Saturday, May 28, 2016

Bullies Are Villains, Too! (or, Writing A Good Bad Guy)

In this post, I will explain how I created the main antagonist for The Quantum Terror, by thinking of him as a bully, rather than an evil villain. I don't feel that I'm spoiling anything in the film by writing about this, but if you'd rather watch the movie without having any kind of feel for the characters beforehand, you may want to skip this post. Like everything else in this film, I based my character motivations on things in real life that I have strong feelings about, and there's very few things I feel stronger about, than the evils of bullying.

(Disclaimer: Matt Blackwell, who plays our leading antagonist Jacob Colt, is actually one of the nicest actors I've ever met. Working with him has been a lot of fun, and he's probably more talented than he even understands. The fact that he hasn't been featured in more movies is absolutely criminal, in my opinion. People are going to want to kill his character, when they see the movie.) 

The first question I asked myself when I sat down to write Jacob Colt as a character was, who where my favorite bad guys in the movies, and what was the one thing they all had in common? What made them so infuriating to watch? It wasn't some evil plan hatched for personal gain, or a plot to take over the world, but rather something that almost anyone can relate to having to deal with. They were all bullies.

I feel that when writing a villain, it makes their character instantly more interesting to view them in this way, because now you're not just writing about a person who is mean in a one dimensional way. Now, they have modus operandi, which your protagonists will be vulnerable to in different ways. In order to defend against this bully, they first must fall victim to him, and then learn something about themselves that makes them grow into a person who may have a fighting chance to win. Not everyone in a story will, which is what makes a good antagonist so frightening, frustrating, and able to make our blood boil.

In order to achieve this effect to its fullest potential, we first must gain a better understanding of a bully's methods and motivations. I will use several of my favorite movie villains to illustrate them.


A bully needs a victim. Someone whom they mark, either through jealousy or opportunity for exploitation. Their first order of business will be to find out what aspect of their query can be used to manipulate them into a place of isolation, away from anyone who might notice the first red flags of abuse. Many times, the victim may not at first realize that the intentions of a new acquaintance are not at all good. Usually, an abusive person starts off offering some form of aid, but quickly that aid becomes a leash that can be tugged at at anytime, used to take away something of need, or turned against another. A good example of this may be Bobby Peru, in the David Lynch film Wild At Heart.

Bobby first appears as a friend to Sailor, who can help he and Lula out of their financial situation, by including Sailor in on a plan to rob a bank. However, when Sailor is out of the room, Lula instantly becomes alone and defenseless against Bobby extorting sexual promises from her, which if she denies, may result in something "going wrong" during the robbery. It may mean Sailor's death. She can't tell Sailor because he sees Bobby as a trusted friend, and they both know that they will have no place else to go, if they don't get some money. Bobby knows all of these factors, and has used them to encircle her, leaving no options left, other than to quiver, cry, and agree to his terms.

Isolating a person also makes it easier to...

Take Hostages

There's a reason whey the kidnapper always tells the person carrying the ransom to "come alone." Any support you might have in taking back what is rightfully yours is an extreme disadvantage for a bully. Hostages they might hold are...

The Promise of Love and Approval: such as The Joker uses (in Batman: The Animated Series) to hold Harley Quinn in place as a loyal servant, even though in truth, he only cares about himself.

Since her introduction into the show, we've seen that she would do anything to make him happy. The sad thing is, anything she might do to please him is viewed as success where he has failed, which infuriates him. Her failures are what makes her scramble to want to please him more and do his bidding. Too many successes and she might begin to notice his failures, and see that she doesn't need his approval. That's why when she captures Batman without any help, The Joker responds by beating her and throwing her out a window.

A Supposed Sacrifice They Make On Your Behalf: In Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, we see this in Norman Bates' mother, even though she is relegated in death to a voice that speaks to him within his mind, she still holds the power of guilt over his head. Norman even sees it, but he feels that he's been a burden to her. The least he can do is bear her insane reprimands. When talking about it, he even defends her, saying that she's not a bad person. It's the illness.

