Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Emails #41: Soap Opera 101

Hurt Locker* and new Lady Hurt Locker opening soon at the mall... Great movie. Extra fine script and pretty concise. Well acted and suspenseful. *Referring to Emails #40. -Ben

Wow Mr. Hollywood. I think you are wrong. Dead Wrong™! Actually I think you are right. I take a different angle however to come to a similar conclusion. I have not spent time in Hollywood-- the land of broken dreams-- and yet certain facts remain. First, of all the material produced or waiting to be produced or trying to be produced or hoping to be produced, more than 99% of it is schlock, high school writing and unintelligible concepts. The other less-than one percent does not float to the top however. This tiny fraction does not triumph and prove its worthiness over all the rest. Since the overwhelming motive is profit and not content, the struggle for both is quickly supplanted by the quest for one. It is an accident that quality material is made. An accident. The really quality material is only arrived at by the painful process of sculpting the film. There is both the additive process of clay and wire structure combined with the careful chiseling and polishing of stone. Compound this with the fact that it is a group project. Many voices and opinions on the creative end combined with studios, marketing, sales, and demographic groups all chipping away or adding to a film.

Auteur film making only proves the point. The Hurt Locker proves the point. Clint Eastwood proves the point. Tarrantino proves the point. They don't get started until the concept is solid, clear. They are patient, deliberate and painstaking. They know what is important and they fight for it. They spend more of their time chiseling to reveal rather than forming to create. A good idea needs to come first. A strong story. A strong screenplay or outline. A patient studio and resilient producers. Clear minded and flexible director. Clever actors. A competent crew. Geniuses in post production who will sweat the details and make it fit in the edit. Spot on sound. Supportive music... Well you get the idea.

I thought Cap was more of a Yankee Doodle Dandy. My vision was of The Star Spangled Banner. I see snippets of God Bless America.

Cap is a great, epic idea. It is being made into a film now for economic reasons. The problem is simple. When there is no source material to speak of, create your own blueprint for a film and it rests on its own merit. In the case of Cap. In the case of every 70's and 80's TV show or movie that was ever made, while nostalgia seems like the motive, clearly it is not. The underlying concern is in putting butts in seats and selling film rights and selling sequels and selling T-shirts and selling DVDs based on a property that has a track record, has name recognition with the audience, can be enhanced using modern explosions and car chases. Cap and ALL the comic movies out there are mining the same fields.

What do you do with a property like Cap? I know that I would spend some time pouring through the existing mythos-- SIXTY+ YEARS WORTH! To please the fans? No. At this point, f%$@ck them. The goal needs to be finding the concept and the strong themes and lastly the potential cast of characters or settings to use in a screenplay. Write the screenplay. Rewrite it. Write it again. Let the characters, events and situations emerge in their fullness. Cast accordingly. Choose a director and crew accordingly. Pick production and sound effects with equal care. When it is done, let the vultures in sales and marketing lovingly guide the completed vision to theaters and movie stores and the internet.

The more I think about it, Cap is really a love story. It is also precisely the kind of love story that this country is thirsting for. It is not a light RomCom with laugh track. It is dramatic and somber and at the right moment it should lift your heart with unfettered joy. This is the story of the love of a boy for his country. His illusions are shattered and though he despairs his faith is never lost for a moment. In the end he is seen to be defeated but his spirit and the spirit of all who believe are lifted in triumph. He is no longer a boy but a man. He is no longer a man, he is a legend. He is no longer a Hero, he is Captain America!

The miscalculation they make is that the superhero trend will last forever. Tastes change. Hulk is a hero. His movies did not do well at all. By rolling the movies out and then introducing the Avengers film to combine them all, I feel is flirting with disaster. Any one of the films could be a major flop. What then? In comics, creating teams to combat teams of evil doers or super threats seems like a great way to cross promote ongoing comic books. The fractured story line is woven through many different titles and encourages the readership to try them all to get the whole story. Soap Opera 101. In film, the more characters you add the more diluted the experience you get. Imagine Crisis on Infinite Earths as a movie. 22 hours of indecipherable mush. The better way to go is with small groups of characters, tight plots, strong themes, clear messages.... Okay. You got it.

Chris Evans is not the end of Cap. The script will be. Yet this returns to what I was saying earlier, without a clear concept what are you really trying to make? The money motive has indeed swallowed the content motive...

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