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ihavebiglips
02-27-2010, 10:07 PM
What are the most controversial ideas you've pitched (ie, hot-button issues - abortion, religious, teen sex and violence, etc), and how did it go?

THEUGLYDUCKLING
02-27-2010, 10:21 PM
i heard a couple writers around the watercooler talking about a remake of meatballs with a red palmed priest, hitler and Screech as camp counslors

i think it's dead in the water though.

ihavebiglips
02-27-2010, 11:54 PM
Yeah, shock comedy is too easy.

I'm talking drama that deals with these types of issues. Teenage abortion, school shootings, that type of ****.

Anyone ever have the balls to pitch something in this territory on a major prodco/studio level?

Ribeau
02-28-2010, 12:13 AM
Recently, I've mentioned the word "Pedophile" in a thriller pitch. I received some awkward looks from execs.

wcmartell
02-28-2010, 01:45 AM
I have a horror western, and when I pitched it and killed off all of the leads but one violently, it was not greeted with a positive response.

Best pitch I ever heard about - and CE was there so he can verify - was at Las Vegas Screenwriting Conf - the woman whose husband was a practical joker, one day he did this whole drawn out heart attack thing. So she video taped him, waiting for him to move. Had their kid change tapes and operate the camera. After 3 days, he smelled bad - and she realized he wasn't faking the heart attack and was dead. She *showed the tape* as her pitch!

- Bill

sc111
02-28-2010, 10:39 AM
Oh - Bill. Seriously? :eek:

Lips - Some of the exec notes I received on my comedies seemed to indicate the oddest (and in my case benign) things may appear controversial, depending on the exec.

Rantanplan
02-28-2010, 11:38 AM
You can always place your controversial themes in another world and make them easier to swallow. Sci-fi can explore themes that straight-up dramas can't, because they take place "somewhere else" with creatures that may not be "actual human beings." Plus, you can then add kick-ass visuals to distract from the serious issues that most people find to be a major drag :)

mrjonesprods
02-28-2010, 11:52 AM
I don't think controversial stories lend themselves to being pitched because they are so execution dependent.

LIMAMA
02-28-2010, 12:14 PM
In my Showtime movie, I had the daughter comment on the Mom's PMS. Somebody took offense to that, so I changed it to "hormonally challenged."

:)

ihavebiglips
02-28-2010, 03:11 PM
I don't think controversial stories lend themselves to being pitched because they are so execution dependent.


Yeah, I hear you.

Damn this biz! :bounce:

ihavebiglips
03-01-2010, 07:08 PM
I don't think controversial stories lend themselves to being pitched because they are so execution dependent.


Just wanted to touch on this again, and make a distinction.

Jeff, are you saying you would shy away from including any hot button or controversial elements from a story if pitching at that level, even if the entire script doesn't hinge on that element being implemented, just the third act/climax?

For example, if you got the gig to rewrite a Twilight script in which Bella gets knocked up by homeboy's creature-of-the-night-sperm and found that the best angle you could take on the story - in service to theme, character arcs, and drama in general - is a back alley abortion of the little sucker.

You came up with other takes on the material, but all pale in comparison to one with the controversial element. Would you be more inclined to pitch the less controversial takes at the expense of story, so as to not look like an out of touch writer with no business savvy?

Obviously, studios are not going to like the abortion angle.

And this isn't the most appropriate example, as Summit distributed Twilight themselves as far as I know.

But say this future installment is at Summit with distribution through Warner Brothers?

Would you even bother trying the controversial angle out on Summit to see if they have the balls to take it to Warner's?

mrjonesprods
03-01-2010, 09:10 PM
Just wanted to touch on this again, and make a distinction.

Jeff, are you saying you would shy away from including any hot button or controversial elements from a story if pitching at that level, even if the entire script doesn't hinge on that element being implemented, just the third act/climax?

For example, if you got the gig to rewrite a Twilight script in which Bella gets knocked up by homeboy's creature-of-the-night-sperm and found that the best angle you could take on the story - in service to theme, character arcs, and drama in general - is a back alley abortion of the little sucker.

You came up with other takes on the material, but all pale in comparison to one with the controversial element. Would you be more inclined to pitch the less controversial takes at the expense of story, so as to not look like an out of touch writer with no business savvy?

Obviously, studios are not going to like the abortion angle.

And this isn't the most appropriate example, as Summit distributed Twilight themselves as far as I know.

But say this future installment is at Summit with distribution through Warner Brothers?

Would you even bother trying the controversial angle out on Summit to see if they have the balls to take it to Warner's?

I was referring to the idea of taking a controversial story (without source material) and pitching it to studios in hopes they would buy the pitch.

If you're up for a rewrite or adaptation job, I think you have to pitch the story the way you see it. If it includes a hot button item, but it's truthful to the story you want to tell - then let the chips fall where they may. But it's also not a bad idea to say, "if the studio won't go for this element due to its controversial nature, here's another idea..."

