Making movies is hard. Making movies that make money is even harder. Perhaps hardest of all is facing the stark realities of the American Film Market.
I attended AFM a few weeks ago as part of the frontline marketing efforts for our second feature film, Werewolf Serenade. (And, yes, that’s the title—you voted, and that’s the winner—an instant cult classic.)
I was at the Market to collect business cards of sales agents. Got a stack. I also got a front-row seat to the kind of cinema selling in the hot-house environs of Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica, where AFM took place with picketing hotel workers blaring vuvuzelas outside.
How was it? As H.L. Mencken aptly said, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”
I offer, for your viewing pleasure…
Meth Gator, the spiritual heir to Cocaine Bear but without the “true story” bona fides (one hopes). Its tagline also works as the public service announcement we didn’t know we needed: “Don’t Flush Your Meth.”
Zombie Plane, in which an airborne airliner chock-a-block with the undead is spared arriving in Los Angeles by some buxom flight attendants and, naturally, ’90s rapper Vanilla Ice. I gleaned all this from its poster (and I believe it because Hollywood marketing never lies).
Feral. Two words—killer pigs.
Granted, I was at AFM peddling a werewolf film, so who am I to judge…?
…Daedalus F-ing Howell—that’s who. And judge, I will. It’s my responsibility as one of the few remaining suppliers of campy, screwball comedies that namecheck Herman Hesse and Carl Jung, the former being my cinematic M.O. (and, in the case of AFM, that doesn’t stand for Market Opportunity, more like Moral Obligation).
Where are all the grown-up, art-house comedies of yore? They’re coming back to the theaters in dribs and drabs. Consider Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, which is right in the pocket. Big on story, small on star power and a humongous flag in the ground for non-franchise, non-IP-driven filmmaking. Bravo.
If movies were math, my tastes and talent land nowhere near the lowest common denominator—it’s all “weird numbers” (starting with the budget). I couldn’t sell out if I tried—and trust me, I’ve tried. I’m an accidental auteur, and my sincere hope for cinema is that more filmmakers with their defaults set like mine continue to emerge.
Sure, our mico-budget art flicks may be a mere drop in an ocean of multiplexes lousy with meth gators and Vanilla Icebergs—but we’re lone werewolves anyway, dog-paddling to some distant shore on a lost horizon, hoping you’re there too, mixing margaritas and metaphors, waiting for the show to begin.