American Idol for Filmmakers hit the air last night, after a long wait by this blogger. I had created a short film specifically for entry in the Spielberg/Burnett reality show, which I thought was pretty good (of course), and would at least get me to the interview phase. Well, it didn't, and part of me was pretty dejected that my best effort wasn't good enough for even the first cut. Now the show is here and I feel much better, actually enjoying what Fox had put together.
After a gooey "hooray for Hollywood" opening, the group of 50 (down from 12,000 entrants and 200 who were granted interviews) were led into an auditorium where they met their intimidating judges: directors Garry Marshall (Georgia Rule) and Brett Ratner (X-Men 3), and actress/writer Carrie Fisher. Interesting that the one contestant who was awed sitting so close to "Princess Leia" would be the first to be humiliated on national television.
After some back patting by the judges, the first challenge was issued: pitch a movie based one of five loglines found under the seats of the competitors, due tomorrow. Everyone stayed up all night, some worked together, and everyone reported back to pitch their movies in a scenario that closely resembled the second American Idol round (only the very bad and the very good were shown).
The first (above mentioned) guy totally froze, and could barely get his pitch out. Another was really effective, eliciting high praise. Still another guy apologized in advance that his pitch was going to suck (bad idea). Garry Marshall: "No studio is going to risk $100,000 a day on someone who's nervous." It was a brutal segment (even though the judges were pretty kind), but emphasizes that Hollywood is a meat grinder, and rejection is commonplace. 14 contestants were eliminated after this round.
The next challenge was to team up in groups of three and write, direct, and edit a two-and-a-half minute short based on the same logline using specific locations and supplied actors. Oh, and it had to be done in 24 hours. This is were the real drama began, as egos clashed and disagreements ran amok. The show ended here, with the next episode coming Thursday. I'm interested to see how some of these shorts turn out.
The main thing I came away with was that we in Low Budget Land have a great luxury that no one does in Hollywood: time. We can fiddle and tweak and recast and change, all with no deadlines. Some parameters are good, but those imposed by the Hollywood system (and on this show in a smaller scale) are crushing. It's all about stress and getting done before someone starts breathing down your neck. I'm glad I'm watching On the Lot, but even gladder that not getting on has sent me down a different path that will ultimately give me my dream anyway: to make a living as a narrative filmmaker. I may not make seven figures, but who cares?