Hollywood, Remakes, and Maybe the Reality

Last week, the new Lost in Space TV series premiered on Netflix.  Lost in Space was one of Irwin Allen’s TV shows, though I never liked it much. It seemed like all the bad things about Irwin Allen converged into one place.  But I tuned in any way.

Didn’t stay long.

I want to see new ideas.  We have all this fantastic change, and so incredibly fast, and yet, Hollywood is pulling stories from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  Lost in Space was fifty years ago.  Even The Brady Bunch, another remake was over forty years ago.

And I’ve heard it said–and said it myself–that Hollywood is lacking creativity.

But is it an actual creativity problem or is it something else.

Problem #1 is that they are allowing money to make all the decisions.  The same thing is happening in the publishing industry, and it makes them risk-averse.  They’ll look at a TV show like Lost in Space or Star Trek and see how popular it’s been and then look at something really new and different…and want to go the safe route.  Safe means it will probably make some money.  New and different means it might fail.

And it also means that despite the number of films and TV coming out, not a lot of it will have the staying power of some of these old shows they’re trying to imitate.

Hollywood’s been doing this for decades.  If another studio came out with a blockbuster, everyone rushed into to do the same type of movie, hoping for that blockbuster.

So why are they focusing on all these old TV shows and movies?

I think that’s where the second problem comes in.

I grew up in Los Angeles. I read Variety at the college library.  Even studied film.  That Hollywood is not the same one today.   Today’s has shot so far out of the boundaries of really pretty much everything that they’ve lost touch with audiences.  They want a show like Star Trek that people talk about fifty years from now, and yet they don’t know how to do it.

They’ve lost that skill.

I used to work with someone who would try to game the marketing in his fiction by picking the right word, as if happy would be more marketable than glad.  The problem is that doesn’t work.

And they’re really stuck.  Getting involved in public opinions has not helped their cause because it alienates too much of the audience.  Trying to trigger the nostalgia doesn’t work if they don’t understand what people liked in that old film (especially given they tend to say “we’re going to improve it”).  Finally, simply shooting for the visuals to get one part of the audience forgets that people want to see good stories.

Something new please, Hollywood.


Adventures around the web July 9-14, 2017

A lot of good links this week.

Brett & Kate McKay from The Art of Manliness

The History of Obstacle Courses for Military Fitness, Sport, and All-Around Toughness

I’m using a military obstacle course for my third GALCOM Universe book, Cursed Planet. What better way to train for heavy gravity? While hunting down resources online for it, I ran across this nifty link about the history. Lots of historic photos.

John Allsopp from A List Apart

A Dao of Web Design

This is a fascinating look at how web design evolved, which starts by using the example of how TV evolved from radio.  The eBook industry is still very early in its own development (only about 10 years–can you believe that?), so it provokes the question about how ebooks might evolve in the future.

Piper Bayard and Jay Homes on Bayard & Holmes

Analyzing News: Considering the Source

With all the inaccurate news getting into major newspapers, it’s hard to navigate through what’s true and what isn’t.  This gives some guidelines for figuring out what’s fact and what might not be.  The guidelines are pretty sensible and allow you to make the decisions.

C. Hope Clark on Funds For Writers

What Attracts Readers to Books?

This was a survey of about 5,000 people on Facebook, and the results are pretty interesting.  Most readers pick a book based on genre.  Which makes sense.  If you walk into a bookstore or a library, you have to go to the right shelf to find the books you want to read and those are categorized as genre.

Margie Lawson

Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices, and More

The lecture description doesn’t do this justice, I think because she’s focusing more on the EDITS system.  This lecture covers writing in depth–five senses, character opinions.  Best coverage I’ve seen of rhetorical devices and how to use them in novels.  And one hidden benefit…it covers an aspect of pacing  (backloading).  Loads of examples from best selling writers.

My version was from 2011, so there may be changes.  It came in a zip file with Word document.  Formatting made it hard to read.

Star Wars’ 40 Years Ago Today

It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since Star Wars was released, on this day.  I saw it in its original run and remember how people lined up outside the movie theaters to see it…not once, by multiple times.  People didn’t watch it twice; they watched it twenty times.

It wasn’t like any other science fiction movie before it.  The ones I grew up watching were astronauts visiting another planet at getting stalked by an alien monster; a scientist inventing a monster and getting stalked by it; a monster rising from the depths and stalking the human cities–well, you get the idea.

But Star Wars was pure adventure, and fun.  It has space battles, a cool villain–Darth Vader was so different from the standard villains who were either monsters or cackled dementedly about taking over the world.  There was something about James Earl Jones’ voice that really brought him to life from behind that mask.

But then George Lucas did a rookie mistake, like I’ve seen some writers do.  He had this hugely successful movie, and instead of spending the next forty decades writing other movies, or even TV series, or how about novels like Stephen Cannell, he fixed Star Wars.  He was never happy with the special effects of the time, so he “improved” on them.

