There seems to be a common concern in the July/August 2009 edition of Script magazine that original screenwriting in Hollywood is an endangered product. Editor-in-Chief Shelly Mellott mentions her concern over unique films like Away We Go and The Hurt Locker receiving proper attention. In Ray Morton’s article, “Going Global: Screenwriting in the International Marketplace,” he talks about how Hollywood is importing more and more remakes from overseas, once they’ve proven themselves in foreign markets. And of course we’re all aware that every third movie in the multiplex these days is a comic-book adaptation — and now we’re on to toys!
But who’s to blame? The studios? In Morton’s article, he quotes screenwriter Don Handfield, “I wish these networks and the studios would take more chances on homegrown entertainment, stuff that might be a little more off the wall, instead of saying, ‘This was a hit in a foreign country so let’s adapt it.’” But you know what? I’m kind of tired of hearing writers bitch because I’m finding more and more that we don’t even go see the movies we claim to want the studios to make.
Last year, I saw an amazing, original, important film, Stop-Loss, in the theater. I tried to get anyone and everyone — friends, writers — to watch it. I couldn’t, even on DVD. Finally, after an entire year, one friend finally watched it (and loved it) — after a year. Mark Boal’s article “Writers on Writing: The Hurt Locker,” about his journey to Iraq which inspired his screenplay, is electrifying. The film is playing in Los Angeles and New York right now and opened to stellar reviews across the board, the best reviews I’ve seen this year. Who of us will go see it? How many of us will go see the enticing Away We Go? It’s made $4 million over 4 weeks with a budget of $17 million. Why would a studio continue to make that kind of movie with a performance like that?
I read an article in Variety recently about the films bought from Cannes last year and their severe underperformance at the box office (Waltz with Bashir; Che; Synecdoche, New York). Maybe that’s why films at Sundance this year had such a hard time selling. What I’m saying is that I find that many of the people who claim to want these films made don’t make the time to go support them, despite many of the movies being wonderful films. And if the studio can’t make box-office profit, how can they make the films? What’s the solution? How can we keep unique writing thriving in Hollywood? And how can I get you whiners to go see The Hurt Locker and Away We Go?