A friend and colleague of mine always scoffs at my love of bad cinema whenever it comes up. “Why would I want to watch bad movies?” he says with a snicker. “I want to make good movies, so I watch good movies.”
Unfortunately for my misguided friend, he’s human, just like me. And like all humans, we both learn from two ways: screwing up and watching others screw up. My argument back to him is I’ve learned more from watching crap movies than I have from good ones.
If all you watch are the “greatest” movies (obviously up to individual interpretation), you’re denying yourself some of the best lessons you can get outside of making five movies in a row. Want to see how someone succeeded? Watch Casablanca. Want to learn what not to do? Scroll through our bad movie database.
Lessons to be Learned
Take Death by Dialogue, one of my personal favorites. One of the oft-recited rules of screenwriting is “any script can be fixed.” Doesn’t matter how bad the concept, or dialogue, or characters – something can be done. But watching Death by Dialogue you realize that’s clearly incorrect. Bad idea, bad script, bad everything.
There needed to be several things done before any lights were even colored green regarding this film. Make sure you have a clear idea of what’s going on with your movie before you set foot on any set. Try having a few table reads to tighten the script up. Or, if you’re making a movie about a killer journalist killing terrible actors on a movie set, just toss it away instead.
Sometimes a great script gets corrupted by bad interpretation by the director or production team. Consider the remake of Day of the Dead – from all accounts, screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick wanted to make the film Romero didn’t have the funds for when he made original. Unfortunately, what crapped out was an atrocity to all man and zombiekind. So while the remake of Dawn of the Dead enjoys some respect from fans for honoring the legacy, Day of the Dead experienced a quick, painful death. And not in a cool way.
The Best Started Somewhere
One of the best ways to utilize love for cheesy and bad movies is to follow filmmaker careers. A popular example is Peter Jackson. He started out by making Bad Taste during weekends with his friends. It showed enough promise to be shown at Cannes and win some awards. Watch this to learn how to turn a few dollars and a simple story into success – if you’re willing to put in the work and study, like Peter did.
After Bad Taste and then Meet the Feebles, Peter made Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead), widely considered to be one of the most notorious and goriest films in horror history. Besides the buckets of blood, you can clearly see how Peter Jackson had adapted his sense of humor and ability behind the camera to make a fun and insane film.
Instead of pigeonholing himself, he then branched out to the heavy drama field with Heavenly Creatures – and his mainstream status was sealed. If you had just started with Lord of the Rings, you would get none of the rise, none of the struggle, none of the clawing and learning his way up. And you would get no education – just some good movies.
So, for all my fellow filmmakers out there, don’t be like unfortunate colleague. Beg, borrow or steal from your cheesy movie loving friends and get some real education, right on your TV!