I have been on this planet for quite some time now and as a veteran of planet Earth I pay close attention to the box office gross. What’s been the biggest movie in the last 10 years? What type of movies have been topping the box-office for the last 10 years? What’s been flopping at the box-office and, most importantly, what do general audiences seem to like?
All great questions that I already know the answer to so I’m going to share my knowledge with you. This guide will help those who want to make it big in the land of green dough. I’m film expert The Blog Complainer and this is my guide on how to make your movie a zillion dollar success.
I hope this guide will be helpful to someone, if not, then I hope it’s at least a good read.
If you really want to, you could make a completely original movie, but good luck convincing anyone to distribute it, let alone watch it!! Unless you’re Pixar or a well known director like Christoper Nolan or James Cameron then there is no chance your movie will even dint the hundred mills.
Audiences tend to like the familiar so you’re better off picking up a popular book or a well known franchise. Be careful though as you don’t want to pick a washed up bum like Mortal Engines or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, both movies that tried and failed to resurrect the young adult book adaptation phase that was popular during the early 2010’s. Most importantly you want your franchise to be relevant so rebooting has-beens like Men in Black, Robin Hood or The Mummy is just asking for failure!
Finding out what’s currently popular is the way to go and the best way to learn what’s popular is scouring the internet to see what people are currently interested in. Keanu Reeves is making a bit of a comeback and this year is the Matrix’s 20th anniversary. Put two and two together and BAM, you’ve got your cash-cow! People are still obsessed with the 80’s and there hasn’t been a remake of Back to the Future, Gremlins, The Breakfast Club or The Goonies. At the moment Disney remakes and superhero movies are still owning the box-office so get involved with The Black Cauldron and Howard the Duck remakes if you want to swim in the dough.
We have established there are four roads you can take:
- The Easy Way: Remaking something that already exists and just changing it slightly.
- The Medium Way: Rebooting something that already exists and making it somehow unique to it’s predecessor.
- The Hard Way: Adapting something that already exists and introducing it to a totally new audience.
- The Hardcore Way: which is the stupid task of creating something completely original.
I like a bit of a challenge so for my movie and primarily example for this guide I picked up Charles Whitman’s famous 1960’s comic book series Waterman! Though for this movie we’re changing it to Waterperson since movies that are non gender specific tend to get into the top 15 highest grossing movies ever.
To make the most cash you will want your movie to be distributed by one of the big studios that control Hollywood’s market. Either Disney, Sony, Universal, Paramount or Warner Bros will do the job just fine. Depending which studio you hook up with you’ll be able to freely reference that studio’s previous films, which is nice. Next you will want to bring on board a somewhat unknown director who won’t challenge you in any way, but is longing for a chance at the big time.
Casting shouldn’t be too hard as you’re adapting a famous superhero comic book. Firstly you will need a somewhat unknown actor to play your charismatic male lead. The main supporting cast will cover your diversity checklist. Lastly the villain and any older character should be played by an A-list celebrity. All the other roles can range from “nobodies” to cameos.
You’ll want to film on site somewhere, preferably in a well populated city, like Las Vegas. There hasn’t been a superhero movie filmed there before. The other 75% of the movie can be filmed in some sort of studio. That’s it! All you need is $500,000,000 budget and you have got your movie.
Now that you have some big names behind your project you might want to make a story for the crew to follow. Whenever you’re retelling an old story it’s going to need some tweaking to make it more appealing to a modern audience.
Let’s be real, Waterperson is a bit dated. Waterperson had no character besides his cool super power of shooting H2O in criminals faces. Despite being able to run on water old Charles felt Waterperson needed a jet ski to get across the bay. Waterperson didn’t have the best supporting cast either. He had his sidekick Bubblelad and nobody talks about Bubblelad. He also had the goofiest villains like The Figure Skater, an Olympic bronze medalist hell bent on turning the ocean into a giant ice rink.
When changing the source material what you want to focus on are three core aspects:
- What worked for the original story?
- What didn’t work?
- What did people like about the original?
This is something that I think every movie should do, but for some reason they don’t. Anyway, for Waterperson we just update the story and rewrite all of our characters.
Let’s start with Waterperson, aka Bill Smock. Bill is a charming everyday guy who works at Starbucks. He likes 70’s and 80’s music, he’s up to date with all relevant pop culture references and, most importantly, he’s ripped! Unfortunately Bill sucks at talking to the love interest of the film, Elody Ripshank. We don’t need to work too hard on the side characters. Elody can either be best pals or just some girl he really likes, but she can’t be your film’s damsel in distress or you’re just asking for trouble!
Bill won’t be seeing Elody as much, as all he needs is his best pal Tim Turt. Tim is our comedic relief, thus being our main source of comedy. This part isn’t hard, just get some well known comedian to play him so he can write his own material. Other supporting characters might include a boss that no one likes and a rival who’s dating the love interest or is just an annoyance for our hero.
The next key part is our hero’s backstory which must be tragic because people can’t relate to someone who has a normal boring life. We need a parental figure to guide our hero on his journey. For Bill, he witnessed his parents being abducted by a spaceship and because of this has grown up with a fear of losing people. All Bill has is his Old Uncle Tod, a bed salesman who may know more than he is letting on about his parents’ disappearance.
