Overstuffed ’15 by Ben Wagner

I love Blockbusters. Movies with a capital “M.” The more crowds pleased, the more ears split, the more senses overwhelmed the better. I didn’t aspire to a life making movies because of THE 400 BLOWS or RASHOMON (though growing up has brought an appreciation); I was drawn in by STAR WARS and Indiana Jones. If you’re a writer in LA and you think you’re different than me you’re lying.  When you were five, your mind could not have understood complex characters, plotting, or thought provoking endings. You understood archetypes, heroism, and BOOM. In the off chance that I am wrong, you are most likely a genius outlier beyond the bell curve the rest of us play on. 

As an adult I’ve kept my childlike love of BIG MOVIES.  I gleefully spent all day in a movie theater in Burbank for a 15 hour marathon of “Phase One” Marvel movies last year. I know what “Phase One” Marvel Movie means. And I dutifully await the completion of “Phase Two” in 2015. Which is a problem. For me and my stunted intellectual development, but on a macro level, it’s dangerous for our industry.

2015 will bring us: STAR WARS EPISODE VII, THE AVENGERS 2, SUPERMAN V. BATMAN, MAD MAX, another BOURNE, another TERMINATOR, HUNGER GAMES, KUNG FU PANDA, a MADAGASCAR sequel, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, THE FANTASTIC FOUR, WARCRAFT, ANT-MAN, and a SPONGEBOB MOVIE… Not to mention a slew of other rumored sequels that could be added to the mix should a studio exec need another ski condo.  According to my not-at-all-scientific research, over 55 films have already been announced for 2015 (http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/year/2015).

Congratulations, you already know what movie will be on 60% of the screens near you on any given weekend in 2015!

As someone who – as stated – loves Blockbusters, I’m not excited about the incessant hype, overwhelming marketing, and mediocre stories that are going to besiege us in 2015. This block-obliterating tidal wave will leave us all bewildered and indifferent.  An alien or terrorist will blow up a major metropolitan area – or planet – every weekend. How will filmmakers hamstrung by marketing decrees create anything original and unexpected to elevate their films above those that opened at 12:01 am just last Friday?

I know I’m just another voice in the naysaying chorus. Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg have made more eloquent speeches on the subject worth a read. I’m not lamenting  the good old days. I’m happy to have entertainment readily available on my computer or through my Xbox, just as happy as I am to check out a film in 3D with ATMOS sound in a gargantuan theater. I’ll watch HOUSE OF CARDS over 90% of the things that make it through the gauntlet to get to a silver screen.

But in 2015 studios will overplay their hand, and in the process alienate all but the most passionate fans and hasten the demise of the theatrical experience.

As writers, we need to accept change and not get caught in nostalgia. We may have been raised on 100-minute stories with a beginning, middle, and end. But since the only stories that fit that mold will be pre-ordained by multi-industrial conglomerates trying to sell toys and or ISP subscriptions, we need to look for new opportunities, new ways to tell stories, new means of connecting with an audience. 

The shift has started, but we’re still trying to force old sensibilities on nascent forms.  Those of us who figure out how to innovate – while still telling a story that transfixes and affects the soul – will continue the age-old art of storytelling. And the rest of us will continue to add to an ever increasing stack of unproduced scripts

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