June 1, 2007

Production Values

Does anybody, including the proud possessors of the brains within, know what goes on in movie producers' heads? A dismissive box review of what sounds like a routine (but more than routinely inept) schlock horror film notes in passing the writer-director's main previous credit: Snakes on a Plane, which he co-wrote with a gaggle of anonymous internet script doctors, whose main suggestion was that Samuel L. Jackson in the lead should cuss a whole bunch. Not such a bad suggestion. Not to discount his other giftrs--it would be an interesting thought experiment to try to come up with something he couldn't do as an actor--but there are few performers in any medium with Jackson's fluent command of the intricate poetic cadences of obscene speech. Anyway, that part of Jackson's role mostly originated on the 'net, where the buzz from the beginning was about how superlatively bad this sucker would turn out to be. Apparently it didn't manage even that to a superlative enough degree to satisfy audiences, since in spite of the largest internet viral campaign the world has yet seen (a largely impromptu campaign) people stayed away in droves.

I suppose it's possible, near-unanimity of critical revulsion notwithstanding--they've been wrong before, they'll be wrong again--that the script of this new pic was so impressive as to sweep all reservations before it. But previous credits usually play a role when it coes to greenlighting a new project, and in this case producers knew two things about Snakes on a Plane: 1) it was sgenerally regarded as a bad film with an atrocious script even by the few people who saw it 2) it was a box office flop.

I can certainly imagine a producer giving the go-ahead to somebody who'd had a big box office hit, or several, even with dialogue that read as if it had been generated automatically in a spam mailing. I can cite examples. With a little more difficulty I can imagine one wanting to give a second chance to somebody who'd produced a remarkable film that had died at the ticket window. But a film that had been poorly written, clumsily directed and had bad b.o.? Where's the upside?

Producers! I have a few ideas you might like to consider, if the template of Snakes on a Plane still has such unexpected vestigial legs. I'd be happy to work up a script based on any of these ideas, if we can come to acceptable terms, or if you have an actual aversion to quality writing in a screenplay--I'm told it can get in the way of the special effects--I'd be happy enough in each case to sell the basic idea, and leave it to you how and with whom to develop it further.

Tarantulas on a Train
Frogs on a Funicular
Boars on a Bus
Squids on a Submarine
Eels on an El
Snacks on a Plane ("They didn't know what was coming. . . they didn't even know how to spell Ptomaine!")
Sharks on a Ship ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the on-deck pool.")
Tramps on a Steamer ("You'd like to get them on a slow boat to China.")
Toes in the Water
Hell in a Handbasket
Crabs on a Cruise (we can step that one up)
Killer Crabs on a Once in a Lifetime Cruise
Termites on a Trawler
Jellyfish on a Jumbo Jet
Pigs in a Poke
Soap on a Rope ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the shower.")
People on a Planet

C 2007 Martin Heavisides


Chancelucky said...

is Tramps on a Steamer an action movie or a porn movie?

While it's often hard to figure out why certain people get first chances to make movies, it's even harder to understand why some folk get second and even fifth chances.

One of the interesting things is that a movie is a much bigger investment than a new novel. First novelists who even do reasonably well, often dont' get a second chance these days. People who make truly horrible, money losing, disasters get to try again with frightening regularity.

Martin Heavisides said...

Yep, it's crazy. I haven't figured the logic.