What’s Wrong With Hollywood Today?

Don’t get me started. But since you asked… plenty.

Like much of the corporate world, people complain that Hollywood has become a soulless beast, more interested in making money than quality movies. The lamentable state of current releases reveals a lack of movie classics with staying power. Instead we are opting for sugar rush movies which will fade away quickly. What sort of world do we live in where a 60% drop in box office for a blockbuster during it’s second week of release is typical?

Perhaps this is the reason for increasingly shortened movie theatre to DVD release windows. There are times when I can’t remember the theatrical release of a movie during it’s DVD release.

By humanizing the Hollywood machine, you may incorrectly be tarring all studio executives with the same corporate brush. Funnily enough, executives are human beings often forced to make decisions based on the perceived marketplace and fear.

The preferential marketplace is defined as the movies that return profits rather than awards as fast as possible. These are governed by factors such as demographics, star power and themes. Don’t complain about Iron Man 2 or Shrek 4 Forever After, when audiences are clearly paying good money to buy tickets.

The fear component is largely driven by executives terrified of making a wrong move and losing their jobs, often mid production. They must act conservatively and cover their backs to justify their expenditures. If they’re going to get fired anyway, they may as well take a risk. I heard such a story of an outgoing ABC executive green lighting the most expensive pilot on their slate and spent $10 million shooting “Lost”.

Furthermore, don’t assume that executives always love the films that they green light. I know of executives who have green lit successful tent pole movies but won’t attend the premiere.

Gone are the days when development executives had time to thoroughly read and appreciate a script’s themes. Today the gestation period is over and they must understand the main character and conflict early on, before they move onto the next script. On the nose, expositional dialogue is favored over subtext because it’s easier to read.

As many agents and studio executives are increasingly drawn from the MBA rather creative pools, they are inherently number crunches rather than storytellers. Some confuse mindless hyperkinetic activity and quirky, wise cracking quips with character development. The nuances of character arcs are being steamrolled out. If story theory ceases to become part of the professional development process of movie executives, the quality of Hollywood films will continue to nosedive until declining ticket sales force a sea change.

Given the increasing cost of making films (now over $200 million), executives have little choice, but to rush the development and production processes to get the final product into a revenue making format as soon as possible. After all, the interest on their production loans is staggering. As they say, time is money.

Given the rise of domestic cameras, home computer editing and global distribution via YouTube, film making is enjoying a renaissance, in terms of accessibility. Pretty soon, the next “Mean Streets” will emerge in such a medium.

The internet is truly the largest experiment in communicative history. Anyone can be  cinephile. Anyone can say anything, with impunity. Newspaper articles are written by journalists who research their facts and present an argument. Today, many so called film review websites are written by amateurs who can’t spell. I once saw a review for “Transformers” which commented on it’s “awesome” dialogue. With the exponential growth of such web sites and social media, a few ticked off computer geeks can sink your film.

We truly are at a ground zero stage of our industry. We are surrounded by building blocks and fragments of business models we once knew. Screenwriters must be savvy and adjust their writing to suit the occasion. When the tide turns, you need to change again… and again.


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