Anatomy of a Blockbuster

Die hard on an oil rig” has been a premise floating around Hollywood for years. Current events like Somali pirates, Deepwater Horizon, high gas prices and the public’s penchant for hero driven action films should make this a marketable concept. Spin the story so that the big oil company is the good guy and you might find some funding too. I don’t read Variety enough, but i wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t show up soon.

Marketability drives the movie business. Studios tweak a business model that spreads risk over many productions on a yearly basis in the hopes that the one hit (which nobody really knows which it will be) pays for the other films that turn out little to no “business.” Some ideas seem stronger and more “immediate” than others and are then lavished with funding on stars, special effects, and marketing for that pot of cash at the end of that opening weekend rainbow. Is it really an elaborate guessing game or can we leverage information from the collective unconscious.

Storytellers need compelling stories. Audiences want stories with conflicts that seem relevant and can resonate an existing emotional investment. That’s why films follow current events and ultimately why Hollywood productions follow story and genre trends. A hit in Hollywood invariably spawns copy-cat productions in order to cash in on that collective appeal. What we all need to learn as storytellers is to be vigilant in the narrative potential of the world around us, the news as well as our personal lives. We obviously want to lead those narrative surges with our storytelling.

That said, no big concept can work without a personal story behind it. No conflict is so compelling as those that threaten the personal lives of characters we care about.

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