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Old June 6th, 2004, 04:27 AM   #1
 
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Does current Hollywood formula really work that well?

Okay,

This was on another thread, but somewhere there suggested it was off topic, so I'm starting a new one here. I started it so people who have opinions about how Hollywood and indies of current can discuss them here. I always liked a debate of what is good filmmaking, what is bad filmmaking and why, in my opinion, Hollywood film formulas could be so greatly improved.

This was my original post:
Quote:
Well, I don't know much about Russian film, but I would find it interesting to discuss the theories as to where Hollywood went wrong with their storytelling. Somewhere around the mid-80's I'd say the whole "sequel" thing started giving way to franchise, which of course is about money. But interestingly, those really bad sequels they started putting out, and still put out today, would make much more money if the stories were very good. (Examples, Star Wars: Episode I had no excuse with it's massive hungry world-wide audience to not be the highest grossing picture ever made, and Matrix 2 and 3 could have pulled in much much more if they had been as good as the first one).

Also, there's a recent rash of remakes, or 20-year old tv serials translated to feature films that in general are nothing more but gimmicks?

Is this because the trend of Hollywood is to make sure-fire moneymakers? Well, yes and no.

Holding that theory, they should stay with simple solidly told stories, and the real blockbusters should be solidly told stories with special fx thrown in (good story + special fx gets best of all worlds). But this is not what generally happens.

FX and gimmicks are there, but stories usually are not. So . . . .

I'm beginning to consider it's not as much the desire for money that delivers the typical end product, but the fact that we as a whole are becomming a much lazier society. Repitiion of history suggests that with democracy and freedom comes eventual apathy, and the result is public revolt and chaos.

Sometimes I think that the generations slowly coming into hollywood by way of default simply are too spoiled to come up with anything new. Most of the Hollywood indoor keys are passed down through the generations via family inheritance. They never had to work for anything, never considered truely studying the craft of storytelling via shakespeare or even the great filmmakers that preceeded them, simply because they didn't have to study or refine their own skills to make a living at it.

I quote what I consider to be a much higher achievement in scriptwriting than most people give credit for . . . Brad Pitt in Fight Club . . . "We've had no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression, is our lives."

Now these lazy children who were raised on TV and who consider themselves so important need to come up with something new to prove to themselves their relatively empty lives are worth something, but they can't. They've been so self-absorbed their entire lives that they can't break out of the mold or think outside the box. And they think that surely their generation with The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo and Charlie's Angels is surely the greatest generation that's ever existed anyway. So they fall back on the only thing they know . . . continuous, inmature repetition of what made them feel secure when they were children, which was The Brady Bunch and Scooby Doo and Charlie's Angels.

Luckily some young gun every once in a while puts out something fresh . . . but then just like with the old tv serials . . . everyone copies it . . . which, I think kind of helps my theory along.

Think about that one original movie every once in a while that lays the track for the next 5 or so years. This happens most often with the action genre I think: In the early and mid 80's you had First Blood and Rambo come out, which was the first REAL mega-muscle-bound (we're talking greek god musclebound) one-shot and the whole city dies action hero. Every action flick for 5 years was kind of like that (like Arnold Schwarzeneggar). Late 80's out comes Die Hard, excellent flick. Every movie for 5-7 years was a copy. (Passenger 57, Under Seige, etc. . . . all one guy trapped by terrorists in an enclosed space). Then Jurrassic Park. For a while everything was Dinosaur-type monster done with CG (Godzilla, etc.). Then The Matrix (suddenly everyone and their dog was flying around doing wire-foo (Charlie's Angels, etc.)

