Christopher Nolan: Films of the Future Will Still Draw People to Theaters

July 9th, 2014 by

Christopher Nolan wrote a Wall Street Journal column published this week, focusing on the impact of technological changes, specifically the shift from film to digital:

Hungry for savings, studios are ditching film prints (under $600 each), while already bridling at the mere $80 per screen for digital drives. They want satellite distribution up and running within 10 years. Quentin Tarantino’s recent observation that digital projection is the “death of cinema” identifies this fork in the road: For a century, movies have been defined by the physical medium (even Dogme 95 insisted on 35mm film as the presentation format).

Savings will be trivial. The real prize the corporations see is the flexibility of a nonphysical medium.

As streams of data, movies would be thrown in with other endeavors under the reductive term “content,” jargon that pretends to elevate the creative, but actually trivializes differences of form that have been important to creators and audiences alike. “Content” can be ported across phones, watches, gas-station pumps or any other screen, and the idea would be that movie theaters should acknowledge their place as just another of these “platforms,” albeit with bigger screens and cupholders.

Depressing, right? But Nolan sees a larger, brighter picture:

This bleak future is the direction the industry is pointed in, but even if it arrives it will not last. Once movies can no longer be defined by technology, you unmask powerful fundamentals—the timelessness, the otherworldliness, the shared experience of these narratives. We moan about intrusive moviegoers, but most of us feel a pang of disappointment when we find ourselves in an empty theater.

The audience experience is distinct from home entertainment, but not so much that people seek it out for its own sake. The experience must distinguish itself in other ways. And it will. The public will lay down their money to those studios, theaters and filmmakers who value the theatrical experience and create a new distinction from home entertainment that will enthrall—just as movies fought back with widescreen and multitrack sound when television first nipped at its heels.

You should read the whole article because Nolan goes on about the future of cinema depending “not just on grander presentation, but on the emergence of filmmakers inventive enough to command the focused attention of a crowd for hours.” Thus ultimately the presumed rise of the theatrical movie experience will emerge from the synthesis of technology and creativity.

Interestingly, Nolan never once mentions the word “story,” however he does talk about “powerful fundamentals—the timelessness, the otherworldliness, the shared experience of these narratives.”

Which leads to a fundamental question about technological ‘progress’: Will storytelling itself change? Or will the longstanding practices of storytellers, narrative principles and instincts seemingly rooted in the universal human experience, continue pretty much as they have throughout the centuries? Should storytelling change? If so, how?

Right now, one could say with safety that at the studio level, Story is largely in service to Technology, particularly when expensive blockbusters filled with eye-candy and “quasi-experimental” narratives which are more “like writing a Cirque du Soleil show” generate record revenues. But there are filmmakers, Nolan among them, who do bring an affection for and interest in what one may call ‘traditional storytelling’ to big budget projects replete with technological requirements.

This is one reason why I find the Pixar phenomenon so fascinating because the technological advances they themselves have helped to usher in on the 3D animation side of things have almost always been in service to Story, and that has proved to be one major key to their success: Every single one of their movies has debuted at #1 and gone on to make money while most garner tremendous critical praise. Why? In large part, good stories.

As I sit here pondering these thoughts, I know this: Sitting in a dark movie theater accompanied by a group of strangers, the collective experience of a Story unfolding on screen, as I have done literally thousands of times in my life, is akin to a religious experience. Scoff if you will, but some of the most powerful moments in my life have occurred losing myself in a movie, its characters, its story universe. I can only hope Nolan is right and that what we will see in the future is an opportunity for deeper, richer emotional and intellectual immersions in the most unique form of storytelling I know: Cinema.

Final thought: As writers, we can’t control technology. We can’t control studios and their business decisions. But we can control what we write… and equally important, what we choose to write. That’s how we can participate in the emergence of what movies will become.

For the rest of the WSJ article, go here.

What are your thoughts about Nolan’s column? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of movies? How important are movies to you?

Update: Gender as represented in spec script sales

July 8th, 2014 by

Last year, I posted this:

Recently we have seen quite a few studies and analysis pointing out gender inequity in the entertainment business including independent films, television, even the theater. Now we can add spec scripts to the mix.

