In the summer of 2009, a film was released that was set to rejuvenate Hollywood’s thirst for original content: Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. Less than a year later, James Cameron’s Avatar came out, supposedly changing Hollywood forever. And just this summer, Christopher Nolan’s Inception was released to both critical acclaim and huge box office success. These original, auteur driven projects did not change Hollywood, in fact it now seems that their success has done nothing to fix the lack of original, creative content in Hollywood.
The reason I bring this up is a recent bit of news that has crushed many film fans’ dreams, including mine, that Guillermo Del Toro’s dream project At The Mountains of Madness was cancelled. While this may not be exactly original in the sense that it is based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, it is still indicative of Hollywood’s lack of trust in proven filmmakers. Mountains of Madness is not a well known story, and while loved in the horror community, H.P. Lovecraft would not bring a huge fan base to the theatre, however Del Toro has more than proved himself.
It is understandable that studios are hesitant about green-lighting big budget original projects, as the risk is very high. It would appear that studios take for granted that audiences are uninterested in seeing films which are not connected to high profile books or comics, however as we have seen, this is simply not true. Studios have bred this supposed lack of interest towards original content. As we have seen time and time again, there is not only an interest for original content in film, but a huge gap in the market as well. There is a thirst for this kind of filmmaking, yet for reasons yet unknown, studios are trying to disguise this thirst as one time exceptions.
Avatar was not a fluke, nor was Inception or District 9. These are films which were able to reach out to mass audiences as they delivered completely new experiences, and yet studios do not want to accept this. If studios are waiting for film goers to prove that they want original content, they are ignoring the blatant examples that for the last couple years have been filling their pockets. That is not to say that studios should be trusting in all filmmakers, but rather that when someone has proven themselves some faith should be shown. Del Toro had a project inches away from being green-lit, yet the studios doubt was too strong.
Of course filmmakers must prove themselves before they are trusted to complete a profitable passion project, but if studios are unable to accept that this works, we will continue to see great filmmakers struggle to get their dreams on film. If studios continue this foolish game, we may not see another Inception or District 9, and have to settle instead for yet another video-game-turned–movie-reboot.