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Friday Flix: A Stitch of Plan 9

October 7, 2011

At the end of August I watched “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, which is consistently rated as one of the worst films ever made.  (Although as I Tweeted, I didn’t find it as awful as “The Human Centipede” or “Troll” for that matter.)  After the movie I watched the companion documentary because I was bored and I didn’t think the documentary would be longer than the freaking movie.

Between that and Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” you get a pretty good idea about Plan 9’s director, Edward D. Wood.  Basically he was a guy who had a lot of passion and enthusiasm but no training and very little talent.  He could write a whole movie script in two weeks, but that script would probably be terrible.  He was a lot more concerned with getting shots in the can than making sure those shots were any good, or even consistent.

It would be interesting if Ed Wood were transported into the modern world.  With the cheapness of computer effects, he could probably get a ten-picture deal with Syfy to make terrible movies about Super Piranha vs. Mega Shark Squid or whatever.  Or he could get some great cat videos posted on YouTube and become an Internet sensation.

The point though is first of all that enthusiasm does not equal talent.  Just because you can write a lot of words on a computer screen, doesn’t mean any of those words will be any good.  And you can try and try and try to get published, but maybe at some point you’ll have to realize that it’s not all an evil conspiracy against you; it might be that you just aren’t very good!  The problem is that people as enthusiastic and passionate as an Ed Wood usually can’t see that they suck, like all those people on the first couple episodes of “American Idol.”

The other point gets back to something I mentioned on the Labor Day post.  A big part of Wood’s problem was that he didn’t spend much time on his creations.  He winged off a script in two weeks.  He shot the script in another two weeks.  Then maybe edited it in another two weeks.  Most movies (at least these days) take a year or two to finish production, except those awful “Saw” movies that Wood also could have had some fun with.  Maybe if Wood had spent two years on Plan 9 or any of his other terrible movies he could have made them good, or at least passable.  For that matter, if instead of just driving out to Hollywood he had actually gone to film school, maybe he could have learned how to make good movies.  That’s not to say he would have been Hitchcock or Bergman, but he might not be in the conversation for “Worst Director Ever.”  Then again, if he were a good-not-great director would he have a cult of followers, a documentary, and a feature film about him?  Probably not.  So maybe being terrible is good if you’re really, really terrible.

The thing is, though, if you really love your story then you should take the time to make it as special as possible.  Not to say everyone who works fast is terrible.  Rod Serling could write “Twilight Zone” scripts just as fast and he was a genius.  So there.

Monday:  Everything You Know About This Blog is WRONG!!!


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  1. Woah, Plan 9. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

    On another note entirely, 3D is totally lost on me at the movies. It never feels like anything other than a gimmick. Ed Wood would have LOVED 3D gimmickry!

  2. Aw, crap. I knew you were going to finish with “you have to work at this to make things good.” Story of my life.

  3. Well. I’m not sure you helped me there. I might suck, or I might not, I may need more time to get my ms in better shape, but if it’s real shitty I can become pretty successful. Maybe.

    Although, the American Idol thing rings true, I can’t really gauge my own worth, and all my friends tell me I’m awesome… Who knows how bad I really am? Maybe I need a Simon to read my stuff so he can tell me I may need to think harder at taking up accounting as a hobby.

    • Well you know, subjective business and all that. Incidentally I think it’d probably be easier to be “successful” like Ed Wood. I mean it’s probably a lot easier to write terribly than to write great. So aim for the worst, most cliche piece of crap ever!

  4. Bah, Plan 9 is a masterpiece.

    …Don’t take that seriously.
    What is sad is that sometimes, with modern media, what is terrible is what is popular. I probably don’t need to give many examples for this, but to bring the public eye back to what is well-done and deserving of admiration, books/movies/music/etc. needs polishing and, of course, some talent.

  5. Mutt, we have a modern day Ed Wood living amongst us now. His name is Uwe Boll. Here is what Ed Wood may have become in 2011.

    Uwe Boll (German pronunciation: [ˈuːvə ˈbɔl]; born June 22, 1965) is a German director, producer and screenwriter, whose work includes several films adapted from video games. He finances his own films through his Boll KG production company. He is often cited as one of the worst directors of all time.

    Boll’s first two major releases were the horror movie Blackwoods and the drama Heart of America, both of which he directed and co-wrote. Boll is best-known for adapting video games into movies, having directed and produced a number of such adaptations, including House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, Alone in the Dark II, BloodRayne, BloodRayne II: Deliverance, BloodRayne: The Third Reich, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Postal and Far Cry.

    Boll’s movies have often performed poorly at the box office in the United States. House of the Dead, which was budgeted at $12 million, made $5.73 million in its opening weekend, Alone in the Dark, which was budgeted at $20 million, made over $5.1 million, and BloodRayne, which was made for $25 million, made $2.42 million. The least profitable commercial performance of his career was In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, which made barely $10 million worldwide at the box office on a $60 million budget.

    Until the law was changed in 2005, Boll was able to acquire funding thanks to German tax laws that reward investments in film. The law allowed investors in German-owned films to write off 100% of their investment as a tax deduction; it also allowed them to invest borrowed money and write off any fees associated with the loan. The investor was then only required to pay taxes on the profits made by the movie; if the movie loses money, the investor got a tax writeoff.

    In the DVD commentary of Alone in the Dark, Boll explains how he funds his films: “Maybe you know it but it’s not so easy to finance movies in total. And the reason I am able to do these kind of movies is I have a tax shelter fund in Germany, and if you invest in a movie in Germany you get basically fifty percent back from the government.”

    Boll has received a lot of negative publicity regarding this funding method.

    So yeah…I can speak from experience. This director is terrible. And just as you’ve said, he’s kinda famous for being terrible.

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