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Circle of Stones is a creative experiment I conducted using OpenAI’s ChatGPT to generate the pitch for a television series from scratch using a series of text prompts. The experiment is an exercise in using artificial intelligence as a creative platform and offers a brief glimpse into the boundless potential that AI offers for content creation. As you read through the experiment you will see that my text prompts are in italics.

Write a treatment for a tv show. The show is set in Yorkshire in 1976 and is about a university professor investigating a stone circle that sits on the edge of a small village.

Title: Circle of Stones

Circle of Stones follows a university professor as she investigates a mysterious stone circle in a small village in Yorkshire and uncovers a powerful ancient secret that threatens to change the course of history, revealing the true nature of the circle and its connection to a secret cult, while also exposing the dark secrets of the local council.

Synopsis:

Circle of Stones follows the journey of Professor Jane Mitchell, a young archaeologist from the University of York, as she investigates a mysterious stone circle that sits on the edge of a small, rural village in Yorkshire. Set in the year 1976, the show delves into the history, legends, and folklore surrounding the ancient monument, and the impact it has on the lives of the villagers. As Jane begins her research, she discovers that the circle is steeped in local legend and superstition. Many of the villagers believe that the stones have mystical powers, and that they are connected to the ancient druids who once lived in the area. However, Jane is sceptical and is determined to uncover the truth behind the stones’ origins and purpose. As she delves deeper into her research, Jane begins to uncover secrets and mysteries that have been hidden for centuries. She finds herself drawn into a web of intrigue and deception, as she uncovers evidence of ancient rituals and sacrifices, and even evidence of a mysterious cult that may still exist in the present day. As Jane races against time to solve the mystery of the stone circle, she must also navigate the small-mindedness and close-knit community that forms around the village. This local resistance to new ideas and outsiders makes her work difficult, and Jane soon comes to realise that her quest for knowledge might put her in danger. With its mix of historical mystery, suspense and folklore, Circle of Stones is a unique and captivating series that takes viewers on a journey through time, as Jane uncovers the secrets of the ancient past and the surprising connections to the present.

I then asked ChatGPT to expand the outline. You will see my further typed prompts italicised in the text.

Throughout the series, Jane’s investigation into the stone circle leads her on a thrilling journey of discovery. As she delves deeper into the history of the stones and the legends that surround them, she uncovers a complex web of secrets and lies that threatens to engulf her and the entire village. As Jane struggles to piece together the puzzle of the stone circle, she encounters a cast of memorable characters along the way, each with their own hidden agendas and secrets. Among them are:

Michael: a local historian and antiquarian who befriends Jane and helps her navigate the village and its people. However, as they uncover more and more about the stone circle, they begin to suspect that Michael may not be who he seems.

Claire: a young villager who becomes Jane’s assistant. She is fascinated by the stones and wants to help Jane in her investigation, but her beliefs about the stones are at odds with Jane’s scientific approach.

The Town Council: a group of old, wealthy and conservative villagers, who are the traditional leaders of the village, and are the main opposition to Jane’s investigation. They believe the stone circle is just a legend and doesn’t have any real importance, and they don’t want any changes to the status quo of the village.

The cult: a mysterious group of people who are believed to still worship the ancient druidic gods and have a sinister connection to the stone circle. They will become a formidable enemy to Jane’s investigation, as they will stop at nothing to protect the secrets of the circle and maintain the balance of power in the village.

As Jane navigates the complex web of secrets and lies surrounding the stone circle, she comes to realise that the truth may be even more shocking and dangerous than she ever imagined. With each new revelation, Jane must confront her own beliefs and biases, and she ultimately comes to understand that the stone circle and its secrets are more than just a historical artifact – they hold the key to the fate of the village and its people.

Circle of Stones is a thrilling and thought-provoking series that explores the intersection of science, faith, and history, as one woman’s quest for knowledge leads her on a journey of discovery and danger.

As the series progresses, Professor Jane Mitchell will have to confront many obstacles and challenges in her quest to uncover the truth behind the stone circle. The opposition of the village council and the cult, as well as her own colleagues at the University will make her work difficult. Furthermore, some of the villagers’ belief in the stones will complicate the situation for Jane. They will look at her as a threat to their way of life and to the powers of the stones. As she uncovers more and more about the stone circle, Jane will make some unexpected allies. The local historian Michael will become her confidant and a valuable resource, and Claire will prove to be a faithful and brave assistant. They will help her not only with the investigation but also in her fight for the acceptance of her findings.

