Sunday, March 4, 2012

So you see, there's this platypus

Last night, while not going to sleep, I was navigating through my Xbox menu looking at previews for upcoming movies.  What I found, among a great many films I'm quite excited about, was a movie called The FP.  Here's the link for the trailer so that you can better understand my bewilderment: http://ow.ly/9rriU  It got me thinking about a subject which often amuses me.  I want to hear the dialog which transpires when movies like this one are originally pitched to producers and film companies.  How on earth did someone convince a producer to fund these concepts.  And it's not just bad movies, I'll point out I've obviously not seen The FP and why I'm very doubtful it could possibly be good, I don't actually know that for sure.  Take one of my kids favorite TV shows.  Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon that airs on the Disney Channel, is a really funny, inventive show.  Among the different cartoons my kids watch, it's one of my favorites.  I can't imagine though, how someone pitched the idea and was able to get it approved.  There are two young step brothers who are geniuses, who build elaborate and fantastical inventions to keep themselves busy during the summer.  Their sister, who presumably is in charge of the two boys most of the time, is constantly trying to get their mother to catch them in the act, however, the inventions always disappear, through unintentional circumstances, before the sister can ever get the mother back in time.  Oh and the boys have a pet platypus.  Who is a secret agent.  He disappears every episode to do battle with an evil scientist, who is actually not really that evil and quite likable, named Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz.  Doofenshmirtz runs Doofenshmirtz Evil INC. which is conveniently displayed on the highrise building that serves as his headquarters.  I could go on, but you'll just have to trust me that it all works quite well and the show is hilarious and generally has a good message about believing in yourself, using your imagination and knowledge being cool.  The show is also very successful, with a movie, plush toys, action figures, t-shirts, the works.  So if you had been pitched this concept, would you have put it in production.  
I often have a similar feeling when someone asks me what my books are about.  While they are certainly not as unusually and seemingly arbitrary as Phineas and Ferb sounds, I find it difficult to sum up an entire concept in a short snippet.  I would certainly have to hire an agent if a movie company called and asked me to pitch my book.  I'd probably sound like an idiot.  "Umm...well...you see there's this girl who finds this dog, well actually her dad finds the dog, but it's her dog and he's her guardian from the magical world that she didn't know existed."  If you've read Scarlet and the Keepers of the Light, and you definitely should by the way, you know that it a pretty good yarn and makes plenty of sense.  But how do you get someone who hasn't read it to understand?  Not that easy.  Now obviously there is a synopsis on the back of the book and it does a pretty good job, but it took me a while to write it and I didn't even have to explain about a pet platypus, much less explain why in the future, hard core gangs will be using Dance, Dance Revolution to fight and kill one another.  (See link above).  
The funny thing about all this is that when a concept works, we just accept it and in certain cases even celebrate the inventive nature and forward thinking of the artists involved.  At the same time, when it doesn't work, we're left wondering how in the world someone actually agreed to put the book, movie, or TV show into production.  Some of it is probably timing.  Some of its probably luck.  Often a concept works in one genre but can't translate to the other.  Take Super Mario Brothers for example.  No one can deny the appeal, popularity and success of the video game franchise, but the movie...well, I don't think many people bring it up in their top ten list.
Take this post for instance.  I started typing because I like to think about how weird concepts are pitched to producers and publishers and figured that by the time I got to the end, I would have some point to make in conclusion.  I was apparently mistaken and the thought is infinitely more amusing than a written blog post.  But, you don't know until you try, right.  Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble and if you've got any other examples, please comment.  They make me laugh, even if it's just to myself.

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Scarlet Hopewell