From the rip-roaring dwellings of downtown LA to the neon lights that splatter Sunset, murmurs are heard, and they won't go away. They are constant enough to pierce through the entire state- even the insidious swelling of commuter traffic that graces the unwholly Santa Monica Freeway struggles to drown them away.
Dine at The Palm, and the murmurs will spill over to all tables until it is not just a murmur, but a hard-hitting truth. "The original screenplay is dead" a sun-kissed suit will declare amidst a coterie of Hollywood shakers. "And it ain't comin' back."
Welcome to 2019, the year the original screenplay became all-but dead. An extinct species resigned to a dusty cabinet in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A relic of a bygone era. A has-been that was run over, and then steamed rolled by countless Marvel adaptations and remakes of Disney classics.
"The original screenplay is now a Sundance movie.”
As Quentin Tarantino soaked in a bizarre, six-minute applause for his upcoming movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, the cinephile probably shared the same thoughts. That innovative, bold, original cinema is on its last legs.
Analysis and study of a lack of original scripts for huge blockbusters haven't been as wide-ranging as you might have thought, but recent data points to a lack of original screenplays. Look at the top 10 grossing movies of 2018, and they consist of sequels, Marvel/ DC adaptations, and spin-offs. However, go back two decades and the business was noticeably different.
In the 90s alone, you had “Thelma & Louise” and “Good Will Hunting" to name but a few, films that launched careers following their critical and commercial successes. But the climate has been turned on its head, a reality echoed by former Sony executive Elizabeth Cantillon who sensationally claimed that "The original screenplay is now a Sundance movie.” Pretty bad, right?
Well, not quite.
While screenplay unoriginality - mostly among the studios- is a worrying phenomenon, the emergence of new streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix has allowed for more unique stories says Verve partner David Boxerbaum. “It’s a really great time to have an original piece of material that can be sold in the marketplace,” he said. “The new buyers like Amazon, Netflix, as well as the studios, their appetite for content is at an all-time high right now.” Netflix’s commitment to producing 80 new original movies in 2018 is a testament to this.
Of course, an overt infatuation with sequels and franchises makes economic sense, particularly at a time when the American economy is still adjusting to a post-2008 recession. And despite Netflix's desire to invest in a plethora of fresh material- some good, most bad- very few of these films have made an impact unless they've been directed by a famous name. Martin Scorsese, for instance, felt his only choice to get his upcoming gangster picture The Irishman made was by teaming up with Netflix after Paramount pulled the plug because of escalating production costs.
For would-be filmmakers wanting to get an original story made, this probably won't sound promising. After all, if the studios aren't funding Mardy, then what's the damn point? Well, like with any artistic pursuit, determination always triumphs, and if the material is half as good as what the latest Quentin Tarantino movie is supposed to be, then you might just have a shot.
Whilst you may not have two handsome leads and the experience of a seasoned auteur such as Mr. Tarantino, there's always an appetite for good material according to UTA agent Alex Rincon. “There are definitely still people who are looking for original material — always with an eye towards production rather than development," he said.
But for now, the four pillars of cinema- art, technology, business, and society- are very much rooted in profit and reliability. It's hardly surprising then that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood attracted such a lengthy (and cringe-worthy) applause following its screening.
Spanning three days in 1969 Hollywood, the movie chronicles the struggles of a washed-up TV actor and his stunt double as they attempt to find new meaning in an ever-changing Hollywood. Whilst the film is yet to be released, it has already been talked about as a shoo-in for Best Picture at 2020's Academy Awards.
Exciting, sexy and solely from the mind and genius of the director himself, the hype surrounding Once Upon A Time goes beyond the fascination of its director and lead actors Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2019 it shows people still crave movies that are different from the rest.
For the trailer, one of the top comments on Sony's YouTube channel reads, "Finally hollywood(sic) brought us some good film I was tired of the super hero (sic) era."
For the first time in history, keyboard commentators may just have a point.