Moviemaking's Getting to Be All Style and No Substance

The tendency seems to be toward telling the same old stories with a new kind of "visual panache." The screenwriter wants to see "more movies of substance."
  • Transcript


Question: Do screenwriters have to choose between writing either an indie passion project or a shallow blockbuster?

Danny Rubin:  Yes and no.  It’s a false choice because you never know what's going to work.  Trying to guess what will please the industry, whether it’s the indie industry or the commercial industry is almost impossible and trying to do that is a fool’s errand.  So, in the end, you should just do what you want and see who salutes it. 

On the other hand, it’s constantly a choice.  You're seduced by wanting to write a very blockbuster hit.  The kind of thing that would have mass appeal and would be most likely to be accepted by the studios because that’s where most of the money is and the biggest chance of getting a thing produced.  But, that’s not necessarily going to work.  And same with going the indie route, the indie market is very particular.  If you’ve got a story with a dysfunctional family or drugs or some weird kind of sexual relationship, you're in.  That’s the indie world.  If you're just trying to do a particularly intelligent commercial studio film, that’s what - I had a manager who called those the tweeners.  The sort of between indie film and Hollywood films and it’s - nobody wants it.  It’s going to be difficult to place.  It all comes down to luck.

But, if it’s written skillfully, it all comes down to luck anyway.  That skillful thing has a chance of making it and it might never be noticed at all.  I’m constantly trying to figure out how to be as commercial as possible and still be original.  Those are movies that I like.  It’s not just because I’m trying to please some market.  But, those are the movies I most enjoy and so that’s what I’m trying to create and it’s not - the other method that some writers take is one for me, one for them. 

Okay, this is my heart project and I’m going to make it very true to myself and consistent with my beliefs and my artistic sensibilities.  Maybe someone will make it, maybe someone won't, but I will feel good writing it and then I’ll finish that and then I’ll write a vampire movie.  And so, one for me, one for them and you can write a screenplay quickly enough that that is an acceptable way to go through your professional like.  You can get through year after year like that. 

What current trends in moviemaking do you dislike?

Danny Rubin: It does seem that it’s all about style.  There's very little substance.  It’s telling the same old stories, but with a new kind of visual panache and that’s okay, but that’s seems to - it’s like candy and that seems to be the tendency.  Not to even attempt anything more ambitious content-wise, but they're always trying new ambitious things in terms of style.  So, that’s kind of fun, but I’m tired of it and kind of like many people, growing cynical about movies and would like to see more movies of substance that have stories to tell that affect my life in some way.

Recorded on May 12, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman