Monday, September 29, 2014

Hollywood Producers Could Make A Lot More Money

MOVIES! I saw some great movies while I was out. That Geico gecko is quite an actor. Herr D recommended I go watch some rental DVDs by name. The fascinating thing is that you might have to prove citizenship to get a rental account, but you don't need anything but stealth to hide in the boss's aquarium till everyone's out and some minor 'influence' to make sure the right titles got left in there. Three minute's fast work.

Of course, a neuralink makes it possible to watch them on fast forward and get it all later by uploading the sound separately. Thirty-some hours of movies in twenty-five minutes IS a bit much. I may have overdone it. I was a bit dizzy sneaking out of his office at the end of his lunch break. I had to go back when he went for coffee because I forgot to reprogram his equipment.

When I conferred with Herr D about how far too many movies are too much alike, he had the following to say:

Joss Whedon spoke briefly about the movie Serenity, calling it "your movie" in his DVD introduction. He meant the fans with the pronoun he used, but he meant himself too, along with "everyone in it." It was a good introduction, but it oversimplified the industry quite a bit.

Theatrical and movie productions are very complicated processes. Scheduling and rights negotiations to scripts can take years to work out for anyone with a specific vision. Casting contracts, location problems, and any unusual expenses can cancel a project or stall it for months or years. After all the footage is collected, projects can easily be months in post-production and editing, especially for CGI effects. (Sound editing may be becoming a lost art no matter how much time is used. The dialogue in many films is too quiet to make out unless the explosions are too painfully loud.) By the time fans react, the cast, the agents, the crews, the artists of every kind, the post-production teams, the editors, the lawyers, the guild and union reps, the special process companies tasks were delegated to, the directors, the assistants, and the mobile vendors like the food trailers have all scattered outwards for more work so they can keep making a living.

Then of course there's the competition. If two movies come out at the same time, sometimes the one with the better marketing team wins, and fans find themselves blurting out years later, "Why didn't I see THIS in the theater?" The few times fans actually go through the trouble of looking up what they watched instead, sometimes they feel duped. Do fans need another reason to distrust big business and the decisions made by people out of their economic sphere?

It's no wonder that producers are more out of touch with fans than ever. There always was an economic divide between those with money enough to invest in an establishment production in mainstream Hollywood and the average fan. The success of the movie Serenity couldn't have happened without Whedon's determined and concerted efforts and the efforts of Serenity's cast and crew to bridge the gap between Hollywood and the fan base.

Sadly that bridge was a fairly unique bridge. There is only one way that Hollywood will become more successful, and it's doubtful that it will happen. First, producers are going to have to discover ways to employ more of the best fan-fic writers instead of relying on the "industry's best." That way fans will actually have a heartfelt connection to the work. Second, producers, project planners, and script writers are going to have to begin to employ the human equivalent of muses. There are people around who, when they are having a good life, can inspire all the artists around them, seeding their furrowed brows with great ideas every day. The best way to give them a good life is to make them financially secure enough to create freely and interact with them in a positive way while giving them arbitrary goals to meet for incentives.

Social media and polling software can help direct certain plans, of course, but it's the employment structure that has to change to insure more success. Top-down management business models have been outmoded for more than a generation. Single-vision quests where one leader enlists like-minded individuals to fulfilling his plan make great movies but doesn't reflect real-world tendencies very often. Too much control too far from those who know how to do their own work will always prevent levels of success within a company.  

It is unfortunate that all too often the people who believe most in "stars" are the "stars" themselves. The level of teamwork and team loyalty that brought back the Firefly universe is impressive. That level would not have been achieved if any of the wonderfully talented and dedicated cast had had the 'entitled' and extremely disagreeable personality that so many people associate with a talented celebrity. All movies that don't have glaring flaws in them are all monuments to teamwork as well as hard work and dedication.

Entrepreneurs outside mainstream Hollywood could quite possibly make a lot of startup money by the remarkably simple following plan--the Herr D plan: 

1. Start by cherry-picking groups of actors known for being gracious and team players and sober, determined workers dedicated to their craft regardless of any other characteristics. 
2. Sign them to a deal pending main character cast approval of a script.
3. Make exhaustive and accurate lists of the actors' proven abilities and personal limits from auditions and previous works.
4. Take the ability lists and some photographs of each actor to ANY author who has never worked in Hollywood but shows professionalism, motivation, and some range and skill.
5. Explain to that writer that they have a deadline allowing for actors' schedules and meetings for script approval. "Turn in a story outline with samples of dialogue and a feel-good ending or tragic sideline that demands retribution in a sequel. It has to be JUST these actors listed as main characters. Here are the audition tapes. I want surprises, some flexibility of plot, and showcases of some of the actors' more unusual skills. Don't write the whole script. Sign this contract saying you'll give us five years before you use any of this material in another story." (That first writer makes initial choices on casting.)
6. Repeat steps #4 and #5 two more times with the initial casting choice.
7. In an all-day meeting, show the three script outlines to the actors under a secrecy contract. They have one hour with each script outline in the morning. During lunch they vote on which script outline they prefer AND WHICH OF THE THREE AUTHORS THEY WANT TO FINISH IT. The lunch and following meetings are taped for the chosen author and edited for the DVD special features.
8. If possible, the author is reached by phone right after lunch. Email or faxed consent of project choice might reasonably be handled by two hours after lunch. Negotiations between actors and writer might take place during those two hours of additional taping.
9. Script updates and finished script completed, the actors come in to sign their approval as a group if possible, by scheduled conference call if necessary.
10. The movie is cast and written by a team already, so--finish it the usual way.

I can see the logic behind the plan, and so only have one question; who do we hold still and force to read this?

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