Conan Scriptwriter Ruminates On Failure

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Conan Scriptwriter Ruminates On Failure

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Sean Hood, one of the many script writers for the recent flop-tastic Conan the Barbarian 3D, talks about what it's like to work on a bad film

Remember when you were about six, and you worked really hard on that drawing of Iron Man, only to realize it was utterly terrible in every way? I bet that made you feel really bad. Hours of work, and dozens of felt tips ruined, and for what? For nothing, just a brief glimpse of success as it slips from your fingers and flutters into the ether. Now imagine that feeling of abject failure multiplied by about million, and instead of your mom bringing you a glass of orange juice and telling you you'll get better with practice, you've got thousands of grumpy critics calling you a hack and tens of thousands of random gits on the internet calling you even worse names. How do you think that feels? Not very nice, apparently, as Conan the Barbarian 3D screenwriter Sean Hood explains in his column for Quora.

"A movie's opening day is analogous to a political election night," he writes, "Although I've never worked in politics, I remember having similar feelings of disappointment and disillusionment when my candidate lost a presidential bid, so I imagine that working as a speechwriter or a fundraiser for the losing campaign would feel about the same as working on an unsuccessful film."

He then goes on to describe, in sobering detail, how his initial creative excitement gave way to denial, and eventually soul-crushing despair, as the "tracking numbers" and responses to the initial screenings came in. After "adjusting [his] expectations" - the movie was originally expected to make as much as The Expendables which, although also fairly terrible, made a fair bit of cash - he began to "selectively ignore bad news" and highlight the good.

"You tell yourself to just enjoy the process," he added. "That whether you succeed or fail, win or lose, it will be fine. You pretend to be Zen. You adopt detachment, and ironic humor, while secretly praying for a miracle."

Sadly for Hood, that miracle never came.Conan the Barbarian grossed $17.5 million at the box office, a fraction of its 90 million dollar budget, and, as of right now, its aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 24%. That technically makes it worse than The Green Lantern, which must be a terrible burden for a man to carry.

"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."

Hood was the third screenwriter brought in to rewrite the film's script. Despite the end result, he still defends his efforts, claiming lot of the work he did on character and story design never made it to the big screen. He then described his experience working on the film as, "like doing great work on a losing campaign."

Source: Quora

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Im no excpert, but didnt they see a problem when they had to re write it 3 times?

I really liked it until this paragraph

I know that those who have read my Conan shooting script agree that much of the work I did on story and character never made it to screen. I myself know that given the difficulties of rewriting a script in the middle of production, I did work that I can be proud of.

Not cool Sean. Not cool at all.

Same problem with alot of adaptations. People involved who think they can do better than the original creator, think they have the talent to make changes for the better, instead of being as faithful as possible to the thing that had all the appeal that attracted people to it.

Fankly I could not imagine any possible way to write a good script for a conan remake.

Conan in itself was a crappy movie that just made for a good time because it portrayed vicious fights of Schwarzenegger with the english language.

You can't recreate that.

Exterminas:
Fankly I could not imagine any possible way to write a good script for a conan remake.

Conan in itself was a crappy movie that just made for a good time because it portrayed vicious fights of Schwarzenegger with the english language.

You can't recreate that.

Well you could, but I don't think anyone has the desire to see what age has done to the govenator's body up on the big screen.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Not cool Sean. Not cool at all.

Why not? We're quick enough to call people on fucking the script up so why can't he? If it was mid-production I'd agree with you but frankly if your career's on the line you're brutally honest as shit.

Exterminas:
Fankly I could not imagine any possible way to write a good script for a conan remake.

Conan in itself was a crappy movie that just made for a good time because it portrayed vicious fights of Schwarzenegger with the english language.

You can't recreate that.

You don't remake the film Conan, you adapt the printed Conan, which has all the cinematic flare one needs. That was supposedly what they were trying to do, but I don't see it. Too much added, too much overdesigned, too slick.

And no, the first Conan movie was/is considered a good, even great movie, one of the best fantasy films of all time. Superb production design, Nietzschian themes, great villain, memorable dialogue, great pacing, one of the best film scores of all time.

I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, I like Howard's stories, but they're not great literature. It's a shame this didn't deliver better, but it was passable sword and sandal fantasy at worst.

Exterminas:
Fankly I could not imagine any possible way to write a good script for a conan remake.

