How to Make A Movie

In the past few months, I have seen some comments suggesting that I neither appreciate nor understand the wisdom of the Hollywood system. I have to confess, I didn’t know that there was such a thing.

But perhaps I have an attitude problem. Must be time for a little thought experiment. I need to take a few seconds to look at this issue from the other side. So I am going to pretend to be a studio executive. Heck, why stop there. I’m a mogul!

So first, I need a movie. Not really a script or anything. Just a title. Something that has been done before so I can build from the past model. It has to be something that I can purchase the rights to. So I ask an assistant to see what’s available.

As my assistant brings me my third caffè latte of the morning (well, more like late afternoon – moguls do not have to get up early), she also leaves me a list of titles. Great job!  I love these unpaid interns. I go through the list and first thing I see jumps out at me like a tiger. Fibber McGee and Molly. I love it!  It sounds so. . . so fibberish. I think I just coined a new word. I want the PR folks to use it in the campaign.

Now I need to get my other unpaid intern to research the material. I use to have an associate producer for that kind of work, but he got kind of funny with me. Suggested that my last hot idea was more dead than a pound of ground round with a two year old expiration date. So I had to let him go. Someday the world will be ready for the big screen version of I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster. We’re still waiting for Russell Crowe to be available. Don’t know why he’s not returning my calls.

Research comes back. It’s about five pages long, so I have another unpaid intern write up a single paragraph synopsis. Then I have one of my producers take a look at it. Once his intern reads it to him, he asks a sticky question: What’s a Fibber?  So I get another producer.

Just to be sure that this project will fly, I have PR conduct a survey. OK, I have heard that those bogus surveys done on Yahoo (in which the same pack of smart alecks submit answers over and over again) are not particularly scientific. But I don’t know anything about statistical analysis except that it sounds really dull. So we just do it the standard way and get a highly favorable response to the title. Many of the kids who respond thinks that Molly has something to do with a synthetic drug, so we might have to work that into the script. Unfortunately, they also ask the same question: What’s a Fibber?

Now we need a script. I want the hottest writer we got, which is the guy that did the tenth and almost final rewrite on the last film we made. I schmooze him with a lot of chatter about his great creative talent. In truth, I don’t care because writers are a dime a dozen and I have already lined up the first five rewrite guys. But I make sure that he understands that the script has to be. . . fibberish. He rolls his eyes and says something about how it rhymes with gibberish. God I hate these guys.

While the screenwriter seeks inspiration (a three-day bender), I start to line up the cast. We need stars. Oh sure, a variety of financial studies have overwhelmingly suggested that stars do not really matter in regards to the box office return, but who has time to read these studies. Besides, they are pretty dull. A bunch of number-crunchers who don’t really understand the biz.

We need a hot couple. Maybe Brangelina. At least something like Brangelina. But I don’t know. Angelina is getting a bit old at 38. We need some one younger. Maybe some one more like Rooney Mara. Wait a minute. She’s 28. I’ll have the casting director start trolling through the high schools. Might be time for a new “star. ”

But Fibber is easy. Let’s see if Robert Downey, Jr. is available. Dang!  He’s booked into everything else and can’t do it for less than $100 million dollars. That’s OK. I can now up the budget to $300 million. And it will be in 3D. Just hope the script will give us a lot of stuff to blow up on the screen.

Then the script comes back. I tell the writer what a great job he did. Damn thing stinks. Some crap about a middle-age couple in Illinois. All warm and cozy. It’s like listening to a bunch of old farts chattering on the radio for crying out loud. This writer is never going to work in this town ever again. Immediately I get a new writer and tell him to put some action into the story. I like this guy. Without me even prompting him, he said he would make it fibberish.

Now the money people are making worrisome noises. Do I really think this film can work. I calm them down by explaining that it will be a cross between Die Hard and The Dark Knight. Nobody knows what that means but it makes everybody feel happy. Besides, the financial people don’t really understand how movies work, so we don’t have to listen to them. God I love this business.

Get an email from the new screenwriter. He wants to relocate the setting from Peoria to either Chicago or New York. Says that a major city makes more sense as the location for a terrorist attack by North Korean nuclear commandos. This guy is a genius or what!  I tell him either city. Doesn’t matter because we are filming in Cleveland. Parts of the south-side can stand in for Pyongyang.

Which is why the studio is upping the budget to $400 million. We may have to build a full-scale model of a city if we are planning to blow it up. Though we might be allowed to blow up parts of Cleveland. They are pretty cooperative. Meanwhile, PR tells me that there has been a sharp increase in chatter about the movie on social media. People are asking: What’s a Fibber?

So this film will be a major hit. Unless the critics do a Lone Ranger hatchet job on the whole thing.

God I hate those guys.

-Dennis Toth Copyright (C) 2013 All Rights Reserved