Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Fall In Love With Your Project - Business Models

Someone asked recently what I thought of some new Zombie movie. "I dunno", I said. "I don't watch Zombie movies. I'm not really into Zombie stuff". The person was dumbfounded. "But you do BRAIN EATIN' ZOMBIE BABIES. You were in the Toronto Zombie Walk... How can you NOT be interested in Zombies?"

It's just business. It's not that I don't like Zombies. I actually find the Zombie stuff that I do, to be a lot of fun. But would I go to every Zombie movie that comes out? Nope. I saw I AM LEGEND (but liked Richard Matheson's novel more). I love AMC's THE WALKING DEAD - but its more of a people story - a broader canvas, like The Sopranos, Mad Men, House. (I do find Haitian Zombies horrifying and fascinating, but there are very few - read: almost none, zippo - movies about Haitian Zombies.)

So then, why did I choose Zombies as the theme for my YouTube show?

I was looking for something that was inexpensive to produce - something spooky, creepy (that always sells) that was popular - that I could re-imagine and recreate as my own unique expression. Young Frankenstein - Been Done (thanks Mel!) Young Dracula (Been and being done 1000 times as we speak). Young Creature from the Black Lagoon? (This is Canada - it would have to be Creature from the Heated Pool - too expensive.) Likewise Kong was out and the Mummy, I dunno.

So I decided on Zombies and did a 'Muppet Babies' makeover on them -- Cute Zombies! Voila - my theme!

BRAIN EATIN' ZOMBIE BABIES are fun to make and I'm really proud of what we've done. We're about to do a major overhaul on the creative to reach a wider audience - which brings me to my point. I don't love the BRAIN EATIN' ZOMBIE BABIES. They're just business.

That means, that my major interest in the project is to make it popular. If I change the format a little - and it helps, I'll do that. If I have to revise the puppets - I'll do that too.

This is a huge change from my working attitude on FREAKY STORIES. Freaky was my baby. I loved that show - still do. But it was my baby and it was personal. EVERYTHING was personal. I took personal offense if someone proposed the smallest change. I admit, it was very hard for people to work with me - but the show was successful, so maybe the ends justified the means. Or maybe not.

But that isn't the way to go about making a show. It's all about the business. Your show, your project, your pitch is a business - or a business-to-be. It can never be about LOVE. Always think about the bottom line. How can you make your project more successful?

"Make it better", you say? What is "better"? Better is a subjective intangible. Popular is objectively tangible. You might say that popularity breeds mediocrity. True, but the reality is, "You had a million hits on YouTube this week? Step right into my office..."

So let's look at "Love" and business.

Does Penn like Teller? Yes. Of course. They're friends - but business partners first. The business of PENN & TELLER comes ahead of Penn and Teller's personal interests or feelings. Check out the video. It's very enlightening.

Hiam Saban the creator of MIGHTY MORPHING POWER RANGERS, when asked about the show that had made him a billionaire remarked, "Five retards in spandex". Is he proud of his shows? Yes. Does he love them? No.

So, no. I don't love Zombie Movies. But I'm very proud of BRAIN EATIN' ZOMBIE BABIES - and I'll continue to push it towards popularity and business success.


  1. I think I'll have to disagree on that point. Mainly because some of the best shows have had the creators who were incredibly passionate about what they were doing. Take Ren and Stimpy, Rocko's Modern Life, Dexter's Lab etc, those guys loved their shows and it you could see it. You can see when they tried to push envelope in design, storytelling and humor.
    Do you mean don't get so attached to the idea that you become inflexible? If so I can go along with that. Those creators had a strong vision what they wanted their shows to be like and everyone on the show was able to jump on that vision, at least that's what I gathered.

  2. "Do you mean don't get so attached to the idea that you become inflexible?"

    You have to think of it as a business first. I'm sure that in any of the examples that you've cited, the creators have had to make changes in the creative to suit their marketplace. Without speaking with any of the creators, I'd guess that they had to make substantial chances to get their shows on the air.

    That is, unless they own their own studios and networks. The "Golden Rule" always comes into play - "He with the Gold Rules".