Conan in itself was a crappy movie that just made for a good time because it portrayed vicious fights of Schwarzenegger with the english language.

You can't recreate that.

Well...define a good script then. I honestly dont get why people bash the new Conan movie. I loved it.

Is the story original? No. Is it oscar worthy? No. Are the characters pretty one dimensional? Yes. But so fucking what? Its Conan! What is it supposed to be about? Women, swords, and monsters.

I went into the cinema not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had a bunch of fun, and Jasons Conan was very likable and spot on imo. None of the actors were amazing, but they got the job done (the exception being the villains daughter...she was simply not very good). None of the characters had a lot of depth, but when have they ever in Conan?

Its a popcorn movie, its just supposed to entertain, and I was entertained throughout. I might be used to a bit more cheese than your average guy, I watch anime and listen to Manowar. Both pretty heavy on the cheese...but still. Conan hasnt exactly been cheese-free...

Complainers might as well have sat down with Gears of War and expected Planescape Torment.

Sounds like he's trying to do damage control on his career after he made a bad call...

Aren't there movies where the director/writer was so ashamed or didn't like the results that they removed their name from the credits?

Mr. Hood here took a gamble and now regrets it cause it flopped. I'm sure the man didn't want what time he put into the script to go to waste, but I have a hard time mustering sympathy for him when the final product was clearly so bad...I mean the Titanics sinking man. Go get a life jacket...

tzimize:

Exterminas:
Fankly I could not imagine any possible way to write a good script for a conan remake.

Conan in itself was a crappy movie that just made for a good time because it portrayed vicious fights of Schwarzenegger with the english language.

You can't recreate that.

Well...define a good script then. I honestly dont get why people bash the new Conan movie. I loved it.

Is the story original? No. Is it oscar worthy? No. Are the characters pretty one dimensional? Yes. But so fucking what? Its Conan! What is it supposed to be about? Women, swords, and monsters.

I went into the cinema not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had a bunch of fun, and Jasons Conan was very likable and spot on imo. None of the actors were amazing, but they got the job done (the exception being the villains daughter...she was simply not very good). None of the characters had a lot of depth, but when have they ever in Conan?

Its a popcorn movie, its just supposed to entertain, and I was entertained throughout. I might be used to a bit more cheese than your average guy, I watch anime and listen to Manowar. Both pretty heavy on the cheese...but still. Conan hasnt exactly been cheese-free...

Complainers might as well have sat down with Gears of War and expected Planescape Torment.

This comes up every time a popcorn flick gets a panning, and it's rarely true. I doubt many of the "complainers" went in with expectations any higher than yours. Critics have pretty much come to accept brainless action films for what they are, but that doesn't mean it's not possible to create a bad brainless action film.

Most people seeing this probably expected nothing more than to be entertained, and just...weren't.

Wow, I kinda feel sorry for Hood. In fact, I've never really thought about how a writer deals with the fact that his work is no good. But the film was indeed total shit, and the original was meh so there's that.

The Expendables FUCKING ruled.

As did the original Conan...

Ahem.

Anyway, this happens more often than most would think. It's easier to think of moviemaking as one continuous thought process, but really, it's a group effort, with some people having such small jobs designated to them that they have no idea they're taking part in a flop.
I've heard of so many scripts that were absolute gold until some bastard director or production crew ruined them. I used to work as a stagehand and there were so many times when the lovely set that had been slaved over was used in utter dreck. And not due to the fault of any one individual (Usually, some baaaaad producers and directors out there), but because some little chain of minor fuck ups had never been resolved until it mushroomed and messed everything up. So I don't really blame Sean Hood at all.

And actually, I imagine I'll probably like the new Conan. I don't know about you lot, but I go to my silly action films to see motherfuckers being killed in brutally cathartic ways, and the combat looks appropriately nasty. As long as the pacing doesn't suck and they stay away from camel punching, it should be fine. Enough for an inebriated Saturday night anyway.

imnotparanoid:
Im no excpert, but didnt they see a problem when they had to re write it 3 times?

that can be rather common when you have disputes int he company, and has killed more films then its passed.

OT: Its nice of him to cover his ass. its not my fault, clearly they didnt let me put everything I wanted in. the movie would have been so much better if they had.

other hten that, a large reason the expendables made money is the star name power behind it. Conan is synonymous with Ahnold.

