So you can read my books

Thursday, May 13, 2010


How did this happen?

Not our space shuttle fleet going into mothballs --

even though experts say they all have ten more safe years to them. After all, as Billy Bob Thornton said in that famous asteroid movie, "It's a big a__ sky." That and there is a lot of space junk floating up there. We may need those shuttles in the next ten years.

No. How do movies like LEGION go wrong? Nick, my co-worker and Mr. EveryMan movie audience, scratched his head and asked that question of LEGION.

"I mean, Roland, it had great actors, access to the best special effects around, and you know it cost millions upon millions to make. And with all that, they made crap? How does stuff like this happen?"

Bad writing.

Lucy Lawless, siren of XENA and SPARTACUS, is reported to have said, "If it ain't on the page, it dies on the stage."

Amen, Xena.

So who's to blame? The Four Quadrants. And no, that is not the Cajun branch of the Illuminati. It's how Hollywood grades movies.

The four quadrants :
Males : Above & Below the age of 25
Females : Above & Below the age of 25

The best quadrant? Males below the age of 25. They will go alone to movies they like. They are more apt to take friends to said movie, making an event of it.

The next best? Females below the age of 25. They won't go alone. But often drag their boyfriends after going to two of their action movies in a row.

So the best film to make obviously is a chick flick with guns.

Don't laugh. That's why we have KILLERS with Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher along with the movie, KNIGHT & DAY, with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

Hollywood is a business. And on date night, you've got to go see something. The Four Quadrants will make studios money. Story is secondary.

But not to us writers. And the shame of it is that a good story costs just as much as a bad one. And the repeat viewings of a great film makes more money in the long run.

Case in point :

Take the new STAR TREK. The beginning made me root for and like Kirk's father. He cared about his crew, loved his wife, and died so that she and his son could live. I wanted to watch a movie about him. What happens?

We get a scene of kid-Kirk being a jerk and nearly getting killed. We get another of punk-Kirk getting rightly trashed by cadets in a bar. I didn't like Kirk. And that's how you tell a bad story, making the hero one you don't like.

They wanted Kirk with authority issues and attitude from being fatherless. Fine. Kid-Kirk sees his younger half-brother being roughed up by his step-father for touching his antique car.

Kirk steps in for the boy, gets slapped, makes a smart remark {"What? You working your way up to old ladies and cripples?"} Step-Dad leaves. Kid-Kirk cocks an eyebrow at his brother and goes, "You want to go for a spin?" Now, you have the attitude, neurosis, plus a kid who you care about and like. And the neat car chase.

Punk-Kirk in bar. Hits on Uhura. She fluffs him off. "Your loss, babe," he shrugs.

Up struts an oaf of a cadet who paws Uhura. She protests. Oaf grabs her arm. Uhura winces in pain, just about to hand the guy his head on her own. But Kirk steps in and says, "The lady said no, bruno."

Fights ensues. Kirk gets lecture that turns his life around. But now you care about Kirk and like him. You want him to win, not just because you know his legend, but because of who he is at the moment, flaws and all. That's good story-telling -- making the audience care and root for your hero right at the start.

Hollywood has confused "cool" with character.

You care about Neo from the start of THE MATRIX. Any daydreaming shift worker identifies with Arnold right from the start of TOTAL RECALL. Inside most Sci-Fi men you will find a Walter Mitty or a Chuck from the TV series of the same name.

Hollywood loves its pre-sold franchises. Sometimes they work. Most times they don't. I shudder to think what the movie A-TEAM will be on the screen. But the studio executives know that people reading their computer headlines will know the answer to that most important question : "What is it about?"

Franchises gives the reader of the movie ad a clear mental image of what the movie promises. If the story is lousy or the film veers too far off the historical image. Low traffic. Sink hole where ticket sales should be.

Domestic ticket sales used to account for 60% of a movie's overall profits. Now, it's down to 40%. Worldwide ticket sales are now the make or break aspect of a movie.

The movie must be readily understood universally. Franchises are ideal for that. Also killer titles : Legally Blonde, Crazies, 4 Christmases, and FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE {the title for my book -- hey, I can dream, can't I?}

Hollywood is not about art or about quality. It is about profits. showBUSINESS it is called for a reason. If on top of the 4 quadrants, your movie script is medium-budget, filmed entirely in one location -- and you are the screen writer, you may have to run out of the exec's office to keep him from giving you a wet kiss.

Well, that's it for my thoughts on Hollywood's deficiencies. How about yours? What recent movie had you asking, "What were they thinking of? -- How did this happen? -- They spent millions of dollars on this?" Please tell me. I'm interested.

