Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Top Undiscovered Talent Needs to Stay Incognito
I was able to watch (between my baby's bowel explosions-- his most pronounced personality trait) most of On the Lot, Fox's new American Idol of filmmaking. The show's premise is a competition between amateur directors whose short, no-budget films earned them a place in the contest. The winner of the competition will be hired for a movie deal with Dreamworks. The first event was assembling and pitching a story from an assigned log line. Maybe it was the pressure of the moment or the lack of time, but I would renege on the deal if I were running Dreamworks. America's top undiscovered creative talent lacks the rudimentary imagination of a child. Even the top performers, the best of the bunch, spun tales that we've seen a million times on the USA network. It was a brilliant trick to weed out the contestants in the first round, but unfortunately backfired since they all deserved to go.
Robert McKee, a legendary screenwriting consultant, wrote that Hollywood's imagination is impoverished and forced to rely on the same dead ideas over and over again for sequels, prequels, and spin-offs. I was excited for On the Lot because I believed it would bring to the surface new creativity so needed in a stagnate industry. All of the contestants, however, strove to shock, excite, and entertain but ended up doing none of the above. McKee would be rolling in his grave if he were dead. I think there must be some connection between our generation's complete reliance on visceral media (TV, film, internet) and the loss of creativity. I'm not sure how that back up that assertion, but somehow it seems appropriate to me. The contestants could form visual images well enough or they wouldn't have gotten picked, but were out to sea when required to construct interesting and compelling content.
I personally can't stand American Idol; it's painful to watch people fail at something they've identified as the sole measure of their worth and human dignity. In On the Lot, the pain was even more pronounced because the contestants seemed even more insecure. I can't imagine I'll stop watching it though.