EXCLUSIVE: In Part 2 of our special report on MH370 in books and films, The Star Online talks to pseudonymous scriptwriter Apocalypse Nightshade about his movie, 'Malaysia 370'.
Google ‘Apocalypse Nightshade’ (AN) and all you will find is a link to faceless profiles on Amazon Studios, or Scribd — where three of his scripts can be read. Aside from Malaysia 370, there’s a raunchy romance entitled L.O.L. (Love Off Line) peppered with expletives, and The Justice League, which recently caused a tizzy among DC Comics fans who thought it was the actual script for a rumoured movie about the superheroes.
Describing himself only as a “weathered man of words”, it’s hard to make heads or tails of the man (one of the few things he’s willing to admit, although even this is unverified) behind the Malaysia 370 script. Fear of a backlash is one of the reasons why he has declined to reveal his true identity.
“Many people know who I am but in this case I thought it would be inappropriate to put myself out in front of the story as if I had done something special by writing it," wrote AN, replying to questions via email.
“That was expressed to me by an agent who originally offered the script to several movie studios that at the time were actively seeking scripts about the flight. But once people’s perception of CNN’s over coverage of the incident became fodder for the media at large, the studios pulled back on their plans for a ‘Malaysian flight’ movie,” he wrote.
“To be honest, I was relieved to hear it. I didn’t like the plans they had for my story, they considered it an action drama but that’s not how I see it at all,” wrote AN, adding that he’s been in the entertainment industry for over nine years.
Nevertheless, the students managed to track down the scriptwriter and it didn’t take much to convince him to let them use his work. “I like that idea. They are a group of young filmmakers who have started a boutique production company dedicated to make emotional films. No mega budgets, no monster movies. Those genres have their place, of course. But this film is about real lives and I think it requires a softer touch than a big studio can provide,” he added.
Like most people, AN was captivated by the story of the missing plane and wanted to tell his version of the event based on the bits and pieces of information that had trickled through the media. He added: “Someone who knew that I had written crime dramas in the past asked me what I thought happened. I had two theories, one was so fantastic that I won’t even repeat it and the second was the story I wrote.”
That second story, which became the script, reads nevertheless like one of the many far-fetched theories floating around the Internet. Detailing an intervention by the Chinese government and eventually accusing it for the disappearance of the plane, it’s a rather damning indictment. Still, the script has been viewed more than 2,000 times so far.
‘This story needs to be told’
“When I think of mysteries in any situation I gravitate toward the simplest explanations and I build a story from there. Sometimes even the simplest explanation can be quite shocking. That is certainly not to say that this situation doesn’t have a completely fantastic explanation, we simply don’t know and I am certainly not saying that my story explains everything. It’s simply ‘my story’.”
According to AN, it took him less than two days to complete the 31-page script, playing out the story in his head as he wrote it down. “As soon as I wrote it, I read it aloud to myself like one of those old radio dramas and then put it down and that was that. I haven’t gone back to the story since. I’m not the kind of person that’s entertained by another person’s sorrow or tragedy and that’s why I never write ‘true stories’ but I think this story needs to be told,” he said.
Going against popular sentiment, AN doesn’t feel that it’s too soon to be telling the story, especially when the people affected by the tragedy are yet to find closure.
“Should I have waited six months, a year, five years to write this story? I wrote this story after only 30 days had passed since the flight’s disappearance. It was immediately obvious to me that something very unusual was going on with this flight. How does a jumbo jet and hundreds of people vanish off satellite, radar, cell phone towers and radio communication in this era of ultra connectivity? The longer people wait to offer answers and to ask questions, the deeper the mystery grows.”
The scriptwriter acknowledges the fact that the affected families will probably never get closure even if the plane and their loved ones are found. “Out of respect, I didn’t give my characters any names. I only defined them by their seat numbers. Also, in my story, almost every passenger was asleep when the plane went down,” he said, hoping that they “passed in peace and without distress or pain.”
Aware of The Vanishing Act’s backlash, AN believed that Paul’s movie had nothing in common with the actual events other than the fact that they both featured jumbo jets departing from the same location. He said: “Paul’s style is that of a provocateur and that does get the public’s attention when promoting a certain kind of film but that’s the wrong approach for a true story with such sensitive subject matter.
“Also, it was clear, at least to me that he just went out and found any airplane script (of which there are many) and threw together a slick movie trailer, said it was based on MH370 and thought that he could shock investors and the public into believing that his movie was about the mystery.
“Paul’s tactics would be considered clever by ‘Hollywood standards’ but I think the public saw through his intentions and found it insulting and it backfired on him,” said AN, adding that he is not afraid of any backlash Malaysia 370 may encounter.
“If you check the web for comments that have been made by family members of the missing passengers and compare them to my script you will see that they come to some of the same conclusions. In truth, much of my story comes from the people actually involved and I think they will see that,” he said.
AN also added that he accepts the possibility that Malaysia 370 won’t become a blockbuster hit when – or even if – it manages to see light of day. “I would be completely fine if the film based on my script didn’t make one penny. Malaysia 370 isn’t designed to be a ‘money maker’. This film could be something more. It could be the possible answer to the question of ‘What happened?’ It would be wrong to try and sell a film like this. People will want to see it or they won’t and that’s OK either way.”
Screen captures: Apocalypse Nightshade's "Malaysia 370" script is publicly available on Scribd.
Don't miss Part 1 of this exclusive Star Online report here:
MH370: Passing out of radar into books, movies, musical