I was making a fire, grabbing old newspapers from the bin, when I came across this NY Times article from last summer: Save My Blockbuster… It will come as no surprise that I love film criticism. I even worked briefly (and very cheaply) as a film reviewer in my twenties. So this analysis of the summer blockbuster, what makes it, what sells it, caught my eye. Rescuing it from the flames I decided to see if my own action thriller, PLAN X, would make the grade.
In the article a mock action movie called Red, White, & Blood is pitched to a handful of movie exec types as “Fast & Furious meets Nicholas Sparks meets Die Hard.” I despise these so-and-so meets such-and-such things so that’s out. Besides I can’t think of any movies about female cops related to British spies looking for rare documents. “George Smiley meets Pussy Galore meets Hurt Locker”? Ugh. This isn’t starting out so well. But maybe, I think, my audience isn’t 14-year-old boys! There is hope.
Onward. The first exec says to lose the Nicholas Sparks angle because mush is not what summer blockbusters are about. So far so good. No mush in PLAN X, just a little snogging and a hint of romp.
Exec #2 is the marketing guy who says we need shirtless man candy for the girlfriends of the guys who will go see the action thriller. Damn. Wait! Walker Crum is naked once. At least once. Legal attache at US Embassy in London as man candy? Oh hell.
The Studio exec says redemption of main character is good. In PLAN X Cody Byrne, the main character, is reconciled with the father she hardly knows, and saves his life. That sounds like redemption to me. Score! Exec says last five minutes are all important. In book time that would be the last chapter. There is a big explosion at the end of the book and Cody is almost killed. The last chapter is the resolution though, not the big blow-em-up. Hmmm.
The Researcher exec says you shouldn’t try to appeal to everyone. He says younger characters/actors appeal to the younger audience. Does this cross over to book characters? Do readers want to see someone their own age as a main character? What do you think?
The Global Marketer says throw in some Spanish, or some Chinese baddies, or something. No Spanish in PLAN X but Cody Byrne trots around the world to England from Montana. Not too exotic but at least she’s out of the US.
The Writer takes this exercise the least seriously of all the execs. Writing isn’t valued much in the summer blockbuster, in fact, the advice is make the explosions so loud no one can hear how bad the dialogue is. Bummer. He also advises time-traveling aliens.
Well, an interesting exercise that would have been more interesting is I was writing books for 14 year olds. Or men, frankly, as my main characters are usually women. I like to think PLAN X appeals to men and women. It has gotten good reviews from men. But there aren’t a lot of hot cars or hot women in it. Just Shakespeare and MI5 and a dead guy without a name.
At the least I can cast my movie, right? Who do you see as Cody Byrne, 30ish, sometime cowgirl and cop? She’s tough on the outside, not wanting anyone to see her PTSD. Alienated from her family. Feeling alone in the world. Relentless in her search for the true identity of the bomb victim. Taking suggestions. Send ’em on.