One of my favorite reddit threads is a story that became known as Rome, Sweet Rome. The author was able to get the reddt posts optioned into a movie, but it’s been stuck in development hell for over a decade.
Wanting to try out ChatGPT 4, I took the premise from the Wikipedia page and had ChatGPT to start to write scenes for a potential screenplay. Bold text are my prompts.
Here’s the premise of a story:
The story is a fictional account of what might happen if a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of 2,200 men were to be somehow transported through time from their base in modern-day Kabul, Afghanistan to the time of the Roman Empire when being ruled by Augustus Caesar, appearing near the Tiber River in 23 BC with their full allotment of equipment - M1 Abrams battle tanks, bulletproof vests, M249 SAW light machine guns, M16A4 rifles, and grenades, but with no way to resupply with fuel or ammunition when depleted.
We fast forward to the camp of the MEU. Come up with names for the characters (with accurate military titles) and how are they thinking about next steps. The new piece of information is there’s a Roman army of 5,000 men 10 miles up the road setting up camp. Write in the style of a screenplay.
EXT. MARINE EXPEDITIONARY UNIT CAMP - DAY
We see the camp of the MEU, a bustling scene of military activity. Marines are cleaning weapons, repairing vehicles, and engaging in physical training. Suddenly, a group of Marines approach a command tent.
INT. COMMAND TENT - DAY
The group consists of Lieutenant Colonel John Smith, Major Rachel Johnson, and Sergeant First Class David Rodriguez.
LT. COL. SMITH (looking at a map) Alright, we’ve been here for a few days now and we’ve assessed our situation. We’ve got 2,200 Marines, a full complement of equipment, and no way to resupply.
MAJ. JOHNSON (nodding) That’s right. And now we’ve got a Roman army setting up camp 10 miles up the road.
SGT. 1ST CLASS RODRIGUEZ (grimacing) And we can’t resupply our weapons or vehicles when we run out of ammo or fuel.
LT. COL. SMITH (pacing) We’ve got to think strategically here. We’ve got an advantage with our equipment, but we’re vastly outnumbered.
MAJ. JOHNSON (thoughtful) Perhaps we could use a small team to scout out the Roman camp, gather intelligence, and see if we can find any weaknesses.
SGT. 1ST CLASS RODRIGUEZ (excited) Yeah, and maybe we could use our tanks to break through their lines and cause chaos.
LT. COL. SMITH (shaking his head) We can’t just charge in blindly. We need a plan.
MAJ. JOHNSON (nodding) I agree. Let’s take the next few hours to come up with a detailed plan of action. We need to use our resources wisely and stay one step ahead of the Romans.
LT. COL. SMITH (grim determination) Agreed. We’re Marines. We adapt and overcome. Let’s get to work.
The three of them exit the tent, ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead.
Write a scene where the MEU comes up with a clever plan to outsmart the Romans. Remember they are out numbered and while they have modern weapons, have a finite amount of ammunition, fuel, etc.
INT. COMMAND TENT - DAY
Lieutenant Colonel John Smith, Major Rachel Johnson, and Sergeant First Class David Rodriguez sit around a table, poring over a map of the surrounding area.
LT. COL. SMITH (looking up from the map) Alright, we’ve got a plan.
MAJ. JOHNSON (excitedly) Let’s hear it.
SGT. 1ST CLASS RODRIGUEZ (leaning forward) Yeah, what’s the play?
LT. COL. SMITH (smiling) We’re going to use our tanks and infantry to set up a fake roadblock and draw the Roman army in.
MAJ. JOHNSON (raising an eyebrow) And then what?
LT. COL. SMITH (leaning in) We’ll use our tanks to create a gap in their lines and then send in our infantry to flank them from the sides.
SGT. 1ST CLASS RODRIGUEZ (nodding) That could work. But what about our limited ammo and fuel?
LT. COL. SMITH (grinning) That’s where the fake roadblock comes in. We’ll have our engineers rig up some dummy tanks and other equipment to make it look like we have a much larger force than we actually do. We’ll keep our real tanks and heavy weapons hidden until the Romans are in position, and then we’ll hit them hard and fast.
MAJ. JOHNSON (impressed) That’s clever. But what about their cavalry?
LT. COL. SMITH (thoughtful) We’ll have to take them out early. Our snipers and anti-tank weapons should be able to do the trick.