This power is then fortified by telling the victim that they are unappreciative, ungrateful for the things that have been given to them or done for them. Many people concede to these arguments, because bullies are also...

Telling You That You Can't Do What You Need, Without Them: Bullies are very good at subtly, yet very effectively making situations more difficult than they need to be, so that they can emphasize their own sense of self sacrifice, making them the appear to be a martyr for you. A good example of this might be Annie Wilkes, in the movie Misery.

When we meet her, she has already rescued writer Paul Sheldon from freezing to death after his snowy car wreck, and has begun to nurse him back to some form of health. However, in order to keep him where she wants, she orchestrates a series of difficulties she tells him she has to suffer, so that he can get better. At first they seem legitimate. They're snowed in, the lines are down, he's in no condition to be moved, but as these conditions begin to improve and Annie shows no sign of letting him leave, she turns to accusations. She lists off all the things she does for him, how she has sacrificed to do them, and how he wouldn't be able to do them for himself. Of course, she's become very good in these moments at forgetting that she is the one who sabotaged the phone lines and hobbled him when he was getting better.

That's a go to tactic for bullies, as well. They're very good at forgetting valid points that are in your favor, soon after you make them. They'll talk as if they were never mentioned, don't exist or say things like "Oh, that tired old argument again!" They get away with ignoring the facts of their bad behavior in favor of...  

Pointing Out or Picking On Insecurities: No one is better at this than Hannibal Lecter, from Silence Of The Lambs.

The most prominent example of this is when Dr. Lecter is brought to meet with Senator Martin, upon the promise that he can tell her how to find her missing daughter. The Senator is a competent and strong individual, yet Lecter instantly cuts into her emotions with surgical precision. The conversation goes something like this:

"Tell me, Senator: did you nurse Catherine yourself?"


"Did you breast-feed her?"

"Yes, I did."

"Toughened your nipples, didn't it? Amputate a man's leg and he can still feel it tickling. Tell me, mum, when your little girl is on the slab, where will it tickle you?"

In the novel, Lecter is described as "drinking in her pain." We all have some weakness within us. If a villain cannot use it to exploit a person completely, they will still take cheap shots, to sting us, or assert some sort of superiority, whether it be intellectual like Hannibal's, or in...

Pretending They Have A Moral High Ground Over You: This is probably the most underused and subtle form of emotional manipulation, in movies, yet commonplace in real life. The best example I can think of in recent memory, that doesn't resort to using some stereotype of a group the writer would like to demonize, is in Deloris Umbridge of Harry Potter, and the Order of the Phoenix.

Here is an individual who given a blank check for authority and inserts herself among a group of people, to disrupt them on the premise that they're an out of control group that's making things unnecessarily difficult for everyone else. What she really means to say is that their actions are spotlighting that her and the group she represents (the wizarding government known as the Ministry of Magic) are corrupt, inept, and enabling dark forces to erode what makes their society strong. 

Her course of action is to spin doctor their motivations, question their loyalty, and try to show them as deviant troublemakers who lack morality, even when they are the only ones truly trying to uphold it. If someone cannot control how you see yourself, then they will next seek to control how others see you. Note how a key plot point in the film is when she goes about Hogwarts "interviewing" the school staff, seeing what bad things she get get them to say about themselves and others, with the intent of finding their weaknesses. From there, like small loose threads, she picks at them until they unravel, making them look like major problems that further build her case, in the eyes of the uninformed. With that reasoning, she is able to take power from others, and grant more to herself. This is also known as "campaigning" or "circling the wagons." 

If an audience sees them switching to this very dirty and underhanded tactic successfully, then they are sure to grip their armrests a little harder in anger and frustration. You'll have them on your hero's side, all the more for these injustices.