The post included an infographic of spec script sales by gender from 1991-2012, based on the database of deals aggregated and archived on this site here.

The numbers showed that during the last two decades, only 1 out of 8 spec scripts that sold were written by a woman. We updated the numbers to include 2013 results and here is that infographic:

Gender-in-Spec-Sales 2013

Just 12 of 132 spec scripts sales involved women writers in 2013, continuing a trend for the last three years whereby only 9% of spec scripts that sold were written by females.

Thus the questions persist: What is the deal here? Does this mean there are fewer women interested in screenwriting? For example, only 28.6% of applicants for the 2013 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting were women, but women writers involved in only one out of eight spec script sales translates to 13%. And if the trend noted above is correct, the numbers are actually going down.

Is this situation systemic? If so, what can be done about it? What are your thoughts on the matter?

Many thanks to Susana Orozco for taking the time and effort to aggregate the data for last year, and Kate Hagen for reviewing the 2013 sales to provide this year’s updated information.

Note: It is impossible to track every single spec spec transaction. The numbers here are based on the best information available.

The state of Hollywood comedies

July 8th, 2014 by

A trio of news articles in the last few days that present a seemingly confusing portrait of the state of comedy movies in Hollywood nowadays. However if we drill down into the news, things start to clear up. First, this from The Street:

Laughter may be the best medicine and once upon a time, comedies were the cure for everything.

With an innate ability to provide happiness and tears in seconds, the comedic film was an affordable and effective remedy that could cure even the surliest of moods. But unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Major Hollywood studios, i.e. Paramount (VIAB_) and Warner Bro. Entertainment (TWX_) have been turning their backs on comedies in pursuit of the genre’s more lucrative siblings.

According to data compiled by Nomura, the rate at which Hollywood’s biggest studios have been churning out comedies has been on a steady decline since 2010.

The article goes on to note: “Nomura declares ‘animated films have been the most profitable genre since 2004, making a global average of $235 million per film’”. The fact that most animated movies are comedies muddies the waters. But the numbers don’t lie. Here is a chart based on that Nomura data:

A recent Quartz article suggests the following:

Blame it on (or thank, if you prefer) the globalization of box office returns.

While fewer Americans are going to the movies, it is a totally different story in many other parts of the world, where cinema is booming. Non-US moviegoers accounted for about 70% of global box office receipts last year (which hit $35.9 billion) compared to about 63% in 2007. Emerging economies are responsible for most of that growth, and there is plenty of room for more, because there are significantly fewer cinema screens per capita and lower ticket prices in these countries than in the US.

But the emerging world enthusiasm for Hollywood films does not extend to comedies, or at least not relative to its love of action movies and animated films. In China, for example, US comedies account for only 10% of box office spending, compared to 25% in the US, Nomura says. By contrast, Hollywood action films are 44% of the box office in China (the latest Transformers release has broken just about every box office record in the country) as against 36% in the US.

And yet, people do like to laugh. So the studios are responding as one would expect them to: Cutting comedy budgets. From TheWrap:

The cost of a laugh is declining in Hollywood.

Movie studios have been making comedies on the cheap this summer, a strategy that has paid off with hits like “Neighbors,” “Ride Along” and most recently “Tammy.” Each of those cost less than $30 million to produce and paid off. The first two more than quintupled their budget at the box office.

As for the third, “Tammy” did not win its opening weekend or receive strong reviews, but its $33 million haul over the July 4 holiday was more than enough for New Line, which produced the film for $20 million, to see its way to profit.

Two things. I’ve been pushing the idea for some time that budget should be one consideration when choosing a story concept for a spec script, not only comedies, but all genres. If you’re writing a script that will cost $75M or $100M+, there are only a handful of potential buyers – the major studios. And as we have seen, they have little interest in mid-range budget movies [$50M] nowadays. But if you write a $20M and under movie, there are a bunch of financiers and production companies to whom your reps can send your script. This means not only more chances for a sale, but also greater exposure for you as a writer.