SGT. 1ST CLASS RODRIGUEZ (smiling) Alright, sir. Let’s get to it.
The three of them stand up and head out of the tent to begin preparations.
EXT. BATTLEFIELD - DAY
The MEU is in position, with their tanks and infantry hidden behind a hill. The fake roadblock is set up, with dummy tanks and other equipment on display.
A scout reports back that the Roman army is approaching.
LT. COL. SMITH (grinning) Alright, let’s put our plan into action.
The Marines man their positions, with snipers and anti-tank weapons in position to take out the Roman cavalry.
As the Romans approach the roadblock, the Marines open fire. The Roman army charges forward, falling right into the trap.
The MEU’s tanks move forward, firing on the Romans and creating a gap in their lines. The Marines pour through the gap, flanking the Romans from the sides.
The battle is intense, with both sides taking heavy losses. But the MEU’s superior equipment and tactics begin to turn the tide.
Finally, the Romans break and begin to retreat.
LT. COL. SMITH (smiling) Alright, let’s not let them get away. Pursue them and mop up any survivors.
The MEU’s tanks and infantry chase down the fleeing Romans, taking out stragglers and securing the battlefield.
EXT. BATTLEFIELD - LATER
The MEU stands victorious, with the Roman army defeated and scattered.
LT. COL. SMITH (addressing the Marines) Well done, Marines. You adapted to a difficult situation and came out on top.
MAJ. JOHNSON (nodding) But let’s not forget that we’re still stranded in the past, with limited resources.
SGT. 1ST CLASS RODRIGUEZ (smiling) But at least we know we can
Write a scene where Caesar is processing the massive defeat to this strange enemy with extremely powerful and strange weapons. Remember he does not know what Marines or guns or tanks are. But Caesar is also not histrionic and thinking these are “gods”. He’s particularly focused on next steps and how he can learn more about this strange enemy force.
INT. CAESAR’S TENT - DAY
Caesar sits at a table, his head in his hands. His advisers are gathered around him, looking worried.
ADVISER 1 (worriedly) My lord, the reports are coming in. The enemy has decimated our army.
ADVISER 2 (shocked) Their weapons… they are like nothing we have ever seen before.
CAESAR (looking up) I know. It’s like they are from another world.
ADVISER 3 (puzzled) What do you mean, my lord?
CAESAR (thoughtful) I mean that their weapons and tactics are so different from anything we know. It’s like they are using magic.
ADVISER 1 (shaking his head) But my lord, they are just men like us. They must have some kind of weakness.
CAESAR (nodding) You’re right. We need to learn more about them, so we can find their weaknesses and defeat them.
ADVISER 2 (curious) How do you propose we do that, my lord?
CAESAR (determined) We’ll send scouts to observe their movements and gather intelligence. We need to know everything about them, from their weapons to their tactics to their leadership.
ADVISER 3 (nodding) And then what, my lord?
CAESAR (thoughtful) We’ll use that intelligence to plan our next move. We’ll find a way to counter their weapons and use our superior numbers to defeat them.
ADVISER 1 (optimistic) We can do it, my lord. We have defeated powerful enemies before.
CAESAR (smiling) That’s right. We are the Romans. We do not give up in the face of adversity.
ADVISER 2 (excitedly) My lord, we must also consider the possibility that they are not alone. They could have allies or even more powerful weapons.
CAESAR (nodding) That’s true. We need to be prepared for anything.
ADVISER 3 (respectfully) My lord, you always find a way to triumph over your enemies. I have no doubt that we will prevail in this war.
CAESAR (smiling) Thank you, my friend. But we must also remember that this is not just about victory. It’s about defending Rome and our way of life from those who seek to destroy it.
The advisers nod in agreement, as Caesar stands up and heads out of the tent, ready to face the challenges ahead.
Write a scene in the Roman Senate where senators who dislike Caesar are hearing about the results of the catastrophic defeat to a strange and powerful enemy. Assume these Senators think this could be an opportunity to get rid of Caesar.
INT. ROMAN SENATE - DAY
A group of senators are gathered in the Senate chamber, whispering amongst themselves. They are all worried about the news of the defeat to the strange and powerful enemy.
SENATOR 1 (angrily) This is a disaster. How could Caesar let this happen?