Throughout the series, the audience will be transported to a rich and detailed world, set in the 1970s, where the ancient and the modern collide. The show will feature a mix of historical accuracy and creative liberties, taking inspiration from the real archaeology of the area and the legends and folklore surrounding it. The show will not only be about the stone circle but also the impact of the investigation on the lives of the villagers. It will explore the themes of tradition, progress, and change. As Jane’s findings change the perspective of the villagers about their history and heritage, it will also impact their relationships, and cause ripples in their community. As the series reaches its climax, Jane will have to make a final stand against the cult and the council, who will try to silence her findings and protect their secrets. It will lead to a dramatic finale where the past and present will collide, and Jane will have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the truth.

Circle of Stones is a unique, thrilling and thought-provoking series that combines elements of mystery, science, and folklore, set in a richly detailed historical setting. It offers a captivating story that will keep audiences guessing until the very end.

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Create a backstory for each of the main characters.

Professor Jane Mitchell: Born in a small town in the north of England, Jane was always fascinated by history and archaeology. Her passion for the past led her to study archaeology at the University of York, where she quickly became one of the top students in her class. After graduation, she was offered a teaching position at the university and also went on several excavations around the world. Her expertise in ancient cultures and her passion for discovery lead her to investigate the mysterious stone circle that sits on the edge of a small, rural village in Yorkshire.

Michael: A local historian and antiquarian, Michael has lived in the village his entire life. As a child, he was fascinated by the stone circle and spent hours exploring the area and researching the legend that surrounded it. As he grew older, his interest in the stones never wavered and he went on to study history and archaeology at university. He’s now back to his hometown and well respected by the community, and his knowledge of the area and its history will prove invaluable to Jane in her investigation.

Claire: As a daughter of the local baker, Claire grew up in the village and has always been fascinated by the stones and the legends that surround them. Her mother is a believer of the stones powers and this has greatly influenced Claire’s point of view. She’s a hardworking and eager young woman, who wants to make a difference in her community and sees this investigation as a way to achieve that. She becomes Jane’s assistant, and her knowledge of the village and the people will be a great asset to Jane in her investigation.

The Town Council: The Town Council is a group of influential and conservative villagers, who are traditional leaders of the village and are against Jane’s investigation. They see the stone circle as nothing more than a local legend and fear that Jane’s findings will disrupt the traditional way of life of the village and its people. They have been in charge of the village for decades and they feel threatened by Jane’s presence and they will use all means necessary to keep her from uncovering the truth.

The Cult: The Cult is a mysterious group of people who worship ancient druidic gods and have a connection to the stone circle. They have been able to maintain the secrecy of the cult for generations, and they believe that the stones hold a great power that must be protected at all costs. They will be Jane’s main opposition, as they will stop at nothing to keep her from uncovering the truth about the stone circle and the secrets they hold. They are led by a charismatic leader who has control over the cult and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the balance of power in the village.

Outline the main arc of action and create two intriguing sub-plots.

The Main Arc of Action:

The main arc of action in the series follows Professor Jane Mitchell as she investigates the mysterious stone circle that sits on the edge of a small, rural village in Yorkshire. As she delves deeper into the history of the stones and the legends that surround them, she uncovers a complex web of secrets and lies that threatens to engulf her and the entire village. Her investigation leads to uncovering a cult, who worship ancient druidic gods and have a sinister connection to the stone circle. They will become her main opposition and will stop at nothing to protect the secrets of the circle and maintain the balance of power in the village. As the series progresses, Jane’s findings change the perspective of the villagers about their history and heritage, it also impacts their relationships, and cause ripples in their community. In the finale, Jane will have to make a final stand against the cult and the council, who will try to silence her findings and protect their secrets. It will lead to a dramatic finale where the past and present will collide, and Jane will have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the truth.

