What’s Up With My Annabelle Creation?

What’s Up With My Annabelle Creation?

Just under a week ago RedLetterMedia’s Half in the Bag episode for Annabelle: Creation dropped on YouTube. What’s more fascinating than the review of the film itself is Mike and Jay talking about the My Annabelle Creation contest. The idea of the contest was for up and coming filmmakers to craft a short film set within the “Conjuring” universe. The winner of the contest was awarded a meeting with New Line execs and director David F. Sandberg about developing the short into a feature length film in the vein of the Conjuring film universe. On the surface it sounds like a fantastic idea, until Mike pulls out some of the fine print from the contest’s rules and found some pretty shady details. In this article I wanted to take a look at this controversy, what’s been said by others since the RLM review, and what it all could mean. So, without further ado let’s get to it.

-What’s the Big Deal?-

Within the rules of the contest the studio is given a three year option to make a feature length version of the film for fifty dollars. If the option is exorcised with the three year time frame another fifty dollars will be paid to the creator. This in and of itself is a rather shady deal. A typical option on other material (i.e. A script, novel, comic) lasts from twelve to eighteen months with a claus to extend the option by three to six months. Even if a film has an eighteen month option extended for the additional six that’s a still a year less than the contest’s.

In addition to the exclusivity of the option let’s look at the monetary amount provided for said option. Fifty dollars is not only insultingly low by typical standard option prices, but it makes the purchase price even worse. A typical option for a non-WGA affiliated writer tends to be around a couple thousand dollars. Not much, but still more than fifty. But an option’s price is often a percentage of what the purchase price will be. Example, your option could be $1,000 or ten percent of the purchase price. Making the script’s sale around $10,000. That mean’s that Annabelle: Creation’s option is 100% of the purchase price.

-What are the Best/Worst Case Scenarios?-

From the looks of everything presented New Line holds all the cards in this deal. Although if we play the Devil’s advocate there are “potential” perks for winner Julian Terry and his short The Nurse. The best case scenario would be that Terry gets to move forward crafting a feature length film based off The Nurse. Along with his debut film being studio produced it could include a strong marketing campaign and wide theatrical release. Not bad for a director’s first feature length film.

Even if the studio decides not move forward with the feature that doesn’t mean Terry is out of luck. Winning this contest has raised his profile to the point where he has been in contact with multiple talent managers. Anyone struggling to break into studio filmmaking knows how big of a coup it is to get a manager. This gives Terry the ability to get other projects he’s working on off the ground. I have no doubt other studios/producers have seen The Nurse and would be interested in bringing Terry in to direct a film for them. Still not a bad deal.

The worst case scenario would be to see New Line take The Nurse and develop the feature length version without Terry’s involvement. In that case he’s left with a hundred dollars and watching from the sidelines as The Nurse gets made. The cynic in me sees how this could happen, but the optimist in me wants to hope that Terry has an ally in his corner. David F. Sandberg has come out after the controversy stirred up stating that he’s talking with New Line to clarify the agreement. Sandberg’s short Lights Out was optioned by New Line leading to his own feature film debut. His hand in this contest feels like a genuinely good guy who caught a break wanting to help another filmmaker catch a similar break. Although he may not be a big name (yet) he’s made two films for New Line that have grossed over a hundred million dollars on relatively small budgets. If New Line wants to stay in business with Sandberg they’ll listen to his concerns and make sure Terry comes out of this contest with a good deal.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think that all this controversy is warranted? Or is this just the Internet blowing things out of proportion? Would you be interested in seeing The Nurse become part of the Conjuring universe? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

Dissecting the Low Box Office of Summer 2017

Dissecting the Low Box Office of Summer 2017

With the summer film season pretty much over there has been a lot of talk about the low numbers at the box office. We’ve heard the trouble that AMC Theaters is facing with a huge dip in their profits and Wanda Group buying up a large chunk of their stock. So in an age when we’re seeing more films break the billion dollar mark how is there such a huge slump? What’s sailing and what’s crashing? Is there any reason besides the quality of a film that is to blame for this? Today I will start sifting through the rubble and give my personal opinions on the matter.

