Dom Testa

Author / Speaker/ Broadcaster

No new ideas? Or just low expectations?

Oh goody, there’s a new entry in the Superman/Batman movie series. The third Divergent film debuted recently. The seventh Star Wars movie splashed in December.

Scan the top twelve box office hits of 2015 and you’ll see that nine of them were sequels, reboots, or retreads. Two others were animated hits aimed at kids. That leaves one - one!  - non-cartoon film in the top dozen that was an original idea (The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s fantastic and fun novel).

This likely will launch a new round of complaints that there are no new ideas coming out of Hollywood. I used to be that guy, the one who grumbled about “no new ideas.” How hard could it be, I said, for producers to find something fresh and exciting? But over the past year or two my thinking shifted. I no longer point the finger at Hollywood producers, who make the same movies over and over again. Instead I’m pointing fingers at you and me. We get exactly what we demand . . . and my guess is that we simply don’t demand enough.

Expectations

Think about it: There are billions of dollars riding on the outcomes of movies and television shows, and the decisions made each day in Tinseltown factor in one - and only one - line on the ledger: the one at the bottom. Very few, if any, big shots in the industry really care what’s flashing by on the screen at twenty-four frames per second. No, they will consistently produce whatever it is that you and I plunk down our money to stare at for two hours. If you dropped three bucks to watch Rocky, then five bucks to watch Rocky III, and seven bucks for V, then they feel reasonably comfortable that you’ll be stupid enough to blow ten bucks for the latest installment (cleverly disguised under the title Creed). You told them that you would.

It all comes down to expectations and - in the long run - what you and I demand. If we turn up our noses at a remake, it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll never see the producers touch that hot stove again. It has nothing to do with the idea, you see; it’s all about your wallet, the most powerful weapon in the western world.

Young (Gifted) Lions

Sure, there’s a lot of new garbage out there, but there are also thousands of gifted writers who slave over their keyboards daily, cranking out unique, interesting, and entertaining scripts and novels. Imagine how they feel when they sweat out a masterpiece and have it sit in the slush pile while the moguls sign up to do a fifth Die Hard movie.

And then imagine how those talented young writers react to rumblings that 20th Century Fox hoped this fifth installment would successfully introduce the son of action hero John McClain . . . so we could look forward to countless additional sequels.

(A Good Day to Die Hard was considered a flop by most standards - and yet worldwide returned more than $300 million dollars on a $92 million dollar budget. Who’s laughing now?)

I could go off about certain styles of music, too, but the same reasoning applies: “It worked once, let’s do it again.” Ditto for reality television shows, where the same template is dragged out and repeated again and again, because tens of millions of Americans refuse to find anything else to do with their lives, and somehow feel compelled to sit and watch the same drivel incessantly. Stop watching it, and they’ll make something different. It’s that simple.

So when you see a continuous march of movie remakes, or you hear the exact same clapping track on song after song, don’t blame the artists or the producers. You gave permission and - even worse - you gave them funding to keep at it. Meanwhile, brilliant writers and musicians languish in the shadows, hoping that consumers will snap out of it. Want fresh, new ideas? Then hold out, and demand them. In this case, you truly get what you pay for.

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