Again, I am musing in preparation for my two talks at the CON DU LAC Sci-Fi convention here in Lake Charles in June. Come check out its website, will you?

And there was one excellent fantasy movie that connected to viewers because it paid attention to the details of life : its losses, its loves, and its enduring hope that the next dawn would be brighter if only you would not give up.

And readers, never give up. Never. Your dream may be waiting for you just around the corner if you will only take those next few steps. Keep walking. Keep trying. I'll be rooting for you that your dream clasps your hand in the darkness, pulling you into the light, Roland


  1. I remember that episode of Star Trek!

    Thank you for your last paragraph! It was just what I needed tonight!

  2. Thank you, Betty. I'm glad my words helped in some small way. You never know how close you are to that key moment, that fortunate crossroads, so keep walking, keep swinging.

    Let the waves of adversity wash over you. Like a rugged cliff face, you will abide and stand. I've read your blog. The woman who wrote those posts has the substance of legends. You can be your own hero, your own legend. It is there in your words and in your heart. Roland

  3. I totally enjoyed this post. My husband and I have discussed this very thing often. He's in "The Biz" and has seen some pretty silly tripe get through because of politics. It isn't ALL about money or they wouldn't throw around giant budgets on crummy movies--again and again. POLITICS.
    And I totally agree that they do confuse "cool" (aka narcissism, self destrution, sociopathic behavior) with character...because I suppose daring to be as ass makes you STRONG. (;

  4. Your article is very interesting. It is getting harder and harder to find a gem of a movie. I am reminded though of films such as Juno and The Kite Runner-box office winners without the Hollywood hype. There's a possibility, a hope that maybe people in all four quadrants are drawn to quality.
    "I'll be rooting for you that your dream clasps your hand in the darkness, pulling you into the light, Roland" Same back to you, Roland.

  5. you nailed it, bro!

    because my younger daughter wanted to see the newest disney version of dickens' "a christmas carol", we went

    except for some fab animation, i was mostly disappointed, esp by garbage scenes added as 'fill'

    despite the exceptional animation, a long sequence did not advance to tale

    the lame redux of the 'spirit of christmas yet to come' from the earlier 'mickey's christmas carol', totally sucked as a 3d character

    even my daughter thought they were too lazy to come up with anything better, counting on the short memories of many movie goers....

  6. it's 3:17am here, too groggy to see how to enable my email on my page... what do i need to do?

  7. Laughing Wolf, go to your dashboard. Hit edit profile. You'll go to a page with a listing of items. Check the box in front of Email and hit SAVE at the bottom of the listing. You then should have your email listed in your profile.

    Next send me the email of Megan Fox ... just checking if you were paying attention. Roland

  8. Ah, don't tell me Legion isn't as good as it's trailer. I've been looking forward to that one.

    But, I understand about hollywood hype. I looked forward to seeing Terminator Salvation for a long time. Spent way too much of my ex's paycheck at the theater, drug The Bug along so it didn't feel like a date. The movie was good; but I felt there were too many plot points missing.

    If it was book, it'd be like reading the plot outline. Good by itself, but needing the a lot of filler to make it an actual story.

    Same with Avatar. Seriously good movie in terms of special effects, world, and character development. But the plot was a tired one; a cross between Dances With Wolves and Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern series.

    Not that these movies weren't worth watching; just that they didn't live up to my expectations.

    I approve of your casting call for NOCTURN, and when it hits the theaters I will already have read the book three or four times to be sure I'm intimately familiar with the story. I'll be a hard critic indeed if the movie falls short - as so many novels do.

    I just bought Time Travelers Wife though I don't know when I'll find the time to read it. Like The Road, I refuse to see the movie before reading the novels.

    I've read The Lovely Bones, and just from the trailers, I can already tell I'll be disappointed with the movie.

    But your's will be different. Like Lord OF The Rings, you'll trust your audience to sit a longer movie, so all the important scenes will be acted out in all its glory. You'll insist, because your blog readers will seriously trash you if you don't.

    Tsk, tsk, you don't want that review of your over budgeted movie, now do you?


  9. yeah but Kirk had an arc. I liked him from the beginning, with real flaws.

    But I agree with you on the majority of movies. They are complete drivel. and only concerned about marketing over actual story content.

  10. OOOps I'm a bad demographic!

    I'm 40, female and have always preferred to watch films ALONE so I could enjoy it for myself. And I loved, loved, loved the new Star Trek film!! I don't remember that scene where the step dad roughs up Kirk's brother? I must have seen an edited ST film here in the UK! I didn't quite understand the whole time-travelling shift thingies plot going on with ST but I was rooting for young Kirk and his merry band of younger ST stalwarts - even with the Uhura/Spock shenanigans going on!

