This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When The Four Quadrants Fall Flat

I've never been into math or numbers or anything of the sort. The X-Y axis, the quadratic formula, the pythagorean theorem... are all terms from my past that I have subsequently avoided [rather easily] in my adult life. 'Four Quadrants' may not mean anything to you. It doesn't have much to do with mathematics, per se, but lots to do with numbers and money--lots and lots of 'box office' money.

In Hollywood, the rise of the 'Four Quadrant Picture' is most evident during the summer months and the holidays when the movie-going public is most likely to be on the prowl. To Hollywood, the four quadrants represent distinct demographic segments according to age: under 25, over 25, and gender: male, female. These are the blockbusters, the popcorn movies, the ones that bring in the bucks; Movies you can see with Grandpa as well as your little cousin. Some of them are obvious and begin with Marvel: i.e. Spiderman, Ironman... and Disney, such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Pixar has had its share, too-- even though at first glance, an animated movie like Wall-E or The Incredibles doesn't appear to be a 'four quad film,' it is, and a highly successful one at that. The goldmine is to greenlight a film with such broad appeal that everyone and his mother goes to see it [more than once] and buys the merchandising associated with the film as stocking stuffers. This is great and all, but--

The problem is that not every movie is a 'four quadrant' movie. And many of them still try. I just saw one-- it had the potential to be a great film. All the elements were there, but ultimately I felt it didn't succeed because it was trying to do too much, to be everything for everyone. Instead I came away thinking of it as a bit of an unfortunate, meandering and unbalanced mishmash. It was about such-and-such and then once I'd become invested in that storyline or those characters, it became something else entirely. Sometimes [as the above example] it's the execution that doesn't jive right. Other times, the 'P&A' [publicity and advertising] is to blame. When films are misrepresented in marketing to appeal to the widest audience possible it only succeeds in pissing certain 'quadrants' off as they realize they've been duped.

Filmmakers are always making compromises: some good, some bad, some consciously, some unconsciously, in an attempt to get financing, to secure cast, and ultimately to get audiences to buy tickets so they can support themselves and continue making films.

Filmmakers: If you know your characters inside and out and you know what your story is and what you're trying to say, you will have a focus and your movie will find a connection with its intended audience. Don't throw in misfit scenes, lines, jokes, or extraneous characters that have no purpose other than to appease one segment of your audience because there's another segment of your audience that's going to notice: "That's not genuine, that's not real. He wouldn't do that or say that or be there" and deep in your heart, you know they're right.

When we pass on, we can count our films.
They will count their money.
~Hal Ashby
[on the difficulties of Hollywood politics]

©2010 by KLiedle

No comments:

Post a Comment