5 Ways to Make Hollywood Better

Last year, The Wrap had a panel discussion with six movie experts to figure out how to "fix Hollywood." They tackled issues such as declining DVD sales and a bad year at the box office, among others.  This year, they've decided to talk to nine experts and they've softened the language a bit, so they're not seeking cures for an industry that is still making a fortune both domestically and internationally, but instead are acknowledging that there are still issues in show biz that need to be addressed and improved. I consider myself to be a huge film buff, but even I can recognize the medium's flaws.  If I had a say, here are some suggestions that I wish Hollywood would heed.

1. Don't be distracted by the bells and whistles. If 3D is the "answer," then cinema is doomed.  Filmmakers are becoming so pre-occupied with digital technology that they are forgetting the basics that have captivated audiences for generations: plot, conflict, characterization.  Instead of trying to figure out how to make higher frame rates work, they should be focusing on how to make their scripts better.

2. Even fantasy needs some reality. I love escapist entertainment and I don't want to see it disappear, but the secret to any good science fiction tale is finding a way to spark the viewer's imagination and make them suspend disbelief and accept that the out-of-this-world make-believe depicted on the silver screen is actually real.  Superman: The Movie made us believe that a man could fly. Star Wars made us believe that the planet Tatooine and the Death Star space station were real. We willingly went time-travelling with Marty McFly in Back to the Future, we rooted for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial to find his way home, and we took that red pill along with Neo in the hope of discovering more about The Matrix. All of those films had great special effects, but those effects served to advance the story and support the actions of the characters. Filmmakers need to find ways to tell intimate human stories that will grab the public's attention without having to resort to bigger explosions, gravity-defying stunts, or computer-generated hocus-pocus.

3. Sex and violence sell, but filmmakers need to rethink their use of gratuitous content. I've addressed this issue before. I oppose any censorship, but I encourage writers and movie-makers to think about what message they are trying to express through their craft. Are they just going for the shock value?  Are they desensitizing the masses to violent actions and glamourizing dangerous behavior without presenting possible ramifications? The problem with over-doing the sex and violence in cartoonish, over-the-top ways, is that when artists try to use some other examples in important stories, or just simple but realistic stories, they might get lost in the shuffle or face a backlash stemming from the controversies sparked by the surrounding overload.  Does every action movie need to have gun violence and massive explosions? Does the portrayal of intimate relations between happy, consenting, monogomous couples have to be so rare? Is it any wonder then when the news becomes filled with stories of infidelity, scandals, and horrific violence? I am not blaming media, I am merely saying that not enough filmmakers are joining the conversation in a responsible manner. They have a powerful voice that is being used for fluff instead of where it can make a difference.

4. We need intelligent storytelling that will attract adult audiences. It can be done without falling into the traps of boring, dialogue-heavy, artsy-fartsy mumbo jumbo. Young audiences are where the profits lie, I know that, but Hollywood needs to realize that adults will flock to movies too if the stories are interesting enough.  We saw it with The Sixth Sense, Unforgiven, There Will Be Blood, The King's Speech, and others.

5. Enhance the theater experience.  I'm quick to complain that admission ticket prices are too high, but it all boils down to value. Paying more just to see bad three-dimensional special effects is not worth it to me.  Movie theaters need to compete with the home theater experience. Some chains are experimenting with V.I.P. treatment, fine dining, and other amenities that will make the act of going out to catch a movie truly something they can't do at home.  Maybe the future of film will be a more interactive storytelling experience, or maybe it really will become an arcade-like destination for kids and dating couples, or possibly there will be different sections for those who want to watch flicks in the traditional way and for those text-happy yappers who view it as a social outing. Whatever the case may be, if they want more people to go, they need to make it worth the moviegoers time and money.


Ed Bartosik said…
I'd like to see Hollywood do away with sterotypes. I can't remember a movie that depicts African Americans or any people of color in a real way. Unless it's independent or foreign. The only thing Hollywood is good at is blow em up, sex and violence.

Take more chances with independent film makers and actors. Tired of seeing the same ole faces.
Nick said…
Thanks, Ed. I find it deplorable that typecasting and stereotyping still occur. That's why we need to support young playwrights and screenwriters and filmmakers who are just starting out, so hopefully when they eventually make it big they can buck the system.