To please my husband, I watched with him the two-hour sci-fi movie “John Carter,” the film that caused the chairman of Walt Disney Studios to lose his job. (In other words, heads had to roll for such a hugely expensive flop.)
But it didn’t have to be a flop.
Even if a better story had not been filmed, judicious editing ‐ leaving at least 20 minutes of the confusing and unnecessary opening on the editing room floor ‐ could have somewhat saved the movie.
For screenwriters and directors, this is an important lesson. Just because we like the idea of a huge opening sequence of one side shooting the other (in “John Carter” heaven knows which side was which at that point), it does not mean our targeted audiences will enjoy the probably hugely expensive technical shots.
Which brings us to the next question:
Who was this movie for?
It certainly was not for children ‐ not entertaining for them — and it certainly was not for most other demographics. I’m not even convinced teen boys thought this a fun movie.
John Locke in his informative book “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months” (affiliate link) talks about knowing who your intended audiences are before you start writing a book.
While I do not necessarily agree with him about this for fiction books — stories have a way of developing a life of their own, I do agree that, when a book is finished, it needs to be evaluated in light of who are the intended target audiences. And sometimes judicious tweaking needs to be done to appeal to those audiences.
(How wonderful that as authors we simply “cut” words and do not have to “cut” expensive computer-generated scenes.)
Perhaps “John Carter” would have done better if a couple of book editors had been employed to “edit” the story.
(And certainly a more memorable title was needed for the film. Some suggestions from my husband: “John Carter of Mars” or, better yet, “John Carter and the Princess of Mars” in order to help attract the female audience.)
Bottom line? In films and books, less is often better than more. We all need to remember this when creating imaginary worlds.
© 2012 Miller Mosaic LLC
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books. Her newest fiction book is CIA FALL GUY (on Kindle Select at http://amzn.to/L38eiP ‐ free for Amazon Prime members), the idea for which came from a May 1972 bombing of the U.S. Army’s Officers Club in Frankfurt, Germany.
Read more about the backstory of this book at www.CIAFallGuy.com and then email Phyllis at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to consider writing a review on the book’s Amazon page. Phyllis will email you a Kindle mobi format for reviewing.