Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quantum of "So What?"

Patrick Goldstein's column in today's L.A. Times reveals that DVD sales, like most other commodities, are in a slump, and studio execs don't know what to do about it. In recent times DVD sales have been the studios' bright spot -- even when a flick dies at the box office the studios could count on sales of those electronic discs to make up for hundreds of ridiculous projects that should never have been green-lighted.
But suddenly, no one is buying the DVD releases of all those awful movies they were duped into seeing in the theater. And, guess what? Theater attendance is up some 18 percent over this time last year. That includes box office hits, such as "Quantum of Solace," "Seven Pounds", and "Saw V."
Gosh, what do you make of that?
Perhaps it's just a case of people being a little more careful about the DVDs they buy. After all, when buying a DVD the customer obviously expects to see the film numerous times in the comfort of his living room. And, let's face it, movies like "Quantum of Solace" are pure crap, so who would want to replay it, anyway?
However, "Iron Man," a higher quality tent pole, has been selling just fine, thank you.
Here's the bottom line: In better economic times movie audiences might be willing to shell out for DVDs even if the movie is crappy, but when budgets are tight consumers are going to be a bit more discriminating about which films they put on their living room shelves. The studios have become too reliant on the international DVD market as the saving grace that would bring in a profit on the garbage that they've been producing.
So, how about this studios: Why not concentrate on making better quality films rather than making a bunch of crap that you hype the hell out of with the dire hope of making the real cash-o-la on the DVDs. Incidentally, DVDs are more attractive to studios because the stars are less able to track what money is actually earned on the discs and are therefore less likely to demand a bigger slice of the electronic profit pie.
In these uncertain economic times, studios, why not just concentrate on making better movies. Drop the hype and get into quality. We'll all be happier for it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What, you're employed!? How DARE you!

A screenwriter with real credits advertised that he is looking for an intern, and it looked like a good way to make some connections so I shot him a resume and short note. He e-mailed back asking me to call him to arrange an appointment. He was all set to give me some time when he asked the fatal question: Are you working full-time? The answer to that, of course, is yes, because unless you're living off a generous trust fund or your last name is Clampett, it's pretty hard to get by in the City of Angels without a full-time gig. Whatsmore, let's be clear that this internship was unpaid, and only came with the vague promise of paid expenses and perhaps some money sometime down the line -- how's that for a solid deal?
So I admitted that, yes, I am a common wage slave.
My would-be mentor quickly piped up, "Don't bother, Bro', a full-time job ain't gonna cut it." Stunned, I muttered something like, "OK, thanks anyway." I had scarcely gotten the words out before I heard a click on the other end of the line.
OK, so let's review: I was willing to donate my time for free to an internship that would likely never reward me with any real cash, and I was OK with that. I was even willing to commute to Hollywood to do it. But in this town it's hard to get even an unpaid gig if you are unable to offer full-time devotion to the job.
Yup, sounds fair to me.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Diversify or die ...

Everyone's figuring out ways thrive in this bad economy and filmmaker as no different. Among the panelists speaking at this year's Redstone West Film Festival, the bi-coastal yearly Boston University student event, were actor, director and producer Jerry Levine ("Everybody Hates Chris," "Monk," It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"). "Diversify within a field that you know something about," he said. "Crossing the line dilutes the skill of that creative (endeavor)" He recalled that when directing an episode of "Monk," series star Tony Shalhoub suggested that Levine play one of the small roles in that episode. He declined because he believes you should not cross the line into another creative discipline.
Makes sense, but then again that would have been bad advice for Orson Welles, who starred in, co-wrote, directed and produced "Citizen Kane." Of course, the world has few like Orson Welles.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Big Bear Lake screenwriting competition

I'm going to be reading scripts entered in the Big Bear Lake screenwriting competition and writing coverage on them. It's part of the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival Sept. 18-20, 2009. Sorry, the deadline for submissions has already passed.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Closer Look at 'The Closer' ...

I went to a networking breakfast yesterday morning sponsored by Changing Images in America that featured guest speaker James Duff, executive producer, creator and writer of TNT network's "The Closer." Duff is an eloquent speaker who offered great insights into the business of television as well as theater, where his career began. He's a successful actor, playwright, producer, director and screenwriter and he's got another TV series in the works. "The Fixer" will follow the exploits of a Hollywood producer who employs the services of a private detective of questionable moral integrity, reminiscent of the Anthony Pellicano scandal that rocked Hollywood in 2006.
A model of persistence, Duff wrote 17 television pilots before achieving success with "The Closer." His chief advice to actors and writers trying to make it in show business: Get professional representation, but he also warns to be careful of who you go into business with. "Make sure you're on the same page," he said.
Of new media, including the Internet and it many social networking and video serving sites, such as YouTube, Duff said that new media is not just a new delivery system but a new form, like the square becoming the cube.
"In the day of three networks we were all watching the same thing and talking about the same thing, like 'Star Trek' and 'Bonanza.' People want communities and the Internet is having an impact by building communities around these shows."
Duff revealed that he does indeed consult with LAPD detectives to make sure "The Closer" is accurate, and he opined that a good story is something that grabs him. "I'm so wrapped up in it I don't have time to think. I'm not even aware that I'm watching a story."
Duff, who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1982, says that the uncertainty brought about by that diagnosis has helped inform his professional career. "I've never done anything I didn't want to do," he said.