-3D is on the Decline-

Hard to believe that it’s been eight years since Avatar came out with studios taking away the wrong lesson from the film. Since then we’ve seen multiple films that have used this tool as a way to tack a few extra bucks to ticket prices as a means to inflate box office numbers. Over the past eight years I’ve noticed the number of 3D showtimes slowly start to taper off. Most filmgoers (myself included) have been turned off by the over saturation. 3D is no longer something used to enhance a story and people are sick of shelling out for it. While studios don’t care theater chains have taken note and book more 2D showtimes than 3D. I know that personally that it has been over three years since I saw a 3D film (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and I have no intention of changing that anytime soon.

-Franchises/Cinematic Universes Are Not a Sure Bet-

Every year I have to talk about the sequels, reboots, or other franchise non-starters that failed. Why did (insert brand name and number here) not make money? How did Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean go from a billion dollar fourth films to a fifth one that will not crack $800 million? Let’s just state right now that neither of those films were bombs, but they definitely underwhelmed. People are not getting tired of sequels (we’ll come back to that), but they’re tired of mediocre films. Both On Stranger Tides and Age of Extinction coasted off the success of their previous films so who would want to see a fifth film if it’s predecessor didn’t measure up?

Now we come to what has become the biggest detriment to modern blockbusters. The obligatory cinematic universe where movies don’t need to be sequels, but can leech off of each others success to sell tickets. People have seen how Marvel changed the game and now want to copy and paste that style. The biggest faceplant right out the gate was Universal’s Dark Universe with this summer’s The Mummy. Previously Universal has tried to make this idea work with Dracula Untold which didn’t make the money they’d hoped. But if at first you don’t succeed, ignore the previous film and try again. The Mummy tried to right the ship and get this universe on track. Unfortunately instead of telling an entertaining self contained story it put the cart five miles before the horse planting the seeds for films that are still in pre-production. Nobody wants to see a film who’s main goal is to sell us on another story.

-Comic Movies Are Still Successful-

Every year people continue to predict that the superhero bubble is going to burst. While there have been some clunkers in the past few years the majority are making bank. Marvel continues their winning streak with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pulling in over $800 million. Spider-Man: Homecoming sits at a healthy $700 million with a few major territories rolling the film out in the coming months. The DCEU upped their game with Wonder Woman raking in nearly $800 million. The best part: all three of these film received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Are we going to see superhero films crash and burn? More than likely, trends in films are cyclical as we’ve seen with the western genre. But for now it’s safe to say this genre is bankable.

-New Apparently Isn’t the Answer-

It’s funny how people have spent what feels like decades decrying Hollywood for having no original ideas. In a time when brand recognition is the biggest asset Hollywood can achieve the number of non-franchise films are diminishing. This year we had a handful of original films that had mixed results at the box office. Both Baby Driver and Dunkirk pulled in a decent return on their investment, but let’s focus on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. An ambitious space opera based off a French manga directed by Luc Beeson. It may be based off a pre-existing property, but pull fifty people in a crowd and ask them if they’ve heard of this manga. The trailers were flashy and they had two young people in the lead. And yet, a so so story really hampered this film. So while it was original it wasn’t fantastic. We need quality to go with originality.

-The Diminishing Importance of Summer-

Once Jaws came out in 1975 and made bank it changed how studios released their yearly slate of films. Since then there has been a very specific pattern in how films are released. January: The dumping ground for films studios have no faith in. February/March: Genre films that have no other place in the year. April: Key up for the summer. May/June/July/August: The moneymaker months! September/October: Comedy and Horror films predominantly. November/December: Films vying for Oscars and a handful of blockbusters released over holiday weekends. In the late 2000’s that thought process changed. 300 was a moderately budgeted film that opened on March 9th, 2007 and made over $450 million. After this studios decided to look at weekends throughout year where there was zero competition from others and popped in films hoping to dominate the box office. Spreading out high budget films has now become a major way to hedge their bets. This year alone Beauty and the Beast, The Fate of the Furious, and Logan all opened before the summer started and pulled in a large amount of money. Had they opened in the May-August timeline odds are their numbers wouldn’t have been nearly as strong.

-In Conclusion-

So while studios try to distill all these problems into one easy answer they miss the point. You can not think one solution will fix a summer slump. And let’s be honest it’s a slump, nothing more.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Did you enjoy the summer films? Did you decide to stay home and binge watch Netflix and Hulu? What was your favorite/worst films of the summer. Let me know. Remember, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

PS: I’m working on something special for an upcoming article. If I can crack it be prepared something a little different from my usual style.

No One Sets Out to Make a Bad Film?

