The name James Gunn might not ring a bell–unless you are a fan of indie (and outrageous) film meister Lloyd Kaufman‘s ouevre (and if you’re not, I heartily recommend introducing yourself to his movies). In 1996, writer/director Gunn got his start writing the script for “Tromeo and Juliet,” (for $150, he says). Since then, Gunn has written movies such as “Scooby Do,” “Dawn of the Dead,” and “Slither” among other movies.
And now, he’s turned his talents to new media. Gunn was the keynoter at a gathering of IFTA (Independent Film & Television Alliance), talking up the opportunities in new media to a crowd that was interested but, as of yet, uninvolved (six people admitted to watching any kind of program online).
Gunn had a strong message, couched in a humorous bonbon, for IFTA attendees about the necessity for embracing new media. They’re words worth repeating….and emailing to any traditional media person dismissive of or reluctant to engage in new media, be it Internet or mobile platforms. The following is a nearly verbatim version of what Gunn had to say, minus his great delivery:
“Traditional media people look in horror at new media, like I’m holding up a cheese grater in front of their infants. But when people created television, they didn’t know what it was. They had to invent it as it went along. Pioneers like Milton Berle and Ernie Kovacs…the experimentation was to find out what worked and didn’t. Out of that came the soap opera, the variety show, the sitcom.
What we’re doing now is learning the language of a new format. Now, kids watch video on YouTube every day. We’re on the precipice of a new world, and we have the chance to create a new world from the ground up, creatively and as a business.
I feel like Milton Berle without the big penis. (Here Gunn riffed on how Berle would show his large penis to whoever would look.) I’m very happy to be here today at the IFTA. For a short window of time, independent producers have an extraordinary advantage over studios in creating content for the web, mobile and gaming platforms.
The studios can’t compete. Creators of content and distributors are not the same, for [new media]. The primary distribution outlets for new media – Microsoft, Google, Apple – are not in the content creation business–and that’s why God made us. The divisions have inherited the structure of the studios, which is great for making summer blockbuster movies. But, for new media content, that structure destroys everything it takes to be successful in new media. People are looking for an edge. A drunk girl in a bikini would be a great premise for new media. The first thing Warner Bros. would do is say, “we have close ties with Budweiser and they’re uncomfortable with public drunkenness, so stay away from the drunkeness bit. And we have shareholders in the Christian Right and they’re uncomfortable with the bikini. So make it a sweatsuit, and since we have a relationship with Juicy Couture, that’s perfect. And we also have a relationship with Tom Arnold and he’d be perfect for the lead.” So before you know it that’s what you’ve got: Tom Arnold in a sweat suit.
You think I’m making this up, but no. In “Scooby Doo,” people were offended by Sarah Michelle Geller’s cleavage and we had to CG it out. Independent producers have learned how to make things on a budget, so studios are at a disadvantage here too. I can put up an ad for CGI artists wanted for free, and by the end of the day, I’ll get hundreds of resumes from kids wanting an opportunity. Studios don’t know how to find these people or how to use them creatively and respectively.
When it comes to feature films, independent producers compete with difficulty. Stars are unaffordable and difficult to get. The Internet has its own star system that’s not being taken full advantage of by the studios. You won’t get George Clooney for a spot in your web series, but you might get Kim Kardashian and she means a lot more in this web world. One warning: do not hire this kid who cried about Britney Spears – I’ll hate you forever. Everyone has to have a line.
The final advantage that independent producers have over the studios is flexibility. We can move quickly, and, at the studios, the ideas have to pass through so many offices. They’re greenlighting the new Foster Brooks series over there. (I’ve been dying to make a joke about Foster Brooks) Seriously, Disney.com in Jan. 2007 did a complete revamp of their website for $70 million. Now they’re doing a complete revamp again. There are too many cooks in the kitchen there, they can’t do it feasibly.
The thing I’ve been blessed with is I’m fascinated with new media. I’m addicted to Facebook and MySpace and Twitter, aside from meeting girls to have sex with. I love to blog. I get recognized more from my MySpace page than the movies I’ve done. I can check in with then on a daily basis and see what they want.
Are you horrified with the idea of new media? There are thousands of people out there excited by this world, looking for people to partner with, to find their own potential. That’s been one of the things I’ve loved the most about this format. It’s inexpensive and small. I can find young kids with potential and give them the chance to have their work seen. I don’t really care very much about traditional filmmaking anymore. It’s boring to me. I hope there’s no one from Universal here, to whom I pitched an idea.
To finish up, I used to wonder about the future of entertainment. Today, I wonder what am I going to create here? What’s the language of this new entertainment form? Together, we are forming the future of entertainment. It’s really unwritten, and it’s what we want it to be. A few months ago, I was going through a crisis in my career. I was involved in this new stuff that was a lot more interesting to me than these films. I had to go deep in my heart to see what I care about the most. I prayed to God: What am I supposed to put in this empty space? In that moment, I heard the words of God inside me, five clear words: Drunk Girl in a Bikini.