    Oh ok, nuff of me and my Trekker life! LOL!

    Oh and Xena. My ultimate inspiration!! Now if only the writers got rid of Gabrielle...


    Take care

  11. thx bud... done!

    as for her email addy, if i had it, you'd be the first i passed it on to ;) lol

    kit, the scene you missed was only in roland's brain ;) Lol

  12. Ooh, you know what disappointed the hell out of me? CLASH OF THE TITANS. Ugh. I mean what the hell happened there? Here I am thinking, oh boy! Fiennes! Neeson! I couldn't WAIT to see that damned Kraken, too (which ended up being some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fiasco of CGI). When those two powerhouse actors met and clashed in their Big! Climactic! Scene! It was merely a "meh." You could see even they didn't care, that they were doing throw-away roles. Boo. And the 3D and over-the-top yet somehow awfully *pedestrian* special effects just made it hard to look at.

    I'll take Harryhausen's original any day. At least his stop-motion animation lent it some *charm*. (Also, I may be the only person on earth to admit this, but Downey Jr. also left me feeling "meh" in Iron Man 2. Mainly just the big fight scene. Talk about anticlimactic. Sigh.)

  13. Great post Roland, astute AND thought provoking which is of course why it is a great read. I completely agree about that Star Trek movie - it was still fun for the effects but I didn't give a damn about young Kirk.

    One recent movie that had me wondering was the remake of Clash of the Titans. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very good either - and I also loved What Dreams May Come. I can't watch the video here at work but I do recognize it.

  14. There are so many things that can go wrong with a movie. Casting, acting, writing, funding, location, promotion, sets, costumes, accents (or lack thereof). Sometimes they think special effects will overcome everything else.

  15. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but:

    The last big disappoinment for me was The Devil Wears Prada. Now, I don't go to movies/watch TV, and I just saw this last week on Netflix. Boy am I sorry I wasted my time. Of course, i'm not a chick-lit fan eiher, so that was part of the problem.

    It was boring and predictable,pretty much like all the movies I've seen in the last 10 years. With very few exceptios.

    Probably why I prefer action/suspense ones that really make me think, too) to any oher genre.

    I tagged you on my blog today.

  16. You make some good points. I love to see movies, but it's harder and harder to find one I want to watch in the theaters. I'll be positive and say that I went to see Date Night a couple of weeks ago because my husband wanted to. I normally don't care for comedies, but I think the guy next to me was getting annoyed because I kept laughing so much. That movie was a pleasant surprise.

  17. We have Netfix coming automatically to the tv courtesy of the roommates x-box. Unfortunately, it is now a window of garbage. One bad movie after another runs across the tv with the men in my apartment watching it. How can they stand the garbage? I have to put on headphones to block out the horrible dialogue. The trash availible is overwhelming. I can't wait until they go back to playing world of warcraft. At least that has no dialogue.

  18. Very interesting and thought provoking. I have been very surprised at the number of times hollywood has taken a great book and then created a bad movie. I've never been sure if it's the switch of genres or if the directors just mess up that particular movie even though they have a great framework to start wtih.

  19. What a great post. I completely agree with you about Hollywood. In the end, it is about money! That last paragraph was just what I needed to read before starting my writing for the day. Thanks :)

  20. Roland, not sure if you check back where you commented, but I noted today you have a masters in Psych, which is what I have--I find it fun to find people with the same roots, even if our other stuff is different.

    It's funny--I don't see a lot of movies, but when they suffer from bad writing, it makes me SO SAD. I've also seen bad direction, which is REALLY sad--nobody should be making a movie without a decent director. But it seems the most COMMON complaint I have is bad editing. Movies from books and scenes that are PRIVETAL end up on the cutting room floor... that just pisses the hell out of me. Then again, I am over 25 and female, so what do I count?

    (totally agree though, that they need to make any MC sympathetic)

  21. Wow. What a thought-provoking post, Roland! I especially appreciated the last paragraph. Thanks for the perfect words to carry me into the weekend.

    Have a great weekend! :-)

  22. I totally agree with Legion. It had a great concept but it just sucked! And great point regarding the mix of girls and guns, I really am looking forward to the Cruise- Diaz movie!

    But I like Kirk from the new Star Trek. His father scene however was very strong, Im with you on it: It was one of the best oif the movie. True american hero, kirks dad.

  23. Any time I see a costly movie tank, I shake my head.

  24. HI Roland, yes you did thank me for the award :o))) and thanks for your lovely comment. I hope you are catching up on sleep!

    This was a great post. Enjoyed reading it.