Luckily, as a comedy guy, this isn't something I have to deal with. ;)

NikeeGoddess
03-02-2010, 02:03 PM
Luckily, as a comedy guy, this isn't something I have to deal with.what, no pedophiles in your comedy?

methinks any flick with serious controversial issues need to be pitched to an independent producer who isn't squeamish about doing things that make people squirm uncomfortably.
ie -
the woodsman - pedophile kevin bacon
L.I.E. - pedophile brian cox
anything by todd solondz
birth - pedophile nicole kidman
did you know that ellen page castrated a pedophile in hard candy?

sc111
03-04-2010, 09:13 AM
Is abortion really that controversial? I can almost see why a pedophile story would make the industry wary -- but then again, right now the cable news is talking a San Diego girl being raped and murdered by a registered sex offender/pedophile who was released from jail even after a psychiatrist said he was a danger to society.

NikeeGoddess
03-04-2010, 11:43 AM
anybody see a flick called Zoo? http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0874423/
i nearly freaked when they actually showed 2 seconds of video where this man was taking it.... by a horse. no joke. it was real. i don't recommend it for the squeamish.

ihavebiglips
03-04-2010, 04:00 PM
Is abortion really that controversial? I can almost see why a pedophile story would make the industry wary -- but then again, right now the cable news is talking a San Diego girl being raped and murdered by a registered sex offender/pedophile who was released from jail even after a psychiatrist said he was a danger to society.


To a corporate studio?

Yes.

Polarizing subjects have the potential to cut revenue in half, let alone it's not wise to be messing with the MPAA ratings commission when PG-13 is where it's at. Corporations are not into risk.

This thread piggybacks on my thread asking for examples of raw PG-13 films. It's no secret that the studios' prized demographic is the PG-13 audience. This seriously undermines what you can do in a story, at the risk of incurring an R-rating and killing your potential take at any studio (and likely production companies that would be taking a property into a studio).

Sad but true. My bro and I are taking some meetings, got a major prodco wanting to hear our take on a remake assignment they have open at a studio. The original film is R-rated. We came up with a great idea that would take some serious balls, then sent the prodco an email double-checking on what rating they were going for (and assuming, in this current climate, PG-13 would be the answer).

Here's the response we got : PG-13!!

Two exclamation points, even. :rolling:

Needless to say, our take was way too out there for a studio project, especially one aiming for this rating (and our instincts were reiterated by our manager).

We have come up with something else that we can stand by, a very solid, tightly structured story (and this is a page-one rewrite, stripping out the entire present conflict/plot in the current incarnation) without the uber-controversial element in play.

Sadly, I still believe the story with the controversy is a stronger story, with higher stakes and a cleaner exploitation of the premise and setting.

So here's a glimpse into why so many movies suck, to the Biohazards in the room... when you get to this level, thanks to the corporate risk-aversion of the studio system and the MPAA Ratings system, your legs will be cut out from under you before you can take a crack at the story.

Now, we have the challenge of taking our R-rated sensibilities and draping them in sheep's clothing. As the other thread points out, PG-13 can cover some very controversial/heavy issues, but the execution needs to have its edge dulled.

What may result is a more "grown up" PG-13 film, which I am interested in exploring (especially until we can make a name for ourselves and write our types of film and have our unique brand be a part of the marketing scheme itself - until then we have to play ball).

As I said in an older thread - just because you are forced to write PG-13 and essentially de-tooth your story, it doesn't mean you can't explore darker, more provocative themes - its the difference between THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI, on an execution level.

But, I think there are definitely subjects that cannot be effectively worked into a PG-13 film. Abortion is probably one of them (though it wasn't the element we were using).

sc111
03-04-2010, 04:43 PM
To a corporate studio?

Yes.

Polarizing subjects have the potential to cut revenue in half, let alone it's not wise to be messing with the MPAA ratings commission when PG-13 is where it's at. Corporations are not into risk.

This thread piggybacks on my thread asking for examples of raw PG-13 films. It's no secret that the studios' prized demographic is the PG-13 audience. This seriously undermines what you can do in a story, at the risk of incurring an R-rating and killing your potential take at any studio (and likely production companies that would be taking a property into a studio).

Sad but true. My bro and I are taking some meetings, got a major prodco wanting to hear our take on a remake assignment they have open at a studio. The original film is R-rated. We came up with a great idea that would take some serious balls, then sent the prodco an email double-checking on what rating they were going for (and assuming, in this current climate, PG-13 would be the answer).

Here's the response we got : PG-13!!

Two exclamation points, even. :rolling:

Needless to say, our take was way too out there for a studio project, especially one aiming for this rating (and our instincts were reiterated by our manager).

