November 2nd, 2011
Listen my children and yee shall hear … the voice of Hollywood, emanating from deeeep in its bowels …
DREAM BREAKER. I get a lot of emails from science folks pitching their ideas to me for big Hollywood projects (as if I’m the right guy to talk to) or asking advice on how to turn their screenplay into a movie. I try to be nicer than the bastards who stomped on my dreams 20 years ago. But that said … Rodney was right (see below). And if you have any doubts, just read what this agent wrote to me last week. (but also keep in mind that after 20 years I’m still smiling — just look at the Oprah spot)
IT’S A ROTTEN PLACE
The first year I was studying acting, one of the women in my class was cast in a movie with Rodney Dangerfield. I visited her on the set a bunch of times, filming just north of Los Angeles. Rodney (who would arrive stoned in his limo every morning and spend most of the day in his bathrobe with dark socks and street shoes) took a liking to her. In between takes he would wander over to her and say, “Get out now, kid, it’s a ROTTEN business!”
Truer words were never spoken. I’ve spent 20 years with one foot in Hollywood and one foot still in academia. It’s that second foot that enabled me to still laugh about all the rejection last spring when I filmed this little “Everyday Visionaries” spot for the Oprah Winfrey Network show, “Visionaries: Inside the Creative Mind.” They aired my spot this past Sunday night in the middle of the really, really good hour long segment they did about James Cameron. I strongly recommend you watch the entire show, as well as the previous episode about fashion designer Tom Ford which was equally outstanding.
But the best piece of commentary I’ve read in the past week comes from inside the belly of the beast — from a major Hollywood agent friend of mine who has been an agent with one of “the Big Three” agencies for more than a decade. I wrote to him last week pitching the idea of a biopic about an adventurer friend who has an amazing life story. Here’s what he wrote back (typos and all). It may seem dark and cynical. In fact, it IS dark and cynical. But if you’re one of those people (like I was 20 years ago) who often thinks, “Hollywood should do a movie about …” here’s the harsh, cold, ugly, unvarnished truth for you. Beware.
Its like, there are so many stories out there that could go a thousand different ways, mostly they turn into a boring bio pics. that lose money. So to invest the money studios do, they want someone who they know can deliver (aaron Sorkin and David Fincher) and even then they tend to want it to be about Steve Jobs, which is the hot assignment right now or in the prior case Facebook.
If you have a lights out script that blows people’s mind, that isn’t about a subject with a failing track record(IE the middle east wars.) you may have a shot there too, but people better totally flip.
Its fine and well people in LA and NY like to talk about these movies over cocktails but in a world where it costs a mint just to market these pictures, they financially are damn tough.
If they are getting into something like that, they want it to be Social network that did $225M WW.
I shit you not, baring guys like [James] Cameron of which there are about 5-10 people with anywhere near that juice, almost every project is freaking existing IP driven stuff. Meaning Robocop remake, Fast and the furious 6, Transformers 4, Ouiji (based on the board game), Battleship (also based on the board game), Highlander remake, 2 snow white movies, Cinderella, a 300 sequel about Xerses, The Man from Uncle remake, Cannon ball run remake, The secret life of walter mitty remake. You would fucking laugh and then never try again in Hollywood if you saw the grid list of stuff out there, sometimes we just laugh.
We are along way from the 70’s and Chinatown. A long long way.