The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

“My next one will be BETTER”

with 21 comments

There are currently 23 films running in the theatres where I live. This includes Conan the Barbarian, which is the one I’m least inclined to see. The only competition it has for the position as The Most Appalling Movie is Hangover II. And it’s not likely that I’m going to spend 15 dollars and two precious hours on either of them.

If we leave Hangover and stick to Conan, I’m not a big fan of excessive violence on the screen. It makes me feel sick and if you insist on using it, there needs to be a very good reason for it, apart from that “it looks cool”. The fact that the critics all hate Conan doesn’t make it more likable. I don’t always agree with what the critics say, but when they call the movie a pointless orgy of violence, in urgent need for a proper story, I can’t help taking some impression.

The “flop” label”
Obviously I’m not the only one to be suspicious about the qualities of Conan. As far as I understand it’s already considered a flop at the box offices.

The definition of what deserves the “flop label” could of course be discussed, as Alex Thompson over at Benefits of a Classical Education did in a recent post.

A movie doesn’t have to top the charts to be considered a success. A smaller production which manages to go even or with a small surplus, maintaining a high artistic standard can be as much of a winner. Alex argues that we shouldn’t toss the “flop” word too easily, and of course he’s right.

But as far as Conan comes I’m afraid that there is really no doubt about it. Even the people who made it have now spoken up, openly admitting the failure, sharing their views and feelings.

Or at least one of them has,  Sean Hood, who is one of three screenwriters of the Conan movie to named at IMDB. (There could be others involved who remain anonymous. Listen to the episode of Q&A where Jeff Goldsmith interviews two commercial screenwriters and you’ll understand. I guarantee it will give you a new view on what movie production is like.) 

A post of honesty
Anyway: Sean has written a post where he answers to the question: “What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?”.   Sean compares the process of launching a movie to a political campaign where it starts to dawn on you that your candidate might not win the election.  

What makes the article such a good read is that it’s got the bittersweet smell of honesty. It takes a lot of courage to show your vulnerability, but Sean has it, and he makes it so clear that behind every box office failure there’s a real person. Just because you’re writing the script for Conan the Barbarian and not [insert unknown indie movie], it doesn’t mean that you haven’t worked as hard, or that you haven’t put your heart and soul into the project.

But while Sean is honest about how sucky it is to be him right now, he doesn’t lose his balance or dignity. He doesn’t play blame games and he doesn’t fall into a sink hole of self pity or bitterness. On the contrary, he shares a story about how his father handled failure as he faced it in his life as a musician and how he’d like to be like him.

Considering how well he writes, I don’t doubt for a second that Sean Hood will face a great future as a screenwriter. Obviously, judging from the post, he knows how to tell a story and the experiences from the Conan flop will only make him better.

The final word
I’ll give the final word to Sean, as he’s sipping his mug of coffee.

Sean, I don’t imagine you’ll ever read this, but if you did, I would offer you a comfortable armchair and a drink of your choice from the café bar and raise a glass for you.

You’re an inspiring example and if I had half of your attitude, perhaps I could get somewhere with my own dreams and ambitions. Thank you for sharing your experience of failure with us.

And who knows, maybe I should go and give Conan a shot after all?  Somehow you managed to raise my curiosity. Can it really be THAT bad, and if it is, how did it end up like that?

So with my father’s example in mind, here I sit, coffee cup steaming in its mug and dog asleep at my feet, starting my work for the day, revising yet another script, working out yet another pitch, thinking of the future (the next project, the next election) because I’m a screenwriter, and that’s just what screenwriters do.

In the words of Ed Wood, “My next one will be BETTER!

Written by Jessica

September 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

21 Responses

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  1. Saw Conan the other night with the missus. Me opinion: was a respectable member of the “big dudes killing things with they’s swords” class of movies. Now, I’s seen a lot “big dudes killing things with they’s swords” movies, including some with the legendary Shwarzenalligator, what was just plain awful. So, I came out of it feelin’ satisfied – I’d enjoyed meself fer a couple hours, and so had the missus. Now, if’n ya don’t likes “big dudes killing things with they’s swords”, then there ain’t nuthin’ extra in this fer ya – no brilliant dialog or award-level acting or special insightifications on the human condition. But “pointless orgy of violence”? So’s Harry Potter, if’n yer honest about it, it just has cuter characters.

