Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Okay so... my thoughts about ON THE LOT?

So Lisa and I watched On The Lot, now about four months after we saw that promo back in January and her telling me that I should have a go at it. So with only a month before deadline I went and made Schrodinger's Bedroom. Obviously the entry round was as far as I got (nope, not so much as a callback for an interview), but it was a fun lil' film to make and I'm glad for the opportunity.

Now, as for what we finally saw on television last night...

Where this show is weak is that it, like most other "reality television" series, already seems to be built around combativeness among the contestants. In that regard I have to wonder how much of a "talent" competition this really is. I do believe that where my own entry failed was the 45-second intro: I definitely wanted to show where I'm coming from and talk about what inspired me to make a movie about Schrodinger's Cat and a little about the hurdles to overcome in making a film on such a tight deadline. Unfortunately, I now see that I should have spent all that time talking about "me me me"... and I'm not that kind of person very much. If I got to be on the show, I absolutely wanted to take Reidsville with me... but to realistically have a shot at the show, it had to just be "me" going. So if I enter again next time, my intro video has to completely reflect my personality (maybe I should have used some clips from my school board commercials...?).

Anyway, I think that the intro videos were what sold most - if not all - of the contestants we saw last night. This being "reality" television, a suitable environment for lots of cutthroat action needs to be created. So a lot of different personality types have been assembled for this show. The talent factor seems to be a distant second, just judging by some of the presentations that were made during "The Pitch" round. In case you missed it, the 50 semi-finalists were randomly given one of five "log lines" and from that, each contestant had to create a pitch for a movie. They had 24 hours to come up with one. I was coming up with ideas like crazy in just a few minutes - the mouse and the priest were two that I really had some fun notions for - and those seemed to be a lot better than what we saw on this show last night. I mean, it shouldn't be that hard, within 24 hours, to come up with a killer idea from just a scrap of suggestion. And I don't want to "name names" here but some of them were just ridiculous. There was one presentation in particular that was particularly painful to watch... and that's all I'm going to say.

Some people have noted since the show ran last night that all of the "older" contestants were eliminated after the first round. Frankly, this bothers me. I hope that happened on the merit of their pitch alone. All the same: a film-maker isn't really coming into his or her own until, I believe anyway, their mid to late thirties. The 36 that are left seem to be well below that. Thirty to forty years is long enough for a film-maker to not only learn the basics of the craft and run with it, but also to accumulate knowledge and ideas from which to draw creativity. And there shouldn't be an "upper limit" to a film-maker's age, either. Heck, if it's going to sell tickets, I don't care if the film-maker is 8, 28, or 80 years old.

It was only after the pitches and the first eliminations were made that I thought On The Lot really got interesting. The 36 that were left were allowed to split up into groups of 3 - teaming up with whoever they chose to be with - and given the theme of "out of time"... from which they have 24 hours to make a 2 and a half minute film. Again, it seems like the contestants were chosen for how much combativeness could be generated because no matter which combo of contestants that we saw, it's pretty clear that there's going to be some ill feelings one way or another. How often is it that three directors are forced together to make one movie, anyway? Yeah I know, there's the issue of time availability, but in real life this just does not happen on a routine basis. Last night's premiere ended with two teams of film-makers finding that they've chosen the same section of railroad yard to shoot a scene, with each group demanding the other get out of camera shot. What happens next? Tune in Thursday night...

I hope that the highlight of this show is going to be film-making, and the talents of the individuals involved, instead of whatever theatrics can be engineered on the part of the producers. I'm not really that big a fan of reality shows like Survivor (Rudy and Rupert are the only contestants from that show that I can think of... so that should tell ya how up-to-speed I am on that lil' Mark Burnett series) but I want to be interested in On The Lot because it is about film-making. If the show makes that its centerpiece, then I think that I can be a faithful viewer for the rest of the summer. If not, then this is going to get real old, real fast... and the sense that I'm getting from a lot of other people this morning is that they're feeling the same thing, too. We've seen "reality" television already. We know what to expect. It's like Hollywood in general: we've seen the same bloody stuff so many times that we know it by heart and we're positively bored bonkers with it. On The Lot is an opportunity to give not just prime-time TV but the film industry something it's sorely lacking: fresh new blood and ideas...

...if that's what the producers at Fox want.

It's their choice, but not really.


Anonymous said...

"not so much as a callback for an interview"

You know what the problem was? The title of your film: "Schrodinger's Bedroom". I mean. what's a "Schrodinger"?

Now, if you had only used the title: "Bloody Naked Teenage Chicks With Chainsaws", you would have won the whole thing. Now, if you wanted to use the word "Bedroom", I'm up with that: "Bloody Naked Teenage Chicks With Chainsaws In Their Bedrooms". Now that would have been a hands down winner of a title! You wouldn't have to change the movie. Just the title. :-)