Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

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Last year was filled with personal loss, crazy politics and the courting of China’s Wanda in Hollywood. It was a year that most people wanted to exit before they incurred too many losses. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that 2017 had to be better.

For 2017 to be better for me, at least from the perspective of the world of entertainment, I’d like to see some changes in the motion picture industry. I’ve decided to consolidate my thoughts by genre.

ROM-COMS
I’m tired of romantic comedies being too dramatic and short on comedy. This might be due to the slow pace all Rom-Coms have fallen into, which likely destroyed comedic timing. This year I’d like to see a fast paced Rom-Com that takes 10 minutes for the audience to figure out how the show ends instead of the standard three minutes.

HORROR
I’ve had enough with the screaming beauties. How about the first horrifying attack being against a buff man instead of a high-pitched screamer. I mean does every horror film have to start with a blond scream? Not in 2017.

FAITH-BASED
I beg you to stop preaching in an emotion-based demonstrative medium (show don’t tell). Learn how to show the human condition so your redemptive moment at the end makes God look majestic instead of trite. Take time to rewrite your scripts two dozen more times before shooting your ultra-low budget film and make sure at least one scene uses subtext instead of Evangelical jargon.

ACTION
Please consider shortening your action sequences enough to add a subplot into your movie that helps us to actually care about the protagonist. I’m tired of comic book stereotypes in an age when diversity makes us stronger.

ADVENTURE
Yes, thinning out your plotlines has increased your box office success, but when you thin it out too much no one wants to watch the story a second time—That’s why box office dollars started to shrink. Give us something to chew on that transcends the action plotline.

MUSICALS
Making a few more every year would put lots of smiles on the faces in the reclining theatre seats. Maybe its time for a new franchise of musicals like the old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney stories.

BUDDY COP
These films are made all too far away from the previous one. Everyone likes camaraderie intermixed with thrills and spills. Use your creativity and come up with a few scenes we haven’t seen before and we’ll let you toss in a few scenes that play like an old romantic rerun of happy days gone by.

DRAMA
This genre has turned dark and can’t seem to come back into the light without turning cheeky in the process. I challenge you to write a smart drama that carries a happy tone with sporadic nightmares that are quickly sorted by the protagonist. We want the star to step up with an amazing demonstration of unconditional love coated in self-deprecating humor and a touch of chivalry. And while you’re at it, stick it in a courtroom that is rendered with respect, instead of the bitter views of those abused by attorneys.

I suppose that’s enough dreaming to kick off this year. How about you? I’d love to see your comments on what changes you’d like to see this on the silver screen.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

Chauvinistic Versus Egalitarian Movies

This year there is a push for more women in leading roles, but it isn’t necessarily a good thing. Hollywood decision makers continue to display chauvinism in their funded projects. Female leading roles in shows like Jessica Jones, where the heroine is a super female, only temporarily covers the producer’s attitude of superiority toward the female gender. There are few roles depicting normal women as equals.

Throughout the country feminism endorsed the super woman that could play in the sandbox with the boys. It promoted women like Carly Fiorina who had no problem, while at Lucent Technologies, proving herself to an acquisition by grabbing her crotch during the meeting and saying she’s “got balls.”

This type of feminism is finally giving way to a more balanced approach known as egalitarianism. The French word translates to equalism. The latest trends of thought suggest that all humans are equal in their innate value or social status.

The film industry is typically on the cutting edge of expressing social freedoms and nurturing the population to be more accepting of developing social norms. In this case, Hollywood is taking a back seat because few people will pay money to watch a “normal” woman on the silver screen.

Faith-based filmmakers who believe in the Bible’s equality have the greatest opportunity to show a normal woman in a realistic light. Unfortunately, most categorize their characters by function, not value. The woman tends to come across more like a doormat in a submissive role, than a powerful person who chooses to give her husband tie breaking decisions.

The egalitarian grassroots lobby has no support from liberal or conservative filmmakers, yet the movement is growing rapidly. With the decentralization of Hollywood over the past few years, its possible we’ll see new equality films released by independents 3-4 years from now. But, not until filmmakers have the guts to make a story about a normal woman that not only meets the Bechdel Test, but is well supported at the box office.

Hollywood can’t totally be blamed for the chauvinistic perspective in films. Some of the battle is innately implanted within gender differences. For instance, hearing a woman’s high pitched blood curdling scream in a horror film is far more effective than a man’s bellowing baritone voice resounding as a masked man stalks with a buzzing chainsaw.

Still writers need to create compelling stories about real life. The kind of life I see daily that’s filled with powerful women who do amazing things in their day-to-day world. How about the woman who keeps the family together, while holding down a job and taking care of her aging mother. Or, the female small business owner who has to balance all facets of her life without dropping any balls.

There are thousands of wonderful stories yet to be shared that demonstrates true equality between men and women. I’m convinced that the first filmmaker to release such a film may be surprised as to how popular his or her film becomes. It will be a refreshing and original story that reflects life as it was intended. The film might even become a role model for those trying to understand how to treat each other with equality within a chauvinistic and feministic world.

© 2016 by CJ Powers

They Got It Backwards

I love the juxtaposition of talking with a horror filmmaker and a faith-based filmmaker over the same weekend. The former asked why I sometimes wrote about faith-based films. She couldn’t comprehend why I’d even broached the politically incorrect subject of religion. The later questioned me on educating horror filmmakers who bring evil into the world. He rebuked me for not separating myself from “the likes of them.” I chuckled at both perspectives.

Filmmaking is an art, which both people had forgotten. It’s also a craft that requires thousands of hours to master. Since I’ve worked several features and 300 plus television episodes, I’m willing to share my knowledge and hope to learn something new during the exchange of ideas and craft secrets. I’m a people person, what else can I say.

The conversations opened my mind to just how backwards both filmmakers got it. Let me start with the faith-based filmmaker.

There is an interesting trend in the faith-based market niche. Churches have gotten so good at entertaining that its congregations are dropping off. Millennials aren’t interested in a polished presentation in their services, but instead in an authentic person sharing how to do life. They also want to sing during worship, but the loud music and professional singers leading the congregation stops them from sharing their untrained voices in song.

Christian filmmakers are creating films with authentic stories that are real and rough around the edges, the exact thing Millennials want from their services. But, they don’t want that in their movies, instead they long for highly entertaining and professional films. The church and Christian filmmakers have it exactly backwards from what their audiences demand.

Horror filmmakers also have it backwards. The genre started out as a tool to launch great, unknown filmmakers into the mainstream movie making system. Those with good stories rose in the ranks and transitioned to thrillers and later to action films. Today, most horror filmmakers aren’t concerned about story. Instead they focus on the latest FX to make mutilation more realistic.

Without a story about characters you learn to care about, the scary aspects of horror films hold little fear in our heavy CGI based world. The lack of story makes the film appear campy, just like unprofessional faith-based films. In fact, the relationship between horror and faith-based films is so close that I’m surprised no one has done a high quality Christian horror film that causes the audience to consider their own mortality.

The bottom line is that genres only work well when done in the way the media demands. Since high quality technical equipment is now readily available to both genres, storytelling becomes critical to sort through the noise of the thousands of bad films. Even TV has hit a glut of programming and most people aren’t aware that over 400 new series were released last year. The support of an audience is still critical to the health of a series. Without the right audience the shows get cancelled or make little to no profit.

It’s time our churches give up the professional entertainment for the authentic sharing of life. Our faith-based films must also turn around by creating professional and highly entertaining universal stories. And, our horror films must get back to the core work of storytelling, as movies without stories are a waste of everyone’s time.

Let’s turn around these backwards trends.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

The Coming Demise of Independent Filmmakers, or NOT

Short Films Require Set-Up by CJ PowersMega studios are teetering on the brink of collapse based on the ratio of mega hits versus losers they field. The industry is already projecting a downward trend of the comic and action/adventure franchises that generated the rebound for Hollywood over the past ten years.

For the consumer, the blame is focused on increased technologies reducing the price of a high quality theater experience at home compared to the rising ticket prices at theaters. For the artists, the blame falls upon the marketing and business people forcing the creatives to regurgitate franchise installments and sequels over and over again – Driving the creatives to independent projects and “television” (in its latest Internet form), where they can create something new and unique.

Within this setting is the rise of independent niche production companies including, and most notably, the faith-based and horror genres. Today there are tens of thousands of production companies due to easy access to less expensive technologies. Anyone with a wealthy friend can now make a feature length movie.

Unfortunately, this glut of material is turning major distributors away from purchasing independent films, as the vast majority of the films lack great techniques and story structure. The films that can’t get a viewing with a distributor and those that are rejected by distributors, are creating a massive transition to digital releases to niche markets, sabotaging the numbers within existing audience venues.

Since no independent filmmaker has enough fans to perpetuate his products, the need has grown for joint ventures within the independent marketplace. This is closely following the corporate trend of jobs being farmed out to boutique companies that pool their resources from one project to the next.

The companies that are attracting the pros and generating sustainable work, rather than just collecting points for backend payoffs that rarely occur due to creative financing, are expanding into macro studios. This enormous growth is being tracked by studios who plan to infiltrate and take advantage of the new production finance models.

While Orlando was first considered to be the east coast of Hollywood, it evaporated when the economy dropped. This was due to the fact that studios only sent overflow work to Orlando. However, the high risk ventures of big box office mega pictures created additional constraints and forced Hollywood to pick up as many titles as possible without the up front risks.

Everyone, filmmakers included, decided they were capable of making films and created a glut of bad movies. Last year, out of the 400+ horror films produced, less than 50 got distribution deals. Out of the 470+ faith-based and Christian films produced, about 200 were self-distributed and 19 received a major release. The glut of bad movies that distributors had to sort through was on the increase; causing distributors to focus only on companies they can trust.

In other words, the onslaught of amateur films in 2014 made it very difficult for professional companies to start off 2015 with any traction. This trend will continue, as Hollywood knows that only great production techniques coupled with great storytelling is paramount to wide distribution success.

The ramifications will force the professionals to create macro studios and joint ventures in order to consolidate audiences and accumulate enough revenue to cover better techniques and storytelling.

Thanks to a new stream of creative control in cable and Internet television, many macro studios are already in place and waiting for the transition to grow their businesses. Unfortunately, some smaller studios are still trying to make films for the dispersing markets instead of consolidating audiences with like-minded projects.

This shake up is as significant as the one that hit in the late 70’s with the introduction of home video. In the long run, the mom and pop shop studios that survived were the ones who shifted to digital production over film. The ones who held tight to film fell by the wayside.

Over the next three years, production companies that partner on bigger projects will see a great deal of growth, while those trying to keep everything within their full control and low budget will be forced to stay within their niche markets. Horror film companies will be sorted based on the categories of thriller versus blood and guts. Faith-based films will be most likely sorted by denomination.

The companies rising to the top will be limited to higher budgets, production values, great unique stories, and universal appeal. Amateur companies can’t fake these key elements, which is why it will become the differentiator within the world of motion picture production, regardless of release format.