    I thought Mr Hood’s reflections was very appropriate and mature. I wishes him all the best with his future endeavors.


    September 2, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    • “But “pointless orgy of violence”? So’s Harry Potter, if’n yer honest about it, it just has cuter characters.”

      This cracked me up. Ratshag, I’m so happy that the orc takes his special seat at the café. It’s good to have you around. And I’m glad that the movie isn’t as bad as it sounds from the reviews.


      September 3, 2011 at 12:24 am

  2. That was a very good article, very reflective, and I certainly wish him every success in the future. They say that which does not kill you makes you stronger — it’s even true in a way. But it is a truly hellish way of getting stronger.

    I wonder about Conan though on the screen. The character has enormous baggage, not only in terms of the very well-established fanbase of RE Howard, but also in the genre of fantasy as a whole. I don’t really think Conan fits very well in today’s fantasy – in the same landscape as the books of JK Rowling, Steven Ericksson, George RR Martin, Robert Jordan (and many others). I think it raises the bar for a Conan movie in a way that Lord of the Rings didn’t have to face. Tolkien of course has an even larger and more firmely established fanbase, some with extremely entrenched views, but the nature of the story itself seems less out of touch than the Conan stories sometimes do (to my mind anyway).

    Lewis Maskell

    September 2, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    • I must admit that I haven’t read Conan myself, so I’m probably not the right one to comment on this, but what you say sounds right to me. The Conan concept feels a bit dated, the same way as Edgar Rice Burrough’s franchises (Tarzan, John Carter), which I’m more familliar with, are. Blowing life into it again must be tricky. On the other hand, you may wonder if Conan really is comparative to Martin, Rowling and Tolkien. Isn’t he more like a superhero from the comics? And those movies still go pretty well, even though it’s not quite my cup of tea.


      September 3, 2011 at 7:16 am

  3. Conan is kind of tough to adapt because the really standout thing about the books is the language that REH uses. It’s really hard to put that across in a film, and this one settled for just telling the story with lots of cool action sequences. Which is fair enough, it’s not anywhere near bad enough to deserve to be quite as bad a flop as it sounds to be though.


    September 3, 2011 at 12:00 am

  4. “Sean, I don’t imagine you’ll ever read this, but if you did, I would offer you a comfortable armchair and a drink of your choice from the café bar and raise a glass for you.

    You’re an inspiring example and if I had half of your attitude, perhaps I could get somewhere with my own dreams and ambitions. Thank you for sharing your experience of failure with us.”

    Actually, I did stumble upon this blog, and I did read your kind words. Conan may not have been a hit, and writing the piece may have made me the target of some criticism in Hollywood (writers are supposed to keep their mouths shut about these things) but if my experience helps even a few other filmmakers, writers, or artists get back up on their feet after getting knocked down, I am a happy man. Who knows? Maybe some future Woody Allen or David Lynch read that piece and decided to keep going.

    In any case, If I can inspire even one 43-year-old Swedish woman, married mother of two, then all is well.

    Cheers to you,

    – Sean Hood (45-year-old genre hack, married father of one)

    Sean Hood (@seanbhood)

    September 3, 2011 at 2:54 am

    • The web is such a wonderous place. Gazillions of voices are talking at the same time and you can’t really expect anyone to distinguish your particular voice in all the buzz. So you sing to yourself, because you’re a blogger, and bloggers can’t shut up.

      But sometimes the strangest things happen. I don’t know what kind of super-listening device you used – maybe one of those they had to browse space for aliens before they gave up about it. Anyway: you found your way to my little virtual café and I’m equally humbled and happy to see you here.

      Thank you for coming and thank you for making the effort to write a kind comment. It made me so glad and energized and inspired to keep blogging.

      I really wish you all the best and I’m going to keep following your future endavours through your blog, now that I’ve found it. You have won a fan, sir!