No One Sets Out to Make a Bad Film?

Bad films are gauged on a critical spectrum all their own. Whether you have films that are high concept failures (The Last Airbender), low budget schlock (Silent Night Deadly Night: Part 2, Street Trash, and numerous other 80’s horror films), so bad they’re good (Tammy and the T-Rex is a personal favorite of mine), movies that set out to be prestige pictures only to fail miserably (United Passions), and the rare film that transcends it’s terrible reputation to become a cultural milestone (The Room, Troll 2) there is no limit to the long list of bad films. We’re often told with multiple misfires that no one sets out to make a bad film. Ed Wood wanted to craft an important film with Glen or Glenda and 20th Century Fox wanted to reboot a superhero franchise with Fant4stic. Neither of these got the reception their creators had hoped, but what about other films? Have we entered a time where the market for terrible films is now being targeted by opportunistic directors, producers, and studios? Let’s take a look at some of the recent trends in bad filmmaking and how they’re contributing bad films in a bad way.

-The Mockbuster Market-

This is something that truly bothers me. The term “mockbuster” came into the filmmaking lexicon around the mid 2000’s. Basically when a large tentpole film gets released in theatres (Thor) a company will release a low-budget knock-off with a similar title direct to video in hopes of exploiting consumer ignorance (Almighty Thor). The most notable example of this is the production company The Asylum. While they originally made low budget films with original concepts (and still do occasionally) all that changed when their version War of the Worlds was released to coincide with the big budget Cruise/Spielberg remake. With a hit on their hands multiple films got released in this vein (Snakes on a Train, Sunday School Musical, Transmorphers, and numerous more) continuing the trend to this day. While this is by no means a current trend as these kinds of films have been around for ages. In fact: if you look back to the late 70’s early 80’s there were numerous films that tried to capitalize on the success of Star Wars. Some of these films have gone onto be classics in a somewhat odd fashion. Piranha rode the success of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, but in turn launched the career of Joe Dante. Who coincidentally went on to direct the Spielberg produced Gremlins. The difference is now it has become a legitimate industry instead of a one off film from a producer looking to make a quick buck to finance their next project.

-Content for Cable-

My family got cable for the first time when I was a kid and it was exciting. I now had channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network at my disposal. Along the way I branched into other major networks. USA was where I initially saw films like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Critters, but along with them I saw films like Mosquito and the previously mentioned Tammy and the T-Rex. USA created the spin-off Sci-Fi channel (now known as SyFy) and this is where things got interesting. Many numerous bad films found their way onto this channel and developed a niche following. Then came 2013, there was an abnormal amount of buzz surrounding one of these films. Sharknado (a film from the previously mentioned The Asylum) hit Internet forums like an atom bomb propelling the film to a limited theatrical release and became a multi-film franchise. While the original film may have been an attempt at taking a kooky idea and make something from it the three sequels upped the ridiculous factor just to get more from this insanity. So much so that Sharknado 5: Global Meltdown debuted last night and the possibility of a sixth film not out of the question.

-Critics of the Bad-

Oh boy, here is the big factor that for me has shifted bad filmmaking into the norm. Looking back the kickstarter of this trend was the classic (and thankfully still going strong) series Mystery Science Theater 3000. What makes this show so endearing is how relatable it has always been. Who hasn’t sat around with friends and cracked jokes at a film they’re watching? With the rise of Youtube many people flocked to the platform to critique media. I’ve talked previously about a handful of these channels, but I’d like to shift my focus towards Youtuber I Hate Everything. He has a series titled “The Search for the Worst” where he berates some of lowest rent films made. One of his reviews was for the film “The Amazing Bulk”. In typical fashion he ripped the film to shreds. Surprisingly Wide Eye Releasing the company who distributed the film got in contact with him. They thanked him for raising the profile of the film and even sent him a gift. Along side the gift was a copy of their film “Shark Exorcist”. Yep, this is where things have gone. A studio now relishes the attention a bad review can give that they will go out of their way to make similar situation occur with another film. This to me is proof that some bad films are no longer a fluke. And this is what bugs me the most. What’s the point of putting forth any effort if you can film mediocrity and bank on notoriety to sell it?

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do people now set out with the intention of making a bad film? Do you think an industry of terrible films is a problem? Or does it just give people more options for their entertainment? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @sdfilmthoughts and Instagram. As always, thanks for reading.