February 02, 2010

Producer says no to Pond

Producer Says NO to Native American Screenplay

By Roscoe PondIt is no secret that I have been working on an action thriller screenplay. It is about a Native American LAPD officer who tries to solve the murder of his brother. I had a premature "table read" of this script a few years back. It has come a long way since then. The story has stayed the same. I just felt I had to amp up the action. I received great feedback on it by many, but nothing really concrete in getting the screenplay made into a film. I even got advice from a film distributor who really liked it, but said he wanted to love it. The question in my mind is always "how can I make this better?"

Matt gave me a great response. He loved my screenplay and thought it had potential. His big concern was not having enough money for the budget of an action thriller. He told me to try and get a studio behind it. He warned though that it could be tough without the right actor. We had a long talk about "casting" the lead in my screenplay. I've had this conversation before and it is always about which "star" name could carry this film. Who can bring in money at the box office? I told him like I tell everybody else. I am the "lead" character. I don't want to direct it. I want only to "star" in it. I wrote the "lead" for me! Matt's point was that if I had a known "name" actor in the lead. The studios might take it on.
Comment:  Roscoe Pond is arguably the Gene Shalit of Native movie "critics": He likes everything he sees. Therefore, I wonder how good his screenplay is.

But this "producer" doesn't seem to understand how to make money in Hollywood any better than the studios do. A "name" actor? Did Shia LaBeouf sell The Transformers? Did Chris Pine sell Star Trek? Did Sigourney Weaver sell Avatar? No, no, and no.

If you have a great story, great action, and perhaps a great director, that's all you need. A superstar doesn't sell a movie--except to the scared bean-counters--and is arguably a waste of money. Hence the fallacy of the big-name actor.

I don't know if Pond is a good actor. But he looks like he could play a tough SOB. Put him on a good movie poster and in a good trailer and you're already halfway to selling the movie.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.


Anonymous said...

Okay Rob,

Let me try to let you in on an inside secret: "Name actors" aren't cast to "insure" financial returns; they are cast to market the film, especially when distributors spend little or no funding towards marketing a low budget film. They want a “face” on the DVD box (or hopefully movie poster) that people have seen before. They don't want to work to "sell" the film. Every film, low or high budget needs a marketing "hook."

Sometimes that hook is big special effects (expensive, think Avatar, Distrct 9) a name director, (there are a few who can sell a film, think Scorsese) an actor (Depp can work anytime he wants.) Financiers (distributors,) directors,and producers want known, reliable leads before they get involved (for the most part) because they have seen their work and they know they can deliver a performance when the director says "action."

This is the known rule for any mid-range film that is banked by a distributor or production company. Don’t believe nme? Check out the Forbes web site where they list actors “marketability” by grading them. (This list is used by film producers and you won’t find many Native names there.)

Back in the day when video (VHS) came onto the market, you could make a poster and sell a film. Rodrigez’s and Kevin Smith’s were born, so many film makers found deals because content was needed and people bought and rented videos by the millions….DVD came along and the trend continued. Then the internet hit and it killed the “business” of indie film making. DVD sales are down, and you can get YouTube for FREE. With the internet and affordable cameras, everyone suddenly believes they are "film makers" and the white noise you have to break through to make a return on a substatial investment online (almost impossible at best) is amazing.

If you don't have the money to fund your own film, (if you're a micro to mini-budget none of this applies because your chances are slim to none your film will see a film screen or distribution unless it's a cleverly marketed horror film ;-) You will have hard time getting funding without some kind of "hook." The more "ammo" you have in your prospectus (i.e. Actors attached) the better chance you have to get noticed.

The distributors are not only few and far between these days, but the ones left can pick from several multi- million dollar films already made. They don't have to, or want, to "gamble" on new talent...unfortunately. Even the big boys are playing it safe with remakes and sequels.

So call it a fallacy if you will, but attaching known actors is a big part of the business of getting a film project noticed.

If Mr. Pond had Mr. Depp attached as the lead role of his film, Mr. Pond would be hiring a secretary and trying hard to return calls from every studio, distributor, and producer in Hollywood.

I speak from experience.

Keep the faith Rob and don't give up Mr. Pond!

See you at the movies,


Rob said...

Investors, studios, and distributors may think movies need big names attached, but is that true? For more on the subject, see Roscoe Pond or a Big-Name Actor?