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You and meboth
"We’re storytellers, which means we have to do better. Sometimes I think we have to rescue the business from the very people who own it." Sounds a bit idealistic, sure, but seems true! I didn't find this article a "downer" but rather straightforward -- a call to action. "Remember you got here by believing in original thinking. Never forget that" and "The only variable you will ever have any control over is your willingness to work hard" -- great practical advise to navigate this crazy industry and focus on your goals. Thanks for sharing, Stuart. :)
Billy Ray has certainly had a great career as a writer, there's no doubt about that. He's certainly spot-on with every major assertion he makes in his article: + There are no more mavericks running major studios, that's for sure. But the mini-majors, like The Weinstein Company, are still run by independent-minded thinkers, and that's for sure, too. Thank you Harvey and Bob, and the rest of you. + The majors have been run by marketing people for years, and now it's more globally-centric then ever, and must cater to the lowest common denominator around the world more then ever as a result. But that's not a bad thing in and of itself - unless all of the mini-majors and independents follow suit. Then...well...everybody will have to meet the needs of the marketplace, if they want to succeed and not go broke in the process. That's the way global economies operate. + Special effects have contributed not only to an increased "dazzle effect" for movies now more then ever, but the accompanying "dazzle resistance" as well, meaning...people are needing more and more dazzle to reach that baseline of dazzlefaction. What fazed people yesterday...just doesnt faze people anymore. "More faze! More dazzle! I need more faze and dazzle! I'm gonna stop going to your next movies if you don't faze me and dazzle me like you've never fazed me and dazzled me before!" Sad, but true. Arthur C. Clarke's predictions from 60 years ago have never been more true - the more that technology advances, the more de-personalized and de-humanized people become. + As writers, all you can do is...work harder...work harder...work harder. At the end of Billy Ray's comments...what else could he say? He could have said "ah..just throw in the flag, gang. You're all doomed on the ship of Global Faze & Dazzle. Computers are gonna replace you soon enough, anyway. Go to med school or engineering school or something that guarantees you a great career." Or, "if you can't beat them, join 'em?" I might have said that, and I'm sure Billy Ray thought about it, too. So at least he kept the good fight going. Way to go, Billy. What a great writer/director, and what a great spirit. And if you haven't read his script for Captain Phillips, I suggest you do. What a great script (and film).
"Lowest common denominator around the world"? Huh. If you've looked at the box office for the last 10-15 years of hits it's pretty obvious that, if they were dependent on US receipts alone, most producers would've gone bankrupt by now. Of course it affects the art: remember when Perry White in the last Superman reboot dissembled with "... Truth, Justice... (wait for it) ... all that stuff." With rampant global antiamericanism affecting trade, did anybody really think Perry would've been allowed to finish the tagline with the expected "and the American Way."? Seems to me the rest of the world's money is keeping the US movie industry afloat— welcome to globalism meets screenwriting.
No doubt, Alex. This year's top three-grossing films doubled and tripled their grosses internationally, while Furious 7 made $350 million domestically and $1.1 billion internationally. And at the same time, many films didn't do so well internationally. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?view2=worldwide&yr=2015&p=.htm I disagree with your comment about antiamericanism, though - the entire world eats up American culture; wants to live in America; and loves most things American. But....obviously the political correctness must exist in certain ways in certain/most American films at times/all the time...just like it exists in certain/most/all American media now. We are still the culture king of the world....even if the culture exists at many levels. Nobody comes even close to creating as much artistic content - literature, film, television, music, Internet content - as America does. And we're certainly the kings at marketing, selling and distributing, too, and mega-promoting those artistic products.
The entire world Bill? - for Gods sake man my stiff upper lip is all of a quiver. A quick reminder - an awful lot of your big budget movies are made at Pinewood, where Spielberg amongst others has commented on the technical expertise of your cousins across the pond. And music.....................? And who makes a better stinker than a Brit? Cheers Stuart - a thought provoking article. I think it confirms that it has become increasing difficult to find funding for medium budget movies that have a social/political message.
Having to write for a global audience is nothing new: my second article for Script Magazine back in 1991 reported that about 2/3rds of a USA film's income was from outside the USA... and that is still true. In the 70s I think it was over 50%... which is why that TV movie DUEL has extra footage (for the European theatrical release). This is nothing new, but just now being discovered by the press, who have decided to blame changing interests by the audience on this... when really it's just that the audience used to want to see THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and now they want to see CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (I hope you see what I did there). And the whole thing about meetings with marketing and toy manufacturers, etc... I have a Script Tip from around 2002 about that, and if you ever owned a STAR WARS action figure you were part of that. Nothing new. I've had wacky notes on all of my films, including a wonderful foreign sales note on a script to make the enemy country not Iran but a rogue military group within Iran, because they might be able to sell the film to Iran and didn't want anything that might offend them. That was mid-1990s... none of this is new. Hey, my 2nd favorite note ever was to have a pointless, gratuitous sex scene in a movie that takes place on a submarine... but not a Gay sex scene! I asked where the woman would come from, since submarine crews are all male. They told me I was the writer, just be creative! Again, mid 1990s, and "they" were HBO. HBO needed sex and swearing in their movies so they couldn't be confused with network MOWs. I wrote that sex scene... And it's not lowest common denominator... it's most universal. Also stories visually told (which is also nothing new). One of the things that frequently happens is writers do not evolve... the business changes and they fight change. Or they do change... and just become old men and women who don't want to write the stuff they loved writing when they were younger. Happens in every aspect of the business. The guy who writes that sleazy erotic thriller to break in... and thinks that it's fun, the guy who writes that silly movie about lava gushing out of the LaBrea Tar Pits and threatening Wilshire Blvd and the rest of Los Angeles... and loves it.. becomes an old fart who just wants to write serious movies. (Billy Ray broke in with COLOR OF NIGHT and worked on VOLCANO.) But here's the key to all of this: that little sprout that WALL-E finds, you need to find that in yourself for whatever gig you get hired to do (or not take the gig). You need to find your personal story in that volcano movie and give it your heart and soul. And hold tight to that little sprout at the core of your screenplay even when they make you put in the sex scene or make some silly change so that they can get a Happy Meal toy out of it. The small stuff doesn't matter as much if you hold on to the important stuff. Has there been a more subversive movie made in that past decade than THE LEGO MOVIE? And that's a movie about toys, aimed at children, so that those children will buy more toys. You just have to be clever... Everything is awesome.
Cheers for grounding us back in reality ... You ever read How Hollywood Works by Janet Wasko? It's a Marxist text that picks this apart through the decades
AMS, Okay...maybe not "the entire world".....how about "just the people in the world who have style, class, and taste?" Heh-heh....Have a great weekend, bro.