Monday, July 8, 2013

Will Your Book Become a Movie? Hollywood Trends Say No.

by Julia Buckley
Even cats like being entertained (in this case by a feather).

I saw MAN OF STEEL yesterday with my sons.  While they loved the movie for its endless action and explosions, I disliked it for the same reason.  It started out well enough, with some interesting back story and some human relationships I might have cared about--but then the movie blew it all away in special effects and never really returned to those stories.  In addition, they employed any number of cliches, perhaps because they knew that people had responded well to the same hackneyed visuals (see: line of people looking up at the sky in various stages of amazement; one of them slowly taking off a pair of glasses); or the same ridiculous lines (see: Jor-El's dragon creature wounded in a battle in outer space, and his response is "Easy, Boy").

I was thinking about the fact that Hollywood hasn't given me a summer of movie magic (in which I literally want to return to the theatre again and again, watching five or six movies in a two month span because there's SO much good stuff out there) in very long time.  But what they DO give me is the sense that they are out of ideas and that they believe the only way to make money is to re-make something or create big-budget sequels.  Don't agree with me?  Check out Andrew S. Allen's blog post from 2012, in which he shares a chart showing the top movies of 1981 compared with the top movies of 2011.  What an eye-opener.  Allen breaks down his chart into the categories of originals, adaptations, and sequels.  Guess which year had mostly original films?  Guess which year produced mainly sequels?

Allen suggests that it isn't Hollywood putting out good stuff these days, but television and other mediums that care about quality over profit.  And he suggests that artists who want to create good film might have to shift their paradigms away from warped Hollywood, whose myopia might be permanent.

It seems that at one point Hollywood was about dreams, talent and money.  Now it's about money.

There are writers out there who have written fantastic stories that I would LOVE to see on the big screen.  Some of the writers I've met have gotten movie deals--thank God, and good for them--but so many other writers have told terrific tales that would transfer well to the screen, and yet those stories will stay forever within the pages of their books.  That's fine; I love reading books.  But if I'm going to be faced with a movie theatre that is destined to play the same old junk--the same explosion movies, the same robot flicks, the same glorified gangster gore, the same constantly-swearing dialogue that they now call comedy--then I will retreat permanently into the books, and some carefully-selected television and Internet innovation.

I don't need you, Hollywood, and neither does anyone else. You might want step away from your profit machine for a moment and have a little foresight.  Your viewers aren't as dumb as you hope they are, and they're going to start leaving you for better, cheaper fare.  Oh, and here's the part you'll care about:
they'll take their money with them.

So why not shift the paradigm now, while you still have a chance?  Start mining for good, original material.  Find those treasures of books that no one else seems to have noticed.  Make them into terrific, original movies.

Only then can you become what you once were: the land of entertainment.


Sheila Connolly said...

Summer movies: things go boom. Repeat. I'll admit I watch a few (and the last movie I saw in a theater was the latest Star Trek), although often with my teeth clenched. Oh, that was because of the blood, not the booms.

Our closest "art" house--the one that showed thoughtful, intelligent movies--closed within the past year. I don't even get a choice now, unless I travel thirty-plus miles to a city. But the blockbusters with plenty of explosions are doing just fine in multiple local theaters. Supply and demand?

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Julia, this year's holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year's) demonstrated that they DO still make good movies. But they bring them out all at once at the optimal time for Oscar nominations, saving summer for the car chases and explosions. We saw two dozen movies, all good (and many based on novels), on the big screen during that period, and we probably won't enter a movie theater again until next Thanksgiving.

Julia Buckley said...

Good point, Liz, although I don't think I found as many good movies as you did.

Sheila, I enjoyed the latest Star Trek--it was fun and well-acted. It just didn't amaze me as much as I wanted a movie about outer space to do. Maybe we're beyond amazement?

Dad said...

You are very right, but Hollywood is also right. They clearly don't care about good-quality films, they seek only the bottom line. The only yardstick here is HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO WATCH their trash. Obviously, millions of folks around the world. We, who want quality, are in the tiny minority.