The Expendables and The Lost Cannibals of Cahokia

This last summer, it is unbelievable how many movies are out there that just aren’t very good. I say this as I hear that The Expendables, the new Sylvester Stallone film is number one for the second consecutive week. It reminded me of some comments some professional script advisors gave me, which I thought was hog wash at the time and has been confirmed by my experience, told me about my screenplay, The Lost Cannibals of Cahokia.

Over a hundred thousand hits on Youtube, but it takes a lot more than that to get a good movie put together.

Several years ago, I wrote Cannibals based on the ancient civilization outside of St. Louis. It was an Indiana Jones type of adventure that featured a young college age woman, before Lara Croft was popular, which gives an idea of how long ago I wrote it. During the coarse of her adventure with two friends in the back woods of Kentucky, they discover that decedents of Cahokia were cursed by a shaman with human deformities that forced them to consume human flesh in order to stay alive themselves. It was an action pact adventure film. Critics of the story had a hard time believing that such a character could possibly do the things the heroine does in the movie. They wanted to see more emotion, more relationship conflict, and more character arch, which I refused because I didn’t want to make that kind of movie. They are a dime a dozen and have no lasting value in public consciousness.

The film was written for an independent film producer, and the deal fell through. So after that, I had a story, so I shopped it around the way everyone else does that writes screenplays, and the universal response was, “It was too bloody and the characters weren’t believable,” which was a way of saying that the characters were too dynamic and not functioning in a way consistent with normal human response. These being the same people that argued with me for hours when I complained that in the Blair Witch Project, I never would have become lost in the woods the way those kids were. The response was disbelief that I could say such a thing with confidence. So the line of communication was worlds apart.

Now since I wrote Cannibals, Kill Bill has come out. Several other horror films that are similar in grotesqueness, such as the Saw films have emerged. So the comments of the assistant to studio reading departments made me realize that the studio system and all the agents on Wilshire Blvd, are not able to sort out the good from the bad. They are obviously in some cases getting stuck in politics, where they stay away from such stories out of some dedication to a social cause. Or they are reading screenplays that are about issues that they can relate to, which consist of life in Santa Monica, or Beverly Hills, which explains why the films produced don’t resonate well with the American public.

Now people love movies, so they’ll go see them, even if they aren’t very good. But consistently, the movies that people hold dear to their hearts are not the kind of projects pounded out on Wilshire Blvd deals. They come from film makers that have heart and passion and push the limits of studio bosses to the limit. They come from taking chances.

So when I hear Stallone was making an old fashion “tough guy” movie when the industry experts are formulating stories about working women and their problems, and relationship issues, and the typical comedy, Spike TV is playing repeats of the old films from the 80’s where political correctness wasn’t so correct. And I was happy to see Stallone take the bold chance to make another good old fashion film where toughness is the central character.

On my own project with Cannibals, I’ve tried several times since the marketing to the studio heads to put together an independent film crew, both times things fell apart before filming could begin, which is part of the business. And that is fine with me. I’d rather hold out for the right team and a good distributer, than to sell the project short, only to make another film that comes out flat on the screen and dies in the video rental market.

It’s better to aim to make a film that people would rather see multiple times, and people still enjoy decades later when it shows on TV during the holiday marathons.

Rich Hoffman

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