Many of the above things can be used to bind a villain to a hero in such a way that they feel they can't just walk away from a toxic situation, and into the sanctuary of people who might otherwise form a protective circle around them. The hostage ensures the isolation, but if there is no hostage, the bully loses their power.

Ganging Up

The other major component a villain has to ensure their success is their gang. Like with Harley Quinn, sometimes the gangs themselves are abused in a bullying packing order, but for the most part, they are there to help insure that the victim is as isolated as possible, with no one or where to turn to, for support.

This can be used as a pivotal moment within a story, because nothing is more powerful than either flipping the tables on this gang, by bringing them and their bad behavior out into the light for all to see, or by flipping them on the villain in some way, isolating them from their gang. A powerful example of this is in the movie Stand By Me, when Ace and his gang are about to inflict some serious harm. Suddenly, Gordy pulls a gun on them, leveling the playing field. The gang no longer has the upper hand. Ace at first does not lose his composure and tries to disarm Gordy through manipulation of his morality by saying, "You must have some of your brother's good sense." Gordy doesn't take the bait.

Ace then switches to intimidation by saying, "What are you going to do, shoot us all?

This is where Gordy is smart, and wins the gambit. He says, "No Ace. Just you." Ace is pissed, but he has no choice but to back down. He's been both outmatched and outwitted and his gang sees that he's not brave or tough enough risk his life in a fight that he might not be able to win. He backs off, because bullies are never looking for a real fight. They are only interested in victims.


This is the real motivation for pretty much any villain in any story, or in real life. Whether it be out of some form of resentment, a feeling of superiority guided by the notion of a birth right or imagined moral high ground, or insecurities that they feel can only be compensated for by keeping others oppressed, a bully's answer to all of these things is the tearing down and holding of power over others by whatever means necessary. Almost always, that will include the mental (often followed by the physical) subjugation of your protagonist, their efforts, and/or the things they care about.

Everyone has had a bully in their lives, or watched someone they love at the mercy of a bully. The most clever of them are subtle. They push, prod, needle, intimidate, and exploit until you realize that things are not going to get better until you take a stand.

When that happens, the initial reaction will be to tell them to get back into their place...

...and when that doesn't work, they'll play the victim to as big an audience that they can find, in order to make you look bad, so that you'll back down.

Stepping Into The Light

Like in Stand By Me, this is where your hero will win. Regardless of if it is in a final conflict or a Cumbia moment, a hero takes their power back, when all the abuses, lies, and other injustices of the antagonist are laid bare, were all can see them for what they are, and know the truth. Even then, the worst of them will try to make everyone doubt that truth.

However, your audience will always be able to see when the hero has gained what they need to win, because our heroes will be the ones to ride off into the sunset or towards something better. 

Of course, no victory is ever a permanent win. Bullies will say they'll change their ways, but soon after, most go back to their old habits. In real life and in the movies, that can feel like a burden, but remember, a good villain can also be the promise of a new adventure for a good hero. 

If you've enjoyed this article, you may be interested in my other musings on writing. You can read them by clicking HERE

Please, be sure to follow The Quantum Terror on all of our social media, and stay tuned for our upcoming trailer. 

Thank you. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Upcoming TV Interview With Director Christopher Moonlight

We're super excited to announce that this Thursday May, 26th 2016 we will be making our first television appearance on Zombie Life TV, at 9:30PM, (that's Texas time.) to talk about The Quantum Terror.

The show is LIVE nationwide so tell the world!
...and can be seen on:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Director Christopher Moonlight Interviews With Film Courage!

“If you were to hand Jimi Hendrix a $100 thrift shop guitar, that guy is still
going to shred on it….”

It was an honor and privilege to have been asked by to talk about how we're shooting The Quantum Terror on a Canon 7D. You can see the full article that goes along with the video by clicking HERE. I talk about the camera, lenses, and how planning with your team makes all the difference. 

