Friday, August 18, 2006

Knowing is Half the Battle

Something I wrote yesterday has sparked several emails my way asking for more details and clarification. Some of the emails were concerned, some were panicked and some were thoughtful.

Here's what I said:

All you low budget filmmakers out there? If you are planning on making a horror movie do it soon. The market is going to glut itself in the next year or so (at least as far as the shot on video flicks are concerned). This is the same thing that happened to the Urban market 3 years ago. You can do it inexpensively - but it better have perspective and style - or else you won't be able to sell it.
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To clarify this, one has to look a couple of years back at the urban video market. Time was you could make a movie for pennies with a gun, a gangsta and a "key" of coke and you could do very well with it. "Movies" - and I use the term loosely- were shot on video for $10K and sold to distributors for $40K against all rights.
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But slowly the market began to weed out those pictures and the bar was set higher and higher to the point where you needed star names (rappers, former UPN actors) and a $500K budget. Then the bottom fell out. Then Tyler Perry came along and gave us "feel good" urban comedies with a message.
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This is what's happening with horror right now. There are a lot of movies out on the shelves with a great cover and crappy insides. You and I both know it. The market will eventually weed out those small, shot-on-video-over-a-weekend, "Gee, let's make a movie," serial killer/ teen horror movies.
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So if you want to survive the weeding out process, and not take a financial hit by having a produced movie you can't sell:
- Be a brand. If you've made a film and it's done well - then do the sequel.
- Ally yourself with a horror name - actor, director, etc... (Like what I'm doing with Herschell Gordon Lewis).
- Plan on spending a lot more time on the craft of the movie.
- Make sure your concept is bulletproof.
- Or make a movie in another genre, and diversify your brand.
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Like all media, horror movies run in cycles. People's interest waxes and wanes. By staying ahead of the curve you'll go a long way toward building your career.

6 comments:

deepstructure said...

in the comments section of a previous post you mentioned this:

"To be honest, the action genre is going by the wayside and is being replaced by horror movies. That too will change - just as urban movies were replaced by horror in the DVDP market as the "hot ticket." It's cyclical."

and given what you've said in this post it makes me wonder - what's the cycle, and what's next in it?

Bill Cunningham said...

Answer that question and you may have a career in this business....

wcmartell said...

Can I second spending more time and effort on the craft? I have recently seen several horror films that were so poorly made I think trained chimps could have done a better job. Three different elements contributed to these crapfests:

1) Nobody seemed to care. A movie I'll be blogging about later today had zero production design - a scene at a tabloid newspaper office looked as if it was shot in a warehouse... probably because it was. Now, you can make part of a warehouse look like an office - but all these guys did is move in a desk and a desk chair. Everything in the movie seemed thrown together without any care.

2) No imagination and creativity. If you don't have money, you'd better have a whole bunch of creativity to make up for it. None of these films had a single interesting idea or a single creative element. They were bland and boring and, well, stupid.

3) Talent. You know, you have to have a certain amount of talent to make a watchable movie. None of these movies had good dialogue or dramatic scenes or intersting characters - and the directors had no idea what to do with their camera. They didn't know the very basics of directing - that every angle, movement, and shot has a *meaning*. You need to use the correct shot to get the desired emotional effect. These films had no suspense generated. No dread, no fear, no shock. "Twists" could be seen from a mile away, and then were fumbled. You need some basic talent to write or direct a film.

All we need is a few more studio horror hits, and the low budgets will survive. But if this is the end of the cycle - there will still be low budget horror movies... but only the good (or the star-driven) will survive.

By the way, a distrib told me the other day that action is making a comeback.

- Bill

Bill Cunningham said...

"action is making a comeback."

I don't disagree, (especially with SNAKES ON A PLANE which is an action movie as much as it is a horror movie), but I think it's not going to be the same type of action movie we've seen in the past. There will be a twist to it.

Seagal is still doing okay with his movies though... I'm going to have to do some research.

wcmartell said...

You never know when a distrib tells you something, if that's what is really happening, or what they wish were happening because they are sitting on 5 action flicks.

Even the last go round with action, it wasn't just some dude with a gun or a car chase, they wanted a high concept idea with roles for 2 stars... and some kind of built in production value. My two Don "The Dragon" Wilson movies weren't just kickboxing stuff, GRID RUNNERS was about a cop who had to stop the super-human villain from a VR training game who gets cloned into reality... and is going to release all of teh other VR villains into reality (a year before VIRTUOSITY). NIGHT HUNTER was like FUGITIVE but with the last of the vampire hunters evading the police as he tries to stop a vampire invasion of Los Angeles (3 years before BLADE). Straight cops & robbers never played - not enough "dog juice" for a DVD original.

- Bill

deepstructure said...

both you bills have mentioned needing "more" to make a low-budget dvdp movie sellable.

either to care more about quality or to bring more style or inventiveness to the work.

but if that's true, why is there so much shit out there? obviously someone is buying (and presumably others are watching), these terrible films. it's like the market doesn't demand quality - there's no darwinian or capitalistic forces eliminating the bad films from the shelves.

is it because you guys are dealing with a better section of the d2dvd market? the upper-end vs the ultra-low-budgets?

i ask because as a writer/director i feel a value i bring is that im good at what i do, and im not just in this to make millions. i'd be happy getting paid what i make in my day job to be a full time filmmaker.

i care about the material i write and film and work hard on making it the best i can. innovative, intelligent, exciting. all the qualities i look for in a film.

but i sometimes i wonder if offering quality, even if at a budget, matters to this market.

in the extras for 'vampire sisters,' which i didn't see but a friend who's a vampire movie fiend did, the director and producer apparently comment that they made the film for like $5k - and they could have spent more, but that the market wouldn't have paid anymore for it and wouldn't care, so why spend the extra money?

it makes me feel that having talent as a filmmaker isn't necessarily a selling point for the d2dvd market. no?