Out of the Air
I’m currently directing a very cool feature that I can’t talk about yet, but I will soon. The most astounding thing about it is that it is an ORIGINAL STORY. Not based on anything. The movie will be the primary defining source material. It’s from an idea that two writers just came up with, or pulled “out of the air,” as I like to say.
As everyone knows in this business, a purely original project is a very rare thing and very difficult to get made. To have a brand to lean on, to have a “pre-awareness” of a property, seems to be a key component to any major genre film these days. I get it, these things cost a lot of money and you’ve got to minimize risks. Make no mistake, I don’t fault anyone for wanting to go see the next “Captain America” or the next “Transformers.” I enjoy big popcorn entertainment, even the kind based on stuff I already love. But I also constantly hear from common moviegoers that they would buy a ticket to something completely new — they just aren’t given the option very often.
It’s not like the creative community is lacking in original content — thousands of creators have well-developed stuff they are just waiting to make. They’re ready! It’s not the fault of the ticket buyers either — people have shown time and again that if a new, unproven film is good, they will go see it. The lack of original content and an obsession with brands rests with the studios and investors — also known as “the buyers.”
Buyers: I get it. You’re running a business here. But brands are not even “sure things” to base decisions on, as we have all seen time and again. Marketing and brand awareness may win you the first weekend, but a good movie wins the second, third and fourth weekend. The exponential effect of “buzz” or word-of-mouth trumps millions of dollars in marketing, every time. At the end of the day, “a good movie” is the only genre that works.
My only hope is that the buyers out there will run out of old brands and finally risk money on something unusual and unproven. There’s a lot of talk right now about the unstoppable, generation-crossing power of a brand like “Star Wars,” but people keep forgetting that a guy named George Lucas pulled that movie out of the air. Out of the air! It was a joke to most of Twentieth Century Fox. Only one exec there, Alan Ladd Jr., risked his reputation to greenlight and defend the $12M film. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the biggest brands in the land. But it was a super-weird idea that two guys just pulled out of the air. It was so strange that Eastman & Laird had to self-publish the comic for years. Sponge Bob, Batman, Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse. All of them came from some guy’s head. They just made them up one day. Out of thin air.
That is the place we have to pull from! That mysterious, thin-air place of new ideas.
I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said, but it bears repeating. It’s easy to talk about the big sturdy, franchise-making brands we have today, but they all came from that unknown, unpredictable place. The movies that are extraordinary and game-changing are the ones that scared most people at first… or confused them… or seemed like a big risk. Somewhere out there, some studio executives need to start rolling the dice again.
I know, I know… it’s not my money. But I wish it were. I see so much potential out there to be mined. Studios, we’re ready. We’ve got stuff. Make a new commitment this year: risk at least two out of the ten movies on your slate. Help us pull something out of the air.