So I promised (i.e., mentioned in an offhand way) that I intended to start blogging about Fox's reality show On the Lot. Then I forgot to watch the premiere episodes, which was fine because when I caught up with them online later, they turned out to be long, drawn-out, uninteresting affairs that had way too many participants on focus on, much less care about. Then they cut the show down from two episodes to one a week. Now there's rumors that it's going to be axed altogether. But I'm still going to write about it. Because relevance is for other people to worry about, not me.
Although I was initially intrigued by the premise of the show - film directors compete in a Project Runway-type contest, with weekly tasks to be done within a short time frame - it didn't take long for me to realize it's just not going to work. Filmmaking isn't that type of discipline. There are too many outside factors that contribute to making a film. It's not just a designer and a garment, it's a director and a crew, and equipment, and actors, and scripts, and and sets. I'm not sure how useful these prescribed, time-crunched exercises are in the process of revealing real directorial talent.
I had mentioned before my intrigue was partly inspired by my memories of the original filmmaking reality show - Project Greenlight, the Damon/Affleck-backed vehicle that approached the idea of a filmmaking contest much more practically. They started with a months-long search for good scripts, and a separate search for good directors. Then the real meat of the television show documented the making of the winning script into a film by the winning director. It only lasted three seasons, and never produced a truly successful movie. But I found it interesting, especially now when placed in counterpoint to On the Lot.
The thing to realize about On the Lot, though, is that it's very decidedly about the business of filmmaking, not the art. If you watched the last season of Project Greenlight, you'll know there was quite a tussle between the film's producers, who wanted to make a commercially successful movie, and Matt Damon, who wanted an artistically pure one. (Affleck just showed up looking like a bum and apparently not caring much either way.) There is no such controversy on the Lot. Those contestants are there to earn a chance to work in the Hollywood studios. Their challenges are not just about crafting a film, but also about pitching it to executives. Perfectly respectable. But it also is less involving. At least for me.
Audiences don't seem to be digging it much either, though. The show is currently floundering beyond belief. I have a theory for why that really is. And it is simply: Americans don't care much about film directors. The auteur is not a significant element of the American movie experience. We tend to go for story- and star-driven films. If someone is telling us about a new movie, we'll ask, "Who's in it?" well before we'll even think about asking, "Who directs it?" American movies have generally always followed that principle. Director Frank Capra used to brag about how he got his name above the title of his films on the marquees back in the '30's, and it's still something worth bragging about. Few people since have done it. In this type of movie-going mainstream culture, why would a show about directors really take off? The slice of population who would like to see that are also most likely put off by the lack of emphasis on art and craft. And so you've got a dud.
However, I'll still periodically check in and see if the series becomes more interesting. As long as it lasts, anyway.
Oh, and by they way - I read somewhere someone dissing judge Carrie Fisher's appearance. I have no idea what they're talking about. I think she looks great. Very well dressed and put together. She is 51, you know. Princess Leia can't stay nineteen forever, fanboy.