What do people look to get out of films today? Has it changed since the explosion of the internet? I’m going to share four ideas I’ve been mulling over for quite some time about how the internet has influenced the future of screenwriting...
1. Sex no longer sells.
I wonder if the failure of Basic Instinct II should mark the end of an era where sex in film sells. As a result of free porn on the internet, which has sent the porn industry into a financial windfall, people don’t look to movies to see nudity like they used to. Even if the hottest movie star shows skin in some new film, odds are that those images will get leaked on the web long before it ever hits the theaters, and thus, the film must fall back on something else to sell tickets – like story? I suspect sexy sells more nowadays than sex.
There was an interesting article by Dylan van Rijsbergen called Sexing the Handbag. He wrote: “Time has come to start a new movement inventing new images of sexuality and pornography. Time has come for a new Jan Wolkers, male or female, someone who can write powerful stories of authentic sexuality. Time has come for all kinds of individuals in the media, art and literature to invigorate the tired imagery of commercial porn. Time has come for a slow sex movement, which stretches sexuality beyond the single moment of the male orgasm. Time has come to return sexuality to what it has always been: elusive, exciting, intense, playful, authentic, dynamic and sublime.”
2. No more political blab-fests.
Did you guys see Variety’s review of Lions for Lambs?
“Talky, back-bendingly liberal but also deeply patriotic, Lions for Lambs plays like all the serious footnotes scripter du jour Matthew Michael Carnahan left out of The Kingdom… Schematic idea sounds bold on paper: three separate events, played out roughly in real screen time across three separate timezones, with each potentially cross-fertilizing the others. Problem is, as the cross-cutting proceeds, it becomes increasingly evident that each yarn exists in its own, very specific frame of reference, with no real human drama to buttress the moral-political conflict… In addressing the issue of the U.S. role as both world policeman and a credible force for good, Carnahan's screenplay thus takes three clearly defined avenues of approach: the practical (Rodriguez-Finch), the political (Irving-Roth) and the philosophical (Malley-Hayes). All three avenues, however, lead nowhere in particular… The to-and-fro of their political debate [between Cruise and Streep] gives both actors a fine workout, and plays to the strengths of their screen personas. But as Carnahan's script dutifully checks off the issues, it becomes clear the discourse is leading nowhere, and is merely a rerun of arguments already extensively aired by media around the world. Roth has no new arguments to propose, and Irving's only solution is more positive action. With almost no character backgrounding beyond repping various schools of thought, the actors largely get by on screen charisma…”
There is nothing you can verbally say about anything political in a film that hasn’t already been said in previous films or somewhere else in the media or in greater detail on the internet. Why spend $9 per person to hear someone say something in a film that we’ve already read online for free? While the activism is commendable, looking forward to writing future films, I think the emphasis has to be on compelling human drama, because you can no longer have main characters designed to be simple mouthpieces of practical, political, or philosophical points of view - unless it’s truly unique.
Screenwriting has become a venue for the heart. People look to films more for an emotional and artistic experience than an intellectual one. I love what Francis Ford Coppola said in the Apocalypse Now Redux commentary: “In a way, you know, cinema is more like poetry than literature. It’s all about expressing things and saying things that you don’t say and trying to say it in another way – to use metaphor, or simile, or allegory or any of these other poetic techniques where you express one thing by, in fact, showing something quite different – and the audience puts it together. Cinema is at its best when it expresses things without really expressing them.”
3. Screenwriters will be pushed more into the public eye.
Scripts are regularly leaked onto the web. We have to now expect our scripts to get leaked and analyzed in the media. Not only that, there’s a growing appetite by the public to read scripts, and there’s a lot more public discussion about how well a screenwriter handled a story. I think we’ve reached a place in cinema history where screenplays have evolved into an art form, and writers can no longer fool people with sloppy craftsmanship anymore. All these elements have put the screenwriter into the limelight more than ever been before (the recent explosion of articles about Diablo Cody is certainly an example of that) and an enormously strong fanbase on the web can turn some writers into huge public icons, which may or may not be a good thing.
4. Standards of screenwriting & filmmaking will forever remain at an all-time high.
With the explosion of film bloggers (like the popular ones on my sidebar), there is now a more intense public scrutiny of films in general, such as Emerson’s study on Opening Shots. We have to be ahead of the game, more knowledged than the bloggers, and incorporate more thought into every single detail of every scene. Elite closers will no longer be able to get by on name alone and must deliver home runs every time they’re at bat. Aspiring screenwriters must now have a god-like knowledge of not only the craft of storytelling but also the craft of filmmaking as well as the world of the story you’re writing.
What do you guys think?
Friday, December 21, 2007