What I'm waiting for in a summer movie is never the most advertised one . . . you know exactly what you're getting with that. It's the one that when you see a preview, there's something about it that for some reason rings "original". This one movie comes out ever 5 years. We're due for the next big thing pretty soon, and I predict it's coming either 2005 or 2006 . . . and it won't be anything you've ever heard of until the day your friend says, "DUDE! YOU'VE GOT TO GO SEE THIS AWESOME MOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVIIIIEEEEEE!!!"
Here are some responses:

Rob Lohman
Quote:
quote:
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and Matrix 2 and 3 could have pulled in much much more if they had been as good as the first one
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Personally I don't think this is possible. How could a sequel to
something like the original Matrix ever be as good as the first one.
I understand that everyone who went with that high expectation
to see the movies was very very dissapointed. I personally liked
the sequels for the ideas it put in my mind and the more questions
it put up then it answered.

I personally just don't believe the Matrix sequels could be as
great as the original was. You know why? Because it was new
and mind blowing. There are movies where a sequel might be
better as the first one (Godfather 2?) but that just means that
part 1 was perhaps not as great.

With the Matrix (and personally I would add Fight Club and The
Sixth Sense for example as well) the "first" movie was so great,
so mind shattering that any sequel was doomed to begin with.

Personally I thought the sequels nicely added to the world that
is the Matrix. Could they have been better? Perhaps. Do they
have flaws: certainly.

I just wanted to describe how someone did enjoy the sequels
by perhaps having a bit more realistic expectation of them.
Rob Belics posted:
Quote:
Yes. It has to do with expectations. I thought the three Matrix films were brilliant because I could follow the story line from beginning to end. Most movie goers want visual entertainment only and don't want to have to think about the story.

This is what Hollywood picks up on. Many people will talk about how great a movie is due to its sfx, for example, but sfx are only part of the visual entertainment, not the story. But it sells tickets. So movies get loaded up with unnecessary cg, sometimes poorly done, and sell millions of dollars in tickets.

In the meantime, a wonderful film like "In America", drifts around the indie circuit deeply affecting those who see it while dopey "Scobby-Do" makes millions...but the first week only as those who were sucked into going the first week tell others what a waste of time it is.

The point is people forget Hollywood is a business to make money, not create great works of art. The best films are from the indies because they don't need to make hundreds of millions to make a profit where Hollywood does.

Films like "In America" are rarely made by the studios because they know it won't bring in all the kids and there's no Al Pacino, a blonde bombshell, multiple explosions and cgi monsters. If the studios did it, then all those would be inserted to "sexy it up" and ruin the story. But the studio story would make millions.
So lets hear the replies, hope this discussion will be fun!!!

Okay, all you auteurs, now you have a place to vent your frustrations!!!
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Old June 6th, 2004, 04:44 AM   #2
 
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Oh ya,

I was't saying at all that a sequel to the Matrix could have even better than the first. I don't think it ever could have been. What I'm saying is that I went and saw each Matrix sequel 1 time in the theater, and if the sequel had simply been GOOD films (not knocking on your opinion, I just ididn't like them), I would have gone back to see them 2 more times each like I did the first one.

Let's put it this way . . . a sequels are generally token rehashes of the first film, with the major difference being they have little to no story. What I'M saying is that it costs studios nothing more to make a good movie than a bad one. And what determines a sequel being a financial sucess or a financial juggernaut is ususlly the lame-o-story. I hold to my opinion becasue I know of films like Aliens where the sequel to many is arguably as good if not better than the first. It didn't follow formulas, and went a completely separate direction than the first, and people loved it becasue it built a second interesting and original story without ignoring the essential elements of the first film. The movie was so independent from the first in terms of action, etc.., many people who never saw Alien went and saw Aliens, and liked it because it was an intact story within itself.

What's always funny to me is that the reason a film like the matrix does so well is it's originalllity and story. Fx has something to do with it, but not as much as you'd think. The matrix 1 had no sequel to follow, and look how well it did. And any way you look at it, adding a good story into the sequel as opposed to just fx couldn't possibley make the sequel worse, just better. And the better the film is, that's some more audience response, that's some more sales due to good word of mouth. So if it isn't more expensive to make a good morvie as opposed to a bad one, why don't they just make a good movie, and the worst that can happen is they even more money than a crap sequel would make.