We have come up with something else that we can stand by, a very solid, tightly structured story (and this is a page-one rewrite, stripping out the entire present conflict/plot in the current incarnation) without the uber-controversial element in play.

Sadly, I still believe the story with the controversy is a stronger story, with higher stakes and a cleaner exploitation of the premise and setting.

So here's a glimpse into why so many movies suck, to the Biohazards in the room... when you get to this level, thanks to the corporate risk-aversion of the studio system and the MPAA Ratings system, your legs will be cut out from under you before you can take a crack at the story.

Now, we have the challenge of taking our R-rated sensibilities and draping them in sheep's clothing. As the other thread points out, PG-13 can cover some very controversial/heavy issues, but the execution needs to have its edge dulled.

What may result is a more "grown up" PG-13 film, which I am interested in exploring (especially until we can make a name for ourselves and write our types of film and have our unique brand be a part of the marketing scheme itself - until then we have to play ball).

As I said in an older thread - just because you are forced to write PG-13 and essentially de-tooth your story, it doesn't mean you can't explore darker, more provocative themes - its the difference between THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI, on an execution level.

But, I think there are definitely subjects that cannot be effectively worked into a PG-13 film. Abortion is probably one of them (though it wasn't the element we were using).

Well, I guess I can see their cash register logic. And I agree with your point from that other thread -- of course it's doable.

But the fact that the original film they want you to rework was R-rated is sort of funny to me.

And I will not dare dip into the topic that it's weird to me they're fine with show stories about people being dismembered or mowed down by gunfire, but an abortion? Heavens no!

ihavebiglips
03-04-2010, 04:44 PM
Well, I guess I can see their cash register logic. And I agree with your point from that other thread -- of course it's doable.

But the fact that the original film they want you to rework was R-rated is sort of funny to me.

And I will not dare dip into the topic that it's weird to me they're fine with show stories about people being dismembered or mowed down by gunfire, but an abortion? Heavens no!

Abortion movies get made, no doubt.

They just don't get made and marketed at the Twilight audience.

sc111
03-04-2010, 04:48 PM
Abortion movies get made, no doubt.

They just don't get made and marketed at the Twilight audience.

I understand. Now I'm wondering -- in this specifc case you're dealing with, what was the market for the original R-rated film?

ihavebiglips
03-04-2010, 04:54 PM
And to let these corporations off the hook a bit...

I think the problem lies with our society, and the way we coddle kids nowadays. It's epidemic, and extremely nullifying of any potential glimpses kids can get into a filmic world that mirrors reality.

Goonies had broken cocks on a statue, ET had a dick joke in it. Kids are treated with the proverbial "kid gloves" to an extreme nowadays.

The studios are just trying to package products that society will buy. Parents don't want to do the dirty work of explaining the real world to kids, and now they don't even want their films to do it.

So we gets kids trying to figure this **** out on their own and they eventually get the **** kicked out of them by reality when it hits in the cold, mean real world. Catharsis in film, in the PG-13 world, is damn near dead.

Our job is to subvert the rating, play within its confines, and bring reality back to the demographic as best we can.

So, that's the word of the day.

SUBVERT.

Subvert the genre conventions. Subvert formula and bring some emotional complexity back in to play (in a manner in which the suits can swallow it as well). Subvert the audiences themselves and give them stories they didn't know they longed for before the MPAA and Tipper Gore and the rest castrated storytelling to this demographic.

That said, there are still issues that won't get by the studios. Realizing when you're pushing too hard to make a square peg fit in a round hole is part of the subversion we have to pull on ourselves as storytellers.

ihavebiglips
03-04-2010, 04:58 PM
I understand. Now I'm wondering -- in this specifc case you're dealing with, what was the market for the original R-rated film?

Part of my point. I think the target market is the same as it was in the 1970s, when the original was made - targeted at teens and young adults. This scenario is just another example of how society's handling of children and the current corporate dominance of Hollywood have changed the landscape.

sc111
03-04-2010, 05:58 PM
Part of my point. I think the target market is the same as it was in the 1970s, when the original was made - targeted at teens and young adults. This scenario is just another example of how society's handling of children and the current corporate dominance of Hollywood have changed the landscape.

Oh - I agree on the coddling. Especially teens 15 and up. But the parents are delusional. Let's face it -- this age group is slipping into the R-rated films anyway. They're looking at online porn, if not at home on someone else's computer. And they're clearly having sex.

But the thing is -- I think it's a smaller percentage of American families than we're led to believe who outright spoil and coddle kids averaging 15 or 16 y.o..

For example -- I had a discussion on this topic that American teens are the most spoiled, they don't work, like "we did" when in HS, like kids in other western nations. So I did a little searching -- guess what country has the highest percentage of kids averaging 16 years old with paid jobs while attending high school?

The USA.

It's a perception v. Reality thing.