Power to the People! (The Hollywood Exec’s Lament)

In the last two weeks, I’ve contributed to two crowd-funded projects:

Con Man

Super Troopers 2

Both of these projects produced nerdgasms that I am only a little bit ashamed of. I know that I’m not alone in this bliss. Con Man rocketed past its original goal in HOURS and Super Troopers 2, launched 4 hours prior to the start of this post, is at 20% of goal. Both of these projects have resonated with people.

At home one night last spring I decided to watch World War Z, the big screen adaptation of the book by Max Brooks. I had read the book much earlier and wasn’t expecting much from the movie. The book is a fresh take on a zombie story. Presented as a scholarly examination of an event in recent world history, the book is not a single character’s – or a small group of characters’ – perspective on a zombie apocalypse. Rather, the book expands on the logical aftermath of a world-changing event. History would gather many voices in the retelling of the event. The book is just that. A collection of historical narratives from those who experienced all of the different moments of a major world event.

It certainly breaks the mold of the classic protagonist’s struggle. It is a story of us – the larger us, humanity – as we collectively experienced some unique event. Brilliant!

I had some concerns when I read online that the book was being adapted into a movie. The coolest part of the book – the structure of a pseudo-history – didn’t seem to lend itself to a Hollywood blockbuster. As I hit “Play” on the remote, I wondered how they’d pull it off…

Well, they didn’t. Hollywood, once again, swiped the vaguest surface elements of a creative piece and processed them through the generic, mass-production assembly line. The outcome? A formulaic, story-by-committee that is differentiated from every other zombie movie only by its budget and cast (meaning Brad Pitt).

As I watched the movie, I kept pausing it to scribble notes in my journal. Unsurprisingly, I had some opinions. What had happened? Among others, Drew Goddard had a hand in the script. I’m a fan. I think The Cabin in the Woods is the best horror movie since Scream. The movie didn’t lack for creative talent. So what happened?

As I am somewhat removed from the inner circle of Hollywood (in the same way that I am “somewhat removed” from the surface of the moon), I can only speculate. But I’d point my quivering, nerd-raging finger at the usual suspects: the movie-money guys.

To be fair, the folks with the money expect a say in the process. They are the funding for these projects which cost tens of millions of dollars. Of course they are going to order rewrites, change things, drop the unique elements of the source material. They want a return on their investment. They want material they will satisfy the lowest common denominator of a potential audience. The stuff that will appeal to everyone.

So what happens when crowdsourcing – going right to the audience and bypassing the moneymen – meets the movie making process? Well, we get the opportunity to see Wash and Mal Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion aiming to misbehave again. We get to see the greatest law enforcement team to ever protect and serve Vermont spring into action again. We get to see what happens when the creators, the magic makers, are able to work unhindered.

Crowdsourcing is no magic potion or panacea. It has a ways to go before it could support the $220 million budget of the original Avengers. But in 16 days, Con Man has raised $2.6 million (against an original goal of $425,000) and Super Troopers 2 is now at $1.5 million (going from 20% to 80% of goal in the 15 hours since I started the first draft of this post). And as I’ve learned in the three years writing this blog, sometimes the creative mind needs an outside perspective. As my writing has improved by listening to other peoples’ perspectives on my posts, I assume that having a system that places checks and balances on the creative process can sometimes be a good thing. (Do you happen to remember a pesky little thing called Star Wars: The Phantom Menace? Back away from the typewriter, George. Don’t make me pick up this lightsaber!)

I’m happy to have the opportunity to support projects that I want to see. I’m excited for these two projects to come to fruition. (But I don’t want to wait for either of them! I want them both right meow!)

And, in a rare moment of self-aggrandizement, I would like to point to my own brilliant observation from three years ago after seeing the first Avengers movie. In my post-premiere nerd-bliss, I wrote this:

I realize that Joss Whedon is every comic fan’s champion. He rocked it. Whatever his price tag is to do the next one, Marvel (meaning Disney!) needs to write the check right now. Hell, I’m sure we can fund it through Kickstarter if we need to. If crowd funding had been in existence 10 years ago, would we have had more of the magic of Firefly? Let the discussion begin. Can anyone share this with Mssrs. Whedon, Fillion, Tudyk et al? 🙂

So you’re welcome, Interwebz, geeks, and movie fans everywhere. Clearly, it was my insightful suggestion that got us to this point. Tudyk, Fillion, guys from Broken Lizard – call me. I’ve got some ideas for the new projects. And I’ve already kicked in my money…


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