Intriguing Sub-plots:

One sub-plot will be about Michael, who has a hidden past and mysterious ties to the stone circle. As he and Jane work together to uncover the truth, it will become clear that he is not who he seems. He will have a dark secret that connects him to the stone circle and the cult, and it will put Jane’s investigation in danger.

Another sub-plot will be about Claire, and her personal journey. Growing up, Claire was a believer of the stones powers, however, as she assists Jane in her investigation, she will start to question her beliefs and starts to view things from a scientific point of view. She will be caught in the middle of tradition and progress, as she tries to reconcile her own values with the truth of the stones, and her relationship with her family and the community will be affected.

Add more details about the cult. Who do they worship? How do they behave? What do they believe?

The Cult:

The cult that Jane discovers is an ancient druidic sect that still exists in the present day. They are a secret society that has been able to maintain their existence for centuries, through secrecy and manipulation. They worship ancient druidic gods, which they believe have great power and influence over the natural world. They perform rituals and sacrifices to appease these gods and gain their favour. They believe that the stone circle has a great significance and that it holds powerful ancient knowledge and magic that must be protected at all costs. They believe that the stones have the power to heal, protect and bring prosperity to the village and its people. They also believe that the stones are connected to the ancient druids who once lived in the area and they have a strong sense of reverence towards the ancient druids. The cult is led by a charismatic leader, who has been able to maintain the secrecy of the cult for generations, and who uses manipulation and fear to control the members. Cult members will do whatever it takes to protect the secrets of the circle, and they will stop at nothing to keep Jane from uncovering the truth. They will use threats, intimidation, and even violence to keep her from continuing her investigation. They will also try to influence the villagers to prevent them from cooperating with Jane.

Introduce the idea that Michael is actually the cult leader. Outline how this will work in terms of the show’s plot, giving specific details to the way the story will be told.

Introducing the idea that Michael is actually the cult leader would add an interesting twist to the show’s plot, creating a complex and dynamic character who will be central to the story. Initially, Michael will be presented as a helpful and trustworthy local historian and antiquarian who befriends Jane and helps her navigate the village and its people. He will be instrumental in providing Jane with information about the stone circle and its history. As the investigation progresses, Michael will start to reveal his true colours, as Jane begins to suspect that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He will be seen hiding things from her and acting suspiciously. Through a series of flashbacks and reveals, the audience will learn that Michael is actually the leader of the cult, who is working to keep the secrets of the stone circle from being exposed. He will reveal that his true goal is to keep the balance of power in the village, using the cult and the stone circle to maintain control and manipulate the villagers. He believes that the stones hold a great power, and he will do anything to keep it from falling into the wrong hands, even if that means going against Jane. This revelation will have a great impact on Jane, as she discovers that someone she trusted is actually her main opposition. It will also increase the tension of the show as Jane will have to re-evaluate her trust and her alliances and also increase the stakes as she might have to confront Michael and the cult in order to uncover the truth. This revelation will also have a great impact on Michael’s character, as it will force him to confront the consequences of his actions and to make difficult choices between his loyalty to the cult and his friendship with Jane. This dynamic will create interesting and complex interactions between Michael and Jane throughout the series, which will increase the dramatic tension and add depth to the story.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Add texture to the story by creating two local legends that Jane investigates related to the stones. One concerns a witch hunt in the 1600s and the other a mysterious painting discovered in an auction room in 1911.

The Witch Hunt of the 1600s:

As part of her investigation, Jane discovers a local legend of a witch hunt that took place in the village in the 1600s. The legend tells of a powerful woman who was accused of witchcraft and was hunted down by the villagers. She was said to have had a deep connection with the stone circle and was believed to have used the stones to cast spells and curses. According to the legend, the villagers finally caught her at the stone circle and she was burnt at the stake. Jane will become interested in this legend as she sees a connection between the stones and the accusations of witchcraft. She will try to uncover the truth behind the story, by researching the historical records, interviewing the locals and looking for physical evidence. The legend will be presented in the show through flashbacks, where the audience will see the witch being hunted down and the villagers punishing her for her alleged crimes. As Jane delves deeper into this legend, she will find surprising connections to the present day, that will lead her to question the true nature of the stone circle, and the reason behind the cult’s interest in it.

