A Response to Orlando-Sentinel Article Calling for “MORE Runaway Production”
Roger Moore’s blog at The Orlando Sentinel had an interesting post back on June 4, 2010, titled “Marmaduke, Killers and the case FOR ‘Runaway Production.” Moore seems to suggest Marmaduke was less than spectacular because it was “lazily” shot in Southern California and may have been less offensive to him had it been filmed in Kansas without “sucking real American novelty” out of the film.
Of all the vexing things about the cynical, half-hearted kiddie comedy Marmaduke, the one that really got under my skin was its laziness.
And nothing encapsulates that “Let’s buy the rights, make the dog talk and fart and take money from the parents of small children” cynicism like the setting. The movie begins in “Kansas” (year, right) and then, to work in some unimaginative dogs on surfboards scene (one scene) and to cut costs and suck out whatever “real America” novelty the movie might have delivered, the dog and his family moving to “The O.C.”
Moore’s comment that setting the film in California was a way to “cut costs” seems misplaced. Had the producers wanted to cut costs, it may have been better on their bottom line had they shot in a film incentive heavy state like Moore’s own Florida, for example. It’s doubtful Moore had a problem with Marley and Me, which shot on location in Florida. To be fair, Marley and Me should have filmed in Florida, as it did, since it was based on columnist John Grogan’s real-life experience. In other words, there were artistic reasons for filming Marley and Me in Florida. Such artistic concerns, however, are lacking with Marmaduke, who was never identified as living in any specific place in America, be it “real” or not.
Moore’s real gripe is that he is just “sick” of seeing Southern California at the movies, which is a somewhat valid complaint. Moore, however, weakens the validity of his complaint with the argument he proceeded to make:
I’m sick of seeing The O.C., SoCal, the desert around Joshua Tree, Venice Beach, Compton, Santa Monica and Malibu on the screen. The staggering number of genre pictures shot in that company town gives everything that comes out of there a bland over-familiarity, something you won’t hear when government officials, industry mouthpieces and union protectionists wail about “runaway production.” Seriously, that same early morning West Coast light on every chase, every street scene, has gone way beyond getting on my nerves. And if there’s one thing the rise of indie film, the Rise of Tyler Perry, the ascent of Louisiana, New Mexico, Georgia and North Carolina production has shown us, is that fresh settings can help even tired recycled movies.
Couldn’t we say that most, if not all, “genre pictures” are inherently “bland” and “over-familiar”? Moreover, while Moore deserves credit for having the eye and sophistication for spotting the “same early morning West Coast light”, we doubt his audience would share this esoteric concern. And as far as we know, the early light on the West Coast comes from the same place as early light anywhere else…the East. Moore also contradicts himself. No sooner does he laud places like Louisiana, New Mexico and so on for offering “fresh settings”, Moore goes on to say:
Yeah, Louisiana (which is rarely the “setting,” even though it’s the location) is over-exposed, as are Vancouver and that favorite “Fake New York,” Toronto. Incentives or not, there’s only so many ways to shoot the deserts and mountains of New Mexico, and really, is that any different from filming on Big Bear Lake outside of LA?
Which is it: fresh or over-exposed? As for the “big difference” between New Mexico and Big Bear? Tax incentives. Why not shoot Chicago in Chicago rather than Toronto? Tax incentives. Why not shoot Battle: Los Angeles in Los Angeles rather than Louisiana? Tax incentives. Why not shoot Broke Back Mountain on the mountain its named for in in Wyoming rather than British Columbia? Tax incentives. Moore suggests that the producers of film and TV productions that shoot in Georgia or Pennsylvania do so for distinct settings. And while it’s great we get to see such places on the screen, the search for distinction played almost no role in choosing these settings; tax incentives, however, did.
Moore lauds the forthcoming Transformers 3 for shooting scenes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a state with hefty tax incentives. Transformers Director Micheal Bay also shot parts of the Transformers films in New Mexico (incentives), New York (incentives), Pennsylvania (incentives), Michigan (incentives) and Illinois (incentives). The studio wanted Bay to shoot the first film in Australia or Canada because of, wait for it, incentives. Bay, to his credit, waived his own fee to keep the production in the U.S. because he felt that only the experienced film crews in this nation, based in Los Angeles, could pull off the effects heavy blockbuster. In short, Mr. Moore, many people like Bay prefer to shoot in California because that is where the most talented film workers live.
If you want to launch a Space Shuttle, go to Florida. If you want to make a movie with a talented and proficient film crew, stay in California. Audiences will just have to suffer through the spectacular “blandness” of places like Malibu and Joshua Tree.
Moore’s final lines contained more contradiction:
But if there’s anything that this digital effects era is showing us, is that audiences crave unfamiliar sights. The cheapest way to achieve those is to get out of Cali and see the world.
MORE runaway production!
If “lazily” filming in California was an effort to cut costs with Marmaduke, is filming outside of the state cheaper or not? Lastly, Moore’s call for “MORE runaway production” is insensitive, if not outright offensive to the hundreds of thousands of under or out-of-work Californian’s in the entertainment industry whose very livelihoods are at stake because of runaway production. Calling for “more runaway production” is as offensive and tactless as calling for more off-shore outsourcing.