I know I say this a thousand times a month, but I want you all to know that the other team that makes all the difference is you guys, the people who have supported us through pledges, input, and sharing our links & posts. I always have you in mind while I'm doing all of this work. I'm very grateful to you and am so looking forward to showing you the finished film. 

Thank you.

-Christopher "Moonlight"

Don't forget to follow us and repost the stuff we post on...
& IMDB at

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Quantum Terror Nears The Finish Line!

Well, we're nearing the end of the principle photography phase of things, anyway. Boy has it been a ride, so far, and we of course want to say thank you, once again, to all who have supported us. It's been since mid April since our last update, so I thought we were past due for another one. 

So, what have we been doing during all of this time? Filming of course, and taking a weekend trip up to Dallas for the Texas Frightmare Weekend, horror convention. That was a blast. We got to meet a lot of great horror fans who were either delighted to receive one of our new postcards, letting them know that The Quantum Terror is coming, or (to our great surprise and our own delight) had already heard of our film, and told us how great they thought it looked. True story.

Quantum Terror star Jordan Micheal Brinkman chills out with friends at Texas Frightmare!

Another treat was going to see one of the stars of Aliens and Harbinger Down, Lance Henriksen, speak. What a fun guy.

Lance "Bishop" / "Captain Graff" Henriksen

But before all of that we were hard at work shooting the movie, in what had to be some of the most intense days of work, so far. Kristin Cochell, Paula Marcenaro Solinger, Matt Blackwell,
Jordan Michael Brinkman, and Val Mayerik have all been phenomenal in their performances, and we're very much looking forward to working with Dimitrius Pulido, who is waiting in the wings while the weather takes its time, getting back to the sunny days that we need for our shots to match. 

A few notes:

1: Not long ago, I said there would be a new trailer for The Quantum Terror. It's still in the works, but we've had to push it back a little, because we felt that it needed some effects shots, including some of Heather Lowe's genius miniature work, to really drive home the quality of this film.  

2: We'd like congratulate our supporting star Paula on the release of another movie which she stars in, Blood Sombrero. You can order it VOD or get the DVD at Walmart, right now. 

3: If you're interested in my thoughts on writing a script, you may enjoy my breakdown of James Cameron's Aliens. 

4: I've been working on a little side project with studioADI's own Alec Gillis and Harbinger Down star Camille Balsamo. It's a behind the scenes ebook called Harbinger Down: A Pictorial Journey Through The Production Of A Practical Effects Film... or maybe just "The Making of Harbinger Down" will do?

If you haven't seen Harbinger Down yet, I highly recommend that you do. It was made for under a million dollars, funded through both Kickstarter and privet investors, and was a major factor in making me decide to go forward with producing The Quantum Terror. I consider it a shining example of how wonderful practical effects and the spirit of low budget, independent film making, can be. It's available on DVD and Netflix streaming.  

Here's the trailer...


...and a really cool behind the scenes video... 

When the ebook is released for sale, my share of the proceeds will go to finishing funds for The Quantum Terror. I'll let you know when it becomes available for purchase on the studioADI Store

And that's it! I'll be back with more news of our final shoots, upcoming interviews, and more thoughts on what creates a good movie. Have a question? Want to see a blog post address a related subject that interests you? Drop me a line at 

As always, thank you!
-Christopher "Moonlight"

Don't forget to follow us and repost the stuff we post on...
& IMDB at

Friday, May 6, 2016

Screen Writing For Beginners, As Told Through Aliens!

The following is a kind of overly simplified explanation as to how your basic movie script story is broken down, that I originally wrote to someone, who asked my advice on the subject. There is of course a lot to add to this conversation, but if you've never written a script before and want to try, this may be a good jumping off point. I hope it helps. Here it is:

So, telling a good story is a many layered thing, and like learning to draw or play an instrument, you have to suck at it before you can get good. I don't even know if I'm that good, but I think I know enough to keep things entertaining.