Your turns!

Thanks!!!
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Old June 6th, 2004, 02:51 PM   #3
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Intersting topic. I mostly agree with what has already been said; albeit The original Godfather was indeed a Great film in my eyes (not as suggested by Rob) and it just so happens that Part 2 was even better; makes the first one no less great.

Im thinking of films off the top of my head that were actually sequels and better?

The THIRD installment of Lord of the Rings was the best one.

ALIENS was better than the original.

The EMPIRE STRIKES back was damn close to being better than STAR WARS; and I say CLOSE.

Beverly Hills Cop 2 was better than the first.

X MEN 2 was better.

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTIEN is better than the orginal.



It is just a fact that Hollywood is indeed a business; and if they make cash on sequels then great. More often than not (every year in fact) they do manage to turn out some wonderful work. Its not just the independent films whose films usually are garbage.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 03:29 AM   #4
 
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Glad to see people here.

I have no opinions on God Farther I or 2 bing better.

Empire would be better, except for the ffact that it had no ending, so I consider star wars better via default of complete story.

I think first X men was better, but second was pretty good.

Lord of Rings, hard to say because they were basically 3 long chapters and in order to be true to the books . . . no real choice.

LOLOL, Come on man, don't start me on the Bev Cop II thing. Bev Cop I far superior IMHO.

Ya, sequels are really franchises disquised as movies, I think.

I have no arguements seeing why people say Aliens beats Alien, although for some reason I think I go with the first one, for without it's original statement of "what just 1 alien is capable of," the whole "now let's see what happens when there are hundreds of them" wouldn't work.

Keep it coming!

The main reason I generally hate sequels as a rule is that most of them end up violating the "universe" or "script rules" set up in the first film.

Characters start getting watered down from their original interesting state to a bunch of equilized generic shapes that pretty much define the hollywood formula. Most people disagree with me, but I think one of the biggest examples of this was THE TERMINATOR. The first movie was a piece of work, perfectly intact and begged to be left alone for the sake of screwing it up. Then comes the sequel, and now Arnold has gone from relentless, cold, emotionless, unstopably violent, to some disney version of what kids need to be taught via an old proberb at Bedtime (probably becasue the studios need to sell more kiddy toys) . . . PATHETIC. The interesting clash of what this indifferent death-seeking robot would say from time to time in a society of civil human beings now becomes a catalyst for cheezy macho one-liners to get a cheap laugh. When everyone saw that film, they loved it . . . I couldn't wait to get out of the theater I was so dissapointed. Linda Hamiliton and the fx were the only good things about that film, and even the fx were lame to me because I could felt it was more of an excuse for Cameron to show off the current technology of the day.

Anyone who paid any attention at all to the original story would know that a sequel where another terminator came back in time went completely against one of the most important points in the first movie . . . skynet had been destroyed, at the last minute, they sent through the arnole terminator because it was a last ditch effort . . . but OH THEN IN THE SECOND ONE, it turns out there was a better terminator? Why didn't they send that one through instead? And then for the 3rd movie, there was an even BETTER 3rd TERMINATOR!!! For a bunch of machines that were ruling the planet, they were pretty stupid to even bother sending the arnold version through . . .

Hollywood makes the franchise films and then writes the script around them to try to catch up with the money-making idea . . . it's all i'm sayin.

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Old June 7th, 2004, 03:57 AM   #5
 
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Very few characters remain intact throughout sequels. Martin Riggs? No. Indiana Jones? No. John McLane? The Matrix gang? No. I mean even the horror villians get screwed up eventually. I mean how hard is it to screw up Jason or Michael Meyers or Freddy Krueger? But they do!!!

And Characters really are just the starting point, like I said entire universes change . . . i.e., things that never would have happened in the "universe" of the first films start happening in the sequels. Just bad. Bad, bad, bad.

