We've known that big stars are no longer enough to ensure box office success. Now, apparently, they're no longer enough to even greenlight a movie.
Lisa Wilson, president of international distribution at GK Films remarked recently to Variety: "I've heard of stories about films in the middle of production that have bank notes that still haven't cleared yet." Will Smith can still get a film greenlit sight-unseen, according to Brian O'Shea, executive VP of worldwide distribution at Odd Lot Intl.
So, if stars can't get big films made, what can? Positioning.
Producers, including indie filmmakers like those at the Texas Film Scene, need to start with the idea of what will bring people to the film. That could be an actor, but it could be a great writer, or a unique location (particularly if you are marketing the film locally or regionally), or a fantastic logline. Hollywood types love these so-called "high concept" movies, because they can be more easily marketed.
And books. Hollywood loves, loves, loves movies based on best-sellers, like Twilight, Harry Potter, or James Bond. Why? Because it reduces risk. Or, at least, it appears to reduce risk. If the book sells well, that (hopefully) proves that there is a built-in audience, just waiting for the movie to be released. And Hollywood is all about reducing risk, particularly on mid-range, $30-100 million dollar films.
As discussed here in previous posts, comic book movies and big-budget extravaganzas are almost the sole purview of Tinsel Town. Nobody does a $250 million dollar, effects-laden blockbuster like Hollywood. Come to think of it, nobody else does them at all, period.
But what about micro-budget indies? For them, the costs of production are so low that even C-list stars can generate enough interest and critical praise to achieve profitability. But if you are trying to raise capital for your film, it may be better to invest in a unique story, or other marketable hook, than in a "name" actor, unless that actor can demonstrate a documented following and fan base.
Think hard about what marketing position you will take for your film long before you ever call "action."
Thanks to Joseph Kenny for the heads-up on this article.