A director-writer whom I’ve known for 16 or 17 years began telling me in the early aughts that the quality of the producers and studio-based film executives he was dealing with in terms of intellectual heft and seasoning and life experience had plummeted sharply. The guys getting behind this or that project didn’t know anything except how to be blustery and obsequious and predatory, he used to say, and “they’re getting worse by the minute. They’re fools…I used to think the ’90s generation was bad but these guys are ridiculous.”
Which is why I found this 6.15 Claude Brodesser “Vulture” piece about the alleged return of (i.e., purported interest in) original ideas so hilarious.
“Conventional wisdom in Hollywood of late has said that you should stick to familiar brands when making movies. It could be a sequel or an adaptation of an old TV show, board game, toy, or crumpled candy wrapper, just as long as people already know it. So how’s that working out?
“In a summer season where only three out of the fourteen major releases so far have come from a new idea, attendance is down 13.3 percent from last season. Even with The Karate Kid‘s surprise bounty, box-office revenue is down 7.5 percent, according to the National Association of Theater Owners…and that is skewed more by 3-D gouging than anything else: Since the summer of 2009, ticket prices have actually gone up 8 percent.
“That’s why studio execs at Warner Bros., Paramount/DreamWorks, and Universal are now madly pinging agents and managers with an uncharacteristic, desperate, and welcome request: Send us your fresh material!
“‘We’re on a lot of calls with people at the highest level [of production], and they’re just nervous,” one agent tells Vulture. ‘They’ve been telling us, ‘We have our movies for next year, but attendance is down, so, guys, you know what? Get us the original material. We need some original shit, because now our bosses are on us.'”
“It’s no wonder panic is in the air, considering how moviegoers are rebelling.
“‘[Moviegoers] are feeling marketed to as opposed to catered to,” says JC Spink, a partner in the management and production company Benderspink and one of the executive producers of last summer’s surprise original hit, The Hangover. “I think we’ve all gone a little bit overboard as an industry. There hasn’t been room for original material for a little while now. It’s a shame, because I don’t think it’s what anyone [who works in the business] came out here for.”
I wrote my director-writer friend about this whole thing, and he said the following in his reply: “I do remember that in the year 2000 I said something to you about this issue, to the effect that Hollywood decision makers are ‘getting dumber and shallower by the minute.’ Well, Jeff, approximately 5,256,000 minutes have transpired since June, 2000. Does that give you an idea as to the state of things?”