The second thing is also something I’ve been promoting for several years: Now is a great time for the Action-Comedy cross-genre. Dialogue-driven comedy may not translate as well in the international market, but visually-driven humor can transcend cultural confines. Let’s face it: Somebody slipping on a banana peel and falling on their ass is pretty much funny around the world. Consider the worldwide B.O. success of 22 Jump Street [$228M] and The Heat [$229M]. I’d even include Neighbors [$248M] and This is the End [$126M], not action-comedies per se, but lots of physical humor. Each of these four movies was produced on the cheap ranging from $18M (This is the End) to $50M (22 Jump Street), the latter a bump up from the original’s $41M budget, the extra dollars justified for a sequel to a hit movie.

So what is the state of comedy movies in Hollywood today? We saw the downturn in numbers a few years back when Comedy, which for decades was #1 in terms of spec script sales, was dethroned by Action and Thriller. The slowdown in theaters today for the genre is a reflection of studio decisions from two-three years ago. Given the continuing growth and importance of the international market, this trend will likely continue. However strong high concept comedies… lower budget… with lots of visual humor… especially action-comedies… well-written and, of course, funny… my guess is Hollywood will always be in the market for that kind of spec script.

For the Quartz article, go here.

For The Street article, go here.

For TheWrap article, go here.

The ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Ending You Didn’t See (And Why You Saw The One That You Did)

July 7th, 2014 by

I recently posted this in which I analyzed Edge of Tomorrow which is one of my favorite science fiction movies in recent years. So it was with interest I read a Film School Rejects article about the movie featuring comments from screenwriter Christopher MacQuarrie.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to know about the ending, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. You have been forewarned!


“Why Disney Can Risk Rian Johnson Helming a ‘Star Wars’ Film”

June 27th, 2014 by

By now, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard this news:

Rian Johnson’s dive into science fiction with 2012′s Looper will serve him well on a much bigger project, as the director will take on Episode VIII of the upcoming Star Wars series.

Initial reports had also attached Johnson to direct Episode IX, though it was later confirmed that he would only write the treatment to that film, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rather than giving a statement, Johnson tweeted a scene from the outer space classic The Right Stuff in which Scott Glenn, as astronaut Alan Shepard, says, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me fuck up.”

Since the Big Announcement, lots of folks have been analyzing the move:

Guardian: Could Rian Johnson Be the Most Radical Star Wars Director So Far.

L.A. Times: Expect Rian Johnson to Push Star Wars in Unexpected Directions.

Vulture: Everything You Need to Know About Rian Johnson.

Atlantic provided some broader movie business context in this article:

By enlisting relatively obscure directors and spinning off cult characters, the studio is taking a Marvel-style approach to the galaxy far, far away.

Johnson is beloved by internet geeks. He combines bold thinking (Brick was a film noir set in a Californian school) with action (Looper featured a time-traveling assassin played by Bruce Willis on a quest to murder a small child). He is just the sort of person that everyone on the internet says should direct a Star Wars film but who doesn’t usually get the chance.

By hiring talented but untested directors and taking some creative risks, Marvel set out to create individual franchises set in the same world, just as in the comics. In this way, audiences have bought into individual characters like Iron Man and Captain America, and each exists as its own money-spinning franchise against the backdrop of a larger universe. Fans are buying into a character’s journey, rather than a Marvel sequel. And stories that unite the universe, such as The Avengers, become must-see global blockbusters that bring together these different fan-bases once every few years. The Marvel method has upended the blockbuster formula, which, ironically, was created by the original Star Wars film in 1977.

Will Disney be able to do the same with Star Wars, credibly expanding the universe beyond the story of the Skywalkers?

Can’t answer the last question, but I can say this: Johnson is a fantastic choice. Brick is wonderful. The Brothers Bloom is underrated. And Looper is fantastic. Johnson is a talented writer-director with a unique voice and a sophisticated visual sensibility. Check out the trailer for Brick:

And here is an interview with the man himself:

So kudos to Disney. They could have played it safe with a bigger name, but Rian Johnson is a bold and exciting choice.

Rian, may the Force be with you!

