According to this report luxury ocean liners in Russia are offering pirate-hunting cruises aboard armed private yachts off the Somali coast.
I loved this headline as soon as I saw it because the screenplay possibilities are almost endless. At the time that it first surfaced, it was syndicated and referenced and copied all over the web, and although it has subsequently been unveiled as a satire courtesy of this fake USA website (which just goes to show that there’s no substitute for due diligence and proper research) as a story, no-one could possibly argue against this having action/adventure/thriller written all over it.
Wealthy clients each pay £3,500 per day to patrol the most dangerous stretch of coastline from Djibouti in Somalia to Mombasa in Kenya at deliberately slow speeds, hoping to tempt an attack by Somali pirates. Once attacked, and in case the raiders are bit slow to respond the cruise ship will keep going until they do, the craft is equipped to respond with heavy machinery – RPGs, large caliber machine guns and rocket launchers – and if that wasn’t enough fun for the passengers, an extra £5 a day gets you your own AK-47 and £7 buys 100 rounds of ammo, and in case things get a bit out of hand they are also protected by a squad of ex-special forces troops.
Anyway, we’re here to talk about story possibilities and there are a bunch of things to discuss here. Lets look at the obvious choices:
- A group of rich guys decides to pay big bucks to go on the ultimate big game hunt and eventually the tables are turned and the hunters become the hunted.
- A peaceful group of Somali fishermen suddenly find themselves the targets of a group of ruthless hunters, once cornered they have to overcome their peaceful natures and fight back using makeshift weapons in order to stop the carnage and save themselves and their families.
Both of these are okay story choices and with enough twists and turns could make decent enough action movies but they are the obvious choices to make with this material. Option one sounds a bit like 1932’s The Most Dangerous Game meets Deliverance and option two sounds like Apocalypto with a dash of Surviving the Game and to be fair there are a number of ‘human prey’ type titles out there, from the kitsch 60’s excess of La Decima Vittima to 1980’s Arnie, before he was the Governator, gurning his way through Running Man, it’s not a new idea but it’s also not an over-exploited one either and while it still has the power to shock it’s worth exploring.
I’d keep in mind group dynamics when writing this. Whether they’re good guys or bad guys you need a group of them and they will naturally be different personalities, some strong, some weak, some good, some bad and they will play off of one another to inform the story. If there’s a definite bad guy amongst them then he will drive the hunt onwards but to counter that you might have a guy with a stronger moral compass, maybe a weaker personality as well, and he can see the evil that is being done and is wavering about stopping it or going with the flow. That being the case, then he should be the one to stand up to the bad guy and try to stop the hunt. Whether he succeeds or not is down to you but in option one, if he does something to stop the killing, his salvation might be that he is the only one to survive once the tables are turned.
It’s worth keeping in mind the “quotes” that came out at the same time as the article, one, attributed to a Russian yachtsman Vladimir Mironov, was “They are worse than the pirates, at least the pirates have the decency to take hostages, these people are just paying to commit murder.” which, for me, speaks to theme in a big way but the other was from a US Navy Captain who allegedly said “You’re in international waters, there are all sorts of other competing interests….” which adds conflict and interest in the shape of outside influence – for good or bad, it’s your call.
Anyway, I won’t dwell too much on this at this time, although I might come back to this idea at a later date, and the reason is the next, related, item that is actually true and that I found on this website and again at Reuters while trawling for more detail on this post.
So the headline reads Investing in piracy at the Somali “stock” exchange and basically the story goes that in the main pirate lair of Haradheere, locals can buy-in or contribute in some way to any one of a number of “companies” that go out on these raiding missions and take a share of the spoils upon the raids successful completion. The exchange started with 15 companies and is now up to 72 and the potential return for an ‘investor’ can be illustrated by the story of Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee who contributed a rocket-propelled grenade that she got from her ex-husband in alimony to a maritime company and made $75,000 in only 38 days after joining the ‘company’.
But it gets better. By all accounts the influx of wealth has seen the local economy boom. Pirates are charged more for most goods than non-pirates and earnings from piracy get taxed by the local district and used to improve infrastructure such as roads, local hospital and schools, and here we have real storytelling gold.
In my first thoughts I envisaged a Robin Hood tale of the handsome Somali pirate, a loveable rogue whose exploits provide food and clothing and education for all – robbing the rich to give to the poor – and the seafaring equivalent of the Sheriff of Nottingham, hell bent on destroying the pirate and his merry band by any means necessary. But dig deeper. Why has piracy taken such a strong hold on the people and how come the ‘authorities’ turn a blind eye to how the money is made? Can we explore the politics that effects the region and the global policies of all the countries involved to see how they came to this. It’s not all black and white and it would be interesting to find out the shades of grey in there.
Dig deeper still and we can look at the legacy that this is creating for the children of the region. A world where stealing and killing – because that’s what piracy is – is the norm, acceptable practice and and everyday way to earn a living. Who will stand against it if there is no other way to make a living because the local economy is completely based on it? It would be interesting to put an outsider in the middle of all this and watch them deal with it, a bit like Anna & The King or Inn Of The Sixth Happiness. You can either try having them see the world through outsiders eyes and try to change things, eventually seeing that this is the only choice for the welfare of the people and learning to accept it, or they could eventually become truly involved, maybe starting as a love interest for a pirate and then seeing the darker side of what he does before fighting to change things for the better and having to choose between the man and the ideal.
Anyway, that’s enough of my rambling on the subject, please let me know what you think of my efforts and feel free to leave comments.