By: Miriam Fry
When a movie idea is pitched to a studio executive, one thought is running through her mind: “Will this movie make money?” And while yes, making money is important, is it the most important part of the industry? To what lengths do we go to make money? What do we sacrifice?
In a recent GQ article written by Mark Harris titled “The Day the Movies Died,” Harris detailed the negative implications of focusing too much on marketing/PR and making money. He said instead of making a great movie, directors are focused on the bottom line. Today’s studio executives have decided that making a drama is too risky and that filmmakers and others involved should instead go with their best bet to make money. That, of course, is to make a movie based on something that is already a brand.
“Everyone has cut back on not just ‘Oscar-worthy’ movies, but on dramas, period,” said Jan Dinks, the producer of Milk and American Beauty. “Caution has made them pull away. It’s infected the entire business.”
Harris pointed out that movies in the works for 2011 include a long list of sequels (conveniently, they already have a brand) and four adaptations of comic books, which also already have a brand! June 10 is the set release date of Fast Five, the fifth movie in the series of The Fast and the Furious.
You’ll see a trend here, and it does not stop. There is nothing in the line-up that is intriguing and different like Inception was in 2010, Harris argues.
What does this say about the film industry? Producers and studio executives are not willing to take a risk with a movie idea, for fear that it will need an original marketing plan or that the movie/plan might fail. Most movies today are being made from a marketing and PR standpoint instead of a film standpoint.
Harris also said that one demographic dominates the Hollywood marketing strategy, the “ADD-addled, short-term-memory-lacking, easily excitable testosterone junkie.” Categories left out of the mix are women and those born before 1985. According to Harris, women are not worth taking the time to figure out, and if you were born before 1985 you are old because you have developed taste. A taste that is obviously not for sequels or remakes.
What does this say about PR? Luckily for us, that it’s important. Perhaps the most important factor aside from the profit made. The PR person has an influential voice at the table and a distinguishing role in the whole process of movie production. Too often people think that PR practitioners are only good for party planning and tweeting. As we see in the movie industry, we’re good for much more than that. And a movie pitch does not get the green light until producers know that it can be marketed positively.
Although it’s comforting that PR is important, today what we’re seeing is an over-reliance on PR and marketing that dictates what kind of movies are made: bad ones. Movie makers are sacrificing content just to make money. They are producing the “safest bet” in terms of money and results at the box office, while leaving us with mediocre entertainment that we’ll most likely waste our money and time on… ultimately diluting the film industry.