Why I decided to start my own Cinematic Universe

Written by Ryan McCoy
April 27th, 2019

It was early 2016 and my friends and I had formed a production company in LA, with the hopes of attracting some video projects that could fund our desires to make some feature-length films. We invested in a bunch of professional gear and wanted to make some short films in order to continue to hone our craft. As the writer/director, I decided that I didn’t want to make some random one-off short films. I wanted them linked to a current story of mine, so I came up with the idea that they would all be prequel-type stories for a feature screenplay I had written, “Apocalypse.”

It wasn’t until we had made the second short film in the series, that my mind started to race, coming up with stories for each one of these characters. At the same time I began to have these thoughts, was the same time that all the other major studios in Hollywood began trying to launch their own “Cinematic Universes” to copy what was being done by Disney and the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

If you break it down, I think the move that Disney made and Kevin Fiege quarterbacked, is one of the most successful moves in studio history. They made an unprecedented move that has garnered them practically every box office record in history. Yet, the vast majority, if not every one of them, fail at telling a compelling story.

What Disney did was very smart, but nothing new or original. They were mearly copying the original idea from Marvel’s comic books, by having many compelling characters and interweaving them throughout each of the respective character’s life-cycles. Where the other studios missed the mark, and where I believe I will be successful, is they tried copying the exact same formula as Disney and tried to weave together existing IPs and still focusing on spectacle over story.

So, I decided I would also copy theDisney framework, but do it with 100% original IP and characters, set in a world after/during/before the Rapture, where I can weave these characters together and come up with my own universe of virtually never-ending story fodder. There are no usper powers, everyone is a villain by the shear nature of being”Left Behind”, and they are all fighting an un-stoppable force. I believe these things, mixed with the imagination of a kid all grown-up who actually has something to say in his writing, rather than fishing for funny quotes or great one-liners, can grow over the coming decades and become just as popular of a “franchise” or “universe” as the current trend of comic book movies that are littering our cinemas on a monthly basis.

Every one of my projects has a purpose. Some are meant for awards, others meant to make a statement, others are me trying to vent and get something off my chest. “Apocalypse,” and all of its subsequent iterations (screenplay, novella, graphic novel, short film, feature film) are for one purpose and one purpose only: the FANS.

I want to build characters that the public falls in love with the same way they fell inlove with their favorite super heroes or villains when they would stroll their local comic book shop or hobby store. I want to make something for the rest of the “grown-up” kids out there, just like me. I believe I have the talent and the mental resources to be able to provide that. All it’s going to take now is time, which I have. :)

The inspiration for my screenplay "Apocalypse," and how I wrote it in only four days.

Written by Ryan McCoy
April 15th, 2019

I was hot off the press, literally. I had just finished by (technically) second feature-length film, “Evidence.” I had paid for the movie out of pocket and was able to get it in the can for a ridiculously small amount of money. It’s in the found-footage genre of films, and to get some reviews and press going for us, I sent screeners out to as many online horror sites I could find. Bloody Disgusting, Dread Central, Fangoria, etc.

The response ranged from 5/10 to 10/10. People either loved or hated the fact that in the last twenty or so minutes, we completely jumped the shark and not only throw the kitchen sink at you, we throw the whole damn house.

one site I mentioned above really enjoyed our film, Like, enjoyed it so much, I used their quote on the poster. “‘Evidence’ is home to some of the most Holy Shit! What the Hell was that?! filmmaking we have seen in some time.” The review and subsequent quote was written by a staple in the horror community, Mr. Steve Barton, or “Uncle Creepy” as he is referred to by many.

Steve was so blown away by the film that he called me at home one day. He shared his praise with me and I was blown away that he thought it was so good. He explained to me that his site was partially responsible for putting Paramount’s eyes on “Paranormal Activity” only a couple years back. Steve asked my permission if he could reach out to his contacts at Paramount (who had bought Paranormal) and see if they would screen it on the lot. I of course said yes. A day later, the lady running that division of Paramount called me at home and invited me to bring it to the lot for a screening. I was blown away.

