Interview: Daniel Kunka — Part 3

June 19th, 2013 by

Screenwriter Daniel Kunka wrote the 2009 movie 12 Rounds and has sold two high profile spec scripts: Agent Ox and Bermuda Triangle. In addition, Daniel is working on the project “Crime of the Century” with Chris Morgan producing.

Recently Daniel and I had an excellent conversation which I am happy to share here.

Today in Part 3, Daniel digs into his most recent spec sale, “Bermuda Triangle”:

Scott:  That’s a perfect segue to talk about “Bermuda Triangle” which sold as a spec script to Warner Bros. in just April of this year. They’re keeping the plot under wraps, but basically what’s been made public is the studio’s ambition to use the Bermuda Triangle mythology and turn it into an action franchise. With Hollywood’s obsession with brands and pre‑awareness, certainly the Bermuda Triangle qualifies on both fronts because everybody’s probably familiar with the name and the mysteries associated with it. Did the pre‑awareness factor play much of a role in your decision to pursue this as a spec script?

Daniel:  Absolutely, 100 percent yes. The idea was out in the ether, and as you say, there was definite pre-awareness. But it was a nut that hadn’t quite been cracked yet. For whatever reason, I tend to be drawn to those types of ideas. I like figuring out the puzzle. I spent most of last year writing on the project Crime of the Century that I sold as a pitch to Universal with the director Dan Trachtenberg. It’s a very complex script and in the process of getting notes from the studio I knew I was going to have a little bit of time around the holidays where I wanted to write something else to just give my mind something else to process for a few weeks.

I had taken a lot of meetings over the course of the last couple of years and the Bermuda Triangle thing was always out there. I would bring it up to producers or producers would bring it up to me and it definitely had that commercial appeal of an idea that would sell, which in and of itself wasn’t enough for me to engage with it. For me it was that the paths it seemed everyone was going down never quite lead anywhere. People would always say to me “The Bermuda Triangle is related to Atlantis” or “The Bermuda Triangle is related to aliens” and I never really thought either of those explanations worked or were as interesting as they could be.

So I started thinking about what could fulfill the promise of the idea, I came up with a few key pieces, and then I went from there. But to your original question, I knew the idea was out there and I knew it was marketable to some extent, but it was really the take I came up with that got me excited about sitting down and pounding out 110 pages on it.

Scott:  It seems to me one of the biggest challenges in this type of script where you have this huge canvas, the Bermuda Triangle basically running amok, how do you humanize it, balance the big story with the little story?

Daniel: Well, it’s always about the characters. No matter what the concept is, no matter what spectacle you put out there, nobody cares if there’s not an empathetic way into the story and you only get that with the characters you tell the story through.

Every big story idea has to be followed up with “why is this concept important to someone.” It’s the writer’s job to find that someone and then figure out how and why that person relates to the audience and then go about building your story around that. For me, especially on this project, it related back to the plot and the action set-pieces that I knew would happen at the end of the movie. I knew what I wanted to have there, and then I thought to myself, “Who would be the one person in the world who this action would mean the most to?”  So in this case it was related to the stakes and action of the movie.  Once I had the character of our hero, I started to fill in other parts of the story much the same way.

Tomorrow in Part 4, Daniel recounts what the actual sale of “Bermuda Triangle” was like.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Daniel and ask any questions you may have.

Daniel is repped by ICM Partners and Madhouse Entertainment.

Twitter: @unikunka.

2 thoughts on “Interview: Daniel Kunka — Part 3

  1. CydM says:

    It’s good to hear that even with something like this topic it’s still about the characters. I’m curious how you found that person to whom the concept was important. Do you have characters floating around in your thoughts that fit an interest in this (characters in search of a story), or did you have to create someone from scratch?

    1. unikunka1 says:

      I think there are always characters floating around that I’d like to eventually explore and I definitely have a folder of character ideas, but for this one I looked at the big plot pieces that were going to happen — I knew what my action was going to be, so it was reverse engineering that action to a character where that climax would really connect with what I was trying to do.

      It’s like — if you know in the third act the hero is going to have to drive a motorcycle through a ring of fire (bad example), you want to make the heroes journey directly relate to that ring of fire in some way. It could be a fear of motorcycles, it could be a fear of fire, it could be a fear of rings, but something connects so that the story reaches an emotional peak mirrored with the peak of the action.

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