Ya, I know, I get started, and . . . .
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Old June 7th, 2004, 09:37 AM   #6
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I really, really, really don't want to get into the Matrix (only) thing because I'm exhausted still from trying to explain it on other boards over the years. It, too, would be OT for this thread.

The Matrix had a nice conclusion for the first one but the three films are ONE story. You cannot view the last two without understanding the first. The last two cannot stand on their own. Especially the second one.

I usually tell people you have to think of them as acts. ACT I, II and III of a complete story.

I disagree with the statement that indies turn out garbage films. At least if you are talking about those that make it to larger chains like Landmark. Usually these are well written and directed but have flaws that may be introduced by lack of budget or experience. The indies, necessarily, are made with more spirit than a need to make millions of dollars. Hollywood films are made with a need to make millions so the spirit is sometimes lost.

For example, a Mystic River, House of Sand and Fog and InAmerica or Lost in Translation compared to what in recent Hollywood? The only one I can think of could be Spotless Mind or, uh, now I forgot.

Speaking of which, I could know today if I sold a script I've been working on to the Hollywood system. (heh)
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Old June 7th, 2004, 10:53 AM   #7
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<<<-- Originally posted by Laurence Maher : Glad to see people here.

I have no arguements seeing why people say Aliens beats Alien, although for some reason I think I go with the first one, for without it's original statement of "what just 1 alien is capable of," the whole "now let's see what happens when there are hundreds of them" wouldn't work.
-->>>

More is not necessarily better but in this case *Aliens* is a different style of movie and is great on its own, not necessarily better than *Aliens*. Actually, I can watch *Aliens* today and it is totally undated but when you watch *Aliens*, it is exciting and has the same great plot but the special effects are actually quaint. The use of rear projection, some dodgy models, stop motion, all of that would be redone today. Also, it is funny to note that the type of gear the soldiers wear in Iraq today is much more sophisticated than what is worn by the Colonial Marines 'in the future'. That said, *Aliens* is superbly plotted and is one of the very few handful of sequels that don't let the 'franchise' down.

I felt the same way about *Blade II*. The original *Blade* is all right but *Blade II* just pulls out the stops. It is a much different movie in feel than *Blade*. In *Blade* if you don't accept something it is cheesy and sneer at it because the tone is a bit serious. In *Blade II* the tone is tongue-in-cheek so all the cheesy bits support the flavour.

I agree with your thoughts on *The Terminator* and its sequels. The original is very tight and pure. In the first one the Terminator goes into a police station and wipes it out. In the second one, he can't bring himself to hurt any and gets in touch with his feelings. Terrible. It had exciting stunts and set pieces but on the whole, a let down. The third one, on the other hand, had an interesting concept and ending but the plot was not very well balanced in the excitement department.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 12:22 PM   #8
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Just a thought,
I don't think hollywood has ever been known for the qualityof its output. When we look back at the "good old days" we are falling into a dangerous trap. The trap of selective memeory. Nostalgia is not reality...
The 50's and 60's, for example, gave us literally 100's of generic and lame westerns- not to mention a flood of bad WWII movies. Countless frankenstein and werewolf movies- endless abbot and costello features. The thirties and forties were rife with terrible musicals, lame gangster movies, one micky rooney and judy garland movie after another- each with the same plot, but each somehow worse than the the one before it. Don't get me wrong, There were certainlly some fine films made in these periods, but for every "Forbidden Planet" or "2001" we have dozens of "Rocket Ship XMs", and "Silent Runnings". And kid's movies? Come on now! when I was a boy we had the "Gnome Mobile", and the "Apple Dumpling Gang", and second generation animation projects from Disney such as "Robin hood"
Pure dreck! Ever see disney's "Treasure Island"? It could be a primer in how to take great source material, alter it and produce pure crap. Anybody remember "The Cat From Outer Space"? Gahhh- or the Herbie movies- a franchize as sucky as any produced in the last 10years, that's for certain.

