Sunday, August 20, 2006

These are the Kind of Posts I Love

If you've been reading the past couple of posts you've read both Bill Martell and myself talking about the DVD market and what it takes to make a successful, sellable movie.

Deep Structure took the time to post this, needing clarification on why there are so many "bad" films clogging the videostore shelves. (I've edited for grammar and clarity)

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 (n)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 I'm good at what I do, and I'm 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 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?
I think you're making my point for me, but let me reply about this by using an analogy that I used in a recent article I wrote:
The DVD Premiere market today is like the pulp magazine market of yesteryear.
1. It is very marketing driven - designed to be as enticing on the shelf as possible.
2. The product is inexpensively designed, manufactured and delivered.
3. The product feeds a pop culture "machine" on a regular schedule.
4. It is a great training ground for new writers and writers seeking to become directors.
5. It has many levels.
Think back to all of the icons of modern pop culture literature - Tarzan, Philip Marlowe, The Thin Man, The Shadow, Zane Grey's westerns, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, Arsene Lupin, Fantomas and many others... These characters all got their start in cheap publications printed on wood chip flecked paper - and yet they endure even today in reprints and other media. Why? Quality.
Edgar Rice Burroughs started writing to put food on the table. He was 35 with a wife and child and a failure at every business venture he had undertaken. Working with stationary taken from the business he worked at, he wrote the first draft of Tarzan longhand. Then he wrote another book, A Princess of Mars. He cranked them out to save his family, and in the process built an empire (and the city of Tarzana built from the Burroughs Ranch).
His talent as a writer was spinning a great yarn for his audience. That was the quality he put into his craft, and today he is remembered for it.
There are a lot of movies that clog the shelves - that's a given. They are filling a slot on someone's release schedule. Five years from now, "Vampire Sisters" won't be one of them. Not because they didn't spend the money, but because they really didn't care. I haven't heard the commentary myself so my comments are based on what you've written, but I don't think the producers took any pride in the craft of their movie, and offered up the budget as some sort of excuse for its faults.
You have to do your best every time out of the gate - if not for the earning of your paycheck, then for the pride in doing your best work. So spin a great yarn and move on to the next one, taking enough pride in your work to do your best. There are a lot of people who have made and released one movie, but it's the ones with talent, craft, perserverance and savvy that have careers, and keep getting remembered and rewarded.


Gregory Conley said...

How dare you sully the good name of Vampire Sisters!

Bill Cunningham said...

Yeah, it's so damn good even I haven't heard of it...and I'm the guy that has a copy of HOOD OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Gregory Conley said...

It's only the single greatest "Vampire strippers run a website to lure unsuspecting foe into their home" movie ever made.


God only knows how Roger Corman and Troma have managed to stay alive for so long....

Or am I saying something stupid?

Bill Cunningham said...

Yes, but we'll let it go this time...

wcmartell said...


And it's worth $5k, tops. Which is kind of the answer to the question. Look, of you make a film so bad that the most you can get is $5 for it, that's what you'll get for it. If you make a film for $5k that's entertaining and ambitious nd cool... you won't be making another film for $5k.

The reason why there are so many cruddy films out there is that there is a market for really low end crap - as long as it has blood and boobs. I'm effing amazed by movies like MUMMY'S KISS 2 (on my blog) since it cost $100k but looks like a $5k movie. In fact, I think VAMPIRE SISTERS looked better than MK2.

I think part of the problem is that Brain Damage (the distrib of VS) pays nothing... and that they are still able to get their films into video stores. Another problem is that lack of talent - people who make these films need to be stopped. By force, if necessary!

- Bill

wcmartell said...

PS: I'm going to do a post sometime soon on my blog that's about "the elements".

You can have a crappy film with blood and boobs and it will find an audience... because the audience is most interested in blood and boobs. They can FF through the bad dialogue and awful acting.

I watched VAMPIRE SISTERS as research, but figuresd at least there would be some FX (that zombie dude in the barn) and some boobs (cover promises more than the film delivers).

I like story and character and a great idea and those other "artsie" things in my blood & boobs movies, as do many others. But those elements are the "extras" as far as a distrib is concerned.

My little blog entry is going to be about 3 horror films made by folks I know that have *zero* elements... and zero distribution. They went too far in the other direction - making dramas poorly disguised as horror films. Good writing is not a *substitution* for the horror elements - it's a way to make those elements even more exciting by creating a sense of reality. Compare THE DESCENT to THE CAVE - one is tense and real, the other is pure crap. And it has nothing to do with budget! The pure crap film cost more to make!

Leaving out the blood & boobs doesn't make your film better.

Adding a great idea, great characters, fantastic dialogue and great scenes and... well, all of the elements of a great film... that's what makes it better.

- Bill

Bill Cunningham said...

Note the words on the front page of this blog:

"Pulp movies don't have a budget, they have an attitude."

I have interviewed somone who has made a pulp movie (several in fact) and I'll be sharing that interview later this week, beginning next week.

RogerRmjet said...

Small correction: Burroughs wrote Princess of Mars first (original title was Under the Moons of Mars), then wrote Tarzan. And both in the same year, 1912. Hard to believe. Thank God he picked up that pencil and said "I can write better than this crap."

Matt Davids said...

This amounts to nothing more than a random thought, but today’s B movies seem to lack the class of the older films. Nostalgia may play a role, but Tarantula for instance is a good film though it’s a B picture to be sure. Is something sinister at work or are we just sorely missing the talents of a Jack Arnold or a Gordon Douglas?

Matt Davids

Bill Cunningham said...

My Pet Peeve time:

There are no B-movies anymore. There are no double bills hence no B-Movies.
It's a semantics thing, but it gets on my nerves.

Secondly, part of the problem is that there is no studio system to foster lower-budgeted movies...that is, until all the studios decided to set up DVD Premiere divisions.

Another problem is exactly what Bill M mentions - people with no experience writing and directing, making movies that get distribution.

wcmartell said...

Except VAMPIRE SISTER was made the amazing (for all the wring reasons) Don Dohler who has been making cruddy films since the late 70s (I remember reading an article about how he used stop-motion for one awful monster movie in an old Super 8 Filmmaker magazine).

The problem is that some people have no talent and don't seem to know it.

- Bill

deepstructure said...

the problem isn't that people don't have talent and don't know it - it's that they don't have talent and the audience doesn't know it. or doesn't care.

that's what i mean by the market not driving the quality.

like mr. conley said in his review of 'i'll always know what you did last summer':

"More death + less drama = higher rating."

to me that's a formula for non-distinctive films that simply highlight whatever particular fetish that genre audience wants to see (boobs, blood/gore, bullets/fights, monsters, etc.)

wcmartell said...

And you'd think that more death would lead to more drama.

- Bill

Aric Blue said...

Funny coincidence--the bald detective in Vampire Sisters is the killer clown in my FOC movies...

It IS a small world.