When we review a year's worth of films, what criteria should we use as a basis of analysis? Should we care, as the news media does, for how much money these projects ostensibly made? Should we discuss the content of the films, their artistic merit? Should we take a practical stance and ask what we can learn from the last year in order to propose our own films successfully?
For those who laugh at the idea of someone who reads this blog making / producing their own film, don't laugh so hard. It is perfectly feasible for one of our readers, or a group of them, to make a film of one sort or another. Obviously they do make films, short films that is, already. In fact, they make longer commercial films all the time, just in a specific role, such as VFX supervisor or art director.
It is perfectly plausible to make a full length film and even possible to get that film seen, although it is much more difficult to actually make money at it. If we ignore the point about making money for just a moment, which generally requires a distribution deal, and just focus on the process of making a film, many people reading this blog could make a film.
All they would have to do is want it more than just about anything else in their lives, and work as hard as they can with as much cleverness and practical problem solving as they can, for the next 10 or so years, maybe more, probably not much less. And spend every dollar they make or will make on that activity. And call in every favor. And work as hard as they can for years and years.
Then once the film is made, assuming you do not have a distribution deal, you then must work for years showing the film at film festivals and somehow getting the money to attend and for submission to those festivals.
All this time you will have had to make a living somehow unless you inherited enough money that you do not need to work.
And when you are done, the most likely result is that you are broke, have some people who like your work, a lot of people who do not like or are indifferent to your work, and have to figure out something to do with what is left of your life and probably how to make a living. Although it is possible you could make a second film, it may even be easier than the first, but it will still be a lot of work and unless you are very clever, or lucky, or talented, it will be hard to make money on it.
Its not supposed to be about the money, now is it? Its supposed to be about the art.
But in the world of the "real" or mainstream film industry, it is mostly about the money. And to play in that game is also possible, but it is all the more difficult because of the even greater competition.
And that so-called mainstream industry, "show business" we might say, has a series of ever changing rules and conventions that are renewed from time to time. They do not go in cycles exactly, although there do seem to be patterns that repeat. (2) But one of the things that the industry has always done is to review what has happened this year and use that to predict what the audience liked. What stories, what stars, and so forth. But its not quite so clean as saying "this is what worked in 2014, lets do that in 2015" because movies these days take years to create. Even if you had a portfolio of scripts ready to be shot and with attached stars and directors, you still need over a year in most cases to create film, and very often much more than a year.
So what is the point? Two things, first. What happened in any one year will have a diminishing effect over several years in the future. Second, in a similar way, the lessons of one year will inform what will work as a "pitch" to a studio or producer, in a diminishing way over the next few years.
So now, we get to the heart of the matter. What films did well in 2014 and what can we learn from those films and their performance.
As you read on, you will see sarcastic comments regarding the content of these films. That theme is actually the topic of a later post as the films this year, the ones successful in a gross sense at the box office, had no content. It is one of the most pathetic years I can think of, although I am sure there are others.
So ... back to our post, what happened and what can we learn.
I want to bring to your attention a graphic by Reuters that reveals the total 2014 box office of the top grossing films. This graphic also shows the production costs and the portion of the box office that was generated in N. America vs the portion generated overseas.
So clearly, any film you want to pitch should be based in America and China, be based on an SF or fantasy property, have great toy potential, have relatively low production costs, and would make use of 3D animation. Nothing really new here.