With the increasing demand of cinematic universes most of our movie will take place in space! In the original comics Bill gets his powers when a giant water balloon lands on his broken down car. We’re changing it to in a last attempt to save their dying race Bill’s parents (they turn out to be water people) insert themselves in this laser cannon and fire their essence at Bill while he’s at work.
Here’s another apparent trend, our origin also ties in with the main villain of our movie, The Crispy Commander, Waterperson’s arch nemesis in the comics. In the comics The Crispy Commander, is a rogue pirate with fire powers and is hell bent on erasing his one weakness, water, from existence. Sounds pretty boring and generic, so to fit in with fans requesting more complex villains, The Crispy Commander is now hell bent on promoting climate change by burning planets to a crisp. Being unexpectedly political in a movie is how you get your movie at award shows.
We have laid down the foundations, now all we need is a story. For this story and many other stories they following this simple 3 act movie structure:
- Act 1: Is the set-up.
- Act 2: Continues building the tension until we hit the big turning point.
- Act 3: Is when you begin to wrap everything up.
This story for Waterperson is a pretty standard guideline of what most Hollywood movies are like nowadays. If you haven’t guessed already, this movie is a superhero origin story, which will mostly take up the entire first act. The first big turning point is when Bill becomes Waterperson.
The second act begins with Tim and Bill trying to figure out his new powers, but that’s cut short when they’re kidnapped by space aliens. Their kidnappers turn out to be rogue good guys as they need Waterperson’s help to defeat The Crispy Commander. We meet all these different cool alien sidekicks and they’re leader is Old Uncle Tod who is also a water person and is willing to teach Bill how to control his powers.
The main conflict is it’s a race to find the sparkle crystal, an ancient shard with the power to burn planets to nothing. From here our heroes travel in their cool spaceship listening to tunes, having a laugh and developing their characters. Their first encounter with the villain is about halfway through the movie, also known as the midpoint where the film’s tension has reached it’s peak. The Crispy Commander has already taken the sparkle crystal. Our heroes battle the commander’s disposable henchmen, The Faceless gang. None of the heroes have grasped the concept of teamwork so Old Tod is taken prisoner and the rest have to go into hiding.
The start of a third act is the lowest of the low points. Bill asks Elody if they can all crash at Starbucks for awhile. This is the part of the movie where our space rejects contemplate their loses and complain about how they got here. It’s here that Waterperson, backed up by his potential mistress, tells his team if they can get over their issues and become best pals they can stop The Crispy Commander and save the universe!
Here we are at the film’s climax which, in these type of movies, is normally a pain in the butt for the visual effects artists. The Crispy Commander’s mother-ship is over Vegas. All our characters have important roles to play which is a great way to mark time in lead up to the final battle.
The Sparkle Crystal is in the death-ray. Our heroes try to fight the Commander, but despite the motivational speeches he’s still too powerful! With no way of stopping it one of the alien sidekicks sacrifices themselves by blowing up the laser. Since the laser was connected to the ship’s core, the entire ship is going to self destruct in 13 minutes.
Unfortunately The Crispy Commander blocks their path and only Waterperson is still strong enough to fight him. This inevitably ends with the villain on top, ready to kill, but luckily Waterperson remembers some irrelevant advice their dead parents told them. “Billy don’t forget to blow out your candles.” Waterperson blows out the Crispy Commander’s face. The cool alien chick throws a sword into his chest and he falls into the smokey abyss.
The space rejects escape, and The evil ship explodes sending fireworks into the sky. Our heroes land safely, to be praised by their adoring public. Bill finds Elody and gives her a big kiss resolving the arc. Of course our movie has a happy ending. Elody moves into Waterperson’s apartment. Waterperson contacts his new space friends on Skype. Tim has hooked up with the cool alien chick. They discuss the important political lessons they have learned. We last see the space rejects raiding all the ice-cream from the local supermarket before blasting off to another adventure and our movie ends with Waterperson narrating that he’s here to protect Vegas from any space threats.
Don’t forget the post credit scenes. They can set-up future movies or be completely irrelevant, entirely up to you.
Step 5: Marketing
We have obtained a well known comic book series, we have a story and we have a major studio backing us. Now we need to advertise. We’ll start by teasing that the new Waterperson movie is in the making, tease who’s starring in the movie, who’s playing Waterperson and who’s directing it. Next we go to San Diego Comic-con and show off our awesome trailer. It will look epic, it will show key points in the story, Waterperson’s design will get a lot of backlash and we will have some recognisable music to drag people into the cinemas on day one. Release a couple more trailers with new footage and songs. Make some cool posters, have cast interviews, whisper that some movies are showing actual scenes of the movie. Preview the movie at screenings and a film festival filled with positive reviews.
Have the movie premiere at some big Hollywood venue and then wait for the rest of the world to spread the love about the film and if it does well in the first day we can start teasing for the sequel – Waterperson: The Disgusting Fast Food People. Also you begin work introducing the other characters in the Waterperson Cinematic Universe.