Creating A Commercial Story Versus A Meaningful One by Jack Perez

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Film Courage: I know we were having a conversation before we got going [before the filming] about the competition online and how hard it is to get people to see your work. Where do you stand on creating things that audiences may be willing to pay for versus creating work that is meaningful to you and maybe it’s going to [appeal] to a niche audience?

Jack Perez, Filmmaker: Well, I don’t think I’ve every been any good at let me just craft something just to be a big audience favorite. Because I think that it’s hard enough for the filmmaker (for me) to get interested in a particular story anyway. In other words I never felt that…even though I can execute any story and I’ve done television and I’ve done things that were scripted, I can make that movie, I can make that hopefully work.

To set out to make a film, that story has to be meaningful personally otherwise I won’t have the strength to go through all the obstacles and the “no’s”…there has to be something driving that for me personally. And I never thought I was necessarily skilled as an architect of that kind of audience, crowd-pleasing, super commercial movie. I just hope that because I do love commercial cinema (there is plenty of commercial movies that I love) that some how that love by way will find its way into what I’m doing and contain those elements and hopefully it will be more personal.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

But yes…I’d probably be a wealthy man if I was skilled in that. But I think the people who do make commercial movies (we can rattle them off) going all the way back to Spielberg or Michael Bay, I think that is how they think. In other words I don’t think they are sitting around saying “Let’s make a commercial movie.” That may be on their mind but their taste are exactly that commercial. So it just happens that the audience is of course going to connect because they are that audience and they are the perfect people to make that stuff. Otherwise everybody would be able to make that if it was simply a matter of instructions on how to make…and then everybody would then just go “Yeah, I want to be rich. Let’s just do that.” And it’s not for lack of trying, everybody tries, a lot of people try.

I have to find a story that is valuable in some way to me and then I’m happy to add on all of these “commercial components” or exploitative components or any of those things that you find in a commercial movie but at least the foundation is personal.

Film Courage: I’m thinking of a movie like (and maybe people will disagree with me) but INTO THE WILD about Christopher McCandless’s story. I hadn’t heard of the book [Author John Krakauer] before the movie came out and did not realize there was this whole cult following. But that is one where you wouldn’t expect the audience to resonate (even though I think it’s a fantastic movie and I loved it) but it’s a very special story and it’s not about an everyday thing yet some how it was able to resonate with millions of people.

Jack: Right, well probably because of the very specific nature of the story about somebody putting themselves out into the wilderness into that extreme. It’s not the specific act that everyone can relate to, I think it’s the internal thing that everyone is going through. That’s what I’m talking about, that there is something universal in those feelings. I think for example that’s why they always talk about…everybody involved with TAXI DRIVER said “Were making this for us but probably no one is going to get it.” And then it turned out to be this huge hit because there was a billion very alienated, lonely, angry individuals out there that went “Oh my God! I identify with that.” So I think we’d be a lot richer filmically if the business allowed for more of those movies to be made because a producer is going to be for something that obviously people can relate to. But people are much more complicated than the way they are depicted in Hollywood movies. And so every once in a while when something presents a reflection of that (if it gets out there) I think it will be successful because people will be like “Thank you! Thank you for showing me that I am represented.” As opposed to it just being a cartoon or an advertisement for life.

Film Courage: So even something like LEGALLY BLONDE and it’s a great film which I enjoyed but it makes light of someone who is ostracized and in real life people probably wouldn’t be like “Well, I’m just going to get all dolled up and go in there and show ‘em!” It’s going to be a lot of pain behind the scenes, but it’s definitely showing something that many people have been through but in a light way where it feels safe.

Jack: Well that’s bound to be the more commercial…if you can illustrate those really painful, awkward things in a way that manages to be entertaining or safe (which I think is a really good word), because most people go to the movies…they go to the movies and they take it like a tonic. They are not going to be…unless you are going to a torture film, you’re not going to be ripped apart, you’re going to be soothed. So camouflaging or sugar-coating or I don’t know how you put it, real things in a Hollywood way is a real art and a real trick and if that can happen…like for me I resisted GROUNDHOG DAY. When GROUNDHOG DAY came out I was like “This is just a one note thing.” I think most people thought that “Oh this guy wakes up every day…hah hah?” And then when you actually watch the movie Harold Ramis and Bill Murray do this brilliant job of getting at a lot of real, deep things in this very silly, gimmicky movie and that was obviously their intent that dealing with somebody who is bitter and had given up and doesn’t give a sh*t about people anymore, has disconnected and is just a user and then from this twist of fate now has to go through the stages of processing that until he becomes a human being. I mean if you made a straightforward movie about that without the gimmick I don’t think it would be as popular necessarily, people wouldn’t go to see it. But with the twist and the comedy and the Bill Murray aspect, the whole thing, it becomes this much more pleasurable thing to swallow and a surprise and that’s why I love this movie because I thought Wow! It was this superficial, sh*tty thing and it turns out to be actually quite complex interesting movie and I love that! And there are times when I want that or my message or my identification in a nice, candy package, I don’t always want it rough.


Question For The Viewers: How much do you think about the commercial viability of your ideas?


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¡CALAMBRE! is a 53 minute episodic black and white film about a poet who returns to his hometown of New York City to rekindle an old flame, only to complicate his return with new women in his life. A film by Carlos Renaso.