I remember when Million Dollar Movie came on TV with its glittering Manhattan skyline and swooning theme music (also known as the theme to “Gone with the Wind”), the magic quotient amped up, and we sat there glued to whatever movie materialized before us.
Ahhh, the magic, the romance of the movies.
Hollywood veteran Dan Bronson started out as a movie romantic. He established a movie studies program at DePauw University (Indiana) and later came to Hollywood as an intern. There he began his journey from romantic to pragmatist (cynic?) through his long association with major studios as story analyst and editor, screenwriter, script doctor and producer.
In the beginning there was his consuming passion for the movies that surrounded him like a romantic aura.
“When I came to Hollywood … I had an extremely naïve academic perspective of movies as art, thinking they combine all versions of art in one medium,” Bronson said in a phone conversation from his home in Bear Valley. “Hah! Movies are money.”
The thinking has changed entirely, he said. From the times of personal appeal and investment in story to today’s corporate greed and focus on return on investment. Marketing is what is out in front of story and stars.
So movies are being made for a very specific target audience. “Today’s audience is the 15-year-old male and the uneducated peasant of a third world country,” Bronson said. And they’re often modeled on video games and cartoons — “Oblivion,” “The Smurfs 2,” “World War Z” come to mind.
Despite his ongoing naiveté and belief in movies, Bronson reminds himself of the Energizer Bunny; he’s the romantic who keeps slamming against the wall.
The self-professed movie junkie considers his experience typical of what Hollywood is like for most people there. “Most of us have a rollercoaster ride.” More work than you can handle in one year, a dearth of work the next year.
He’s written 25 screenplays; five or six of them have made it to the screen. But, he said, unfortunately the script is the secondary consideration; it’s the deal that counts.
Bronson’s favorite project was his adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s book “Lord Jim.” He reached beyond his limits and got something great, he believes. He wasn’t the only believer. David Foster (producer of such titans as “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Getaway” and “The Mask of Zorro”) said it was one of the two best screenplays he’d gotten his hands on. They shopped it around and around and around, and got nowhere. In the end, it didn’t matter that it was a great script.
It’s clear from talking to Bronson that his passion for movies still consumes him. He’s got a hilarious perspective on Hollywood and he’s packed his experiences into a book, “Confessions of a Hollywood Nobody,” due out this fall.
Meanwhile, he’ll share his perspective next Thursday evening, Aug. 15 in the woodsy theater at the Gallery at Twin Lakes, from 5-7 p.m. His talk is titled “Hollywood through the Looking Glass: My Adventures in Wonderland.”
Admission is free. Blanket, chair and picnic baskets recommended. Reservations appreciated: 760.924.7300.