How about James Bond- I challange you to find a discernable plot in disasters like "Thunderball" or in "Goldfinger"- a movie in which Bond overhears the bad guys discussing their plans through air vents on three seperate occasions- not once, not twice, but three times- now that's a spy! .007 is actually how high these movies rate on a scale of 1-10. No wonder the iron curain came down if we had men like that working for us!

The fact of the matter is, making movies is difficult- Hollywood reguraly spends millions of dollars on flops- sequels are no more or less guilty than stand alone movies like "The 6th day" or "Cat in the Hat" Quality films will always be produced, and so will terrible films, and I suspect the ratio of good to bad will remain, with some minor fluctuations, fairly constant.

Sorry to go on so long there. "Good old days" talk always touches a nerve with me. Now is as good as it gets- and always will be, because we can interact with Now, and make it into something spectacular.

Michael
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Old June 7th, 2004, 03:50 PM   #9
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To clarify; I was generalizing that indi films typically are garbage. I love the ones mentioned above:

Lost in Translation
American Zoetrope had a hand in it; Francis Executive Produced; Bill Murray stars...

Mystic River
Warner Brothers Produced it, Clint Eastwood directs, stars EVERYONE...

House of Sand and Fog
Dreamworks Produces, stars Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley...

InAmerica
I'd say this is the more independent of the lot. Truly done outside of Hollywood.

Aside from In America they're not really independent are they?
House of Sand and Mystic are not even remotely independent films.

Lost in Translation is disguised as an independent. I like to think an independent film comes from nowhere and hits you hard and you have no idea who the actors are nor who the filmmakers are. Now, thats independent. Think OPEN WATER perhaps?


People always classify INDI as this and that, but the reality is, that most of what people think are INDI are not.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 04:19 PM   #10
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John, although I see your point, I feel the need to point out that it is easy to be right when you define the terms yourself.

"People always classify INDI as this and that, but the reality is, that most of what people think are INDI are not. "

If most people agree that something is an 'independent' film, then it seems that the definition of an independent film has changed. Language goes with the majority.


Perhaps you meant 'low budget' films are typically garbage, or 'first time director' films are typically garbage.

It's difficult to discuss things that hinge on subjective terms and phrases such as "independent" or even "outside the hollywood system."

In any event, I agree with your point that the bulk of what you are calling "indies" are generally garbage.... but I think this has always been the case.

I would also agree with Michael. It's dangerous to fall into this nostalgic thinking of the years gone by. In 50 years people will be having the same conversations. Why? Because by then movies like "Garfield" "White Chicks" and "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" will have been forgotten completely. People will look back and look at the generation that produced "Traffic" "Fight Club" and "Fargo" and wonder where all the good movies have gone.

History has a tendency of erasing mediocrity from the collective memory. Only the strong survive...so it always seems nicer in the past.

I'm sure the past, the present, and the future all will share the same amount of crap films.... unfortunately.

-Luis
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Old June 7th, 2004, 04:38 PM   #11
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I do disagree that language goes with the majority. Just because people say it doesnt make it right. That's kind of flockish to say the least. It's like believing in the hype or living in a state of myopia. (Like the kids today dressing Punk; it's not really punk though is it? But it sure is cool.)

And no, not at all did I mean LOW BUDGET or FIRST TIMERS. I think some of the best work comes from this area as this is really when the Guerilla side comes out in creativity and resources.

What I specifically meant is that the majority of independent films I have seen I have not liked. I'm specifically referring to the typical art house film; NOT high caliber off-Hollywood films that like to throw the word independent around because it sounds cool.

On the same note; I think the majority of Hollywood Studio films are garbage as well. I think both sides contribute greatly to Cinema and both sides routinely churn out some great work. I agree with you, past, present and the coming future; the strong films will shine through.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 05:30 PM   #12
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This is exactly why it is difficult to discuss these topics. Your criticism about 'independent' movies hinges on what we mean by "independent." If we dont' all agree on what the term "independent" means, then there is no way to really discuss it.

