Yes. It is. Let's have a reality check, Wavers.
As The Wave-inatrix is often wont to say, they don't call it show FRIENDS. Movie making is obviously a business. A huge business. A business which amounts to a significant percentage of California's economy. But business ain't so good lately.
Excerpted from The Wall Street Journal:
Last year, more than 600 feature films -- mostly independent movies not produced at a major studio -- were released theatrically in the U.S., up from 466 in 2002, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. That's an average of 2.6 more movies every weekend that are battling for the public's attention.
But those figures are just for the films that make it to the silver screen. Many more films, such as "Boyfriend," with big-name actors or directors never make it to theaters. More than 3,600 feature films were submitted for consideration at Sundance Film Festival this year, and while many of those are tiny digital flicks that never have a chance of commercial release, the number is up from about 2,000 feature submissions just five years ago.
The frothy marketplace means more choices for movie fans, and more headaches for a struggling industry. In 2007, domestic box-office revenue totaled $9.68 billion, up from $9.3 billion in 2006, according to box-office tracker Media by Numbers. Box-office revenue has grown since 2005 because of higher ticket prices, but attendance started dropping last year. This year, attendance is down 4.74% from the same time a year ago. Lower attendance should trim box-office revenues for 2008 to around $9.6 billion, Media by Numbers projects.
Today, the credit crunch is putting the brakes on outside film financing.
To read the entire article, click HERE.
If you are anything like The Wave-inatrix, being a creative, you might get through that article with a slight blah-blah-blah-Ginger* thing going on. But the upshot is pretty clear. The movie business is in trouble. Big trouble.
Living in Los Angeles, with premieres happening seemingly constantly, with billboards looming over every city block advertising the newest movie, with EW magazine arriving weekly with weeky movie reviews, fall movie previews, spring movie previews, Oscar movie predictions, etc., it's hard to tell. But the article excerpted above makes no bones about a hard, cold financial reality.
There's trouble. Trouble in Tinsel Town City.
So how does this reality mesh with my Unified Unicorn Theory of positive thinking? How does a writer maintain optimism in the face of hard, cold facts?
Read carefully, now, this is historic; it's a rare day when the Wave-inatrix has a negative point to make. Over time, I have had a handful of clients who are optimistic to a fault about the chances of their project getting made. And no matter what I say about the realities of the market, they absolutely INSIST that studios will clamor to make their project. Despite my warnings about the market and the commercial realities of the project. Part of me loves such determination and enthusiasm. And another part of me grows annoyed - you aren't HEARING me. I love that you love your project. I love your enthusiasm. But you need to get real about the perceived merits of the project and you need to get real about the fact that many, many superior projects are lined up in front of you and THEY aren't getting sold much less produced. I don't see this attitude as optimism, I see it as Willful & Foolish Wrong-Headedness. Or WFWH for short.
There's optimism and positive thinking and living in the Unified Unicorn Field and then there's WFWH; a stubborn refusal to accept that there are larger forces at work here.
As the director of The Script Department, it would be foolish, irresponsible and unethical for me to mislead my clientele into thinking that the market is wide open and that they have a greater chance, by far, then they really do of making a living as a screenwriter. It's Hollywood - in the best of times, for truly gifted writers, the odds are terrible. And right now it's not the best of times.
So how on earth can we, as writers, understand and acknowledge the reality of the marketplace:
...Hollywood executives fear the glut created by the recent spate of overproduction is going to be felt for at least a couple more years. Some people say the worst of the oversupply problem is still about a year away.
"We're at the top of the curve heading down," says Hal Sadoff, head of international and independent film at ICM, one of the major talent agencies in Hollywood. "We've seen many of these financial institutions, private-equity firms and hedge funds pull away from the industry. But the films that they have advanced are still in production, and it will take another six to 12 months for the market to regularize again."
- and also know that humans need stories and that we need to tell them? Why bother, right?
Well, here's some stuff to think about:
Venues for storytelling are shifting rapidly. Online mediums abound. Read this article from Variety about digital novels.
This glut is predicted to have repercussions for almost two years. And nobody knows what the market will look like after that. See above: venues. shifting. rapidly. And god knows what other unpredictable factors lie ahead of us. The price of fuel, the larger economy, the discovery of life on Mars, a meteor strike, the cure for cancer - we cannot know what the future holds.
It takes the average screenwriter, anecdotally, ten years or ten scripts (whichever comes first) to make a sale. So for those of you rearing to go (often pronounced RARING but this is a pronunciation issue; the horse REARS up at the bit or chomps at the bit, eager to go. Or bummed there's a sharp piece of metal strapped into its mouth.) you may have to cool your jets some and rethink the various mediums and venues for your writing. For Willful-Wrong-Headers, it's time to emerge from the Land of Nod and wake up to some realities.
There are many better writers than you. The market is very tough right now. It can take years to write a script with a great concept, executed well, that will be sold, produced and consumed by movie-goers. Still want to keep working on your writing?
On the other hand:
There are more outlets for writing today than ever before. For better or worse, a huge democratization has occurred. Frustrated you can't get your articles published in a periodical? Start your own blog. Lay waste to the competition with no pesky editors with stupid comments and late checks. Have a great idea for an SNL skit? Produce it yourself for the cost of a week's groceries and put it on You Tube. Want to write a novel but don't have five years? Write it line by line on your cell phone and publish instantaneously!
But here's the thing: if your blog My Brilliance Daily doesn't have good, entertaining content, nobody is going to stick around and read it. The more visitors you get, the more fun you have writing your blog. The fewer visitors you get and....you deflate like a balloon.
If nobody clicks on your brilliant You Tube skit, Failed, Bitter Medieval Entrepreneurs, suddenly the joy is sucked out of the project. If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Not really. We writers seek not only to express but to entertain. We enjoy our validation. We like to know that you responded to our writing. Right? Right.
So despite the proliferation of writing opportunities, the cream will continue to rise to the top. Audiences gravitate to that which entertains them. And despite the economic realities of the movie business, people will always want to be entertained. It's as old as time. HOW that entertainment is presented has run the gamut from throwing Christians to the lions to CASABLANCA to improv comedy to Twitter.
There's big trouble in the movie business right now. What are you going to do about that? If you're in it for MONEY and FAME you should walk away right now. If you're in it because you have to tell stories and you can be flexible about the outlets for those stories, keep writing.
*Gary Larson Far Side cartoon:
The first panel is titled "What we say to dogs." A man is scolding his
dog. The man's word-balloon says this: "Okay, Ginger! I've had it! You
stay out of the garbage! Understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage,
The second panel is titled "What they hear." The drawing is exactly
like the first panel, but this time the man's word-balloon says "Blah
blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah
blah blah blah."