August 12th, 2020

Access Token


Other Formats



The makers of Brainstorm (1983) spent more than a decade transferring the revolutionary concept of an “empathy machine” from page to screen, only for the famously troubled production to be met with critical and commercial indifference on release. But since 1984 the film has continued to inspire viewers to imagine possibilities for the future. As a result, Brainstorm now seems less like a fixed piece of film history than an idea in evolution. The screen story embodies the ambitions of sci-fi cinema going back to the 1950s, as well as the turbulent culture of the western world in the 1960s and 1970s. It also foreshadows technological breakthroughs around the turn of the twenty-first century, making the film startlingly relevant to our digitally-enhanced information age. To fully appreciate the film’s “ultimate experience,” it helps to understand exactly how the film evolved. This book aims to provide context for such an understanding, beginning with a brief history of science fiction cinema and setting up a careful consideration of multiple drafts of the Brainstorm screenplay by three different screenwriters: Bruce Joel Rubin, Philip F. Messina, and Robert Stitzel. It will also briefly examine the production history of the film (including the tragic death of star Natalie Wood), the career of the director and special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull, the particulars of the completed film, and the film’s influence on future storytellers like James Cameron.

Author Information

Joseph Maddrey is a television writer and documentary filmmaker, as well as the author of eight nonfiction books and one graphic novel. His books include Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue, a cultural history of American horror films; The Quick, The Dead and the Revived, a cultural history of western films; Not Bad for a Human, the authorized biography of the actor Lance Henriksen; and two studies of the poet T.S. Eliot. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
I. Initialising8
II. Gathering12
III. Assimilating24
IV. Producing48
V. Streaming68
VI. Evolving84