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Prequels and Sequels and Franchises, OH MY!

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“Nobody wants to make any film, ever. I mean, you can assume that every head of every studio would be perfectly happy never to make another film, because making films is dangerous, costs too much money, none of them make sense, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they’re going to work – the best thing is not to make any; you can’t get fired for not making a film – you’re going to get fired for making the wrong film. And so you realise that the first words anybody in the movies wants to say is no, and the job of the director or producer or writer is finding the area of least resistance to get the film made. There’s never been any movie I’ve made that anybody’s wanted to make, ever.”

– Anthony Minghella

I like this quote from Minghella, I guess it sounds kind of negative, but it’s quite easy to sit happily at your computer for months and come up with something that you think is brilliant, without really thinking about who will read it next, and the pressures on them if they like it. It also helps to know that it’s not a personal reflection on you at all when you get rejected for funding, or when someone fervent and well-meaning who is offering you nice production money suggests lame changes.

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More interestingly, this quote works as a kind of barometer of the financial climate of the film industry. Currently, there are superhero movies slated about four or five years into the future, and the films that are stand alone and original stories, are about well known characters or worlds. The Hobbit being one example, perhaps, that you’ll all have heard of. But you’re also going to keep seeing films that are origin stories, like Pan, which is released later this year, and centres on Peters past before he hit Neverland. Or last years Maleficent, an origin story of a very well known Disney villain, which is being followed up by re-inventions of classics like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.

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I’m always in two minds about these things, in the sense that, I love a good blockbuster, so bring on all your comic book movies, I love them. But I do sometimes wonder about how you can best have a back story in films that are already a back story of a previous film. They can often come across as kind of flimsy and predictable. Or they can lessen the impact of your favorite films (or books perhaps) by making a villain too sympathetic, or bore you because you know where it’s all going. But I don’t like to discount them off hand, because films can always surprise you.

But to come back to our exec in the quote, sitting in his office, trying to keep his job by finding the next big thing and the next big thing after that, and to promise investors that the film is going to give them back double what they put in… Like the quote says, you can be in the business of making films, but it’s not always easy to say yes. The current climate is quite interesting too, with a lot of people choosing to watch at home, your initial push at the Box Office has to have a real draw to even get people to leave the house. Add to that leaks and online illegal streaming, and you see some intersting viewing patterns. Something big, a tentpole film, with a pre-sold audience is suddenly the best idea and a strong investment.

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I think at this point, you can feel quite cynical about it all, but essentially, I don’t blame investors or the execs or studios. Having worked on a lot of indie films that ran so far over budget and over time, and were a disorganised shambles (you know who you are) why would you invest time and money in those filmmakers, over someone who has proven to be on time, on budget, with a proven name as a draw card to both actors and viewers? But also, the independent film, or even the smaller local film, will always have a place on our screens and on the investors radar. People will always be looking for something broader, and with Netflix now being a verb as well as a company, for example, there are platforms for series and films of all kinds, because they are desperate for content (as anyone who has tried to find something decent to watch on Netflix will know).

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So, it’s kind of a trend to watch out for, but nothing to be afraid of, children. It should be kind of interesting to see how long this trend will last, before it swings a different way.

(And I’m just playing, Netflix, you know I love you).

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