I just saw it and didnt think it was that bad

It was better than i expected for a film about a muscular barbarian man who spent 90% of his screen time topless and killed people in violent ways

Machocruz:

And no, the first Conan movie was/is considered a good, even great movie, one of the best fantasy films of all time. Superb production design, Nietzschian themes, great villain, memorable dialogue, great pacing, one of the best film scores of all time.

That score is the entire reason I ever bothered to learn the name Basil Poledouris. It's beautiful.

tzimize:
I might be used to a bit more cheese than your average guy, I watch anime and listen to Manowar. Both pretty heavy on the cheese...but still. Conan hasnt exactly been cheese-free...

As a fan of cheese (anime, bad movies) I like your attitude, sir.

Now as for this Hood, I wish him the best of luck. At least one more chance to prove himself one way or the other. It's hard to imagine this won't be a career ending blow, but he does share responsibility with other writers so that may help soften the blow.

I just got back from seeing it...

I honestly don't know why people are in such a fuss over it. Sure it wasn't good, but it was hardly terrible.

Flop-tastic is correct. The script on this was terribru. And the writers (I guess) are completely to blame.

Why did they had to make a movie of Conan? Its not like people will form a line to see something related to Conan, people wont watch the movie just because of the name so why did someone thought about doing another Conan movie? Why not something original, a new IP, creating something based on something that was already made and that at the moment isnt exaclty popular just limits the creativity and doesnt sell good.

I would rather watch a movie called Barbarian 3000 then another Conan movie because I already know that nothing new and original will come from Conan

The alarm bells should have gone off at "3rd Screenwriter", if a movie is being made by multiple people all of whoch work on it at differet times or simply quit stay the hell away from that movie. This kind of cobbled together design process leads to half-finished scrips by shooting time and abject msyery in the story department.

The best films have a core team in palce from pre-production all the way to the DVD extras and beyond in some cases. Films should not pass though multiple writers hands after they drop out of the project.

tzimize:
Is the story original? No. Is it oscar worthy? No. Are the characters pretty one dimensional? Yes. But so fucking what? Its Conan! What is it supposed to be about? Women, swords, and monsters.

I'm going to start off by saying I really enjoyed myself with Battle LA. I really did. Yet, I completely agree that it was severely flawed and need better direction for its character sequences, better work on it's script and more compelling actors. I liked the movie well enough, but I know that's it's far from being a great film, and I know that just because it's fun doesn't excuse it from fumbling a multitude of different things. You can't use "but it's fun!" to defend a film that fails on delivering something as important as a halfway decent script. It's disingenuous to other films that are because you devalue their accomplishments, and you lower your standard of what films should and could be.

I'm not saying you can't enjoy Conan, but you can't just say that just because it's Conan means it shouldn't be held to certain standards, such as having a good script, decent performances, and not-shitty editing.

Someone else please go read the article referenced? I read it and I just see one long series of rationalization and even some flat-out delusion. Does anyone else get that vibe out of it?

I mean, I understand the need to provide a little cushioning for the blow to your ego, but damn! It's like this guy refuses to believe that he could've turned out a bad product! And for all his denials, he seems like he was pretty invested in the film. We all screw up sometimes, so get over it Mr. Hood.

Honestly? I wasn't too disappointed with the movie: it was about what I expected-- the classic stories of Howard seen through the glossy lens of Hollywood; I enjoyed it, but what kept nagging at me was not how bad the acting was (it wasn't all that terrible), how one-dimensional the characters were (I'm not watching Hamlet, guys; I'm watching Conan), or how disjointed and forced the plot was (there is a Conan story by Howard that is entirely just about a little sidetrip he took on the road while travelling from one big city to another. It literally is just about that encounter, fer God's sake!)...

No. What kept nagging at me was the thought that the movie felt like what someone would come up with if they parsed through a few Robert E. Howard stories and took out the bits they thought were cool... and you know what? Probably Sean Hood is as guilty of that as anyone else who worked on the creative end of the movie.

Ultimately, the only thing that makes me a sad panda is that with the failure of this movie (not to mention its perceived crapitude) is that they haven't got any reason to serialize it. I would've loved to see a good swords and sorcery series at the box office.

It would have been better if the marketing wouldn't have straight out lied about the content of the film but then again, lies and deceit are part of what makes capitalism great.

solidstatemind:
We all screw up sometimes, so get over it Mr. Hood.

