Doctor Strange Writer Teams
With Young Director For Sci-Fi Short
Acclaimed Writer C. Robert Cargill Offered His Words And Support To Up-And-Coming Director Nikhil Bhagat For The New Short As They Continue To Fall
C. Robert Cargill, writer of As They Continue To Fall.
Image courtesy of C. Robert Cargill.
Image courtesy of C. Robert Cargill.
By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine
April 22, 2016 — When most people go to the movies, they end up seeing, at least in vague terms, something that is somewhere around two hours in length and has a very defined beginning, middle and end. That is not the case with a short film, and, save for the shorts that precede most Pixar movies, the general movie-going public doesn’t really go out of its way to watch short films all that often. However, for young filmmakers, short films are their calling card; their possible ticket in the door.
That is the case with As They Continue To Fall (ATCTF), a short film by young filmmaker Nikhil Bhagat that was written by C. Robert Cargill, who many will know as the writer of Sinister and Marvel Studios upcoming Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle Doctor Strange. ATCTFis currently making the rounds at some festivals and recently was shown to a nearly sold out crowd with a group of other sci-fi shorts at Phoenix Film Festival.
“My vision was to make it dark and gritty, but to make it grounded at the same time, with a hint of supernatural,” Bhagat said. “I want to make this as commerical and as mainstream as possible. My belief when making films is that it’s for the audience. It’s not for me. I have to like my film, but the audience should like it too. So when I make a decision, I’m thinking from the perspective of the audience.”
At the Phoenix Film Festival, ATCTF was shown last in the block of shorts in which it was featured. The audience seemed to respond very well to it, and, in that sense at least, Bhagat appeared to accomplish his goal. The story follows a drifter who hunts fallen angels in a desolate city, and the film itself, which clocks in at around 6 minutes, feels a bit like the beginning, or a small chunk, of a much bigger story—a big budget story that would fit in quite well in the modern Hollywood landscape. That is due in large part to the fact that it was written by a very successful Hollywood screenwriter.
“It actually got rejected from a bunch of festivals because people were saying that this feels like a piece from a big budget film,” Bhagat said.
“It was one of those late night what if sort of things,” Cargill said. “I was thinking about Paradise Lost and the concept of angels falling and becoming demons. Then I wondered ‘If angels had the free will to fall, what if they were still falling? Still occasionally turning their back on God?’ That lead to the idea that the angels people talk about here on Earth might really just be fallen angels who are no longer the servants of God. What would they do? What would they be like? And then, eventually, what if someone with the ability to see them simply got tired of their crap? And there was story.”
This short film is very much a showcase piece for Bhagat who, like many other young filmmakers, is doing whatever he can to try and get his foot in the door. Fortunately for Bhagat, he had the help of Cargill. But how did a virtually unknown director get a very successful and very busy screenwriter to write his short film? He simply asked.
“We met on a reddit screenwriting forum,” Cargill said. “I pop in every now and again to answer questions, especially for young horror writers looking for advice on writing a salable script. He messaged me privately and we got to talking. Then he asked if I had the time to write something for him. As it so happened, I did.”
“I was playing Madden on my Xbox at the same time, and I was like ‘Well why don’t I just message this guy?” Bhagat said. “He’s probably not going to reply but what if he does? What’s the worst that could happen?” Obviously I’m going to get rejected by more than fifty percent of the people that I reach out to. People are going to say no. So what? Just move onto the next one. Someone will hopefully, eventually say yes. Cargill, I got lucky because he is like one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and in film it is such an anomaly to be that nice.”
It is exactly that attitude that got ATCTF to look and feel the way it does as well. Bhagat raised funds for the film on Kickstarter, used some of his own personal money and didn’t settle on friends and film students for his crew. He wanted big, so he asked for big.
“This is a pretty awesome high-concept script and I thought, okay, I’m just going to go all out and I’m going to get as big of a crew and I’m going to email as many people as I can,” Bhagat said. “I didn’t use anyone from USC. I looked up people from IMDB who worked on big films. I must have emailed like 300 or 400 people.”
He wound up assembling a crew from those hundreds of emails, and the results speak to the quality of the talent he was able to attract. At the moment, Bhagat is working on a feature length concept for ATCTF. “I’m making it more sci-fi based,” he said. “It’s going to be like Alien, Robocop, Blade Runner. That type of story with a mega-corporation. The idea is like, how much can you profit off of a fallen angel?”
Though Bhagat has consulted with Cargill along the way, ultimately the pair have decided for various reasons that this is Bhagat’s project.
“The whole idea of helping him out was to give him a shot at proving himself,” Cargill said. “Before I wrote the short he sent me several of his student films. Each one got progressively better, and each of them illustrated how well he could tell a story. So by giving him a script with a working professional's name on it, it would allow him the chance to prove he could go the distance—make the movie, take it around to festivals, make contacts, and try to find his way into the industry. Thus far, he’s done a bang up job with all of that.”
Aside from helping a young director get along in the industry, Cargill is also pretty busy with other projects these days. He co-hosts the Junkfood Cinema podcast, writes novels and, of course, has been busy bringing the Sorcerer Supreme to the big screen with Marvel’s Doctor Strange.
“We drew our inspiration straight from the comics and have a world class cast of Oscar winners and nominees,” Cargill said. “It’s the story of a surgeon who gets into a car accident and loses the use of his hands. As a result, his whole life falls apart. In his search for a cure, he discovers a monastery full of ancient secrets, setting him on a path to becoming a sorcerer. Stephen Strange is a great character that has a lot of meat to him. He’s not just some guy who accidentally gets powers and decides to save the world—he’s someone who sets out to cure himself and instead discovers there’s a whole world that needs curing. It was an awesome experience making that movie, and I can’t wait for people to see it.”
While Cargill will very likely remain busy—as the early reaction to the first Doctor Strange trailer has been very positive and his work in horror is still very present—Bhagat’s journey is just beginning, and the young director feels that there needs to be more Cargill out there.
“He basically just gave me the rights [to the film],” said Bhagat. “He pretty much said ‘Do what you need and turn it into a feature.’ I don’t know what to say. It’s hard to imagine someone like that being that nice and generous to someone he’s never met before. People like him are the reason I feel like younger filmmakers are able to do well. I don’t know if I’m going to do well or if I’m going to be a success. Hopefully I am. But I think there needs to be more people like Cargill.”
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