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Justin Halpern’s Guide to Making Your Own Summer Movie Blockbuster

By 05.06.13
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With Iron Man 3 opening to $175 million over the weekend, the summer movie season has officially begun (officially according to me). Around these parts, we like to handicap the winners like Jeff Gillooly in our Fantasy Summer Box Office game. But there's no reason for you to sit on the sidelines like a casual duh-bserver, writing a summer movie is easy! And today, Justin Halpern, the best-selling author of I Suck at Girls and Shit My Dad Says, is going to tell you how.

Every summer, the exact same types of movies come out.  So in the interest of helping you all become super successful screenwriters and directors, I decided to go ahead and break down the four types of summer movies, so that you can go ahead and make your own.

Scripts are like buttholes; All the best ones are used by George Clooney. The studios rarely buy original screenplays anymore because it’s much easier to take an already popular property and hire a writer to adapt it. But here’s the problem; that writer has 25 executives giving them notes on what he or she should be writing, and after the writer is finished, the studio just hires another writer to take over.  It’d be like trying to f*ck your wife or husband while a group of people stand to the side shouting ways they think you could f*ck them better.  So, after they find a beloved property (comic book, TV show, Toy) with name recognition, they toss this word on it: “Reimagined.”  Then about a year before the movie comes out they release a poster on the internet that barely hints at what the beloved characters in the beloved property might look like now that they’ve been… reimagined!  Then everyone on the internet  argues about the tiny bit given away in the poster, which ultimately ends with people shitting on Damon Lindelof even if he had nothing to do with it. The studio gets their free press and huge opening weekend box office.

The other day my four-year-old nephew walked up to me and said “What if a booger talked.”  I promise you if Brad Bird walked in to the head of Pixar’s office and said the exact same sentence, “Boogers” would be out next summer and it’d make 66 Million in its first weekend.

The key to this type of blockbuster is find an animal or object people encounter every day (Cars, fish, toys, boogers) and then make them talk.  After that, have them dream of a bigger life. If it’s a fish in an aquarium, have it wish to be in the ocean.  A toy in a toy chest? Have it wish to see the outside world. In our film "Forks," we take a dingy fork that sits in a silverware drawer in someone’s house, that desperately wants to leave and become a fork used by the President of the United States. On the way, he falls in love with a sterling silver fork from a rich person’s house, and then blah blah everyone says she’s too good for him, you get the fuggin point here.

The beauty of this is that it’s a cartoon so kids want to see it, and it’s also a parable for adults, reminding them of how they’re in an incredibly shitty job that they wish they could get out of and move on to better things but they can't so they'll probably die miserable.  Everyone’s happy for two hours and you’re shitting gold.

Why do you get drunk and call up your ex to see if they’ll f*ck? Because you know you’re not going to have to think about it, and the last time you f*cked them it felt pretty good. The sequel is the perfect summer movie because you’ve already "f*cked," so it doesn’t take much to get you to see it again.

Studios are in a no-lose situation. If they don’t make the movie, they make no money, and if they make the movie and it’s horrible, they'll still make a ton of money that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. Plus, almost no one gets fired for making a sequel, even if it’s sh*tty, unless it goes way over budget. I was once sitting in the lobby of a production company, many years ago, and I heard a development executive say "F*ck it, just have Axel crash in to a strip club or something. It's f*ckin' Beverly Hills Cop, bro."

That dude makes 450,000 dollars a year. The bonus to the sequel is that if they make the movie and it’s half way decent, well then, they know you’ll get drunk and dial their number one more time.

What you don’t want to do, is what we’ve done above; take a film that was mildly successful, and definitely did not lend itself to a sequel, and try to make one anyway. (My writing partner and I would occasionally pitch La Bamba 2 in meetings if the meeting was going horribly anyway. "Okay, well, we have ONE other idea. Do you guys remember Richie Valens?" Unsurprisingly, I was not a very successful feature film writer.) As moviegoers, we may not be able to resist a shitty sequel, but we can definitely resist a sequel that no one wanted.

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