of gangsters.  Only one guy can do it. The Engineer. Name’s Ethan McKay. Mad genius with engines yet hard as nails. Small problem, our Engineer is in a prison camp. The underworld pulls some strings and busts him out. They also give him a ship. His old ship. His masterpiece that legend has it can disappear. That’s good because he’s running right at a Federal blockade, and if he’s not ‘dark’, he’s dead.

He’s two weeks out now. Hot cargo in his hold. Time to get his magic engine running again. The ship has been laid up for the three years he was in the clink. Even dark, he’s not sure if he can make it through the blockade, but it beats rotting in a correction camp. As he makes repairs, the golden rules of smuggling are never far from his thoughts: 1) don’t deviate from the plan, 2) always protect the package and 3) No matter what happens, never break cover. Makes the boss nervous. Makes him think you’re gonna run.  The rules are scripture for a veteran like Ethan… that is until he encounters a distress signal in deep space. Here the golden rules of smuggling bump into the iron law of space – Never leave a ship in distress, especially a life-pod.

Against his better judgment, he alters course and brings in the pod. Inside are two women – badly beaten – and a gravely wounded Federal soldier. They are in stasis. Out cold. Life support’s last-ditch effort to keep them alive long enough for help to arrive.  The Engineer brings them aboard his ship and that’s when the dilemma begins… for one woman is a Federal Officer and the other her prisoner. Question is which one is which?

Statement of Intent:  Thematically this is a World War II film set in space. Think post-war Berlin. Think Third Man. It’s tough, dark, sexy and gritty.  It uses numerous old school noir hooks and devices (the prison break, the mysterious cargo, the drifting life-pod, the femme fatales) to set the table for some serious questions about war and peace.  About how one side’s hero is often the other side’s terrorist. How the winners write the history, and how the concept of justice often gets lost in the telling. Much like our hero, the Engineer, the audience learns the two sides of the story from the two sworn enemies. Who will he believe? Who will the audience believe?  Imagine a Nazi officer and a Jewish Resistance fighter. Both claiming to be someone they are not to gain advantage. Both feeling out Ethan for where his allegiance lay.  With the Feds or with the Resistance?  He can help one or none, but certainly not both.

As the story progresses and the motives of both ladies become clear, so does the pressure on Ethan (and hopefully the audience) to pick a side.  Like any good story, though, by the time he has enough information to make his decision, the bad guys are closing in and the clock is running.  Our hero, having learnt from his experience in the first act, turns the tables on all parties and pulls off a clever yet harrowing escape that only he can ‘engineer’.

Target audience / casting:  This film is designed to be a genre franchise release with an A-List star in the lead of Ethan.

Furthermore the presence of two strong, well-rounded females leads should appeal to many A-list actresses.  By design the two female leads (Molly / Petra) are of different age brackets (Molly: late teens – early 20’s and Petra: early to late 30’s).

All three characters are featured in the subsequent two films as well which should increase the desirability of the roles.

The supporting cast also contains a number of unique and challenging roles that again re-occur throughout the greater story arc.

Most of the film is a contained 3-hander on Ethan’s star freighter which should keep the budget modest and studio based.  Keeping with the WWII theme, the design would be in the vein of a dark steam punk future. Pipes and metal. Matrix not Star Trek.  Good examples would be the work of Nigel Phelps in Aliens Resurrection and Philip Harrison design of the classic sci-fi Outland. Similar budget examples would include the design of Richard Bridgland (Pandorum, Alien vs Predator).

VFX are approximately 20% of the film and negotiations with a favourable VFX partner should keep costs under control. Using the Luc Besson produced Lockout as a benchmark, we estimate a total production budget the neighbourhood of $5M USD depending upon above the line commitments. Considerable savings could also be achieved depending upon the main shooting location, tax incentives and local labor costs.

Both shooting schedule (40 days) and budget are available upon request.

Target Audience: Broad, skewing male.  Male/Female 18 – 55. Genre fans of both Sci-Fi and Thriller

Markets: Due to the universal appeal of sci-fi as well as sexual thrillers, we expect the film – with a known cast – to sell in all territories world-wide.   Theatrical is a strong possibility in major markets, but main revenue stream will be from broadcast rights, VOD and DVD sales with a long tail due to genre loyalty.

Sequel and Franchise Possibilities: Due to the unique characters, the cliff-hanger ending and story rich post-war backdrop, the producers feel there is a strong franchise potential for two additional films if the first is successful.

Rating: The movie would most likely be rated 18 (US – R rating) due to language and nudity but modifications could be made for a hard PG-13 if required.


Prisoner’s Dilemma

Sci-Fi – Noir Thriller

The rules:
Don’t deviate from the plan.
Always protect the Package.
And no matter what happens…
never break cover.


Sci-Fi Thriller Noir
In the closing days of an interplanetary war, a gifted smuggler rescues a life-pod containing two badly beaten women, a half-dead soldier and a whole world of trouble.
Studio + few desolate exteriors
109-minutes / English
Broad, skewing male.  Male/Female 18 – 55. Genre fans of both Sci-Fi and Thriller
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Helen Ballard and The Fall Creek Ten, Dead Fall
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