What are the 36 Most Expensive Movies Ever Made?

June 26th, 2014 by

Via Rope of Silicon:

Business Insider has posted a list of the 30 most expense movies ever made (plus a few additions/corrections from me), using data from IMDB and Box Office Mojo as well as adjusting for inflation. Here goes:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) – $341.8 million
  2. Cleopatra (1963) – $339.5 million (Original estimated budget: $44 million)
  3. Titanic (1997) – $294.3 million
  4. Spider-Man 3 (2007) – $293.9 million
  5. Tangled (2010) – $281.7 million
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) – $275.3 million
  7. Waterworld (1995) – $271.3 million
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) – $263.7 million
  9. Avatar (2009) – $261 million
  10. The Hobbit (2012) – $257.2 million
  11. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – $257.2 million
  12. John Carter (2012) – $257.2 million
  13. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) – $256.8 million
  14. King Kong (2005) – $250.4 million
  15. Spider-Man 2 (2004) – $250.1 million
  16. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) – $246.9 million
  17. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – $246.1 million
  18. Superman Returns (2009) – $244.9 million
  19. Wild Wild West (1999) – $241.1 million
  20. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) – $237.16 million
  21. The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – $236.7 million
  22. Men in Black III (2012) – $231.5 million
  23. Man of Steel (2013) – $228.2 million
  24. The Avengers (2012) – $226.4 million
  25. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – $220.2 million
  26. Terminator Salvation (2009) – $220.2 million
  27. 2012 (2009) – $220.2 million
  28. Quantum of Solace (2008) – $219.4 million
  29. Troy (2004) – $218.9 million
  30. Toy Story 3 (2010) – $218.2 million
  31. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) – $218.2 million
  32. Iron Man 2 (2010) – $218.2 million
  33. Robin Hood (2010) – $218.2 million
  34. Alice in Wonderland (2010) – $218.2 million
  35. Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – $218 million
  36. The Lone Ranger (2013) – $218 million

Perhaps the most startling fact:

It’s for these reasons we talk about budgets and box office. It’s out of control nowadays and other than about four films before 2003, 26 of those films are from the last ten years… and that’s adjusting for inflation [emphasis added].

We can sit here all day and cry out this business model is not sustainable. Even luminaries like Spielberg and Lucas can publicly proclaim “there’s eventually going to be an implosion.”

Maybe so. But with 23 superhero movies planned for release in the next 4 years, there suits aren’t buying that proposition. Hell, we could be looking back in 5 years time at this list which could have doubled in size and added another 25% on the top end for budgets.

What can we do? (1) Wait for the international market to wise up to this game the major studios are playing and stop paying to see mediocre to lousy big budget spectacles. (2) Promote quality financier funded movies and independent films. (3) Support quality big budget movies with solid stories and well-written characters.

For the rest of the article, go here.

“The Smartest Sci-Fi Films Are Low-Budget Ones”

June 23rd, 2014 by

BuzzFeed ran an article last week featuring two new science fiction movies: Coherence and The Signal.

Giant interstellar shoot-outs and outlandish alien races are great and all, but science fiction is a genre that can benefit from limitations as much as it can big-budget space operatics. It’s built on ideas, which means that with enough ingenuity, a smaller movie can do its own world-building by exploring a concept and how it affects people. Large-scope sci-fi may be big for the summer box office, but there’s also a long tradition of scrappier films exploring time or space travel, dark futures, and new technology, all by way of how it affects a small group of characters, an approach that can be just as mind-bending without the visual effects. When you can’t depend on simply showing how crazy a sci-fi phenomenon looks, for instance, you’re forced to concentrate more on what the experience of dealing with it is like, and those tropes can serve as a metaphor for experiences that are closer to home for the audience.

That’s the case for Coherence, an inventive indie written and directed by James Ward Byrkit that opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday and expands to more cities in the weeks after. Coherence is the story of a dinner party in which eight friends with long and sometimes fraught histories gather to play catch-up while a comet passes overhead. When the power goes out, they notice there’s a house two blocks away that remains lit, and a few of the guests venture out to see if they can use the phone. When they come back, one of them’s bleeding and upset by what he saw, and the other is carrying a mysterious box he stole that turns out to be inexplicably filled with photos of everyone at the party.

