My Thoughts On How To “Fix” Hollywood

Hollywood movie red carpetMy good friend Nick Leshi wrote a blog point called 5 Ways To Make Hollywood Better, which was his response to an article on The Wrap that had nine industry experts give their views on how to fix Hollywood.

Nick’s suggestions are all great, and I thought I’d add a few of my own:

1. Stop treating entertainment and art as mutually exclusive entities. Hey, Hollywood, guess what: Alfred Hitchcock was such a financially successful filmmaker in his time that he wasn’t considered arty enough and was never awarded a competitive Oscar. Now he’s considered one of the greatest film artists of all time.

The point is, movies can be both art AND entertainment. If you don’t believe it, take a gander at most of the Pixar animated films. They are both. People who want to can enjoy movies like Up or Ratatouille as pure fun. Or they can enjoy their deeper themes as well.

Conversely, when doing “serious” movies, lighten them up a little! Most have become so turgid and boring (because that’s how you know they are “serious” movies) that very few people, even among the most high-minded movie-goers, want to see them.

2. Speaking of Pixar, do what creators of animated films do and invest a lot of time in story and character. It’s the major reason why animated films are often among the best films of the year.

3. That doesn’t mean hire skeighty-eight writers to do skeighty-eight drafts of a script. One of the things you can’t help but notice about the nominees every year in the Best Screenplay categories: they’re almost always for screenplays written by one writer, two at the most. (And when it’s two writers, it’s almost always a true collaboration.)

There are many instances of movies where there are only a couple of writers credited, but there were several uncredited writers who worked on them. You know what they say about too many cooks spoiling the soup?

Apparently, a lot of people in Hollywood are unfamiliar with that saying.

4. Divest yourselves of the tired myth that only teenage boys go to the movies. Time and time again, it’s been proven that when you offer them a good product, women and older people will flock to the movies. Yet the notion still persists that it’s only young boys who drive box office success. Male-driven blockbusters do far better when they appeal to women as well. Stop pretending that only little boys like to play in the movie sandbox.

5. Steal more writers and directors from television, because television is kicking your ass right now. Joss Whedon already had a base of devoted fans before he ever made The Avengers. J.J. Abrams, too, before he did the successful reboot of Star Trek. There’s a lot of talent working on television now, and they are writing and directing and producing some amazing stuff. With way less money than filmmakers get to play with, yet some of it could easily go up against anything put on a movie screen. Grab some more of that talent, they could be making some great movies.

6. About the money it costs to make movies . . . it’s getting to the point of ridiculous. John Carter might not be considered a huge turkey right now if it hadn’t cost way over $200 million to produce and market. I’m thinking similar fates may await The Lone Ranger and Oz The Great And Powerful. They could turn out to be good movies and still not attract enough of an audience to justify how much they cost to make.

There will always be tent pole and blockbuster movies, but studios need to be pickier about what they throw a couple of hundred million at (*cough*Battleship*cough*). There also have to be more mid-range budget movies. And they have to be awesome (see the points about spending more time on story, characters, etc.).

7. Take more chances. YES, Cloud Atlas flopped at the box office. But so did several of the “sure-fire” projects, like the previously mentioned John Carter and Battleship. Franchises and even remakes and reboots have their place. But they have taken over the movie roster far too much. The next big thing is almost always something no one ever thought would be the next big thing. The only way that happens is by taking risks.

8. Pay way more attention to casting. There have been some big casting missteps lately, usually to do with movie adaptations of popular books. One For The Money, based on the insanely popular Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, was dead on arrival because of a dim-witted decision to cast a totally unsuitable Katherine Heigl in the lead role. Jack Reacher might be doing better if they had picked an actor who would have been more believable in the role than Tom Cruise.

Casting Daniel Craig breathed new life into the James Bond franchise. Yet sometimes, it seems like very little real thought is put into it.

Remember, they were originally going to cast Casablanca with Ronald Reagan in the lead role.

Casting matters. A lot.

9. Realize that part of the problem is a self-correcting one. We’re in the midst of a generational shift. Nearly every time that happens, the movie industry experiences a bit of a creative lull or dip. Movies were in a terrible rut during the 1960s, as the old Hollywood system died (and many of the great filmmakers of that generation died off or made product that seemed irrelevant to young filmgoers) and then had a huge comeback during the early 70s as Baby Boomer filmmakers like Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola burst on the scene. A similar thing happened in the early 90s as Gen-X filmmakers like Tarantino, Soderbergh, Smith, among others, started making a significant impact on films.

Very soon, we’re going to see a new generation of filmmakers emerge, and that nearly always means a creative resurgence to the industry. It’s quite exciting to anticipate, actually, and no one can really predict how the industry will change. But it will in some fashion change, and most likely for the better.

If Hollywood offers an environment where both emerging and seasoned filmmakers can flourish, the possibilities, both creative and financial, are endless.

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