Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Emails #59: 1,000 Script Changes

Sept 28, 2010

Dear Rick,

I'd like to respond to your letter now from back in August, although it will be brief since you've stated so eloquently feelings that so closely mirror my own. It has been a wonderful experience to work with you on this, Rick. We may come at things from very different angles and opinions, but creative nuance boils down to semantics. What really counts is our heart-ache at the current state of things we love. Graphic novels have become quite popular (and have always been exceedingly popular in the UK, I'm told) but comic books have languished. I don't think they're dead, but I think the mass media money, money, money aspect may finally do its damage and reduce the industry back to a manageable size. But I have to note that the art I see coming out is horrible. X-Men looks like a fringe indie comic by some kid just starting out or some hack who thinks he can draw. Re-hashed ideas just piling up and flooding the market with garbage. I look longingly back at writers like Chris Claremont who I kind of hated for being so dang deep and heart-wrenching. And so the fertile concepts grown over 80 years are now being farmed slash-and-burn style. The film industry has lost its way in the same manner. It bites at its own back for fleas they can remake. Meanwhile the indie market has been bought and packaged by the studios as tiny versions of themselves and no one is taking risks anymore. Forgotten are the out-of-no-where/never-going-to-work films that grew their companies into massive corporations. STUDIO: 'We have to make another Spider-man film right now or our profits will shrink by billions. Just make these 1000 script changes to expand the audience appeal, add this pop star and this other villain (our metrics show kids like this one) and get shooting.' RAIMI: 'Eff you.' Bravo Sam.

What I would like to prove is that films can still touch us in a real and meaningful way. When I go to the theater, I want that escape. I want to feel what the characters are going through. I want the hero to have to get dirty and be in trouble. I want to not-know how he's going to get out of this. And then, I want some excellent, intelligent writing to allow him to escape and get the next piece of the puzzle. Avatar made a mint, but it was at heart a story about immensly powerful imperialistic a-holes versus the underdog tribal folk of real merit willing to risk everything for their freedom and way of life. A super simple age-old story, but one that resonates with audiences. The spectacle brought them in and the human story kept them. Cameron did it with studio money, but did it all his way. In the end, the story was probably too simple, but I suspect he was trying so much new tech that he had to. If he hadn't, I think we would be saying he tried to do too much-- like Lucas and his Star Wars eek-quels. I guess what I'm describing is a film that went back to basics and in so doing created a story that transcends borders AND didn't even have a big money actor at the head! It certainly had visual effects as a main selling point, but it was more animated film than live action so, one would have to complain about animated films being too art heavy :) My point is, I don't think film is dead, but it's certainly sickly and lying on a death bed of money. But somehow the Coen brothers still exist while the sell-out Wachowski brothers do not. Somehow The Road was made. Best selling book sure, but it's not what we're used to seeing these days. No one said they were tent pole spectacles, but No Country for Old Men and The Road attracted a boat load of highly respected film makers. The heart of film still beats, just very slowly. I don't think I can change the world through film, but I know I can make people stop and think if only for a moment. And if I can create a wild ride and rewarding escape for folks, I will be happy. But I want them leaving the theater remembering moments that touched them even if it's not the widest audience possible. Beyond that, I just want to make a living at it!

So, I must thank you for this awesome and continuing journey. Continuing? Yes, it doesn't end with Cap. Cap is merely the beginning. The tempering of the steel. There is much more out there. Maybe we'll come back to Cap some day, but for now, I'd like to apply what I've learned to original projects. It's been fun and rewarding. And it will continue to be as we turn to the next exciting chapter!

All my best!

Thank you,
Ben Alpi

Sept 30, 2010


Thank you for your interest in Captain America. Your writing has caught the attention of studio execs who want more background on you....

Cap is kinda abandoned for now. I don't have the time to give it. Yet, we have a lot of material here. If only for mining, the experiment was worth it. We will try this again.

I think we should work on something brand new and flex our creative muscles. Lets keep it as a film project or web. I have enough comic stuff on my plate to keep me busy.

When the time is right. pitch me something. I think your ideas about audiences and material is true for the most part. Sadly. But forget that. If the new work isn't dreamed up, it can never be realized. You have an obligation to push your own boundaries and stretch and grow beyond what even you can imagine for yourself. Film can change the world Ben. It has been doing it from the beginning. But not all film. Not every film. Not Cap. Sadly. Or Transformers or Avatar or any 3D shit. A couple handfuls. A few dozen. A few hundred. I think for $65 million I could make a great Cap film and for $25 million it wouldn't have stars or locations but it would still be great. You and I both know that as storytellers, the idea is the paramount driving force. Not the effects or cast or opening weekend.

God Bless You Ben Alpi
and God Bless America


PS. Are you interested in any more eScape type teen material for the web? I have a friend who wrote a pretty good novel about young kids with powers. Easily adaptable to a series I think.

COMING SOON! 4th of July Blowout!!!

CAP vs. RED SKULL final conflict!! First Avenger Double Movie Review!!

The film industry is about saying 'no' to people, and inherently you cannot take 'no' for an answer.
-James Cameron

The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and then take half of that little out and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement.
-Raymond Chandler

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