The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on September 2, 2010

The phrase ‘Hollywood is out of ideas’ kind of confuses me. I can understand the frustration when you hear every other day that a board game or Youtube video or glob of spit on the sidewalk is being made into a movie. It seems that everything that already exists is getting made into a movie these days, even other movies.

But the thing…’Hollywood’, that fictional entity that is meant to encompass all the studios in America…doesn’t really have it’s own ideas, does it? Okay, all these licenses being acquired and greenlit obviously comes from the brass. And even great movies started out like this; Jaws is a classic, but it likely started with some CEO saying “That Peter Benchley book is popular, make a movie out of it”. The closest thing the studios themselves come to creativity is going with a general idea rather than just a license, like saying ‘People want movies with cowboys!’ or ‘People want movies about the war!’.

So, in essence, Hollywood never has ideas, or at least original ones. The ones with the ideas are the screenwriters who pitch their scripts to the studios. They’re the ones who, one way or another, have to mold a story from the mud, whether it’s their own or something given to them.

It’s a strange thing, really. Most movie ideas come from the top-down, I must admit, but there are still examples of big movies that were screenwriter pitches first, Alien being a prime example. Still, I think there is enough evidence to suggest that most of the creativity comes from the bottom, from those more directly connected to the creative aspect of filmmaking. So then the idea that ‘Hollywood is out of Ideas’ seems faulty, as for the most part, the ideas are not created by the studios, but by the screenwriters, or directors, or even designers; and I’ve heard very little that leads me to believe that they are out of ideas.

This leads to what the actual problem is, though: ‘Hollywood’ isn’t willing to take risks at all, so they are less willing to buy a script unless it has some connection to something that already exists, or is championed by a bankable actor. It’s getting absurd, and the fact that the studios are buying the rights to board games is only the beginning. It seems that they have become so timid about making money back on their investment that they will take anything, literally anything, that might have some sort of recognition factor, no matter how minuscule, as being a safe bet. And they need safe bets: they are losing money all the time, as people just stop going to the movies, preferring to watch them at home, or to rampant Internet piracy. And the budgets are ballooning, because in order to get the quality and star power that is expected of major movies these days you need to START with tens of millions or more (consider that most major actors will cost six figures on their own, and that you usually need a bunch to get some peace of mind). The model is bloated as hell, but that’s just where the studios have led themselves.

This is, as one can tell, bad for upstart screenwriters who don’t have the connections to get into the mercenary part of the industry. They have to start somewhere, but there seems to be less opportunity in the film industry than ever before. There are still some smaller studios that are probably more receptive to new ideas, but it’s probably difficult getting in contact with them for much of the same reasons it’s difficult to break into the big part of the industry: you need connections.

In conclusion, it’s not that Hollywood is out of ideas, it’s just too scared to buy new ones.

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