If ever there was a need for a man in a white hat to ride in and save the day, now would be a good time.
First THE LONE RANGER is the mega-bomb of 2013, followed by the much-heralded crash and burn this weekend of A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST.
Mea culpa – I’ve not seen MILLION, and based on what I’ve read, have no real desire to do so. It doesn’t bode well when a lot of the reviews generate more laughs than the trailer.
The western just can’t catch a break. Every once in a while you get something incredible like TRUE GRIT, 3:10 TO YUMA or DJANGO UNCHAINED. Jeez, even RANGO had a little redeeming value. Films like these come along and hope grows in our hearts, but then we get dreck like JONAH HEX or COWBOYS & ALIENS, and back to movie jail goes the western.
I had no real hopes for Mr. MacFarlane’s latest, but at least he was attempting to do some kind of western. Granted, it was trying to be this generation’s BLAZING SADDLES, but apparently failing miserably.
This goes beyond another nail in the coffin. At this point the coffin’s already in the ground with a few shovelfuls of dirt on it.
As a writer offering up a totally kickass western spec, my hopes for success seem to diminish just a little bit more with this kind of news.
I can imagine every potential recipient recoiling in fear. “A western? Eek!” followed by the frantic pressing of the ‘delete’ key.
Contacting a friend repped at a high-profile agency, I asked if anybody there might be open to reading it.
“I wrote a western, and they won’t sell it,” was the reply. “They don’t believe there’s a market for them after THE LONE RANGER.”
Well, sure. Because every western is going to be an overpriced, convoluted bloated crapfest. It doesn’t help that a lot of them actually have been exactly that.
Why have so many recent westerns been bombs? Wish I knew.
Skimming the credits of some of the great westerns of the past shows that the people who made them had a real understanding and appreciation of the genre – John Ford, Howard Hawks, Clint Eastwood, just to name a few. And it shows in the finished product.
Hopefully somebody else will give it another go in the near future, sooner rather than later, and know how to do it right.
So simple, anyone can do it in just two easy steps!
Here’s how it works:
1. What you’re currently working on
2. How it’s going
I’ll start the ball rolling.
1. A rewrite of my mystery spec.
2. I’m up to page 82, which places it in the latter half of Act 2. This includes the realization that my “page 75” plot point has changed, but still works.
See? No sweat. Give it a try.
And continuing with the theme of something not seen in a while…
-Movie of the Moment. THE LONE RANGER (2013). Yep. Finally.
It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. My biggest complaint was that there was just way too much going on. I’m all for an epic western, but this felt like they were trying to jam in as many cliches as possible. They could have totally removed at least two supporting characters and the inane “1933 Tonto telling a story” scenes.
It really seemed like it couldn’t decide what kind of story it wanted to be. Slapstick comedy? Buddy picture? Drama with touches of gore? All these and more on display.
One of the first rules in screenwriting is to make the audience want to root for your main character, which unfortunately doesn’t happen here. I actually thought Armie Hammer was a good choice to play the part, but the material was all wrong. Yes, he’s adapting to the ways of the frontier, but for crying out loud, this is the LONE RANGER. You do not make him a naive doofus.
First and foremost, thanks to everybody for the hearty congrats. Words of encouragement from one’s peers are always nice, doubly so when it’s from people you know are good writers.
I’ll also admit to sending updates of my recent accomplishments to my old writing group, more with the intent of “Hey kids, ain’t this swell?” rather than “Suck on it, losers!”
And a big mazel tov to the 24 other semifinalists, 10 finalists and the top 3 winners of the Tracking Board Launchpad contest. Best of luck to all of you on your future endeavors! Celebrate in your desired appropriate style. I find pie to always be a solid viable option.
Speaking of which (the writing stuff, not the pie), these are exciting times. I don’t think I’ve ever been this close to something potentially happening with one of my scripts before – he said with fingers firmly crossed.
There isn’t a writer out there, including yours truly, who doesn’t daydream about achieving some kind of success while they hammer away at their latest project.
But things are different for me now, and a new learning curve is underway. I’m a bit nervous, but still quite psyched about it.
This is exactly what I’ve been working towards, and feel very fortunate to have even made it this far. I hope everybody can experience this kind of sensation at least once.
So all I can do now is keep writing and maintain a positive attitude while staying reasonably sane and level-headed.
I’m a huge fan of tales from the trenches, so any anecdotes of early-in-my-career experiences and such are more than welcome in the comments below.
-Movie of the Moment: MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013). I didn’t think there was really a demand for this; the first one seemed more than enough. Despite it’s box office success, I wouldn’t call this another home run for Pixar. A triple, maybe. And kudos to them for making the college experience as G-rated/Disney-safe as possible.
V was interested in seeing it, but she didn’t laugh that much. There were chuckles from both of us, but not as many as you would expect.
Still, glad we saw it, especially in 2-D, and at one of SF’s remaining single-screen theatres. We’re always happy to send them business.
-It’s heartbreaking on several levels to read how much THE LONE RANGER is sounding more and more like a train wreck (no pun intended). Hopefully this won’t be yet another death knell for westerns in 21st century, such as the one I’m working on. I’m discouraged, but not defeated.
Ah, air travel. When it works in your favor, it’s a very pleasant experience.
When it doesn’t…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I had a pen, some paper, an outline to work on and an abundant supply of spare time.
I worked my way through the first act of my western-adventure, making changes and setting up setups where applicable. I still like how this is coming together. All that work fine-tuning the previous script is really paying off for this one.
But there’s one thing still nagging at me. Some significantly high-profile westerns are headed our way: Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED at Christmas, Verbinski/Rossio/Elliot’s THE LONE RANGER next summer and Chan Wook-Park’s THE BRIGANDS OF RATTLEBORGE sometime next year (in theory). All very different takes on the genre, and no reason why none of them won’t be successful.
So while I plug away at my story, the angst that plagues every writer kicks in: is it still worth the time and effort to do it?
In the end, there’s only one definitive answer: Of course it is.
This is a story I’m very enthusiastic and passionate about, so to not write it would simply be a big mistake. It’s got familiar elements but based on an original idea to make it fresh and exciting.
And if those three films are successful, that could potentially create a demand for more scripts of that nature.
Which is where mine comes in.
All the more reason to hunker down, dive in and make sure this thing is done right.