"I do disagree that language goes with the majority. Just because people say it doesnt make it right. That's kind of flockish to say the least."

In a sense, I guess you are right, it is kind of 'flockish.' But if we do not have definitions that we all agree upon, then there is no concise and efficient way to communicate. That is why I said language goes with the majority. And if the majority of people are using a term to mean a certain thing...then that is the way the language has gone, and in order to communicate effectively, we should adopt the new definitions.



"It's like believing in the hype or living in a state of myopia. (Like the kids today dressing Punk; it's not really punk though is it? But it sure is cool.)"

I don't see how it has anything to do with hype, or myopia.
(maybe that's because I'm myopic)
:)

It may not mean the same thing that Punk meant 20 years ago, but definitions change. If anything, I would say that not realizing that definitions fluctuate is living in the past.

Look at the changing definitions within our own industry. The term professional does not denote the same thing it did 20 years ago. We can discuss that all we want, but many people today consider the XL1s to be a "professional" camera. And, if an overwhelming number of people begin to refer to it as professional, then that's what it will be called.

We can lament the loss of what it meant to be "professional,"
and to use "professional" equipment. But, this is the way things are, and we must adapt, or be left saying "back in my day, a professional didn't use 1/3" chips."

My point was not that the films you mentioned are 'independent' (by your definition). But that the definition of what makes a film "independent" has changed for the majority of the public.

I agree with you, I think it is wrong, but it is reality.
It is the way the term is being used, and I'm sure in the future it will evolve again. Most subjective terms like this do.

"What I specifically meant is that the majority of independent films I have seen I have not liked. I'm specifically referring to the typical art house film"

What is the "typical art house film"?
I think I know the type of film you mean...but again we are dealing with subjective terms with no clear definition.
The "Typical" art house film is usually a film that tries to be anything but "typical."

(and I agree, I don't like most of them either).

Sorry I didn't mean to side track this conversation....
I just have a hard time reading a discussion where the terms being batted around haven't been clearly defined.

I guess it doesn't matter what most people consider to be "independent" or "art house," as long as we can agree on our own definitions here.

-Luis
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Old June 7th, 2004, 06:39 PM   #13
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Independent, by my terms, means "independent of the studio system". Which is why "Lost in Translation" is "independent". Zoetrope is not part of that system. You're right about the others, though. Mystic had not been financed by Warner when I had a (very, very small) hand in it and I was wrong about Sand. That's what I get for trying to type and think at the same time.
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Old June 7th, 2004, 06:55 PM   #14
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That's the trick; getting everyone to agree on that one thing.

There is no way I can agree on House of Sand and Fog or Mystic River being an independent film but I can lean on Lost in Translation being independent; barely and only for accomadation. No. Scratch that. I can't. Not with Zoetrope producing. Not with Francis behind it.

Open Water? Independent to the 'T'.

Primer? Totally.

Back to using Punk as a example; Definitions do change but tell that to a real 'Punk'! Definitions changing; that's a tough one. I don't know... Things aren't the same as they used to be thats for sure, but as far as the definition changing? Going down this road might lead one to think Hollywood is Independent! (Eventually)
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Old June 7th, 2004, 07:03 PM   #15
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No worries Rob. It's not about right or wrong :p I like talking film and reading different perceptions.

I think the real question is:

What is INDEPENDENT? Here is a list of just a few of the films American Zoetrope has Produced:

Don Juan DeMarco
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Haunted
In My Life
Jeepers Creepers I and II
Rainmaker, The
Sleepy Hollow

(Not to mention a ton of others)

Not sounding too independent all of a sudden. They're as much as part of Hollywood as the next one. I dont even wanna get started on what Zoetrope Studios has done.
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