There are no new ideas, except that there are

I was sitting in my daughter’s violin class this morning when I noticed the teacher’s sockless ankle in her Converse sneaker. She’s not young and there were some varicose veins. This was real life, but for some reason I thought, I have never seen a shot like that in a film. It wasn’t the most pleasant image, but it wasn’t as gross as it sounds. My point is that you could probably follow those varicose veins up to a very interesting story.

Some people, particularly in Hollywood, like to say that there are no new stories, but that we tell the old stories over and over again. Now, of course, Hollywood does tell the same stories over and over again. It’s part of their business plan, part of their DNA, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all there is. If you think about it, there’s a million stories all around us that Hollywood wouldn’t touch, but that, if told in an interesting way, would certainly hold up to the latest bland rom-com.

Let’s take an easy example: Considering how many of Hollywood’s biggest stars are now over 50 years old, how many films are there about 50 year olds? There are plenty of films with 50 year olds in them, but that’s not what I’m talking about. How many films are there that deal with problems and issues that 50 year old men and women have to deal with, like stale marriages or divorce or the fact that your health starts falling apart. I’m sure the list is longer, but I’m not 50, so I’d have to do some research. Who would want to watch one of these films? If it were interesting, I would.

Before I start sounding like someone with a geriatric fetish, there are a million areas that are just out of bounds: and what’s funny is that they are kept out of bounds by the same people who say that there are no new ideas.

I wrote a script that takes place in an office. It always gets compared to OFFICE SPACE or THE OFFICE. Were there really on two office stories that needed to be told? It makes you think how groundbreaking OFFICE SPACE was. I can imagine that Mike Judge had to convince a bunch of skeptical executives that people might actually be interested in what happens in an office – because it have never been done before.

It’s easy to shake the plot line of any film until you’ve got it down to its basic premise, and then declare that it’s just like some other movie. OFFICE SPACE is about a guy trying to rip off his company. You see? Just like a ton of other movies.

Except it’s not.


3 thoughts on “There are no new ideas, except that there are

  1. One of the things I notice about your blog entries, which I reading, is that you seem to constantly be banging your head against the wall which separates the creative aspects of filmmaking with the financial.

    The business of film has nothing to do with the creative side as far as I can tell. It approaches the final “product” or “work of art” from the entirely opposite side. All those narrative codifications serve the business end alone… and in using them, they make no apologies about it. Just like any factory… the people paying for the machinery that makes a product… they want to know exactly what the final results will be and who they are ultimately making the product for, who will PAY for it. If you told them that, at the end of the assembly line, you are not entirely sure what the end result will actually be… they just won’t want to hear it. They’re brains are designed to fit their product into the mouths of their consumers.

    But you know this… why bang your head against it?

  2. “You are an innovator, but at the same time you are very conscious of tradition.”

    “I try to be, anyway. I think that one of the problems with twentieth-century art is its preoccupation with subjectivity and originality at the expense of everything else. This has been especially true in painting and music. Though initially stimulating, this soon impeded the full development of any particular style, and rewarded uninteresting and sterile originality. At the same time, it is very sad to say, films have had the opposite problem — they have consistently tried to formalize and repeat success, and they have clung to a form and style introduced in their infancy. The sure thing is what everone wants, and originality is not a nice word in this context. This is true despite the repeated example that nothing is as dangerous as a sure thing.”

    ~ Interview with Stanley Kubrick

  3. Far be it from me to disagree with the man. It’s true. Like we were talking about… a film like Dogville breaks new ground, but no one takes anything from that – what they think works – and uses it in their films.

    But I’m not really talking about that. Just about how this close minded approach to stories is stifling and pointless.

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