The good news is: you’ve got a script assignment! The bad news is: it’s based on a TV show from 30 years ago, or a movie that had an impact for its time but may be out of phase for today’s audience, or it’s a title, but not a story, that in and of itself isn’t enough to sustain a whole movie. So how do you approach it?
The value of these films for Hollywood is obvious. This weekend’s The Day The Earth Stood Still is the latest attempt to take a known title and update it and it premiered at #1. The value of a so-called “pre-sold franchise” is clear. Name recognition is the biggest hurdle; a known “What is it?” is the reason remakes and redos will continue to get remade and redone. So the question is: what if we get a similar opportunity?
What are our guides to help us make our re-imaginings winners?
Let’s start with films based on TV series. Most agree The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford is a high watermark. Whether you knew the backstory or not, or cared about its homage to “the one-armed man,” we were given everything we needed to cheer both the chased (Ford) and the chaser (Tommy Lee Jones). I liked The Brady Bunch for its tongue-in-cheek ability to make fun of itself. Its winning take is based on a “fish out of water” convention for which even the unititiated could root. Other successful renderings — Mission:Impossible, The Untouchables, and Addams Family — started with convention and broke from it.
Remakes are another challenge. What can you improve on with Bad News Bears, The Heartbreak Kid, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Is it wise to go to the hits, the classics, the well-known or really smarter to go after misfires — famous but flawed — as the basis of a remake? And yet the challenge is the same:
Find the story.
What are your favorite hits and misses among today’s crop of remakes? I’d like to also know how your approach to these or any story could be enhanced.