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Conan screenwriter tells what it's like to write a box office bomb

08.24.2011

It's a thought that seldom occurs to us, but probably should. We as movie fans and critics are exceptionally quick to write off films as terrible, which may be true, but it's often ignoring the months or years and thousands of man hours it takes to get even a "bad" film made.

We dismiss in a few sentences what takes people a huge amount of time and effort to construct, and we seldom hear the other side of the story, a tale told by those who have big dreams for their projects only to see them dashed.

Sean Hood was one of the screenwriters who recently worked on CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Lackluster buzz and a critical drubbing implied that the film wouldn't exactly be a hit, and last weekend, the numbers matched that expectation, and then some. The film premiered with a mere $10M in receipts, debuting in fourth place, its total more than doubled by the low budget THE HELP.

In a Quora Q&A, Hood explains what it's like to deal with that sort of failure. Here are some particularly notable excerpts:

"The Friday night of the release is like the Tuesday night of an election. “Exit polls” are taken of people leaving the theater, and estimated box office numbers start leaking out in the afternoon, like early ballot returns. You are glued to your computer, clicking wildly over websites, chatting nonstop with peers, and calling anyone and everyone to find out what they’ve heard. Have any numbers come back yet? That’s when your stomach starts to drop.

By about 9 PM its clear when your “candidate” has lost by a startlingly wide margin, more than you or even the most pessimistic political observers could have predicted. With a movie its much the same: trade[s] call the weekend winners and losers based on projections. That’s when the reality of the loss sinks in, and you don’t sleep the rest of the night.

For the next couple of days, you walk in a daze, and your friends and family offer kind words, but mostly avoid the subject. Since you had planned (ardently believed, despite it all) that success would propel you to new appointments and opportunities, you find yourself at a loss about what to do next. It can all seem very grim.

You make light of it, of course. You joke and shrug. But the blow to your ego and reputation can’t be brushed off. Reviewers, even when they were positive, mockedConan The Barbarian for its lack of story, lack of characterization, and lack of wit. This doesn’t speak well of the screenwriting – and any filmmaker who tells you s/he “doesn’t read reviews” just doesn’t want to admit how much they sting."

I'm going to continue to criticize, as it's my job, but this really did open my eyes to the other side of the industry, and perhaps it did the same for you. Read the full answer over at Quora. Do you think we're too harsh on films in this country as a whole?

Extra Tidbit: I actually sort of liked CONAN, did any of you?
Source: Quora

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