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What It Is Like, Apparently, To Work On A Flop

Last weekend, OUR generation’s Conan: The Barbarian only made 10 million dollars at the box office, which to someone with zero million dollars still might feel like a lot of millions of dollars, but to someone who understands that there is such a thing as a return on investment, EEK! Not good, boys. Not that this should come as too much of a surprise, because it is the year 2011. Conan: The Barbarian? Seriously? You know, Hollywood should really think about doing some market research before they embark on big, expensive remakes of worn-out franchises. That way, when you ask “Would you be interested in a remake of Conan: The Barbarian in the year 2011?” and 100% of those polled answer “nope!” you can either rethink your decision, or at least not be surprised when it does not do well. ANYWAY, Sean Hood, a Professional Hollywood Screenwriter, took to Quora (whatever THAT is) this week to discuss what kind of Human Emotions one experiences when one has worked on a flop. Interesting! Much like reality television, most of us don’t really think too much about the HUMAN COST of these things. Sure, jokes about how Arthur is STILL the #1 movie in America, 103 weeks and counting, are still VERY HILARIOUS jokes! And I’m not worried about Russell Brand, or even Luis Guzman. But, you know, what about the Best Boy Grip on Arthur? How does HE feel? (I’m also weirdly pretty sure that Arthur wasn’t even a flop and did fine, AGAINST ALL ODDS, but I am not going to actually look that up either way and let’s just get back to the point, please.) Sean was one of three writers on Conan, and was brought in to fix the script after the movie had already gone into production. It’s just kind of interesting to read his thoughts about the whole thing! Here is an excerpt:

One joins a movie production, the same way one might join a campaign, years before the actual release/election, and in the beginning one is filled with hope, enthusiasm and belief. I joined the Conan team, having loved the character in comic books and the stories of Robert E. Howard, filled with the same kind of raw energy and drive that one needs in politics.

Any film production, like a long grueling campaign over months and years, is filled with crisis, compromise, exhaustion, conflict, elation, and blind faith that if one just works harder, the results will turn out all right in the end. During that process whatever anger, frustration, or disagreement you have with the candidate/film you keep to yourself. Privately you may oppose various decisions, strategies, or compromises; you may learn things about the candidate that cloud your resolve and shake your confidence, but you soldier on, committed to the end. You rationalize it along the way by imagining that the struggle will be worth it when the candidate wins.

You tell yourself to just enjoy the process. That whether you succeed or fail, win or lose, it will be fine. You pretend to be Zen. You adopt detachment, and ironic humor, while secretly praying for a miracle.

The Friday night of the release is like the Tuesday night of an election. “Exit polls”are taken of people leaving the theater, and estimated box office numbers start leaking out in the afternoon, like early ballot returns. You are glued to your computer, clicking wildly over websites, chatting nonstop with peers, and calling anyone and everyone to find out what they’ve heard. Have any numbers come back yet? That’s when your stomach starts to drop.

By about 9 PM its clear when your “candidate” has lost by a startlingly wide margin, more than you or even the most pessimistic political observers could have predicted. With a movie its much the same: trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter call the weekend winners and losers based on projections. That’s when the reality of the loss sinks in, and you don’t sleep the rest of the night.

For the next couple of days, you walk in a daze, and your friends and family offer kind words, but mostly avoid the subject. Since you had planned (ardently believed, despite it all) that success would propel you to new appointments and opportunities, you find yourself at a loss about what to do next. It can all seem very grim.

Before you BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT (lol) it is worth pointing out that you should just go read the whole thing and that Sean Hood ends on a relatively uplifting note with an anecdote about his father’s trumpet (no oboe). It is also worth noting that regardless of the genuine FEELINGS that he is expressing her, one still has a hard time imagining joining the Conan: The Barbarian remake project “filled with the same kind of raw energy and drive that one needs in politics.” I mean, seriously? I’m sure it was a very nice paycheck, and everyone loves a great paycheck, so why not just leave it at that? The movie is finished, and it has already flopped, you don’t actually have to lie and say that you loved it at this point? On Quora, whatever Quora is? That part just sounds like nonsense. Also, maybe if Sean Hood had used the proper “it’s” rather than “its” the movie would have been a success. Now we will never know. I AM JUST TEASING YOU, SEAN HOOD! I STILL DO NOT UNDERSTAND HOW COMMAS WORK, REALLY. Anyway, go read the rest. If you want. Do what you want. Either way, it turns out we are all human beings struggling with the ups and downs of MTV’s True Life. (Via The Atlantic.)