I’ve recently been reading a great screenwriting blog hosted by John August, writer of Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, and Go, among others.
Recently he sent his assistant Matt to a Writers Guild Foundation event in Beverly Hills featuring Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman who wrote Star Trek. Matt took notes and wrote a lovely little blogpost highlighting much of what he learned from the interview.
The comments on this blog post were also an entertaining read and I was motivated to respond to a commenter named Kevin who basically lambasted Orci and Kurtzman for making what he called “crap movies” that were “garbage” and “forgettable.” Admittedly an old and tired complaint.
Kevin wondered “why just being a writer-for-hire is enough for most screenwriters” and hoped that the internet and the development of a new distribution structure would make it possible for “intelligent” films to reach the masses.
There was some debate about the “system” of Hollywood and my comment (#62) came after many others had tackled the issue. Here are my thoughts:
On How To Change Hollywood
Until a new distribution system is established via the internet – a way in which distribution can make a sufficient profit to fund an entire film of professional calibre – filmmakers will have to work within the current distribution system. But what can we do if we’re tired of shallow blockbusters?
(For those coming from John’s website, the rest of this post echoes my comment on the Star Trek post.)
Some audiences want low-budget art films or intelligent dramas. Some audiences want blockbuster entertainment that is sometimes accused of being full of logic holes and shallow characters. Sometimes these filmgoers overlap in their preferences, but for the most part, I will consider them to be considered mutually exclusive for the sake of this argument.
Hollywood is not going to make oranges for apple eaters. Likewise, they’ll avoid selling apples to orange consumers. To make an orange that tastes like an apple would simply confuse the marketplace! Apple-buyers want apples and orange buyers want oranges!!
So what is hollywood to do? If they don’t want a dip profits which would affect shareholder value, they continue down their path of related diversification: make a broad range of films (some blockbusters, some dramas, some rom-coms, and a straight comedy or two). They have to keep making the variety of fruit that the marketplace is purchasing!
So how do we change what the marketplace is purchasing? The answer is: the filmgoer on the street in middle America must be the evangelist for intelligent entertainment. Hollywood can’t do it – they’re too busy trying to stay afloat in a volatile economy. They have to keep satisfying the marketplace. So that filmgoer must seek out the films they deem “worth” the $14.50 and share it with their friends. Share it on facebook. Blog about it. Email their friends. Organize a movie outing and support opening weekend of the kinds of films of which you’d like to see more!
Hollywood trends towards the films that get the biggest opening weekends. So if you’re an apple eater and want less oranges in the marketplace, gather all your friends and support opening weekends of ALL the apple films.
Disclaimer: I’m not tired of shallow blockbusters. In fact, I loved Iron Man and was deeply satisfied by Star Trek. I also loved Dan in Real Life and Oscar-nominated The Garden. I also like all kinds of fruit.