The flashier fellow indie The Signal, which opened in theaters last week, also combines a drama about relationships with a sci-fi mystery, though the more it delves into the latter, the less interesting it actually becomes. Directed by William Eubank, The Signal starts in the company of a trio of brainy tech types — friends Nic (Oculus’ Brenton Thwaites) and Jonah (Beau Knapp), who are driving Nic’s girlfriend, the “CalTech turncoat” Haley (Olivia Cooke), to school. As they road-trip through some gorgeously photographed middle American landscapes, Nic and Jonah feud with a hacker who goes by the handle “Nomad.” Nic is dealing with a degenerative disease that has him using crutches, and he’s pulling away from Haley, the prospect of a long-distance relationship and his progressive illness causing him to try to sabotage their bond.

There are plenty of smart low-budget science fiction films that come to mind: Mad Max, Primer, The Terminator, Pi and Moon to name a few. I don’t think there’s any necessary correlation between big budgets and dumbed down movies, although I’m sure we could all name more than a few spectacle sci fi flicks that just don’t measure up in any sort of intellectually satisfying way. So are the smartest sci-fi films low-budget ones? Smells like hyperbole to me.

However allow me to put a spin on the title of BuzzFeed’s article: How a screenwriter interested in the science fiction genre would be smart to conjure up at least some low-budget story concepts.


Because it’s easier to get you noticed… and get them made.

That whole area of ‘world-building’ wherein the writer has to create a visual context far different than contemporary Earth is not only a cause for inflated budgets (think: Computer Generated Imagery), it also elevates the discomfort of Hollywood suits. An action movie is an action movie. A thriller is a thriller. Those are in the realm of a typical development executive’s life experience. But a science fiction film is, I believe, more of a challenge to them. It feels alien, strange and big. Those may be helpful elements for a movie marketing campaign, but for script development? Quite a challenge to get the story right.

In my view, that’s why the studios keep relying on a select group of writers who have a proven track record with science fiction projects (e.g., Spaihts, Lindelof, Kinberg, etc).

So here comes New Writer A with a $150M science fiction spec script. And here’s New Writer B with a $5M science fiction spec script. Put on your producer’s hat: If both screenplays are written equally well and both have obvious commercial viability, which writer would you feel most comfortable with?

Besides a $150M spec can only go to a handful of buyers: The major studios. Whereas a $5-20M spec can go to dozens of financiers and independent production companies.

You love science fiction? Great. Hollywood happens to love the genre now as well. But you’d probably be wise not only to come up with a smart story concept, but also one that is low-budget.

Get your foot in the door, prove you can write the genre, then maybe some day, you’ll be this guy working on some seriously big budget sci fi films.

For the rest of the BuzzFeed article, go here.

“Moments That Changed The Movies: Jurassic Park”

June 17th, 2014 by

Via Indiewire:

With “Safety Not Guaranteed” director Colin Trevorrow currently in the midst of shooting “Jurassic World,” the series’ latest installment that’s set to open next summer, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences have released a nine-minute video which breaks down just how revolutionary the effects in Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” were.

Here is the video:

To read the full Indiewire article, go here.

Is 23 Super Hero Movies Over The Next 4 Years Too Much?

June 17th, 2014 by

Indiewire asks a simple question: “Is 23 Super Hero Movies Over The Next 4 Years Too Much?” To which I say…

23?! Really?!

