Wednesday, July 03, 2013

From Pitch to Blockbuster -- 6 Hollwood Pros Give Advice On What It Takes To Make A Hit

Nowadays, when a studio makes a movie, they lay down heaps o cash to the tune of 100 million bucks and up with the hopes of  unleashing a blockbuster that draws an enormous global audience. Rather than diversifying their investment -- making a lot of smaller niche movies -- they shoot to win the lottery every time. It's the "Go Big or Go Home" strategy. And in an effort to alleviate the high risk involved in this inherently high-risk strategy, they manufacture films by committee. They spread the responsibility around...and later the blame should the movie turns out to be sucky. So who is on this so called Blockbuster-Making Committee? An article in last Sunday's New York Times shed light on that question in the article "Red, White & Blood." As an interesting exercise, the Times presented a totally fake, but kinda plausible concept for an action, adventure, romance movie entitled, "Red, White & Blood" to 6 Hollywood pros who then gave their advice on what the pitch needed to advance it over the hurdles to become a winning blockbuster film. The committee of pros included: The Producer (Lynda Obst), The Marketer (Mike Vollman), The Studio Executive (Erik Feig), The Researcher (Kevin Goetz), The Global Marketer (Camela Galano) and The Writer (Etan Cohen). 

The Pitch: (basically) It's Fast & Furious meets Die Hard. 
A gang of gorgeous thieves -- one named SPIKE, think Angelina Jolie -- are forced to work with a bunch of terrorists after the terrorists kidnap the thieves' significant others and hold them hostage. The terrorists force the thieves to kidnap the President. In the throes of the mission, Spike finds herself alone with the President and it's revealed that Spike is a past lover of the president -- his first love from back in Ohio -- and, although the President is married now, the heat between these two old lovers is palpable. Although, tempted to rekindle this love, the two realize that the country needs saving more than they need each other. So Spike decides to turn on her thief mates to save the President. In the climactic final battle, Spike takes a bullet for the President's wife (Gwyneth?) and single-handedly brings down the terrorists.  Spike dies in the President's arms. 

Okay. Not bad. I like the female protagonist. The only bump I have what happens to all the innocent significant others who were kidnapped by the terrorists? But who cares what I think. What do the pros think? Here are some highlights.  Tell me what you think!

The Producer: 
-- Girls go to see a guy movie, but guys will not go to a movie if it appears to cater to girls.  
-- Pull back on the mushy stuff.   
-- Stakes need to be higher.  Gun battles? How cute. The weapons need to be hotter. Huge big battle weapons -- maybe an end-of-the-world device.

The Marketer:
-- Show that it's appropriate for families.  
-- Twice as many Hispanics go to see movies than any other ethnic group...Make the leading lady a Latina.  
-- Throw in some Spanish.  
-- There needs to be a wisecracking set of man candy.  
-- A little bit of comedy lets you wink at the audience -- this movie is going to be fun and not just a bunch of explosions and car chases.   

The Studio Executive:
-- Word of mouth is entirely dependent on the last five minutes of your movie.  Make them count.
-- Address the plot/character questions of the biggest cynic in the audience.  (I'm paraphrasing here.)

The Researcher:
-- Make one or two more of the car thieves lead characters to give your audience more characters to hold onto.  

The Global Marketer:
-- Just be smarter than making a nationality or culture the bad guys.  
--  Play down the romantic twist.  
-- While weepy films can succeed in some markets, the international audience tends to be a little more jaded and cynical. 

The Writer:
-- With tentpole movies, there is a tendency to try to shoehorn in everything that has worked before as an insurance policy, even if it doesn't make sense.   
-- When in doubt, string together enough explosions so that people won't notice the holes in the plot.  (He jokes.)

The article holds even more juicy comments. If you have time, check it out

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