      September 3, 2011 at 7:45 am

  5. Blogs are so cool like that.

    I just want to add that a film is much, much more than a script. The greatest script has to go through the producers, director, the editor, the actors and so much more added to it. It could be the greatest script in the world, but still fail. Frankly, Ishtar was a pretty good script with good actors. It was just blown out of proportion.

    Steve Kimes

    September 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    • I’ve started to realize this listening to the Q &A interviews with screenwriters. Recently I listened to the guy who wrote the script for Source Code. There were a ton of changes to what he had written, by other screenwriters, but also by directors and actors. Not that he complained about it, he took it nicely. But yes, if you’re one of several screenwriters, you only have that much influence over the final product.


      September 4, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      • If one watches the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which were writtens by Joss Whedon, and then watches the tv show, where Whedon were in charge, ya gets a pretty dramatic view of how far a movie can go from the writer’s original idea. And in that particular case, totallies discombobify it.

        On the other hand, Pirates of the Carri…. Cabarrean… Carribbooby… ah, bugger it. Pirates of the Disneyland. The script went through sumthin’ like 74839 writers before it got ta production. And it turned out okay.

        On the grippin’ hand, if’n ya watch the DVD of Gosford Park and listen’ ta the screenwriter commentary, is a fascinatin’ look at what happens between a script and a final movie, even one what stuck real real close. Is also fascinatings fer ta hear all them stories about them English manor peoples what couldn’t be fit inta the story.


        September 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm

  6. Kör på svenska här om det är ok? Såg Conan häromdagen och det var en besvikelse, det var mycket som gick fel manusbearbetningen för scenografin var det inga fel på.

    “I’ll write in Swedish if that’s OK? I watched Conan the other day and it was a disappointment, there was so much that went wrong in the screenwriting, because there was nothing wrong about the scenography”.


    September 4, 2011 at 12:16 am

    • No worries, I’ll translate if necessary.

      You had an interesting comparsion in your review, when you compared it to that travelling program. I can see it clearly in front o fme.


      September 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm

  7. Haven’t seen the movie, just a trailer. But I am a huge fan of the first one. Not the sequel or the Red Sonya stuff. I have also read most of the original work as presented by L. Sprague De Camp.

    As Spinks mentioned above, the language, style used in the written work is special, which I think was translated well into the first movie version. Arnold was very silent in that film. I think that was a very important detail. We were given a world with a story, life, some important background information, and it was all captured very well on film. Conan’s harsh young life with his father and the slaver. His fleeing from the wolves, stumbling upon the sword and later seen wearing the pelts. He was a silent observer just trying to survive in a vast, violent world.

    The trailer for the new film unfortunately showed me nothing more than another expensive action-adventure with little or no depth.

    I’ll watch it, and might even like it, but it won’t be Conan by my standards.


    September 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    • Well… trailers ARE a bit deceptive, aren’t they? And I think they only get worse and worse these days. The trailer of Bridesmaids for instance almost scared me away from watching it, but it turned out that the movie was far better than the marketing for it. Which is quite sad. I mean, isn’t the idea that you should become interested in watching the movie, rather than put off?


      September 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm

  8. I saw Conan at the European Premiere a while back, and although I did not like the film greatly I did think it did an adequate job in what it was trying to do. I mean it was never meant to be the next mind bending life questioning drama was it?

    Lovely post Jessica. I have added your blog to my daily rounds….

    Scott Lawlor

    September 6, 2011 at 7:57 am

    • Thank you! I recently discovered your place and it stood out to me as a high-quality place with a nice personal touch. You’re already on my roll.


      September 6, 2011 at 8:02 am

      • I noticed that Jessica, and for that I thank you!! Consider yourself added to mine too 🙂

        Scott Lawlor

        September 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

  9. […] slightly older post by Jessica about film expectations is such a treat. I haven’t even had the time to go through the […]

  10. […] and in many ways inspiring post; he also was kind enough to comment here at The Velvet Café as I referred to it. That’s the kind of person he is. He interacts with the community of people who love films […]

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