Archive for August, 2015
Today I’ve been thinking about filmmakers. Filmmakers using the internet to launch themselves into the tent-pole cinema game, internet filmmakers trying to leverage that same mechanism into studio deals for themselves. Obviously, I’m not talking from personal experience. Just observation.
We’ll start with the teaser for The Leviathan. Everyone went crazy for this thing four months ago. Director Ruairí Robinson, who’s helmed several animated short films, one of which was Academy-award nominated, made this proof-of-concept trailer:
A couple days after he put that on Vimeo, Neill Blomkamp (Writer/director, District 9) and Simon Kinberg (Writer/producer, the latest X-Men movies) signed on as producers and Fox Studios snapped up the feature rights. The story told within the short is nothing at all, but there’s no denying the impressive look of it. It looks like tent pole filmmaking. Plus, Jim Uhls (Fight Club screenplay) name is on the trailer, so that must mean there’s some kind of story.
Still, the big headline is HOLLYWOOD STUDIO BUYS INTERNET VIDEO SHORT FILM. This kind of thing happens every once in awhile and every filmmaker on the internet tries to do the same thing. Since many studios only seem interested in stories they’ve seen be successful before (that Leviathan trailer is a sci-fi Jaws, right?) everyone starts trying to churn out shorts or trailers that look like what studios are buying, AKA rehashing stuff.
And it can work, apparently. This article from Film School Rejects titled “Terrible Trailer for a Movie that Doesn’t Exist Getting Turned into a Movie” discusses this same phenomenon citing a mock-trailer for a movie called The Garden directed by E.B. Rhee. The article states that as a flashy, VFX-heavy, internet video that’s drummed up some attention Warner Bros. subsidiary Polymorphic Pictures grabbed the rights because…
“…why not? The CGI is shitty, but the studio will hire a different company for that anyway. The acting is all wooden (admittedly because there’s no story/foundation present), but all of these actors will be replaced. The story isn’t interesting or new, but Polymorphic will hire a dozen writers to shape and reshape the script until it’s unrecognizable. Make no mistake, the most likely outcome is that Rhee gets paid for the rights, he’s replaced by a known director, his actors are replaced by known actors, and his script (co-written by Aaron Strongoni) is workshopped by more established screenwriters until the whole thing is shelved anyway.”
You can check out the rest of that very worthwhile article at Film School Rejects: http://filmschoolrejects.com/features/short-film-the-garden-movie-trailer-bought-by-warners.php#ixzz3iitbZ0ia
In an update awhile back, I talked about how the studio system used to grab up the new filmmakers of each generation who were showing the industry what the new generation wanted to see. It was how the industry evolved. Now, the internet is spoon-feeding the industry what it’s already seen over and over again in the hopes of gaining admittance to the studio system. Because of the remake and reboot culture. We talk about the nostalgia of this time, and part of it is absolutely that. Just look at Kung Fury:
It looks like VHS (just with great VFX), because of our nostalgia for watching fantastic movies in the format. That’s both giving the internet what it wants and proving that you can make something impressive looking. But the studio systems climate of nostalgia is mostly just based on grabbing something that has already been proven fiscally viable at one point. There’s no speculation there. You can chart the property’s previous box office, adjust for inflation, balance it with the box office estimations on big name acting talent attached, and if it tanks like the Poltergeist reboot or The Fantastic Four reboot, you can tell your boss, “Hey, I charted this whole thing. It all worked on paper,” and your ass is quasi covered.
It’s also all about the millions studios have to spend on marketing, making talent that already has social media followings in place a bigger draw, because they can send a tweet about an opening weekend to an entire generation of people that have stopped watching TV commercials. They talked about that at a South by Southwest panel with casting directors this year where they essentially said producers are more interested in finding successful people on YouTube and Vine than in acting class showcases or comedy clubs. That comes at the end of this article at The Guardian:
I guess this is all just more on how the internet and the film industry have to realize what each of those markets wants. It’s not the same thing. At all.
More on that next week.
Thanks for reading.
