Thursday, 3 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #831: The First Step Is Admitting That You Have A Problem.

When you have a problem, no matter what that problem is, the first step towards fixing that problem, is to admit that it exists, and it has a negative impact.

Universal chief Ron Meyer took that step when he admitted that: "We make some really shitty movies."

Congratulations Mr. Meyer for such rather blatant candor. Such honesty is very rare in Hollywood where buck passing and blame dropping is practically a sport.  Most studio bosses avoid making such admissions because admitting mistakes makes the people above you, specifically the board of the parent company think that keeping you is a mistake.

While I'm no mind-reader, I suspect that Mr. Meyer must have one hell of a golden parachute included in his contract to make him so fearless.

Anyhow, let's take a moment to think about what makes a movie shitty.  

The first thing you need to know is that nobody in the mainstream Hollywood system deliberately sets out to make a bad movie.  Most people who make movies want movies to be good, because movies that people like tend to make more money than movies that people hate.

So why do so many movies start out with so many good intentions only to end up big steaming piles?

Well, there are several reasons.


Now often you can see some movies that are just bad right down to the core.  The whole fundamental idea behind the movie just radiates eight kinds of stink. So why do the studios keep picking these obvious create and financial suckholes?

The short answer:  


I'm not talking about what political party someone votes for, I'm talking internal Hollywood office politics.

I define these kinds of politics as factors that affect decisions that have nothing to do with the actual merits of the options that surround that decision. 

Here's a scenario that might help explain this.  Imagine you're a studio boss.  You have been given a pitch for a movie called Shite-O-Rama. Everything about the idea stinks from Lucifer's cornhole to highest Heaven and all points in between.

However, the biggest box-office star in the world really wants to do Shite-O-Rama, because their spiritual adviser had a vision that told them the film will win the star an Oscar.  You want that star to make movies with your company, so you might have to take a hit with this one, in order to do something better down the road.

Now that's just one potential scenario.  Others involve studio executives, financiers, and other contributors having hidden agendas involving trying to either jerk each others chains and maybe some light back-stabbing.


One of the things that can turn a good idea into a shitty film is the whole development process. 

Development is the time when the movie's script is written, people are hired, and the film is supposed to be put together. 

The problem with development is that it can turn from a collaboration into a total cluster fuck in a nanosecond.  The main reason is that during this process everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, assumes that they can do a better job putting the story together than the people who dedicate their lives to putting together coherent stories.

Executives, actors, producers, directors, other writers, their friends, family, and office/household cleaning staff all have their say in the film.  Many of the people having these says are only involved momentarily, and have no reason to offer input other than feeling that they have to say something, whether it's relevant or not.


A lot of times you can have a good idea that survives the development process to become a good script, but in the end, the movie is a piece of shit. Well, one of the most common reasons for this is because the people doing the final execution of the movie just don't give a shit about the project. 

If the filmmaker doesn't really care about anything beyond cashing their next paycheck, it's going to show on screen, and turn viewers off.


That's right, no matter how hard you try, and how good everyone involved was, you might still end up making a piece of crap.

Now you might look at reason number 4 and think, well what's the point of even trying?

Well, there's a lot of point, and it's poking you in the eye.  While #4 happens no matter what you try, it's a hell of a lot rarer than reasons #1-#3.  And #1-#3 are all preventable reasons.  If you work really, really hard to fight those first three, then the fourth becomes just a rare nuisance instead of something that could potentially threaten your company.

In conclusion, I congratulate Mr. Meyer on admitting that his company has a problem.

Now it's time for him and Universal to take the next step, and do something about it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, D!

    Just wanted to let you know that even though I haven't commented here much, I'm still avidly reading your blog. It's really interesting, especially the Who Does What? series.