What thought actually goes into planning a movie?


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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A few days ago I posted an article that pretty much was about movie franchises and box office details -- “Blockbusters… really?” -- and it got me thinking… again… about one of my favorite irritants…

The remake.

In some ways, I get it. (Ok… ok… in a lot of ways, I get it.)

It’s the nature of the beast. And… honestly… it’s nothing new.

Sherlock Holmes?

Basil Rathbone made over a dozen films in the role of Holmes… with Nigel Bruce along on them as Dr. Watson.

Basil and Nigel are certainly not alone. Today we have Sherlock Holmes movies, Sherlock the brilliant British television series and cultural phenomenon, and Elementary on American television.

The thing is… I don’t actually hate any of these attempts. (For Mr. Holmes or in several other cases.)

The problem I have is when a startling lack of creativity seems to be involved.

Not just for the sake of a money grab… even that I can appreciate. When a movie is made for $10 million… $20 million… $30 million and brings back something around $80 million, I think you at least owe a nod of appreciation to the fact that jobs were created and an attempt was made in an industry that is catering to big investments made on the hopes of bigger returns.

No, I’m talking about when it seems like the idea is centered on the concept that the mere mentioning of a name is supposed to make us… the audience… react positively to the news.

For example… Arthur.

Now… look… all ideas and jokes you might be tempted to make (or could expect to be made) about Russell Brand aside… where was this project headed? Who thought it would be a good idea? How could anyone think that the results delivered by Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli and John Gielgud could be improved? What is the motivation to even try? How could anyone think this would end well?

Seems obvious.

How about this one? The Bad News Bears.

I mean… what the hell?

The Walter Matthau – Tatum O’Neal film is a classic. No arguments or debate about it. But… much like films such as Blazing Saddles… many of the details involved in the original could never be replicated by a studio today.

So why… whyWHY even attempt a remake?

Well… part of it is to blame and movies like The Italian Job… where a movie was made, using the same story and the same name, made pretty well, and performed well at the box office.

Make no mistake… it is dollar signs.

And the trouble is… when I begin really thinking about the subject, movies like The Italian Job come back to haunt me. And the reason is simple… because every so often a great remake is made and released. (Well… at least a really good one.) And, when it uses source material that’s old enough, many times the audience doesn’t even know about the original.

But there are times when even Hollywood seems hesitant.

Take a movie like The Wizard of Oz. (Yes… yes… we all know that one. Got it.)

Sure… it’s a classic. But I feel fairly confident saying that many of the decisions involved in making that film were made due to restrictions of the day… dollars and technology and so on… and not specifically for reasons of genius. And yet, so many of them are today recognized as awesome decisions and accomplishments.

So it should be no wonder when The Wiz and Tin Man get produced… no wonder when The Muppets and Andrew Lloyd Webber get involved in attempts to tell the story… no wonder when extensions like Wicked and Oz the Great and Powerful are developed.

It’s a great story. The classic film is wonderful.

And yet I can’t help but feel that it is a film worthy of a remake.

I don’t know… maybe the rights to the film are tied up in ways I have no understanding of… perhaps the iconic images such as the ruby slippers are so trademarked and perfect that a retelling of the story itself couldn’t work. There are a lot of ways obstacles can stand in the way of making a film.

But it becomes simply amazing what Hollywood will do. I recall reading someplace where the reboot/remake/reattempt for the Twilight movies was already being planned before the last of the original batch had even been released.

Are they kidding us?

Probably not.

What I would hope is that they could at least figure out a way to not insult us with the effort. But that might be asking too much.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com