Wednesday, May 23, 2007

'On the Lot' Finally Premieres on Fox

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?

4 comments:

dwerfelmann said...

I've had a few set-backs this year too with competition submissions. I think I submitted to every film scoring competition available and received disappointing responses from all.

How do we, as artists, get past these small failures? I almost swore off the whole film scoring dream after each failure, but I know that isn't the right attitude. How do you deal with it?

Carolina Flicks said...

Isn't there a saying that success is built on failure? Or something like that. (People in corporate worlds seem to fail up the ladder!) :)

The show was interesting. I found the elimination round a little brutal... "You, you and you, step forward", "everyone else made it". eek!

Scott Eggleston said...

Dealing with failure is never fun. You can always take the "you have to get back on the horse" attitude, but for me, I think I just forget about past rejection and focus on a new project. Not getting on 'the Lot' has fueled lots of ideas about how I can succeed on a self-sufficient level, and provided lots to write about here.

The problem with contests is that you depend on them to validate your ability. If they don't like you, your first assumption is that "I'm not good enough."

Being a filmmaker, it's "easier" to make your own breaks because I'm in charge of the whole process. With a career choice such as composer (or actor, audio guy, DP, etc.), you get to wait by the phone for people like me to give you work. You're definitely at a disadvantage there.

But don't give up. Colonel Sanders spent his whole life trying to succeed and finally hit it with KFC. Thomas Edison tried how many many materials to get that dang light bulb to stay lit? And Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never, never give up." Okay, so he was talking war, but isn't success as an artist just a battle to be discovered and appreciated?

Bill Cunningham said...

Formula 409 gets its name from the fact the cleaner failed 408 times previously...

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