Really! Here they are:

“Guardians of the Galaxy” (8/1/14)
“The Avengers: Age of Ultron” (5/1/15)
“Ant-Man” (7/17/15)
“Captain America 3″ (5/6/16)
Untitled 2016 Marvel Movie (7/8/16) [Given all the hiring updates, this feels like “Dr. Strange”]
Untitled 2017 Marvel Movie (5/5/17) [Speculation is “Thor 3”]
“The Avengers 3″ (TBA 2018)

“The Fantastic Four” (6/9/15)
“X-Men: Apocalypse” (5/27/16)
“The Wolverine 2″ (3/3/17)
“The Fantastic Four 2″ (7/14/17)
Untitled Fox/Marvel (7/13/18) [Lots of speculation, some can be read here]

“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (5/6/16)
“Shazam” (Jul 2016)
“Sandman” (Dec 2016)
“Justice League” (May 2017)
“Wonder Woman” (Jul 2017)
“Flash and Green Lantern” team-up (Dec 2017)
“Man of Steel 2” (May 2018)

“The Amazing Spider-Man 3” (6/10/16)
“Venom” (TBA 2016)
“The Sinister Six” (TBA 2017)
“The Amazing Spider-Man 4” (5/4/18)

Do you remember this dude:

The truth is, there aren’t nearly enough superhero movies available. By historical standards, we’re so deprived of superhero movies that there’s probably a shadow war being fought between paranormal forces of good and evil over the matter.

O ye of little faith as Hollywood is apparently hell-bent on achieving the dude’s wet dream, witness the above list.

However in my humble opinion, the answer to the question is an unequivocal yes: 23 superhero movies in 4 years is too damn much! Set aside how the studios see these franchises as cash cows [although as recently as 2003, one studio chief believed that superhero movies were nothing more than a "fad"]. I get why they are addicted to superhero movies. Let me just speak to the issue from a single perspective:


To wit: How many different ways can screenwriters create a sense of jeopardy in superhero movies?

Start with: The fate of the Earth is at stake!

Proceed to: The very existence of the Earth is in doubt!

End up with: The Universe could be destroyed!

Now what? Pity the poor screenwriters, as well-paid as they are, to try and figure out how to create a plot with a different, compelling set of stakes.

24 superhero movies in 4 years. How many times can writers go to the Earth/Universe in jeopardy well before consumers start to say, “Not this again?!”

So no, we don’t need 24 superhero movies in 4 years. But that’s what we’re getting.

For the rest of the Indiewire article, go here.

UPDATE: I mentioned Joss Whedon in comments. Perfect timing as Huffington Post has this article in which Whedon weighs in on the state of superhero movies:

“People have made it very clear that they are fed up with movies where entire cities are destroyed, and then we celebrate,” Whedon said, recognizing that of all of those things crashing into other things is an attempt to harness somewhat newly found visual effects.


There is an inherent clash that characterizes the genre, and Whedon is tapped into that discordance more so than the use of CGI. “You’re in a constant state of being pulled both ways at all times,” he said, “You’re trying to make a populist film with fascist iconography that is just bigger, and better, and longer, and trying to break that down and find a weakness and humanity.”

Ultimately, what Whedon finds important in his work (and what we will see in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” which he wrote and is currently filming in the U.K.) is that emphasis on humanity.

“People come in with a certain amount of emotional baggage,” he said, “So, whether we’re in our larvae stage or our decadent stage, I can’t really say, but I try to make my superhero movies as if there’s either never been one or there’s only ever been them. I work with the idea that it’s just a natural way for people to be, so that you still make a movie about people.”

“Make a movie about people.” That’s all I’m saying. The superhero movies, indeed, any of the big CGI-laden films succeed when they have an “emphasis on humanity,” not just lip service or trafficking in stereotypes. That’s why Edge of Tomorrow worked for me, where many other mega-budget superhero or sci-fi movies did not.

As I have suggested before, instead of always scaling up the stakes — “The fate of the universe!!! — which has become boring, why not scale down, e.g., this specific group of people, this family, this person is in jeopardy as in The Terminator.

As Andrew Stanton says, “Make me care”.

Post-TFIOS buzz phrase: “Grounded” Teen Movies

June 16th, 2014 by

When a movie with a production budget of $12M generates $120M in worldwide box office in its first two weeks — that is a 10-to-1 ratio for all you math geeks out there — you can be sure Hollywood will pay attention.

That movie is The Fault in Our Stars… and the suits from Burbank to Culver City have apparently seen the light. From THR:

For the past 13 years, the young adult book-to-film landscape has been dominated by wizards (Harry Potter), vampires (Twilight) and teens battling for survival in dystopian futures (The Hunger Games, Divergent). In fact, those three categories make up the top 15 YA book-to-film domestic box office earners.

