Friday, June 24, 2011

Bad Film: Why Make It? Or, ‘Just Killing Time.’

If a hundred movies were released this week, only about ten of them will make a lot of money right off the bat. Another proportion of those movies will earn their costs back over time. A fairly large proportion will lose money, and quietly fade into obscurity.

Should the ‘bad films’ have been made in the first place?

I say yes, as many films as possible should be made in any given year. It’s pretty simple.

To expect every debut director to have the Oscar-winning touch is unrealistic. Where did they get their experience? Their training? When did they learn the tough lessons of when, where, and how to follow standard procedures, and when to break the ‘rules?’

If a film lost money, should the key grip have worked for free? Should he have remained unemployed? What about the sound people, or the art director?

The basic training comes from film school, or fooling around on your own time. The best training comes on the job. (What if there are no jobs? Work on this subconsciously as I must move on.)

How would you know up front which professionally-directed film will succeed, and which will flop? How would you set a fair ticket price? This one’s worth eleven bucks and this other one only three? Why would the theatre chain run a movie that earns eight bucks per seat, per screening less than the one last week? Perhaps the box office employees will volunteer to work for free.

Taking something that looks good on paper and putting it up on the silver screen is a tough job. None of the films would have been made without a large investment of time, capital and effort.

Is it fair to expect the movie-going public to subsidize the on-the-job-training of Oscar-winning directors, actors and producers? Should every single one of them get an Oscar? I’m not suggesting that in the interest of ‘diversity,’ we should ignore all professional and ethical standards, and just go ahead and make any old film and then line up for an award with every other ‘professional’ working in the field.

From day one, I got paid six bucks an hour while training as a welder, many years ago. All of that work was paid for by customers who placed orders for things that they needed, and they had certain expectations of quality, price, time frame and delivery.

I never became a welder, and the odds of one of my books or stories ever being made into a movie are rather slim. As writers, much of our work is given away for ‘free.’

This includes our own blogs, posts and opinions here and there, helping out other writers, and giving away stories for free exposure, or to get criticism, feedback, or merely experience.

Experience of success breeds confidence. Oddly enough, so does experience of failure: because we survived, we learned something, we moved on. We picked up a buck or two, fed the babies, put gas in the car, or made the mortgage payment.

We lived to write another day.

So here’s how it works. Film directors make a bad film so that they can hopefully make a slightly better one after that! They charge money for their services, so that they can feed the babies, put gas in the car and make the mortgage payment. If they do a really, really good job on a film, someone will surely notice, and then there is a chance they will reap the rewards of pursuing their dream of excellence. Then they get to stand out head and shoulders above the crowd.

It’s simple, really, once you think about it. How they get there is no concern of mine.


At my age, there are a few regrets in life. All the time spent with shitty people, or in the wrong place at the wrong time, for all the wrong reasons. I spent many years just wasting time and filling up my days.

Okay, a bit of a loner. But why in the hell would I be on a beach forty miles from home, or driving down some endless and featureless country road on an empty winter’s day, essentially doing nothing? I’m not David Attenborough, Dr. David Suzuki, Les Stroud or the late Steve Irwin.

I was filling up my days, and not incidentally, getting as far away from other human beings as I possibly could. That’s just sad—and that I regret.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, and yet I wasn’t going anyplace at all!

I’ve been writing for twenty-seven years, and reading for forty-something. But I’ve only been on the internet for a little over two years. I knew there were risks and rewards, as the internet can be your best friend or your worst enemy. But I had a theory, a kind of simple game theory, one that could be learned as I went along. In the writing of a book or story, I have this bizarre ‘gaming’ approach, which is actually pretty simple. This principle can be also applied in other venues.

“If you don’t play, you can’t win. Any skill can be learned, by study, practice, application and hard work. Learn from the best. If you are afraid to take a hit, get off of the ice,” and so on and so forth.

It’s a system. So now I spend endless hours staring at a blank desktop—I prefer black, by the way—and plotting my next move in this endlessly-fascinating game of ours.

It kills the time.


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