The Mysterious Painting:

Another local legend that Jane investigates is a mysterious painting that was discovered in an auction room in 1911. The painting depicts the stone circle with a group of hooded figures performing a ritual around it. The painting is said to be of ancient druidic origin, and it is believed to hold clues to the true nature of the stone circle. According to the legend, the painting disappeared shortly after it was discovered, and it has never been seen again. Jane will become interested in this legend as she believes that the painting holds the key to unlocking the secrets of the stone circle. She will start her search by researching the historical records of the auction and talking to the locals who were present when the painting was discovered. She will also investigate the whereabouts of the painting, and the reasons behind its disappearance. As Jane delves deeper into this legend, she will find that the painting is connected to the cult, and it holds clues to the true nature of the stone circle, and the ancient knowledge and magic it holds.

These legends will add texture and depth to the story and will also provide additional layers of mystery and intrigue for the audience to unravel. As the show progresses, the audience will be kept guessing about the true nature of the stone circle and how these legends connect to the present day, and the cult’s involvement.

Photo by pedro18 on Pexels.com

Create a mood board for the show. Describe how the show will look. Suggest some striking shots that could be used to set the tone.

The Circle of Stones mood board will be heavily influenced by the rural setting of the show, which is set in the 1970s. The aesthetic will be a mix of the rural and the ancient, with a focus on natural landscapes, old architecture, and dark, moody colours.

The show will be shot mostly outdoors, taking advantage of the rolling hills and natural beauty of the area. The stone circle will be a central location for the show and will be depicted as a powerful and mysterious presence in the landscape. The village will be shown as a quaint, but tight-knit community, with traditional houses and cobbled streets. The council members’ houses will be grander, more luxurious and imposing than the others. The show will make use of muted colours to create a sense of nostalgia and to reflect the sombre tone of the story. The use of earthy tones such as browns, greens, and greys will be prominent, with splashes of warm oranges, yellows and reds to contrast. The show will be well-lit to create a sense of mystery and intrigue, with contrasts between light and dark to reflect the tension between the investigation and the villagers’ secrecy,

Close-ups will be used to depict the characters’ emotions and to create intimacy, with tracking shots of the characters walking to give the sense of the investigation process. The shots of the stone circle will be composed in a way to create a sense of awe, with the stones shown as ancient, powerful, and mysterious. Flashbacks of the legend of the witch hunt will be shot in a desaturated way to give a sense of time passing, also with a high contrast to make it striking and eerie. The shots of the painting will be done in a close-up way to make the painting details clearer and striking, giving a sense of its importance for the investigation and the story.

Some striking shots that could be used to set the tone:

  • An overhead shot of the stone circle, with the stones looming in the background and the villagers gathered around it
  • A close-up of the painting, with the hooded figures performing a ritual around the stone circle
  • A shot of the Professor walking through the village at night, with the stone circle looming in the background
  • A shot of the witch burning at the stake, with the villagers watching in the background and the stone circle in the distance
  • A shot of Michael walking through the stone circle, with his hooded cult members following behind
  • A shot of Claire standing in front of the stone circle, with a conflicted expression on her face as she tries to reconcile her beliefs with the truth.
  • A shot of the council members sitting around a table, discussing ways to stop Jane’s investigation
  • A shot of Jane standing alone in front of the stone circle at night, with the stones looming behind her and a look of determination on her face.

All of these shots will contribute to creating a sense of mystery, intrigue, and tension, which will help to set the tone of the show and to draw the audience in. The show will be able to establish a strong visual style that will help to enhance the story and the characters. The use of contrasts between light and dark, and the different colours will also help to reflect the tone of the show and the emotions of the characters.

Create two endings for the show, one where Jane resolves things peacefully and presents her findings and another where everything gets dark and apocalyptic and Jane unwittingly unleashes demonic forces which threaten to destroy the world.

Peaceful resolution:

At the end of the series, Jane finally uncovers the truth about the stone circle and the cult, and she presents her findings to the villagers and the council. The truth behind the legend of the witch hunt, the painting and the cult’s practices are revealed, and the villagers are shocked and saddened by the history of their village, but they finally understand the truth. The council members and the cult leader Michael, realise the error of their ways and decide to cooperate with Jane and her team. Jane reveals the true purpose of the stone circle and its connection to ancient druidic practices and rituals, but also its peaceful and healing nature. This revelation leads to a change in the villagers’ way of thinking, and they begin to understand and appreciate their heritage.