The first thing to understand about most stories is that they're broken down into three acts. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but three is the standard and you should stick with that number until you understand why. The Quantum Terror is in three acts. Each act is like an episode with a cliffhanger, where all the ideas you have introduced at the beginning, come to a head at the end of the act.

I'll used Aliens as an example.

In act one we are reintroduced to Ripley and what her life and attitude is like after the first movie. We see how people interact with her when she tries to tell them what happened, and then we see how she is treated when they start to believe that she may be telling the truth.

They go to the planet and think they've got things under control.

They find Newt who foreshadows how bad things can get, but the marines think, "We've got this." Soon they're in the hive and most of them get wiped out. Ripley saves what is left of them in a huge climatic rescue and boom, the first act is done.

The second act opens with them realizing that the problem is far worse than they imagined and asking themselves "How are we going to handle this?" That's how every second act starts. The characters are forced to rethink their situation and come up with a new plan to deal with it.

The second act is all about the new approach to the problem, and it usually goes pretty well for a bit, even with new problems popping up along the way, until BAM!!!! Everything turns to crap in the second climax. Their ride back to the ship crashed! Lets call the other ship down remotely, because the planet is going to explode soon. The hardware to do that is trashed? Okay, Bishop will have to go out there and do it manually. Stay safe and bolted up in the compound. Wait a minute, Burk is trying to infect Ripley and Newt with a facehugger. Now, Aliens have found a way in. The ride is here, but now everyone is dead and the Aliens just grabbed Newt and took her back to their hive to make more alien babies with. End of second act.

Now everything has fallen apart and things are even worse. The planet is about to blow up. The one solder that could help is out of commission, and Ripley has to go into the belly of the beast to get the one thing she cares about back. Again, Ripley has to rethink everything to get through this. Things get worse. The tracking device on Newt gets dropped. They run into the Alien Queen.

The Alien Queen got on the ship once they escaped and tore Bishop in half.

Ripley has had enough and here comes the big climatic showdown over the daughter that Ripley lost, but has a chance to redeem that loss. Ripley wins. End of act three. End of movie.

Within these acts are highs and lows, like a roller costar taking you up and down. Stay high or low for too long and the story gets boring. But what is the story? All of the stuff I wrote above is just the stuff that happens. That's not story! Okay, so this is the most important thing I'll tell you. Here it is. The story is how each character reacts to the stuff happening, and how it changes them. We have the story of Ripley, who is broken but has to pull herself together to reconcile with her losses to the alien, so that Newt will learn to trust her and not suffer more. There's the story of Bishop, who is silently seeking Ripley's approval.

There's the story of Hudson, who is a punk ass and thinks he's invincible, but turns coward when faced with something tougher than he is. In the end, he even redeems himself when he saves Newt from the facehugger and then later goes down fighting, holding off the Aliens as the rest of his fellows escape. Burk has a story. Hicks has a story. Every last one of them has a story, and each one is reacting to what is happening and also reacting to how they're interacting which each other, as events unfold. Each one of these arcs has a beginning a middle and an end, no matter how things turn out for them. Each one either learns something and grows, or meets their end because they refused to.

The line, "You always were and asshole, Gorman." is really summing up what Vasques has been expressing all along. Watch how she interacts with him, up until that moment. She doesn't respect him. His decisions get her partner killed and make everything worse, confirming her attitude towards him. When she gets burned by acid and trapped by the aliens in an air duct, he redeems himself to her by going back to try to save her and making the choice to sacrifice himself and die with her, rather than leave her to face her fate alone. In that last moment she sees his bravery, and he is redeemed in her eyes. She forgives and respects him, shown by her clasping her hand over his, as he uncorks the grenade that will spare them becoming wombs for the next generation of monsters.

There's really a lot going on in that movie.

If you enjoyed this breakdown, please head on over to The Quantum Terror Facebook and give us a "like" or find us on Twitter @quantumterror. I feel it's going to be a pretty good little indie film. Thanks.