Written by Chad Echakowitz
You are a unique snowflake. You are your own person and there is no other person like you out of the six billion other people who inhabit this little blue dot. That’s great. Well done to you for being you. But you’re originality should end there. So should your creativity. Because in today’s world, if you’re creative or have a new idea, well… you might as well bury it in the ground because it’s never going to become a reality.
To be fair, that’s not totally true. Maybe if your idea has five sequels, then it could be turned in to a film or a book. But if it’s a one-hit-wonder, don’t expect to get your dues.
If you haven’t noticed the trend that film and television are going down by now, then you can stop reading this article because it clearly doesn’t affect or concern you. But if you have noticed the trend, then you know exactly what I’m about to write: The film and television industry is drowning in sequels and spin-offs. The sequel craze has been growing at an alarming rate, with a new film in a franchise out every month. For example, Cars 3 has just been released, Avengers: Infinity War is coming out soon, and yet another Star Wars film will be released later this year. The cherry on the cake – and what inspired this article – was the release of the trailer for Bladerunner 2049. The original Bladerunner was released in 1982 and now, 35 years later, they’re making a sequel.
There have always been sequels in the film industry. Many children could learn to count just by naming the Rocky films, the weight of the combined box set of Friday the 13th films would give anyone backache; but this new, rapid influx of sequels is unprecedented.
Perhaps the reason behind this sequel explosion, much like everything in the world, is that they are safe cash-cows. Seeing a film with a familiar title makes people feel safer in their movie choice because they know that the first film was good. It also makes people believe that the studios felt safe in spending all that money making the sequel, so it must be good. And, consequently, you are more likely to go see a sequel than something you have never or barely heard of.
Due to its prospect as a safe investment, and because it’s easier than coming up with new ideas, the studios that create films are more comfortable signing up to multi-film contracts from the same franchise. It is also a guaranteed profit because the previous film in the franchise acts as a PR move for the next film, making you want to see the next one in the series. We are creatures of habit and the studios are exploiting that.
Power Rangers was only picked up as a film because there are five sequels already in the pipeline. Avatar has four sequels ready and waiting, and the writer for the Transformers franchise has said that there are 14 scripts already prepared for the making. Of course, there are new original films being released but they are in short supply, compared to the 23 films named above originating from only three of many franchises.
This is why your career as a unique and original-idea-creating writer or film-maker is dead in the water. The chances of your script being turned in to a film are outrageously small. So just give up.
Or don’t. Let’s look at the films that won Oscars this year. Moonlight. La La Land. Hacksaw Ridge. And lets not forget one of the most revered films of this year: Get Out. All of these films have one thing in common – they do not have sequels. They are not part of any franchise either. They are stand-alone films worth so much merit that the Academy awarded them for it. I am not saying that franchises can't be good, some if not most of them are, all I'm saying is that they have very little originality, especially once you've reached the sixth or seventh film in the franchise.
Another reason to keep your creative, unique, metaphorical candle aflame would be the prospect of your idea becoming a cult classic. Quentin Tarantino is known for his violence, his swearing and his spectacular films which feature both in abundance. His films all stand alone, brilliant in their own merit. Pulp Fiction (1994). Reservoir Dogs (1992). Inglorious Bastards (2009). Death Proof (2007). All of these are cult classics and all of these do not have sequels. ‘But wait!’ I hear you cry. ‘What about Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2?’ to which I reply, there is an exception to every rule, and that is why the rule exists. It is true that Quentin Tarantino made his debut in a different time, when unique ideas were encouraged, and art, instead of money, took preference, but hey, you could do it; you could bring us back to this pre-greed era with your unique and wonderful ideas. Maybe we’re all just waiting for that one film to inspire us, to return us to a better time of film and television.
For a second, let’s just forget about all the fandom and world-wide acclaim your unique film could bring you. I just want you to think of this one argument that will absolutely convince you to keep producing unique work in this not-so-unique world: if you don’t make the thing in your head, the thing in your head will never be made. It’s a simple argument but that does not take anything away from its potency. If you stop writing whatever you’re writing, if you stop making that film - your film - it will never be made. Sure, someone else might one day come close, but it will never be exactly the same as it is in your head. You owe it to yourself to bring into this world your unique piece of work – to say you were here. Even if it was never made because the studios were too busy making Captain America 64: How is this Guy still Alive?, you cannot leave this world without doing this unique thing. You’d regret it.
Therefore, there is only one logical conclusion. If you write original, thought-provoking, tear-inducing, emotion-splurging stories you will not be producing films for the masses. They will not become franchises, and they are likely to be left in the dustbin of the assistant of the assistant of some famous Producer. But if it is picked up, and someone enjoys your story enough, you may win an Oscar and be hailed for your brilliance. And even if none of this happens, if no one ever sees or reads your work but you, at least you can hold your head up high and say ‘I did a thing. A thing no one else has ever done before me.’ Of course, franchises are great too if you’re in to that kind of thing.