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Raising d'Etre

Finding Money in Hollywood Today

by BEN TRIPP

I’m trying to get a movie made. How hard is it to get a movie made? Imagine trying to get fifty cats to run in a straight line over ten miles of broken ground, all meowing the overture to Rossini’s La Cenerentola in unison. And some people win Oscars for doing this. With Bush in the White House, you’ve got the added attraction of an elephant wearing snow shoes so he can trample more of your cats at once. Maybe this metaphor has run out of steam. What I am trying to say, and I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, at least in the spirit of idem per idem, is this: argh.

Bridget’s a social outcast, left high school without a ripple, finds herself an outcast’s job walking a security beat in an abandoned mental hospital. She’s just a warm body to keep the place free of vandals. And then she sees a ghost, an ancient crone that babbles about gold teeth. Or is it a ghost? The old woman seems to appear and disappear at will in the vast, empty complex. Ghost hunters are called in. They must be good, they’ve been on the Discovery Channel. But they’re frauds. One of them plays the psychic and keeps Bridget occupied while the others seek out what just might be a treasure hidden beneath the building. Instead they find a murderous force that has been waiting for this moment since the Second World War.

It’s a $750k horror movie, did I mention that? Ironically there are no cats in the actual picture, although Rossini wrote the libretto. Why would a laugh-meister such as myself make a horror movie? I’m trying for social realism, ha ha ha. Horror movies are fun to watch, fun to make, and they grab our deepest fears by the nads. Not only that, but I’ve been wanting to shoot something in one of these places ever since Reagan shut them all down (except the one he ended up in, natch). Huge echoing Gothic complexes with a thousand rooms and tunnels underground, what’s not to love? Remember that satire is tragedy wearing a sponge rubber clown nose; horror is tragedy with a grim smile. So they’re not such far distant cousins.

But low-budget movies are hard to get made, since Hollywood stopped making them. It used to be little theatrical pictures were the minor leagues from which the big theatrical pictures got their up-and-coming talent. But these days (the 14th Century) there are no little pictures. There’s made-for-cable, and there’s ninety million dollars. The beloved storyline of indie filmmakers revitalizing the industry by providing incubators for fresh new talent is a steaming heap of Congolese monkey fritters. Hollywood hates and fears indie productions. Naturally, then, like the good anarcho-syndicalist I am, I had to abandon my tiny, dismal desk in the sub-basement of Tinseltown and go out to captain an indie production for the benefit of all.

But you try raising 750 grand in the current economy. Wealthy citizens will take a flutter– it’s an interesting gamble to them, owning a share in a scary little horror movie. But they don’t have endless resources. To them, a lot of money is twenty grand. A lot of money to me is change out of a twenty-dollar bill. To Hollywood, which is, ultimately, where a lot of my financing will come from (another indie myth shattered: most of the indie money is straight from the same teat Jerry Bruckheimer tugs lustily at for his mega-action Wurlitzer shows), $750k isn’t enough money to get the posters printed, let alone make the movie. Nobody wants to make low-budget pictures any more. Why is that, given there’s less money to lose and just as many minutes of entertainment they can rent to audiences? It’s all about apparent risk.

Apparent risk is when you send a battleship out to sink a canoe. Chances are, a battleship won’t even be able to find the canoe, which is probably up some estuary somewhere in three feet of water. But you’ll be able to say, as the half-billion dollar ship pulls back into port, that you gave the hunt everything you had. God forbid you should send a couple of kayaks after that elusive canoe and find it but not have the manpower to bring it back. People could say you underestimated the risk of the endeavor. Did you know the average cost of a Hollywood movie is now 100 million dollars? Producers can raise these sums with a bad screenplay and an A list actor in fifteen minutes, because for that much money, it must be a real movie. If I’m not willing to lose $100 million, how can I possibly ask for $750k? At these prices, all movies are horror movies.

BEN TRIPP can be reached at credel@earthlink.net.

His book, ‘Square In The Nuts’, has been held up at the printers by thugs but will be released as soon as hostage negotiations conclude.

See also www.cafeshops.com/tarantulabros.