But given the unexpected success of Fault — envisioned merely as summer counterprogramming, the Shailene Woodley-Ansel Elgort cancer drama bowed to $48 million domestic during a competitive weekend — the YA terrain has a new map. Producers and executives say the economics of Fault are impossible to ignore: The Fox 2000 film cost just $12 million to make and dwarfed Warner Bros.’ Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, which cost at least $178 million.

“I’m sure we’ll see knockoffs because this is the knockoff business,” says Erik Feig, co-president of Lionsgate’s Motion Picture Group, who is steeped in the ebbs and flows of the YA business, having shepherded Twilight, Hunger Games and Divergent. “It’s like those old perfume ads: ‘If you liked Obsession, you’ll love Perseverance.’ You always see a success and then the wave it fosters.”

Indeed, in the wake of Fault, based on John Green‘s wildly successful YA novel, look for a shift from the epic/expensive toward the personal/modestly budgeted.

Hwood execs actually have a name for TFIOS-type stories: “Grounded” Teen Movies. Teenage characters who actually live in situations and look like… you know.. actual teenagers sans capes, fangs or post-apocalyptic environs. More from the article:

“I think moviegoers want stories and characters that feature reality over heightened reality,” says Michael H. Weber, who adapted Fault with Scott Neustadter. “Hopefully the success of [Fault] will open the door for more stories that resemble the modern young adult experience.” Weber and Neustadter, who also co-wrote (500) Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now, are key figures in the “grounded” YA movement. They are reteaming with Fox 2000 and Fault producers Temple Hill on Green’s novel Paper Towns, with Fault actor Nat Wolff attached to star. The pair also are writing Rosaline, a comedic retelling of Romeo & Juliet from the point of view of Romeo’s ex-girlfriend, which was inspired by Rebecca Serle‘s When You Were Mine. That project has picked up steam at Universal in recent weeks and has leading lady Felicity Jones in place, whereas the studio’s more FX-reliant YA titles Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The School for Good and Evil (both produced by Joe Roth) have no cast yet.

Here’s hoping Neustadter and Weber ride this wave for all its worth because every movie they’re involved in, I end up tweeting, “More movies like this, please.” But does this mean you, as a writer, should jump on this grounded teen movie bandwagon?

If you like this type of material… if you are good at writing these type of stories… if you already have a killer concept in this arena, prepped and ready to go to FADE IN… maybe.

Just know that right now, you can be sure every studio exec and producer is being inundated with scripts tagged as “It’s like The Fault in Our Stars“. The competition is undoubtedly fierce. Moreover these lower budget, more realistic teen movies run against years of what Hollywood has been trafficking in: more fantastical, big budget, tentpole franchises. They’re used to swinging for the fences looking to hit grand slams. And as great as the performance has been for The Fault in Our Stars, I’m sure many, if not most suits look at it as a double at best, if for no other reason than it’s not easily translatable in to a franchise (though you can be sure they are doing everything they can to summon a sequel out of it).

Plus there’s this: TFIOS is based on a hugely popular novel with a built-in social media empire of young adults, teens and tweens, so you can be sure a lot of people look at this project as a unique confluence of elements that are unlikely to be reproduced any time soon.

In other words, I have doubts about how deep this new-found interest in grounded teen movies may be. I mean there was an entire decade in which the movie business was largely fueled by these type of stories: The 80s. If you need a reminder about how prevalent teen movies were back then, go here, here, and especially here.

Maybe we’re on the cusp of a resurgence. But again, if you’re thinking about diving into those waters, just make damn sure you like these stories, you have a knack and ear for writing them, and you have a strong story concept to work on.

If not, probably best not to follow this trend, rather focusing on discovering what type of stories are uniquely suited for your interests and skills, then keep working them until you find your voice.

How about you? What are your thoughts on grounded teen movies? Fad or here to stay?

And for old times sake, here are ten memorable 80s teen movies:


For the rest of the Hollywood Reporter article, go here.