Apocalyptic ending:

At the end of the series, Jane finally uncovers the truth about the stone circle and the cult, but her findings unleash a dark and ancient force that threatens to destroy the world. She discovers that the stones hold immense and powerful magic that has been kept hidden for centuries, and that the cult’s rituals were meant to keep this power under control. Unknowingly, in her attempt to unveil the truth, she disrupts the balance, and the ancient demons are unleashed, and they start to spread chaos and destruction throughout the village and the surrounding areas. The council members and the cult leader, Michael, reveal that they have always been aware of the true nature of the stone circle and they attempt to stop Jane, but they are powerless to stop the ancient force that has been unleashed. The series ends with Jane realising her mistake and making the ultimate sacrifice to stop the demons and restore balance to the world, but it comes at a great cost, and the village and the people she has come to care for, pay the price.

Photo by Andrea Schettino on Pexels.com

Connect the show’s themes to contemporary concerns about climate change.

One way to connect the show’s themes to contemporary concerns about climate change would be to incorporate the idea that the stone circle holds ancient knowledge and wisdom about the balance and harmony of nature. This could be used to highlight the importance of preserving the natural world and the need to take care of the earth. The show could explore the idea that the villagers, and indeed humanity, have lost touch with the natural world and the importance of respecting and preserving it. The stone circle, representing this ancient knowledge and wisdom, could be seen as a reminder of what humanity has lost and what needs to be regained.

In the peaceful resolution, The villagers, and the council members, start to understand the importance of the stone circle and its connection to the natural world. They learn that the stone circle is not just an ancient artifact, but a reminder of the balance and harmony of nature, and the importance of preserving it. They start to make changes in their daily lives to live in harmony with the earth, using sustainable practices. In the Apocalyptic ending, the power of the stones is portrayed as something that should be controlled and respected, and not used recklessly. The consequences of disrupting the balance and harmony of nature, even unintentionally, are dire and catastrophic. The series could serve as a warning about the dangers of not taking care of the earth and the consequences of not listening to the wisdom of the past.

By incorporating these themes into the show, the story can be connected to contemporary concerns about climate change and the need to take action to protect and preserve the natural world. It can also highlight the importance of understanding and respecting ancient knowledge and wisdom, as it can provide insight and solutions for modern problems. The show could also explore the idea of the balance between tradition and progress, as the villagers learn to reconcile their heritage and the ancient practices with modern thinking and ways of living.

Additionally, the show could also feature a parallel story line that explores the impact of human activities on the environment, such as pollution and deforestation. Through this subplot, the audience can see the consequences of not respecting the balance and harmony of nature, and how it is affecting the village and its people.

Furthermore, the show could also include elements of social commentary, as it examines the actions and motivations of the council members and the cult leader, who prioritise their own interests over the well-being of the community and the environment. By making the antagonists those in positions of power who are short-sighted and unwilling to change, it can raise questions about the responsibilities of leadership, and the role of the individual in creating change.

Overall, by connecting the show’s themes to contemporary concerns about climate change, the series can not only entertain but also educate, and inspire the audience to take action to protect the earth and the future.

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Create ten episode outlines for Circle of Stones.

1. The Stone Circle: Jane arrives in the village and begins her investigation of the stone circle. She meets Michael and Claire and starts to uncover the local legends and the history of the stone circle. As she digs deeper, she starts to suspect that there’s more to the stone circle than meets the eye.

2. The Witch Hunt: Jane continues her investigation and uncovers the legend of the witch hunt in the 1600s. Through flashbacks, the audience sees the witch being hunted down and the villagers punishing her for her alleged crimes. As Jane investigates, she starts to realize that there’s a connection between the stones and the accusations of witchcraft.

3. The Painting: Jane investigates the legend of the mysterious painting and starts to uncover the truth behind the cult’s practices. She discovers that the painting is connected to the cult and holds clues to the true nature of the stone circle and its ancient knowledge.

4. The Cult: The episode focuses on the cult, their beliefs, and practices and the role they play in the village. Jane starts to suspect that Michael is the leader of the cult and starts to investigate their practices.