Now, obviously, Paramount ended up passing on the movie, but I started getting calls from all over town. People wanted to meet with me to see what else I had going on. One of those meetings was with a very high-level management and production company in Century City. I went in and met with them. They were blown away by what I was able to accomplish for such a low budget. Then the question came, “What do you have next?” I had nothing. But, I told him whatever he wanted. Evidence 2? I write really fast. And he told me something that has stuck with me to this day.

The main guy said, “Look, kid…you’ve got about six months before your light fades away. Then people will stop taking your phone calls and stop replying to your emails.” Well, it wasn’t even six months. He was completely right. I wouldn’t realize it til much later, though. After that meeting, I raced home and said, “I’ve got to come up with a script and FAST.” I was sitting in my office, staring at my wall of DVDs. There are over 1,000 of them and I have them all lined up alphabetically. I was scanning my collection, looking for inspiration, when my eyes landed on the very last DVD on the shelves, “Zulu.”

If you’ve never seen “Zulu” before, it doesn’t really hold up anymore. However, the story behind it is true and absolutely incredible. Without getting into too many details, basically the Battle of Rorke's Drift, also known as the Defense of Rorke's Drift, was an engagement in the Anglo-Zulu War. The successful defense of the mission statement of Rorke's Drift, under the command of Lieutenants John Chard of the Royal Engineers and Gonville Bromhead, followed Britain's defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 and continued into the following day.

Just over 150 British and colonial troops defended the station against attacks by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The massive but piecemeal attacks by the Zulu on Rorke's Drift came very close to defeating the much smaller garrison, but were repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honors.

I said, “That’s it.” Came up with the idea of it taking place after the Rapture, armies of the Four Horsemen, then packed the house full of characters I thought would be interesting to explore being Left Behind.

Now, when I write, I am so focused on the structure and outline that I don’t even open up Final Draft (the program I, and practically everyone else, uses to write screenplays). But, back then, I would just open up my laptop and GO. And that’s exactly what I did.

Now, I wish I could remember those four days better, because I don’t know how the hell I was able to craft a story in such short time, where the beats to the story are nearly spot on. I’ve since done about six or seven drafts of the script, however the beats have not changed one bit. That’s pretty incredible. When I first pitched my old manager, I gave him two scripts of mine to read. The first is my passion project, “Bury Me.” The second was “Apocalypse.” We met for lunch and he told me, while Bury Me is a really great script, Apocalypse is like a hit record.

I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan. They are my favorite band of all time. For their second studio album, they had recorded all of the songs, but the label wanted them to add one more. They reluctantly went into the studio, and within five minutes, recorded the song, which became the title track, “Paranoid.” “Apocalypse” is like that for me. It’s probably going to be the story I become most widely known for, at least in the beginning.

To finish up the story with the management company, I sent them the script, got it bounced around a few other producers and companies. Always getting 4/5 or 5/5 reviews from their readers. I even had an option agreement on the table for $10,000 up front, a percentage of the back-end, they would film in Toronto, I would be paid a per diem, plus be on set everyday as a writer/producer, but Abi (who I based the main character of The Hooker off of) would not be in it and the budget would only be $1.5 million.

I debated for a bit. Talked it over with Abi, talked it over with my manager, but the thing that was holding me back is that I knew they couldn’t make this movie for less than $5 million, without sacrificing the film. They had a studio with a bunch of sets and green-screens and were going to CG the shit out of it. I have always maintained the integrity of my stories and this one is no exception. I have always pictured this movie as a western a la Sam Peckinpah or John Ford. All practical, no (or very little) CG.

So, I went back to them (actually, my manager went back to them…that’s what they do) and told them I would take the option for the $10k, but Abi had to play the lead, OR, I wanted 5x on all the money and back-end. They quickly declined.

Could I have used ten-thousand dollars then? Hell, fucking, yes. I could really use ten-thousand dollars right now! But, here I am, almost seven years later, and not only have I not compromised my story, I believe I’m bringing it to life the way I ALWAYS wanted and I can’t wait to finally bring this story to the masses and hear what everyone thinks about it, because I think it kicks some serious ass.