In the past few days, I’ve been working my way through Mind & Machine, making sure it’s edited to a flawless shine. The section I’ve been editing feature an interesting location, a secretive nightclub called The Wicked Zebra. On the opposite side of a parking lot, “an old warehouse, painted in a crumbling layer of white, sat, waiting to find a use once again. Inside the aged building, another mystery waited to be discovered.”
What mystery might this be? I’m not at liberty to say.What I can say is that going into The Wicked Zebra seems like a mundane enough prospect, even for the telepath, Commander.
“With such an exclusive location, there wasn’t a real need to keep a line at the door. One bouncer at the main entrance waved people through at regular intervals, not caring too much about security. Halfway down the long hallway, Commander noticed thin stripes along the walls that got thicker as he got deeper inside. When he approached the tall front desk, the walls became immersed in a zebra motif.”
Of course, meeting with a bouncer is the next thing on the list, so we can skip past that. Once in the club itself, things start to look much more interesting. And unique.
“Loud music poured out of the thick doors before Commander ever opened them. He pushed through the doors and stepped into a world of darkness and strobe lights, neon piping and pictures of zebras on the walls. Each striped beast looked like it was engaged in some sort of radical act, drive-by shootings, eating a man’s intestines, or other acts that bordered on disturbing if they were watched too long. In the center of what Commander could see was a thick wave of people, all moving at some pace with the thick beat of some synthesized bass line. To the left of the entrance, a bar without stools stretched along half of the club.
“A luminous cloud of smoke fell from above, drifting through small red and blue searchlights. Commander looked past the smoke to the opening leading to a set of stairs. He climbed up, following the movement of a few people who knew where they were going. When he came out, he saw another bar on his right, this one much smaller than the one below. He could still hear all the same music and follow all the same splashes of light since the middle of this level was open, allowing him to see the flood of dancers below. There were a few tables and chairs close to the bar, while the other side of the room had its own gathering of dancers. Sitting around them, Commander saw a few scattered people twirling neon glow ropes. On the opposite side of the room, he saw another door leading up to a balcony.”
My thought on this bit of description was to create three different atmospheres as a single location. Having already established the building as an old warehouse, The Wicked Zebra picks up the air of an underground haven, a refuge for those wanting to meet in secret. Along with later depictions of drug use, seeing patrons twirling glow ropes (something I stole from a story a friend told me about going to a rave), the club takes on a hip, but dangerous atmosphere. By having searchlights and loud music, a more typical club scene arises. The paintings of the wicked zebras give the locale a special flavor, saying that the club is not only dangerous, but the faint of heart probably shouldn’t be here.
Yet, there is still another level to take into account. Even among an exclusive group, there is an aristocracy, a smaller group of “important people.”
“A step onto the balcony of The Wicked Zebra was a step into another world. Even though it overlooked the rest of the club and used the same lights, sounds, and beats, there was a sense of exclusivity. Like a royal court, only the most stylish women and men sat on the balcony, each looking to find favor with their liege.”
With all these things, the man in charge would have to be someone of suitable stature. Alex Gold is that sort of man, self-obsessed, self-important, and self-absorbed.
“Sitting in the most austere and plush of all the available seats, a detached looking man with dust-colored hair sat holding a wine glass filled with luminescent liquid. He wore white pants and a matching jacket, but decided not to bother with a shirt, a simple effort to show off his toned muscles.”
But I will not give away plot points, only setting.
Why? The Wicked Zebra is Alex Gold’s lair. It’s the only place he appears in Mind & Machine, so it has to say something about him just as much as it acts as a base of operations. To accomplish this, I need to make the characters drive the setting, just as much as the setting motivates the scene. I do all this to give a sense of tension to Commander and his allies, just as much as I want Alex Gold to feel like he’s in a position of strength.
Which is a fancy way of saying I’d just love to have a sequence that works like the opening of Blade. Check it out:
Things to point out: There’s not a lot of Blade at first. Not much happens with them, but all three primary antagonists are in this scene, though, if you haven’t seen the whole movie, you may not have noticed them. The Bloodbath seems hip until it lives up to its name, then it gets scary; a moment later, the vampires reveal themselves. When Blade does walk in, voices whisper, “It’s the Daywalker.”
With the chapters in The Wicked Zebra, I hope I actually hit similar points. This scene is a fantastic way to introduce viewers to the world Blade lives in, as well as Blade himself. It is rich with character and idea, yet easy to comprehend. I think I’m able to do the same with events in The Wicked Zebra. There’s even a point where the Kadiumites notice the Lightbringer has crashed the party.
Note: Quoted text may vary from the final version of Mind & Machine.