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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What The 'Emoji Movie' Idea Says About Priorities

 Yesterday, Sony Pictures announced plans to produce a movie based on the popular Emoji keyboard emoticons that make your Iphone feel naked if they're not installed. Emoji's consist of ideogram smileys, flags, families and couples, animals, everyday items and vehicles, and even a bomb, cigarette, bathtub, gun, and a smiling pile of poop. Oh and there's even a floppy disk. Yeah, I know, "what is a floppy disk?"
     How could Sony possibly develop a 90 minute long feature out of the emojis? To be completely honest with you, I have no clue. I don't think Sony does either. I know everyone said "how could they possibly make a movie out of Lego and Need For Speed?", but...come on, that's not the same thing. Other weird concepts that have been announced lately include a Play Doh movie, Hello Kitty, Minecraft, Cut the Rope Movie, Monopoly, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Temple Run, a "Robin Hood Cinematic Universe", the 70s TV show "Good Times", 5 Nights at Freddie's (this has potential): it seems Hollywood is latching onto any fad harder than ever. Like an octopus that latches onto you, and you just can't shake it off, so you just go ahead and go about your day with it. That's how this feels.
     Even if Sony did find a worthy pitch, this is not something that should be happening. Latching onto a fad is one thing, but a ideogram keyboard with a smiling pile of poop? I would rather a Bed Bath and Beyond movie, a movie based on Nutella, a Lucky Charms movie, even a movie based on Little Rock, Arkansas. What is in Little Rock worth making a movie about? Exactly. But no, no Little Rock movie, no Nutella movie, instead we get an emoji movie.
     Honestly, Sony should be embarrassed with this emoji announcement. While emojis are obviously popular, the average person will tell you that trying to adapt them into any kind of media is dumb. No one is going "yesss! An emoji movie! I'm so happy, screw Star Wars!" The general reaction is more like "lmao, I can't with this." Sony got no one excited by this news, but rather just invited a barrage of laughs and Nick Young question mark memes
     The point of an announcement is to drum up excitement. I remember the moments I found about a new Star Wars trilogy, Ben Affleck playing Batman, Marvel's upcoming MCU schedule, and even when Finding Dory was announced. How is this emoji reveal drumming up excitement? It's not. It's instead drumming up confusion and mockery. If no one is excited, but instead mocking this announcement, what does that say about the movies prospects? To be fair, The Lego Movie was mocked by some when it was first announced, but at least that was already a tangible franchise, and it wasn't made aware that the movie would be based on an anthropomorphic Lego figure, and not the actual Lego bricks that we would step on as kids. Emoji is different because its a cell phone keyboard with no history or appeal other than use in text messages.
     The offensive thing about this announcement is not necessarily that we're getting a emoji movie, but that this announcement is an assault and insult on creativity. Dozens of great scripts from dozens of great screenwriters are turned away everyday in Hollywood. Plenty of new, independent writers writing Oscar-caliber scripts, scripts with fresh, new concepts, and scripts that have the potential to take audiences new places. But those eager and hopeful screenwriters are shot down. Hundreds of scripts on the "Black List" website alone that Sony could pull from, but instead they decide on emojis.
     As a screenwriter who has currently written 5 film scripts, 3 separate television shows with multiple completed episodes, a skit, commercials, and over a dozen other ideas currently on my hard drive and cloud storage, I have big aspirations. I'm willing to make the over 2,000-mile journey from the east coast to the west coast to test the waters and try to achieve my goals. And I know I'll get more "no" than "yes", but it's upsetting to know that a Hollywood studio will be turning down my new idea, while at the same time trying to figure out how to make a movie about Snapchat, the "Deez Nuts" guy, or the Goat Simulator game. I wish there was more balancing. A more welcoming atmosphere for novice screenwriters to showcase their talent, while we find new IP's to adapt. Maybe there is? I've haven't been to Los Angeles yet, so I can't speak from experience, but the past decade, it seems the majority focus has shifted to studio-generated adaption. It's amazing a completed Wonder Woman script can sit on the shelf for a decade, but we fast track an emoji script.
     Bottom line is Hollywood is an industry. Movie making is a business. In order to keep businesses open, you need customers, who bring money. The sad truth is a Play Doh movie and Temple Run movie are more guaranteed to make money than a random script off the "Black List." I can't completely fault Hollywood. They have to make what's profitable and sustainable. We can hate the overabundance of sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes all we want, but as long as people keep going to them, they're going to keep getting made. That's bottom line. If I'm given the opportunity to write a sequel, prequel, reboot, or remake, I'm not going to say "are you kidding me? Take that offer elsewhere Warner Brothers!" I'd definitely take the deal if its meaningful (Play Doh Movie 2?), but I just hope my original content turns heads as well.
     But listen up, Hollywood. Yes, there is plenty of established properties that are ripe for a movie and that have potential, but you need to know your limit. Just because it is popular does not mean it is a good idea. Emoji's are popular, but they're not Angry Birds type of "popular." This is probably the worst idea proposed this year, but that's the business. I will say, if we're going to make an emoji movie, the smiling poop and the woman fluffing her hair better be the main characters.

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