Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm gong to chew on this Ham Sandwich just a little more.

Thanks for all the emails pointing out what looks to be a flaw in my reasoning.

It's a valid point. If you have to be so much better to compete these days, how do films like 'Transporter 3' manage to get made?

Because 'Transporter 3' is a film the way a Big Mac is food. It does a lot of things a film is supposed to do, but it's made in a factory and sold to an audience that doesn't care a whole lot about quality. Or, rather, likes quality just fine, but cares a lot more about consistency: seeing a big-name movie star hitting all the beats of a story that's familiar enough to keep them comfortable.

You, my friend, don't own the factory. And even if you did, I wouldn't tell you to make films any other way. This is America. Like it or not, the formula for making the best-selling films is going to be exactly the same as the formula for making the best-selling hamburgers. The business of Hollywood is to make money, which means minimizing costs and maximizing profit.

So your movie has a big fat hole in it. So what? The movie is but one part of a marketing entity that involves several overlapping brands: The studio, the star, the director, and the franchise. Sure, you want to make a decent movie. But is an additional investment in quality materials really going to improve your return?


I'm not saying all Hollywood films are crap, by the way. Some are utterly spellbinding. But that's because they're created by talented, super hard-working people who manage to apply their craft without costing the studios extra time, effort, or heartache.

But back to you.

Presumably, Aspiring Filmmaker, you want to make 'real' films. Meaning films that actually play for an audience beyond the 5 friends and other aspiring filmmakers who show up to see your masterpiece at a film festival. Which means your audience, until you break in, is Hollywood.

Take a minute to mull on that. Go on. I'll wait right here.

You ready? Let's go back to the food thing. You think the chairman of McDonald's has a Big Mac for dinner? Oh sure, whenever his picture is taken he does. But do you really think he doesn't "research" the latest uber expensive restaurant any chance he gets, just to, you know, see what those impetuous artists are up to?

My point is this. In order to break into Hollywood, you have to get Hollywood's attention. And there are two ways to do that. One is to be Hollywood –– meaning make a film that finds an audience so massive that Hollywood knows you can do what it does. The other is to be what Hollywood envies –– meaning make a film that's so good that Hollywood knows that you could make an acceptable piece of crap in your sleep.

I can't tell you how to do the first. Hell, even Hollywood doesn't know how to do the first, beyond throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at star salaries and marketing and advertising.

But I can tell you how to do the second.