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More Than $90 Million and 265 Script Drafts Later, ‘Halo’ Is Finally a TV Show

ManaByte

Member

On June 6, 2005, in a stunt that instantly became the stuff of Hollywood legend, Microsoft sent a small platoon of actors dressed in full Master Chief armor to the major film studios (other than Sony Pictures, naturally). They were armed with a “Halo” screenplay written by Alex Garland and take-it-or-leave-it deal terms heavily weighted in the company’s favor.

The result was a movie co-financed by Universal and 20th Century Fox and produced by Peter Jackson, who hired up-and-coming director Neill Blomkamp to make his feature debut with the film. According to Jamie Russell’s book “Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood,” Microsoft was an uneasy and at times overbearing creative partner, and the project ultimately fell apart in October 2006. (Blomkamp and Jackson instead made 2009’s “District 9,” which was nominated for four Oscars, including best picture.)

After licking their wounds from the Jackson-Blomkamp debacle, Microsoft and 343 appear to have learned two valuable lessons: One, Halo, a game that can take as many as 10 hours to complete, was likely better suited to long-form TV than to a two-hour movie; two, it’s far better to find collaborators before settling on a finished script.

So Don Mattrick, then the head of Microsoft’s Xbox unit, called his friend Steven Spielberg, himself a passionate gamer and a Halo fan. Soon after, 343’s executives found themselves pitching Amblin Television presidents Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank.

That can cut both ways: One of the sticking points with the failed movie adaptation was reportedly Microsoft’s rigid fealty to the game’s backstory. But early in the development process for the series, Wolfkill says 343 and Amblin came to a crucial decision: While the show would draw heavily from the mythology, it would chart its own separate storytelling path. Similar to how Marvel Studios pulls from thousands of Marvel comics to create the distinct Marvel Cinematic Universe, the “Halo” TV series exists in what 343 is calling “the Silver Timeline.”

A great example of how this will work on the show is the character of Cortana, the sentient artificial intelligence who is effectively the second lead of the Halo franchise after Master Chief. In the show’s biggest nod to the game’s history, Jen Taylor, who’s voiced the character since the first game in 2001, is also playing Cortana on the series via performance capture. But she says the show’s version is “a new and exciting, different kind of beast.”

“It feels familiar and different at the same time,” she continues. “I hope people will be excited about that. Do you want it to be exactly the way you’ve already played it and already seen it? I’m not sure. It will be interesting to see how the fans respond to that.”

“I was told you might have to go to Hungary for five or six months,” Kane says of signing on to the show. Thanks to the pandemic, “I was there about two years.” During that time, Kane estimates he wrote upwards of 265 drafts of the first nine episodes, balancing everything from the needs of the expansive production to story notes from 343 and Spielberg to the desire to fold in as much from the Halo mythology as possible.

“There are characters that are mentioned once in a book that I was able to give a whole backstory to, and other characters that were already well written that I just had to drop in,” he says. “I have to give credit to Microsoft. You can pitch them something brand-new, and unless it really complicated them in terms of the canon or the values of the show, they embraced it.”

The article confirms Spielberg was actually involved in the show beyond just being an "executive producer" like some people were claiming.
 

Lognor

Banned
What a waste.
Not necessarily. Reviews might not be stellar, but if enough people watch it, it will be a success. Whether you care for it or not.

Me personally, I'm going to wait for the season to be fully available and then binge it. Unless it's horrible, but from the reviews I've seen it doesn't seem to be horrible. I've heard the word "watchable" a few times, and you have to remember that critics only saw the first two episodes. So if it's at least watchable I will watch.
 

Fbh

Member
Was going to say that it sounds like a ton of work for something that will get cancelled after a season.
But then again I don't know how many big shows Paramount + has or what they'd consider a success. Maybe they are happy enough with a moderate success and this runs for a while
 

kingfey

Banned
1% which is $900,000 would be better. Thats life changing money, you could buy like 4 houses/apartments live in one and live off the rent of the rest of them for the rest of your life.
You need to demand lower money. Other people will eat you alive.

If you request 90 for every 1m, you will have that much, without no one notices you.
 

jigglet

Member
Why paramount. I didn’t even know they had a streaming service until I was searching for a way to watch Misty. Seems like other streaming services would reach a broader audience.
 

ManaByte

Member
Why paramount. I didn’t even know they had a streaming service until I was searching for a way to watch Misty. Seems like other streaming services would reach a broader audience.
The article explains it. The show was originally on Showtime. Viacom moved to to Paramount+ for streaming (and a bigger budget than they would’ve had on Showtime).
 
I hope that number of 265 drafts is a joke/exaggeration. If true it feels like a lack of vision if you're rewriting that much. Perhaps I'm looking at it the wrong way and they're just putting top effort into the craft.
 

Lone Wolf

Member
I hope that number of 265 drafts is a joke/exaggeration. If true it feels like a lack of vision if you're rewriting that much. Perhaps I'm looking at it the wrong way and they're just putting top effort into the craft.
It’s not uncommon to have many drafts, though I have low expectations for this show regardless.
 

ANDS

Thought gaf was racist. Now knows better, honorary gaffer 2022
Why paramount. I didn’t even know they had a streaming service until I was searching for a way to watch Misty. Seems like other streaming services would reach a broader audience.

Paramount is actually pretty huge. Paramount+ definitely have the deep pockets and userbase for something like this.

I for one am sick of the lack of diversity and representation. As a cis-gender white male I am statistically a large portion of the population yet critically under represented in this show. I say boycott and cancel immediately until my demands of fair representation are met. Am I doing this right?

No. But don't let that stop you.
 

jigglet

Member
Paramount is actually pretty huge. Paramount+ definitely have the deep pockets and userbase for something like this.

I know that, they're one of the biggest. I'm only talking about their streaming service which is small potatoes compared to the others.

Awareness is also low. I mentioned Paramount+ to a few of my friends and they were all as surprised as I was to learn it even exists.
 
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TheInfamousKira

Reseterror Resettler
Whether you're in it or against it, I think Microsoft has the pull and finances to not allow any other outcome but success. Even if it gets shit ratings, they could probably pay to keep it in production. I've never seen a corporate vanity project, but Halo sounds like a good contender for the first.
 

CamHostage

Member
The article confirms Spielberg was actually involved in the show beyond just being an "executive producer" like some people were claiming.

Huh? I had always assumed the Spielberg production company version of the project was shelved (I've not seen Amblin on any of the marketing or heard of a Spielberg connection since it was dropped from Showtime, though admittedly I never looked into it) and this was a third reboot of the concept. Didn't know he stuck through it.

I'm undecided on Halo, but loved Spielberg productions' previous sci-fi series Fallen Skies (which had a lot of Halo'esque designs for aliens and mechs in it, even though it was an earthbound story,) so hopefully this new one is more like that one than it is like the dinosaur show Terra Nova...

 
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CamHostage

Member
Paramount Plus? I’m sure the 70 year olds who sub to that for Yellowstone will make that 90 million investment worth it.

It's also the Star Trek streamer (Paramount Plus used to be CBS All Access,) so it's got a chance of finding a lot of nerds. But yeah, fragmentation of subscription services will bring even a megaton franchise back down to Earth.
 
The IGN XBox podcast did a review segment on it.

Their overall tone was that it was OK, which means it's going to be an absolute dumpster fire of a show.
 
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