Fact or Fiction: There Are No New Ideas In Hollywood

Fact or Fiction: There Are No New Ideas In Hollywood June 20, 2023
On a daily basis, I hear a lot of things about the entertainment industry that just aren’t true. Most of the time I’m able to chuckle and just scroll past them.  I even joke with friends about having missed the limo to the champagne and caviar lifestyle that all of us in film and television supposedly have. (This weekend someone actually said that all screenwriters make millions and live in fancy mansions with drivers and personal chefs. Uh….I DEFINITELY missed that field trip!)
However fun it is to laugh at some of the myths about working in film, the concept of there being no new ideas hits every single red button that I have.
 If you have spent any amount of time anywhere on the internet, you have likely heard this said. You might have even commented it yourself. This comment will usually bring me out of my quiet, safe, lurking zone faster than just about anything else.  You see, it’s a little known fact that every time someone posts, comments, or likes this statement, a creative‘s soul shrivels and dies, forcing them into a lifetime career in telecommunications. Oh and by the way, did you know that your car’s warranty is about to run out?
I totally understand why someone might think this.  I mean Ghostbusters, Maverick, live action Disney films, Quantum Leap,(friendly side bar: With all of our updated technology, can we not get Sam Beckett back home please???) and more are filling theaters and television listings. I admit that there have been times I have wondered if I was a time traveler sent back to fix something that went terribly wrong.
The reasons behind the update/reboot/sequel trend aren’t nearly as depressing as there being no new ideas out there. It’s simple. It’s all about the marketing and the audience.

Established IP

Intellectual Property or IP is defined by Meriam Webster dictionary as:

property (such as a concept, idea, invention, or work) that derives from the effort of the mind or intellect

also : a right or registration (such as a patent, trademark, trade secret, or copyright) relating to or protecting this property

When a sequel, reboot, or other offshoot project (book, game, etc.) gets created from an already established IP, the owners of that IP already have several major hurdles to getting projects greenlit out of the way. It’s something that’s generally been sitting in their library gathering dust or it’s already one of their biggest money makers, so why not keep going with it?  It makes logical sense.  They don’t have to go track down the rights or licensing – it’s just right there ripe for the picking. Basically, business wise, it’s low hanging fruit. In fact, this list shows that domestically, the top ten box office performers for 2022 were all part of previously established IPs.

Okay but owning the IP already doesn’t mean instant success. Nope, but there’s this part of the equation as well.

Educational Marketing

This is my own term that I came up with a few years ago. It isn’t about educational television or progrmming – it’s about educating the audiences.

With an established IP,  the audience already knows the characters, foundation, and general storyline. There is absolutely no ‘educational’ marketing required in order to bring an audience. No one has to explain who the characters are, why they are there, or what to expect. It takes a lot of money, resources, time and effort to educate audiences on something new and make them excited enough about it to buy a ticket or stream it. Goodness, even people who hate it and are complaining usually end up buying a ticket so they can hate watch and post about it!

Here is a good example. Everyone already knows that Star Wars is going to have the Force, Jedi, Sith, and some sort of battles. No need whatsoever to explain that. But in the 70s, that wasn’t the case. In fact this article in Collider highlights several highly successful franchises/movies that almost didn’t get made. They include some of our much beloved classics like Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.,  and of course, Star Wars. While trying to get Star Wars made, George Lucas was rejected by every major studio at the time. In fact, 20th Century Fox only took their chance on him based on the fact that they loved his previous film, American Graffiti, and wanted to keep an open door with him.

Even Walt Disney understood this concept. Though Disney created some beloved characters and stories that were original, their foundation in film and television sprung forth from already established IPs. Fairy tales, beloved children’s stories, and books were the bread and butter for Disney. They took chances with new or original projects when they were able to bolster their books with stories that audiences generally already knew or could go to the library and research for themselves.
Walt Disney was a creative genius whose ideas were far bigger than many could comprehend while he was building his empire, but he was also a savvy businessman. Nowadays, it feels like things might be balanced a little more in favor of the number crunchers over creatives who are willing to take a chance. For people like myself who have been saying for years that we don’t think there should even be a box to think outside of, it’s a tough time. That’s why I tend to add marketing, publicity, and promotional value to my pitch decks when sending new ideas to potential networks or investors. It helps bolster things sometimes when they can see the longer term potential rather than just the idea itself.
Image courtesy of @Quietonthesetnews
Over the weekend I saw someone post an article about this explaining the same things that I have here and someone commented that it made sense that lazy marketing departments were the cause. That’s not actually the case either. The marketing and publicity people generally have absolutely nothing to do with what gets picked up or greenlit. Marketing is sometimes represented in these meetings but they don’t have the power to say, “Yes, let’s make this movie.” Or “No, we’ll pass.” Generally, for the most part, marketing and PR get the projects dropped on their desk and they are told to make their magic happen once it’s a done deal.
So the next time you see or hear someone complaining that there are no new ideas or creativity, you can help save a screenwriter’s soul and (nicely please!) educate them on what’s really happening. And then maybe, just maybe, we can start getting some more traction out there for the smaller indie projects and creative ventures that are currently overflowing people’s desk drawers, notebooks, and imagination.
Do you have more questions or comments to share? Let’s talk!  I’m on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Stop by and let me know what you think!
About Lori Twichell
Lori Twichell is a screenwriter, publicist and marketing director in the entertainment industry. You can read more about the author here.
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