I know the cantina scene was a challenge to shoot because there was no budget.  The actors wore Halloween masks.  Yet, Lucas did a good job shooting it because it doesn’t look like cheap Halloween masks (there are a number of movies I’ve watched where the costuming looks like no one cared).  He transformed us into a different world.

It’s also one of the scenes that fans talk about.  It introduces our naive character Luke Skywalker to the rest of the galaxy and how dangerous it will be.  And it’s fun!

And Lucas fiddled with it because all he could remember was the bad parts of the shooting, that the technology of 1977 didn’t match what he pictured.

In getting what he pictured but couldn’t do, he broke things that fans liked.

Silent Night by Chewbacca

This is pretty cute.  Just make sure you stay until the end for an appearance of Santa Claus, Star Wars-style.

Kitten on the Dark Side

What does a kitten with the Force do?


Would Star Trek Exist without Star Wars?

William Shatner made a comment last week that Star  Trek wouldn’t have existed without Star Wars.  It sounds wrong, simply because Star Trek aired in 1966, and Star Wars was released in 1977.  It sounds backwards.

Except it is and it isn’t.

First Came Star Trek

In the last week, I’ve run into multiple articles on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.  One was in the Smithsonian, and another a Time Magazine special.  The tone has changed a lot over the years.

I remember when I first became a fan in the mid-seventies.  Momentum for the show was starting to build.  There were conventions popping up in Los Angeles, and a lot of people were attending them.  Needless to say, reporters got sent to find out what all the fuss was about.

And they came with a bias, which showed up in the newspaper:

  1. Star Trek is for children.
  2. Star Trek is for crazies.

Invariably they would either find a little boy in a Spock shirt and shorts and wearing pointed ears and take a photo of that.  Or they find the sloppiest, craziest-looking fan and photograph her.  And ignore anyone—everyone else—who looked normal.

It’s probably where “Trekkie” got associated with children and crazy fans, because there was always that condescending attitude from the news stories about “These Trekkies” like those people weren’t normal.

We all wanted the show come back.  But the studios hadn’t liked it in the first place.  They thought no one would like it much, and besides, it was way too expensive.  No one was going to take a risk on it again.

Along Comes Star Wars

In 1977, Star Wars came out.  It caught everyone off guard—it just took off.  People were lining up around the corner to get into the movie theaters.  They returned to the theater to watch the movie sometimes 20 times!

I saw it only once.  I wished Star Trek could come back.  Star Wars was an action adventure film, but Star Trek was about something more.

But Star Wars’ success had the affect of making science fiction something everyone could enjoy, and that they would spend money on.  It kick started the move to bring Star Trek back, with a shift to films and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

If Star Wars hadn’t been such a huge success, causing studios to get dollar signs in their eyes, I’m not sure the studios would have wanted to risk the expense of bringing Star Trek back.  And we’d have been a lot poorer for it.

We’re at 115 degrees today—the actual temperature was 100, and the humidty pushed it the rest of the way.  Ugh!

Star Wars and Risk Taking

This week, I finally got around to see the latest Star Wars film.  When it came out in December, I was sick with a winter cold that took forever to clear out.  And then I just never got to it.

Took me a while to understand why.

I know this dates me, I saw Star Wars when it was originally released, and it was something new and unexpected that no one had ever seen before.  Up until then, science fiction movies had been about monsters created by atomic radiation (Godzilla, Them), or our astronauts visiting another planet and finding monsters.  They were often lessons warning us that if we didn’t shape up, this would happen.

Star Wars made science fiction fun.

And people lined up to see at the movie theaters.  The news reports showed these lines wrapped around the block.  People bragged that they were on their 17th viewing of the movie.  It was a film that was eminently satisfied and made you feel good when you went home.

Anyone who saw it then remembers that magic.

But all the writers of this new film did was rewrite the first movie.  The writers even used some of the same dialogue, and this made it predictable rather than surprising.  I knew that Han Solo was going to die because the same scene was in the original film with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The result was that it was an okay film.  I liked Rae and was happy to see a woman character getting an action role.  But it wasn’t a film that would make me go back and rewatch it to get immersed in the story all over again. 

Unfortunately, the studios have become extremely risk adverse.  They spend a lot of money on films and want to guarantee success.  So it’s easier to revise an old script or remake an existing project that was successful then it is to come up with a fresh film.

I grew up in the Hollywood area.  A film crew filmed in a house down the street from my house.  I spotted a grocery store we shopped at on Hunter, and another (now a Target) on Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  I saw Martin E. Brooks (Bionic Woman) in a local restaurant.  I’ve been to conventions, where all the fans enjoy the stories that made them excited.

And I want studios to take a risk and be more creative.  Is that too much to ask?

Star Wars Goes Navy

Star Wars takes on the Army-Navy game.  Darth Vader is Army.  Hmm.  Not sure what I think of that.

Kirk Versus Darth Vader

This is just plain awesome!

Turtles and Jedi Laser Swords — Awesome!