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Indie Producer Blog

July 2009

NoBudgetFilmSchool Written by NoBudgetFilmSchool
Jul. 29, 2009 | 8:05 PM

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How To Be A Big-Time Hollywood Producer

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have no idea how to be a big-time Hollywood producer. I have never produced a studio movie and have really never had any desire to.]

So you want to be a Hollywood producer. Make big films for the studios. Here’s how you do it. First, you find something that everyone knows about. Could be anything, just as long as EVERYONE knows about it or has heard of it. It’s called Recognition.  This is important in the modern age of releasing studio movies. Because films live or die by how many people show up the first night of a film’s opening weekend, you can’t rely on the film being good to drive people into the theater.  No one’s got the time to worry about that. Word of mouth? That’s now done through Twitter during the first show that first night. But no one’s going to tweet in an empty theater, so the way you get them in there is through recognition, extremely high recognition. Oh, and it helps if this element is recognized by teenagers, since they are the only people who really make a point about seeing a movie on Friday night of its opening weekend.  Oh, and if they can’t drive, or can’t be in a movie without a parental guardian, then you’ll want it to be recognizable to their parents, too.  We’re starting to build quadrants here—this is fun!

So let’s think about some recognizable elements for our film.  Movie stars are a good place to start, but let’s make sure to put them in the “right” movie. Don’t want to make the mistake that “Margot At The Wedding” made. What else? Well, sequels of hit movies are also an excellent place to start.  Guy wearing a mask or a big creature—don’t need the expensive (and difficult) movie star!  Anything else? Yes, remakes. And if we remake horror films, we don’t have to spend $150 million to make them. So let’s jot down all the 70’s horror films we can think of to remake. Oops! Someone’s already done those. Ok, jot down ones from the 80’s and 90’s.  Option those rights and now we’re geniuses.  Big-time Hollywood Producers! 

Geniuses in the film business option the rights to recognizable elements of all sorts.  Best-selling books, video games, old TV shows, musical plays, musical plays based on the popular music of old bands, and my favorite:  musical plays based on old movies. If you can make a movie that was based on a play that was based on a movie, you’re not remaking the first movie, you’re just a genius.And The Oscar Goes To…!

But why stop with optioning other forms of entertainment.  You’re a genius, you think OUTSIDE of the box. Why not option toys?  Or even better, kinda-toys? Let’s option the rights to the GAF View-Master and make a movie out of that! It’s been around for 80 years—kids know it, parents know it, grandparents know it. Shit, we’re doing that thing with the quadrants again. We’re geniuses!

Oops!  Dreamworks beat us to it. Damn that Spielberg!  We’ve got to be quick in this game.  I can’t believe they got to the View-Master before we did.  And it’s a 3D kinda-toy, so now they can make a 3D movie out of it—and you know how big 3D is.  Didn’t you go to Comic Con?  So now the geniuses at Dreamworks are going to make that great View-Master movie. I can see Orson Welles wiggling in his grave right now, just trying to get out so he could have a shot at directing that one.

So just remember these important things, budding big-time Hollywood producers:  Recognition, Kids, Friday Night, Twitter, Comic Con, Mortal Kombat, TJ Hooker, ABBA, 3D, and Halloween H2.  This is what the new glory days of Hollywood filmmaking are made of.  Hooray for us!

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NoBudgetFilmSchool Written by NoBudgetFilmSchool
Jul. 24, 2009 | 4:39 AM

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Hump This!

Recently back from a relaxing trip to Europe, and I feel like I’ve been dropped into the boiling water of all the things that need to get done. Is this what vacations are for?? So, there’s my feature that needs editing, and it also needs some money, so there’s some fundraising that needs to happen. Then there’s the website and our whole “outside of the box” marketing plan that needs to be implemented. Oh, and we haven’t finished shooting it all, so there’s that to do, too. Jees! Do I sound like I’m complaining? Sorry, I’m not. Just a lot of stuff on the plate, but not so much that I’m not out catching some movies.  Not a whole lot I’d like to recommend here, but there are a couple worth mentioning.

You probably already know this, but Hurt Locker is the shit. Hurts so Good! Really. Why this film is playing in a platform release is beyond me. Do the mass audiences not enjoy a suspense thriller? Or, have we conditioned audiences with so much fluff now that they reject a thriller that hits too close to reality? I know this is an Iraq War Film, but it’s a great film, too. So well done on so many levels.  Let’s take the sound, for instance. As you’re getting caught up in the wonderful, realistic visuals, pay attention to the sound. That’s what puts you in the center of the action. The things you hear, and what they sound like—it sounds like War.  The last time I heard sound this good was another war film, Saving Private Ryan. Then there’s the writing, especially the characterizations. So sharp, so well-observed, so unique. Take Thompson, one of the first characters you meet.  You need to care about this guy within the first 3 minutes of the film. How do you do that? By making him real, relatable. This is a guy who knows his stuff, but isn’t too cool to admit his fear. And the great line, how he gets hungry for a hamburger when he puts on the suit (the bomb suit). That guy just became a human being. Anyway, just go see it, then we can all wonder why Kathryn Bigelow hasn’t directed anything for years. Come on studio execs, it’s a little pathetic.

Ok, my next recommendation couldn’t be farther from the Hurt Locker, but it does have one thing in common with it—a talented female director, making a movie about guys. Lynn Shelton’s “bromance” Humpday is awesome, and it opens today in LA. Hump This!  Now, this is one of those little indie films put out by a small distributor with no P&A money, so you HAVE to see it the first weekend for it to have any prayer of sticking around. But then you are Film Radar folks; you’re supposed to see these kinds of films in theaters, and so you know all that and will go out and see it—you will all go out and see it this weekend, OK?!?  The Ugly Truth and Orphan can wait!

So this Humpday is my kind of movie.  First of all, it was made for nothing. I’m not supposed to give out the number, but let’s get real—it was made for nothing. Nothing relative to a studio budget, and nothing relative to anybody else’s idea of a budget. Second, it was shot in 10 days, with an unpaid cast and crew, (accept for the one SAG actor, Josh Leonard, (of Blair Witch Project fame). Third, after premiering at Sundance, this tiny, scrappy no-budgeter got into Cannes.  Fourth, this success could not have happened to a nicer person. Lynn is both talented and down-to-earth.  Fifth, it’s funny as hell.  Not The Proposal funny. Funny funny. By now you all know the premise—two straight dudes decide to make a gay porno starring themselves.  But this is really a film about getting older, and as Lynn likes to say, it’s not really a comedy.  Well, yes, it hits close to home and it’s pretty dark, and it takes its conceit very seriously, but it’s very funny and in my book, that’s still a comedy. Let’s just say this—you will laugh, trust me you will. Especially if you see it in a crowded theater.  I saw it in a press screening at Sundance with an audience of jaded reviewers and industry folk and we were all cracking up. But really, there is truth here, and it wouldn’t be so funny if we (and I’m talking about folks over 30-something) didn’t relate to that feeling that we’re settling down and losing that “cool” side of ourselves in the process.  Marriage, jobs, responsibilities—they change you, but sometimes you refuse to go down without a fight, no matter how futile or ridiculous that fight is.  This film is about the fight. So, maybe it’s a fight film.

If you liked Raging Bull, you’ll love Humpday!

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