SENATOR 2 (nodding) He’s been too focused on his own ambitions and not on the safety of Rome.
SENATOR 3 (sneering) Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to finally get rid of him.
SENATOR 1 (interested) What do you mean?
SENATOR 3 (smiling) Think about it. This defeat is a stain on Caesar’s record. If we can make it look like he was responsible for it, the people will turn against him.
SENATOR 2 (skeptical) But how do we make it look like he’s responsible?
SENATOR 3 (slyly) We spread rumors. We tell the people that Caesar was too proud to listen to the advice of his advisers. We make it look like he was overconfident and foolish.
SENATOR 1 (nodding) And then what?
SENATOR 3 (grinning) We call for a vote of no confidence in Caesar. We get the people and the Senate to turn against him, and then we can take control of Rome ourselves.
SENATOR 2 (uneasy) But won’t this be risky? What if Caesar finds out what we’re planning?
SENATOR 3 (confidently) He won’t. We’ll be subtle. We’ll plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of the people and let them do the rest.
The other senators nod, impressed by Senator 3’s plan.
SENATOR 1 (resolutely) Alright, let’s do it. We’ll start spreading the rumors and see where it leads.
The senators stand up, ready to put their plan into action.
Write a scene where a Roman scout is able to sneak up on a MEU guard and capture him, including his rifle.
EXT. MEU CAMP - NIGHT
A Roman scout, dressed in dark clothing and carrying a sword, moves silently through the darkness. He approaches a Marine guard, who is standing watch with his M16A4 rifle at the ready.
The Marine, unaware of the scout’s presence, turns his head for a moment, scanning the horizon.
The scout sees his opportunity and moves quickly, leaping forward and grabbing the Marine from behind. The Marine struggles, but the scout is too quick and too strong.
He disarms the Marine, taking his rifle and tossing it aside. He then binds the Marine’s hands and drags him away from the camp.
Write the scene where Caesar is presented with the MEU guard as a prisoner but also is able to inspect his rifle. He accidentally pulls the trigger and it kills a Roman guard. While everyone is frightened, Caesar realizes what this new technology could be.
INT. CAESAR’S TENT - DAY
A group of Roman soldiers, led by the scout who captured the Marine guard, present the prisoner to Caesar.
The Marine guard is dirty and disheveled, with his hands bound behind his back. He looks up at Caesar, who stares back at him coldly.
CAESAR (to the scout) What is the meaning of this?
SCOUT (respectfully) My lord, we captured this man from the enemy camp.
Caesar nods, then turns his attention to the prisoner.
CAESAR (angrily) Who are you? What is your purpose here?
MARINE GUARD (defiantly) I am a Marine, a soldier of the United States.
Caesar looks confused.
CAESAR (looking to his advisers) What is a “United States”?
ADVISER 1 (puzzled) We do not know, my lord. Perhaps it is the name of their leader.
ADVISER 2 (cautiously) My lord, we should be careful. This enemy has weapons we have never seen before.
As Caesar examines the prisoner, his eyes fall on the Marine’s rifle, which has been placed on a nearby table.
CAESAR (curiously) What is this?
The scout steps forward and picks up the rifle, handing it to Caesar.
SCOUT (respectfully) My lord, it is one of their weapons. It is said to be very powerful.
Caesar examines the rifle, turning it over in his hands. He sees the trigger and, out of curiosity, pulls it.
There is a loud bang, and a Roman guard standing nearby falls to the ground, clutching his chest.
The room erupts in chaos as soldiers rush to the guard’s aid.
CAESAR (shocked) What… what just happened?
ADVISER 1 (trembling) My lord, it seems the weapon is designed to fire a projectile with great force.
ADVISER 2 (alarmed) It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It could revolutionize warfare.
CAESAR (looking at the rifle) This changes everything. We need to learn more about these weapons, and the people who use them.
The advisers nod in agreement, as Caesar turns his attention back to the Marine guard.
CAESAR (to the guard) You will tell us everything you know about these weapons and your people.
The Marine guard looks up at Caesar, his expression defiant.
MARINE GUARD (resolutely) I will tell you nothing.
Caesar nods, then turns to the scout.
CAESAR (to the scout) Take him away. We will find a way to make him talk.
The scout nods, and he and his soldiers lead the prisoner away.
First published on March 19, 2023