5. The Council: The episode focuses on the council and their role in the village. Jane starts to suspect that the council members are hiding something from her and starts to investigate their actions.

6. The Secret: Jane discovers the secrets the cult holds about the stone circle and its true purpose. They reveal that the stone circle holds immense and powerful magic and that the cult’s rituals were meant to keep this power under control.

7. The Revelation: The truth about the stone circle, the cult, and the council is revealed. The council members and the cult leader, Michael, are exposed and the villagers are shocked by the truth.

8. The Struggle: The villagers are divided about what to do with the information, some want to preserve the secret, others want to reveal it. Jane, Claire and Michael try to find a way to reveal the truth without harming the villagers.

9. The Choice: Jane and Claire must decide what to do with the information they have uncovered and how to reveal it to the villagers. Meanwhile, Michael, knowing that the secret is out, must decide how to save his cult and his position.

10. The Consequence: The villagers are in shock after the revelation of the truth, they must come to terms with what they have learned and decide what to do with the knowledge. Meanwhile, the council members and Michael, must face the consequences of their actions and the truth being revealed. The episode ends with the villagers, council members and the cult leader, struggling with how to move forward and trying to find a way to live in harmony with the stone circle, the cult and the ancient druidic practices. The episode could also show how the villagers, council members and the cult leader, could make amends for the past, and how they can make a positive impact in the community.

Photo by Kris Schulze on Pexels.com

How do we take this show to the next level?

There are a number of ways to take the show to the next level and make it stand out in the crowded landscape of television programming. Here are a few suggestions:

1. High-quality production: Invest in high-quality production values, such as strong cinematography, a well-composed musical score, and high-quality special effects. This will help to create a visually striking and immersive experience for the audience and will help to set the show apart from others.

2. Strong writing: Develop compelling and well-written characters and storylines. This will help to create a sense of depth and complexity and will keep the audience engaged and invested in the show.

3. Authenticity: To create an accurate and authentic portrayal of the setting and the time period, the show could hire consultants who are experts in the culture, history and the environment of the area of the story, to bring in an extra level of realism and accuracy.

4. Social impact: Leverage the show’s themes and message to create a sense of social impact. This could be done through partnerships with organisations working on related issues, such as environmental preservation and sustainability, or through using the show as a platform to raise awareness about these issues.

5. Diverse cast and crew: Representation matters! A diverse cast and crew will bring different perspectives and experiences to the show and will help to create a more inclusive and representative series.

6. Building the suspense and mystery: By building a sense of mystery around the stone circle and the cult, the show can create a sense of tension and uncertainty that will keep the audience guessing and wanting more.

7. Promotion and marketing: Promote the show effectively and find ways to get it in front of as many potential viewers as possible, this could be through different platforms, such as social media and traditional media.

Overall, by focusing on high-quality production, strong writing, authenticity, and social impact, the show can differentiate itself and be seen as something special, ultimately attracting and retaining a wide audience.

Initial Conclusions

As you can see, Circle of Stones is an incomplete pitch at this stage and much more work needs to be done to flesh out the treatment and further develop the concept. There are gaps that need to be filled and a far greater level of detail is required for the treatment to be in any way useful. Nevertheless, in terms of experimenting with artificial intelligence and the ways in which it can be harnessed as a platform for creativity, the possibilities are endless. The next phase of this project is to extend the experiment, using more text prompts to further develop Circle of Stones.

Keywords:

Hauntology-inspired horror series, AI in TV series development, ChatGPT in storytelling, Using artificial intelligence in horror, Creating a 1970s-set horror series, Uncovering ancient secrets through AI-powered research, Hauntology-inspired story in television, Archaeology, history, and horror through AI, Exploring the intersection of AI and Hauntology, Unearthing dark secrets with artificial intelligence

Tags:

Hauntology, Horror, AI, ChatGPT, Storytelling, TV series, 1970s, Yorkshire, Stone circle, Secrets, Ancient, Archaeology, History, Research, Artificial intelligence, Circle of Stones, Hauntology, inspired, Television, Story, Development, Uncovering truth, Dark secrets, Artificial intelligence-powered

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