Horse Manure

As unemployment soars to new records, the middle class slowly evaporates and young people are so frustrated and angry at the rigged financial system that they’ve taken to (WALL) streets across the country– I am going to talk to you about 20th Century Fox PROUDLY announcing this week its plan to make a big new movie.  That movie is – wait for it – a big screen film version of the 1960s TV show “Mr. Ed.”

For those of you who don’t remember, “Mr. Ed” ran for five years from 1961-1966 (in glorious black and white) and starred a talking horse who alternately helped, hindered and generally wreaked havoc on the life of its poor perpetually befuddled owner.

Full disclosure:  I watched the show as a (very) wee lad and have fond memories of it. But I also have fond memories of “My Mother the Car” — another not as popular sixties TV series about a guy whose mother was reincarnated as his vintage automobile and never stopped talking to him or butting into his life —  so my memories are not necessarily a barometer of anything more than, well, what I would be well-advised to eventually forget.

But back to “Mr. Ed: The Movie.”

I love animals as much as the next guy but —  do we really need a movie version of “Mr. Ed?”  Oh absolutely.  ESPECIALLY if you are an executive at a major film studio OR a major film producer trying to get a movie made in 2011, 12, 13 (or the foreseeable future) at ANY of our major (or even mini-major) movie studios.

And here are some of the reasons.  Check that – Here is the PRIMARY REASON – and in the words of “Mr. Ed”’s very proud veteran movie producer David Friendly:

‘It’s always the perfect time for a FOUR-QUADRANT FAMILY MOVIE.  Those are the movies that have the strongest pull  As a producer I try to envision the poster and this one looks pretty good….”

Really?  Yeah.

We all feel like Biff.

For those not up on the latest movie biz marketing lingo or don’t have “The Google” to look it up, let me translate.

A “four quadrant” movie crosses across all genders and all ages we can measure.  The quadrants are men or women (that makes two quadrants) who are under age 25 or over age 25 (that makes four quadrants total).  From a business perspective, the more quadrants you can potentially attract, the more money you will make.

In other words, if you have a broad enough appeal to your film (or as these biz folks call it, your ASSET), you are designing a blockbuster.  Which is, of course, the ultimate goal.  Because, as you may or may not know, creating a real 2011 blockbuster by today’s movie standards doesn’t mean you’ve created solely a movie. No – you’re actually the BIRTHER of an ASSET that can be associated with toys, games, restaurant tie-ins, theme park rides and many other more avenues of replication (including numerous sequels) that should set up you and your employer/partner quite nicely for many moons to come.

Notice:  Nowhere in that analysis does the idea of storytelling, creativity, emotionality or passion come into the equation.  This in, in fact, NOT a criticism of studios or the people who love or work for them.  This is merely a retelling/relating of 2011 FACT.

Now, before any and all creative people go ringing their hands or ripping down the door of the closest marketing executive or even hedge fund manager (something tells me the latter are all quickly relocating to numerous secret worldwide underground bunkers even as we speak), I am also happy to report that the very day  “Mr. Ed: The Movie” was announced it was proudly proclaimed that rock star PINK (using her real name of  Alecia Moore) would star in a very different type of other film with the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins and many others.  This new film is written and will be directed by Stuart Blumberg, the Oscar-nominated co-writer of “The Kids Are All Right.”  And this film is called “Thanks for Sharing” and is about – wait for it – a group of recovering sex addicts.  Yes, it’s true.  And that is about as far from “Mr. Ed” as you can get (unless you consider the plotline of Edward Albee’s brilliant 2002 play, “The Goat,” but I digress).

FYI, “Thanks for Sharing,” is being produced by William Migliore and David Koplan, two well-known NY indie producers  for Class 5 Films, a company where Mr. Blumberg’s Oscar nominated self (you get a lovely certificate and A LOT of cache even when you’re nominated) is also PARTNERED.

NOW — aspiring screenwriters, producers and directors (and veterans who still aspire to get our current projects made one day)  listen up:

There is NO major studio attached to Mr. Blumberg’s cutting edge subject matter film nor will there ever be until a distribution deal gets made after at least a rough cut is favorably screened. Film studios (for the overwhelming most part), are NOT in the “Thanks for Sharing” business any longer nor have they been for some time.  Nor can they be expected to be… ever again.  That’s like waiting for your bankers to thank you personally for bailing them out or expecting Barack Obama to suddenly morph into Franklin, or even Eleanor, Roosevelt.  Economics, logic and reality tells us this is not going to happen no matter how much we keep hoping that it just might.

However – and it’s a big however but I absolutely know it to be true right down to the core of my bloodied, bruised self and the selves of all my close friends –  there is more than one way to fight a fight; win a game; or get the “spoils.”  And for aspiring writers, producers and directors we’ve lucked out because that is where our secret weapon – our CREATIVITY – comes in.

I am writing this as much for me and my frustrated other contemporaries as I am for you.  Do NOT expect the film studio(s) who are making “Mr. Ed” to be interested in your passion projects, or even most of your perceived mainstream projects.  And don’t spend another millisecond even being slightly or marginally upset about it.  Be powered by the knowledge that you have the ultimate solution – your creative self – to figure out a way to make it work (No, this is not a new age rant – merely truth).

Maybe “Mr. Ed” is your thing . Then – good for you!  (FYI, they’re using a real horse but CGI’ing his mouth).  But if you’d rather see a movie about a group of recovering sex addicts, or a movie about anything that wasn’t the subject of a TV show in the sixties or in some other way doesn’t aspire to or fit into the “four quadrant” paradigm, then:

  1. Do you work and make it the best that you can.  And –
  2. Take all of the original thinking it took to bring your work to this point and use it to enlist people you like, admire or respect or even whom others respect who will help you get your project (effort) realized.

No one does it alone.  But letting the movie studios dictate what you are going to do or what kind of professional life you are going to have, is like giving Bank of America the power to charge you a $5 monthly fee for the use of your debit card when there are plenty of other ways to purchase goods and pay your bills.  You, and only you, are the CEO of your own company.  Which means that you and only you are in charge of the company (or companies) that you choose to keep.

More simply put, what would Steve Jobs do?

2 thoughts on “Horse Manure

  1. Isn’t art (film) supposed to be passion, not formula? I would be more apt to see “thanks for sharing” and probably would not see “Mr. Ed” Pink or no Pink, (not a big draw for me). Anyway I’ll see the George Clooney movie this weekend, and BTW did enjoy “Moneyball”

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