Why Original Films Are Important
A couple days ago I went to go see Inside Out. I didn't write a review because our other writer, Rob, already wrote one (which you can read here). But I absolutely loved it. The concept was brilliant, and the execution was almost flawless. The result of over five years of writing, rewriting and planning resulted in a near perfect film that has every right to stand among the other Pixar greats. But in reflecting the movie, I realized just how important original movies are to film. In this day in age, the box office is overrun by high budgeted blockbusters that are apart of franchises. When movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Furious 7 rule the box office, it makes it hard for purely original films to have the spotlight. I have nothing against the blockbusters. I enjoy them thoroughly, but even the blindest of blockbuster lovers (so pretty much anyone who's a fan of the Transformers movies) would admit that they exclude smaller films.
Here's what I mean. Studios make movies to make money. Sure, it's important to them to make movies good (mainly because that makes them more money in the end), but all their decisions are purely for money. That's not a bad thing. The film industry is a business like anything else, and people are putting up their millions of dollars as an investment with expectations to make a profit. It's really no different from any other industry. But what has happened is that the studios look at the playing field and see what is a very true observation-- the audience (being us) spend more money on blockbusters and franchises than original films. So what do these studios do? They put their funding towards franchises, which leaves little to no money for smaller, original movies, because they are a bigger box office risk. You put financing towards Jurassic World, you know you will at least make your money back, if not make a (significant) profit. You put financing towards an artistic film no one's ever heard of, you can't guarantee you'll make anything.
Just look at Tomorrowland. It was an original film produced by Disney. It was written and directed by Brad Bird, and had everything going for it. Disney took a huge risk by financing it, giving the film a $190 million dollar budget, plus another $150 million for marketing. That's $340 million right there, plus the theater companies' cuts for playing the film. The movie has only made $202 million worldwide, losing the studio close to $140 million dollars. When this news broke, we wrote an article about it, which you can read here. Original movies are not safe box office bets, and therefore are not funded as much or as often as blockbuster films. If they don't get the financing, they don't get made. And then what happens? Independent filmmakers who have incredible talent don't get to see the light of day because no one will finance their films.
But even though original films struggle to get made, here's why they are pivotal to the film industry as a whole. Original movies are the ones to take the leap. They are the experimental, artistic films to take a chance and do something different. When a filmmaker is strapped for cash, he will have to make choices on how to get a shot or something along those lines, which encourages creativity. That is how the steadicam was created. The director of photography on Rocky, James Crabe, wasn't able to get a track to move the camera, as the film didn't have the budget for it. So he invented the steadicam in order to get hand-held shots without shaking the camera. Original films have the opportunity to push forward something new and innovative that may or may not be adopted into the rest of the industry.
Original films will always be made. There's just no way that as long as movies are being made that there won't be original films. But it's harder to make them today than it was twenty or thirty years ago. But they are not any less important today than they were before. They can experiment and try new things out. They have to be creative to compensate for a lack of budget, which wield incredible results. It has in the past. These movies allow young filmmakers to rise up and become known. There are very few directors or actors that simply started out with blockbusters. They all started with doing original, independent film and became noticed. If it wasn't for Memento, the world never would have known Christopher Nolan. If it wasn't for The Terminator, no one would know who James Cameron is. Original films allow directors, writers, actors and anyone else involved in the creation of film to flourish, and hopefully rise up the ranks into Hollywood.
So this is my message to you. Support original movies. Go out to the theater to see them. You may never have heard of the director, or haven't seen any TV spots or anything. But the more we see them, the more studios will make them. On many occasions, it's the original films that are the best of the year. My favorite movie of 2014 was Whiplash, and that was without a doubt an original, independent film. It may not have the huge A-list actor, or have a huge budget for action spectacle, but what original films do so well is that they tell a story. They have incredible performances and can speak to you. You may not be able to see CGI dinosaurs, but you can see the work that an independent filmmaker put years of his life into. These movies are important to the film industry as a whole, and we as viewers need to support them more.
James Cameron on set The Terminator
What do you think? Do you agree with my argument? Do you think original films are important? What are some of your favorite original movies? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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