For the last decade or so, we’ve all noticed a growing trend in Hollywood, a trend that seems to be getting worse as the years progress. That trend is the lack of original stories. Hollywood is stuck in a cycle of creating films that are remakes, reboots, and an unending line of sequels and prequels that squeeze every last drop of life out of a franchise. Even the amount of adaptions from books, graphic novels, and even toys is getting a out of hand. Many of you have voiced your opinions on it, on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, personal blogs, etc.
Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis
This is not to say that Hollywood doesn’t have reason to create these movies. They do, and I completely understand why. They come with a pre-made fan club.We all still pay movie to go see them. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t starved for new stories that haven’t been told already. How many movies can you name that were 100% original that came out last year? Personally, I can think of only 2: Cabin in the Woods and Looper. Even the hugely successful Avengers movie was still an adaption. And we even had a reboot of the Spider-man franchise already, even though the last movie of Sam Raimi’s trilogy only came out in 2007 (six years ago!). Is Hollywood really so nervous about committing original stories?
The sad thing, in my opinion, is that even when Hollywood does produce original movies, they often don’t market them properly (usually because of not enough marketing budget) and so no one knows about these movies when they come out. Of course no one is going to see them! If you market them properly, people will actually know about them and go see them. Many original movies underperform at the box office not because they are bad movies (come on, Cabin in the Woods was AMAZING), it’s just no one knows the movies even exist. There aren’t enough tv spots playing often enough during popular tv shows. There aren’t enough posters in places like buses, subways, or anywhere else where big movie’s get posters. There aren’t enough ads on Youtube or other places on the internet. Only big movie nerds like myself know about these movies because we make it our business to know.
Obviously there are some exceptions. Looper did very well at the box office considering its $30 million budget. Inception, Christoper Nolan’s thought-provoking original story, did extremely well at the box office (although Nolan himself has a built-in fan-base, he can get away with making original movies).
Elysium by Neill Blomkamp
And it does seem like they are finally trying a little harder this year. Olympus Has Fallen, while very derivative, was an original screenplay. Oblivion comes out in a week, and while it is technically based off of an graphic novel, I still count it for two reasons: 1-the graphic novel was written by the director of the movie, and 2-the graphic novel is still unpublished. Neill Blomkamp’s new film Elysium comes out this summer; also an original. Now You See Me, a new thriller about magicians who rob banks, comes out in May. And finally Danny Boyle’s newest film, Trance, is also an original story. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There may be more. I hope these movies do well, it’d be nice to show Hollywood that originality draws crowds too.
But then we also have the sequel to Star Trek, Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, another Wolverine movie, the first Mortal Instruments movie based off of another teen book series, and more.
Now, here’s what really gets me about all of this: Hollywood is buying original screenplays all the time. They buy hundreds of movie scripts, but most of them never get greenlit. Why? There are various reasons. Sometimes they can’t get a big enough star* to commit to it. Sometimes they can’t get scheduling to work out. But mostly I think it’s just that they are nervous about pouring a bunch of money into a film that has virtually no fans (yet), and so they set these potentially awesome movies onto a shelf and never look at them again.
This is incredibly frustrating to me, as I am a screenwriter (albeit a noob screenwriter) trying to write original stories to sell to Hollywood. I want my movies to be produced so that thousands, if not millions, of audience members can enjoy them. I want them to see something new! And I’m not alone.
There are thousands of writers and artists who have stories to tell. You can find them all over the internet. Daniel Luvisi, an artist who got his start on DeviantART, has actually sold the film rights to his own original story (also known as an intellectual property or IP) Last Man Standing. Currently the only material we have on it was a book he created called Killbook of a Bounty Hunter, which is a compilation of every one of his characters along with bios and information about the world they live. BUT here’s the kicker: the rights to the film were bought BEFORE the book was published. And production studios were fighting over it before that. Except for Dan’s artwork posted online, there was no material publicly in existence when they bought the rights.
Illustration of Gabriel, from Dan Luvisi’s LMS (art also by Dan)
How did Dan do it? He had a pre-made fan club: all of the other artists and fans of his art that he collected on deviantART. It’s not as big as many other franchises, but it was big enough to gain the attention of Hollywood. So even though no one really knew what Dan’s IP was about, except for the subtle hints in his artwork, he collected a fanbase, and that fanbase caught the attention of people in the movie-making business. (You can find out more information about LMS on Dan Luvisi’s DeviantART page or Facebook page)
So what does that mean for the rest of us? What can we learn from his example?
If we want to start seeing more originality in Hollywood, WE are the ones who need to find it and help it get into Hollywood. They are already shifting back, we just need to encourage them to continue. If you find an artist or writer who has an IP worth sharing, make your love for it known. Share it, send it to other people you know will appreciate it and ask them to share it too! If we want to see change, we have to make change. All Hollywood needs to know is that there are people out there who will pay money to see this movie, that film, and they will jump on it. So let them know.
*Side note: the definition of a “star” in Hollywood is so screwy. To me, a star should be an actor of great talent who also has a large fan-base. To Hollywood, it seems to be anyone, doesn’t have to be a talented someone, who has a HUGE following, even if it’s not always a positive one *cough*Kristen Stewart*cough*. Which is why a lot of movies are cast with people with little to no acting skills, but damn to they draw attention. Another example of this is when famous musicians get cast in lead roles. They have a draw, but they don’t have the skill set. And then people with real acting talent get cast in smaller films or in small roles in bigger films. That’s so backwards. This isn’t always the case, but happens way more than it should.