Why Hollywood has NOT “run out of ideas”

After a post on how overused remakes and reboots have become, I felt I needed to just clarify one thing that tends to come up during discussions of such topics: the notion that Hollywood has “run out of ideas”.

Now, let me make it clear now that this statement, in my opinion, is wholly false. Allow me to elaborate on why that is.

Saying Hollywood has run out of ideas seems to make one of two false assumptions: either that Hollywood only has a single screenwriter who creates literally every movie, or that any screenwriter has a chance to make a movie in Hollywood.

The truth of the matter is that the film industry has countless writers, successful or not, creative or not, many of whom may have fantastic, unique, and original ideas. Unfortunately, not all of them will get the chance to bring such ideas to the big screen.

See, when it comes to making a movie, usually those who come up with the idea will pitch it to the executives of a studio, in an attempt to get funding. I have complained a lot about Hollywood executives in the past, so let’s just give a clear precise explanation as to why that is. Executives are, for the most part, not creative people. They are entrepreneurial people. They know about business, not about art or writing. Executives usually don’t give a shit as to whether a movie is good, creative, inspiring, or unique. They care about how marketable it is, and that’s it. If they think a movie isn’t enough to draw in a mainstream audience, then they aren’t going to fund it.

And, I’m not going to lie, they sort of have a point. Writers and directors get paid regardless of how well a movie does at the box office. Sure, a flop might kill their future career, but they are generally going to get paid for the flop regardless. It’s the studio making the gamble, and it’s the studio that will lose the cash if it fails. And yes, sometimes even good movies with stellar ideas can be box office bombs, simply because they were so difficult to market to audience.

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When not even a best picture nomination can save them

In other words, the reason so many films seem so similar isn’t because of a lack of creativity due to the writers, but because the studios only fund those they’re certain are safe bets in terms of making money. Most movies are adaptions because the original work already has fans. Most blockbusters follow the recent trends, like being a movie about superheroes.

The problem with this, of course, is that safe can often become stale. I understand why the people who believe Hollywood has run out of ideas are angry, even if they are directing the anger at the wrong source. Because the studios are so determined to play it safe, that anything unique and original is all too often ignored and abandoned because it’s too much of a risk.

But is there potential for change?

Possibly. One can always point to independent cinema as a place where artists and writers may create what they want. This has worked wonders for a certain other creative industry, that of course being the video game industry. Nowadays, thanks to crowdfunding, and the ability to sell games on sites like Steam at very little cost, independent gaming has proven it can easily survive without the big name publishers. Nowadays, strange games that go against the typical Call-of-Duty-clone mould are showing up left right and centre.

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For better or for worse

Unfortunately, movies may not be so lucky. Unlike games which, in the absolute right hands, can be made by one person who knows how to code, movies require a whole cast and crew, and can’t be made in the comfort of your own home (with the obvious exception of found footage horror).

While the costs of salaries, equipment, props and locations may be covered, at the end of the day, it’s the distribution that often proves to be the problem. Truly independent movies will often go unnoticed, and may be shown in limited theatres. While the independent video game’s industry has proven it can be successful when implemented correctly, it still has the advantage of the ease of selling a game online, rather than trying to get movies into theatres, and have people come to see them during limited release times.

Maybe someday this will change. Maybe crowdfunding will expand to the point where kickstarted million dollar movies will become commonplace. Maybe independent filmmakers will be able to take advantage of the growing popularity of Netflix. But the point is, no matter how, when, or even if strange and unique movies studios wouldn’t touch with a barge pole start to get made and grow in popularity, there are probably plenty of screenwriters out there with the ideas in their heads.

They haven’t run out of ideas. They just don’t have the opportunity to let them be anything more than ideas.

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