This is true, except his screwing up could have very likely ended his movie-writing career, or at least severely hampered it. Other than that, yea, I agree with you on him seeming a little too overly willing to blame everyone who wasn't himself. Also I still don't really plan on seeing this, though knowing that the theater will be empty actually might help the movie's favor, as the last two movies I saw there were couples either a row or two in front of me macking in the middle of the movie. Really annoying, to say the least.

Bebus:
I just got back from seeing it...

I honestly don't know why people are in such a fuss over it. Sure it wasn't good, but it was hardly terrible.

I'm with this guy

I saw the movie I wanted to see

a less-than-spectacular medieval/fantasy action movie

not Lord of the Citizen Kane Ring

In my case, it might be nostalgia, but I remember the original Conan being an excellent page in movie fantasy at a time when there was a serious dearth of quality media in the genre. The original Conan the Barbarian was an impressive nod to the Boris Vallejo art style(probably NSFW) and introduced the Swords and Sorcery subgenre of fantasy to the masses.

It also featured Basil Poledouris' awesome score (The orgy theme for your enjoyment). And it quoted Genghis Khan (from whom we get the answer to What is best in life?).

These days, we've seen Lord of the fucking Rings put on the big screen in three extended parts with all the power of CGI and backed by Tolkeinologists and and geek-level devotion, and really, nothing else is going to compare for a while. So I can see how any version of Conan might seem well...meh, especially those not familiar with Howard's literary diegesis.

That said, haven't seen the new one. Will eventually, and will expect disappointment, but it's a throw-together redux during a depression, so there's no surpise that it's getting panned.

238U.

tzimize:
Its a popcorn movie, its just supposed to entertain, and I was entertained throughout. I might be used to a bit more cheese than your average guy, I watch anime and listen to Manowar. Both pretty heavy on the cheese...but still. Conan hasnt exactly been cheese-free...

Complainers might as well have sat down with Gears of War and expected Planescape Torment.

Come on, anime isn't cheesy. Just 90% of them revolve around the power of friendship, willpower, love, or the heart of the cards.

Nyargh Sex Robot:
The Expendables FUCKING ruled.

Hellz yeah! Stupid movie but certainly a fun trip. Of course, I got some enjoyment out of the Green Lantern so my opinion is probably invalid.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, people have such unrealistic expectations of movies. For some reason, its gotten in the heads of the sci-fi/fantasy crowed that every genre movie needs to be The Dark Knight. It's just not gonna happen guys. Remember the original Conan? remember Commando? Rambo? Super Man? These movies that people gush for with their nostalgia goggles on even though they were dripping with enough cheese to drown an elephant? What we're getting now isn't any better or worse. There's the occasional movie that goes beyond expectation, like the Dark Knight but they can't all be like that and nor should we expect them to be. "Okay" movies are what make the true gems shine. If they were all gems, people would expect them to start getting shinier.

Robert Ewing:
Flop-tastic is correct. The script on this was terribru. And the writers (I guess) are completely to blame.

I wouldn't be so quick to judge, sure, the script that made it on to the screen might be bad, but that doesn't really say anything about who is to blame. Do not underestimate the power of stupid producers. Being forced to re-write mid shoot, or having producers change the plot in post, making the script seem totally dumb isn't unusual in Hollywood. All I'm saying is that there really isn't enough to go on to say "the writers are to blame" I tend to blame producers first, they are there to say "this is what we want" and have to OK the script in the first place

Soooo I shouldn't see this film?

The movie is not that bad. It is more in tune with the Conan literature than the original film was and Mamoa looks like a badass Conan and fits the part well. I think too many critics are comparing it to the original as a remake and not even glancing at the source material. I actually thought it was a pretty awesome Conan tale.

Poor bastard. It wasn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it also didn't deserve the ubiquitous panning it got. I'd also be curious to know what limitations the scriptwriter had to work with. Remember, writers aren't given free rein over their scripts, the directors want to get their paws in there so the movie gets made their way and the producers will demand changes to make it more marketable.

Anyway, Conan was better than the Expendables, and loads better than the apocalyptic suckage that was the Transformers series. It's a damn shame both of those got sequels but this probably won't.

We all need a fun and forgettable action movie for that one weekend where nothing's going on. This year, it was Battle LA and I mostly went because I like Two Face.

To me Conan was a limited appeal project, It doesn't exactly scream oscar but popcorn movies have their place and Hood should be proud in the end. I'd love to write a film, even a bad one.

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