Every time a new movie comes out from a popular YouTuber we have yet another example of how the two mediums seem to run completely at odds with each other.
Smosh the Movie
An extended YouTube sketch. Where the entire plot happens around YouTube, includes going to the YouTube space LA, is threaded with YouTube cameos, and is a cross between Road Trip, the John Ritter movie Stay Tuned, and a Freddie Wong YouTube video series called Youtube Hackers. Appears to be very much conceived to cater to the zeitgeist.
Then there’s these two:
Expelled: The MovieTons of social media references with young YouTubers and Vine stars playing borderline criminals. That’s pretty funny actually. Those two feel as if they were made from Hollywood’s perspective of social media stars. The protagonists are trying to subvert the system, lie, cheat, and steal their way ahead. Hollywood’s worst fears realized! Still, if these are the movies that are getting put out, I think Hollywood is safe.
That trailer for Expelled is the worst though. How is that douchebag-of-a-character our protagonist. He seems like the world’s most annoying D-grade Ferris Bueller.
And then this:
The ChosenThis one’s unfortunate, because I feel like they were trying to make an actual movie instead of just capitalize on the social media of it all. So they combined the conceits of the The Ring and The Exorcist and lit it like a YouTube video. Seems like someone’s idea of a horror movie if all they’ve seen are trailers for horror movies. From the too-sweet opening to the Goosebumps-esque kiddie scare at the end, all of the “scary” moments are overlit and play almost like parodies of scary movies. Rough time.
And then there’s the Shane Dawson debacle. He was a VERY popular early YouTuber who got to do his brand of disgusting shenanigans making a feature film for a Starz network show called The Chair—kind of a Project Greenlight situation. I’d attach the trailer for the final film Not Cool, but I hate it so much that I just don’t want it anywhere near my blog post. Okay. I realize how embittered I sound, but Dawson’s whole thing is always so gross and mean spirited. It’s frustrating to be a thinking human being and have his bile ooze out in front of you. Given that Dawson had a crew of professionals around him, this one looks like a real movie, but Not Cool has a 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and Zachary Quinto, one of the producers of The Chair, called the finished film “a vapid waste of time.” This is how most people first saw what a YouTuber would do with a feature film.
Of course, before that was Fred: The Movie.
If you even started to watch that trailer, I’m so sorry. Like Smosh The Movie, it’s just the person’s YouTube channel extended for way too long. I think this was the first YouTuber to get a movie back in 2010. Now just add a lot of disgusting, sexually explicit hate for women to that level of childishness and you have Not Cool.
Watching all of that, doesn’t it seem like YouTubers have no idea what to do with a feature film? There are people who can do it right too, but they’re typically not “YouTubers.” They’re people who make short films on YouTube. Not personalities. Josh Trank went from a YouTube video to Chronicle, which was a real movie. Fede Alvarez went from a YouTube short to the new Evil Dead movie. Very much a movie. I bet Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch of the RocketJump channel could make a hell of a movie. Their web series Video Game High School is as glossy as a Disney channel series and every one of the short films looked like a movie. Both of them will come out with something amazing. But again, not necessarily YouTube personalities. People who made short films on YouTube.
You would think, since YouTubers apparently built a brand figuring out how to give people something they wanted to see, that they would be better at this. But it all feels like underdeveloped overlong sketch comedy.
Luckily, there is Camp Takota, which looks like an actual movie starring YouTubers (trailer starts 1 minute in):
Grace Helbig is very much a YouTuber and Hannah Hart has a huge channel called My Drunk Kitchen. YouTubers, for sure. But you could throw Sandra Bullock or Kate Hudson onto the poster for Camp Takota and it would be the same movie. An actual movie. Whether it’s your thing or not, that feels like it was a movie script first and then they cast YouTubers instead of “traditional” movie stars. It would probably be Kristen Bell, actually, because it looks like a female fronted belated coming-of-age story.
Anyway, I’ve just been thinking about this, so I thought I’d write a way too long blog post about it. I hold out hope that YouTube can be a breeding ground for real storytellers as well as navel-gazing new media junkies.
Thanks for reading.