Nov. 6, 2000
The Intentions of Storytelling
Let me straighten one thing
out right away -- coming across a movie that hasnt been remade
recently and saying, This should be remade, is not the same
thing as having a good idea. Ill go you one further, its
not only a bad idea, its always been a bad idea. I wont
argue with you that a few remakes have made money over the years, but
theyre almost never good movies. Sadly, the fact that remakes
dont even make money anymore hasnt slowed their production
Once youve thrown in
the towel on ever having a good idea -- let alone an original idea --
then all that remains are remakes and sequels. Were living
in a time when producers regularly make sequels to films that bombed,
simply to spare themselves the effort of coming up with yet another
bad, un-commercial idea.
Why are they making the movie?
Well, OK, to make money, thats why all Hollywood movies are made.
Thats given. But why I am being told this story?
Whats the intention behind it?
Heres an example --
someone you know launches into a story that they have already told you.
Many times out of sheer politeness you just let them tell the story
again, smiling along, a dull glaze coming into your eyes. Obviously,
the point isnt you hearing the story, its them
telling it. The second a story is not taking the listener into
consideration, it has become a bad story.
The stories I like frequently
have a Did you know . . . ? aspect to them. Did you
know that the very first motorcycle gang was made up of World War 2
vets? Thats my script Cycles. Did you
know that Teddy Roosevelts mother and wife both died on the same
day in the same house? Thats a key part of my script Teddy
Roosevelt in the Bad Lands. Im drawn to this type
of story, I suppose, because I like history and I enjoy finding out
Then theres the What
if . . . ? variety of story, which includes all speculative fiction,
as well as all science fiction. This is where my film, Thou
Shalt Not Kill . . . Except began -- what if the Marines took
on the Manson Family? You can also combine the Did you know
. . . ? story with the What if . . . ? story and end
up with something like my new film, If I Had a Hammer.
Did you know that rock & roll was pretty much a dead issue between
1958 and February, 1964, which is why the folk movement was resurrected
during that period? The what if aspect is that when The Beatles
appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, Im saying
it killed the folk movement dead. Did it really? I think
so, but its just my supposition.
Another perfectly viable form
of a story is the fantasy. This is a variation on the What
if . . . ? story and doesnt necessarily have to be the Alice
in Wonderland-style fantasy; it can just as easily be a personal
fantasy that takes place in the real world. My script The
Biological Clock is my fantasy of what if a single, nearly 40-year
old, female friend of mine (who Im secretly in love with in the
script) decided to be artificially inseminated and wanted to use my
sperm? Would this cause us to fall in love?
Other reasonable story beginnings
are: This is really cool . . . which usually doesnt
live up to its introduction (just like, This is the funniest
story youve ever heard . . .), or there is the perfectly
standard and perfectly acceptable, There was/is this guy/gal .
. . which is always a great beginning because its starting
with the lead character and what their deal is.
If, however, you begin your
story with, I know youve heard this before, but now youre
going to hear it again, youve killed a huge percentage of
the possible interest before youve even begun. If you begin
with, I know youve heard this before -- and didnt
like it the first time -- but now youre going to hear it again,
(like Charlies Angels or Mod Squad or
any remake), this is about the worst beginning a story could have.
The only worse kinds of stories,
in my opinion, would be straight technical jargon about the inner workings
of things youre not interested in, like a car mechanic explaining,
in detail, whats wrong with your broken engine. More boring
than that would be someone trying to sell you something you dont
For me to watch any remake
at this point would be like listening to an insurance salesman that
speaks in a monotone drone on for two hours. This is when any
chore that youve ever avoided in your life -- cleaning the tub,
weeding the garden, draining and flushing your radiator -- seems preferable
to listening to this story.
This is about as far away
as you can get from telling a good story, an interesting anecdote, an
exciting tale or, God willing, a ripping yarn.
Both the insurance salesman
and all remakes have the exact same intention in telling me their story
-- they want to sell me something. In either case, I dont
want it and I certainly dont want to hear about it.
Why am I being told this story?
Is it because I might possibly enjoy it, or is it because I simply have
the price of a ticket in my pocket? Many people will tell you
that this doesnt matter, but I say it completely matters.
A pox on Charlies
Angels, Bedazzled, and all other remakes. May
they all burn in hell. And ringworm to anyone who supports them.
Stories are crucial to societies,
they represent our mindset, what were thinking, how we see things.
Presently, our societys stories are all old and dull and boring.
Three cute chicks running around kicking ass means nothing. All
it really says is that were not trying very hard, or at all.
I seriously believe that were
long overdue for some new, exciting stories that begin with, What
if . . . ? or Did you know . . . ? or This is