Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Auditions Round 1

Opening with one of those interview montages Oscar loves so much, we get to hear some of the 50 would-be contestants of this reality show, as they talk about why they love movies so much, and this is the sort of effective intro sequence that hooks your audience. As one of them says, everyone loves to watch movies.
So, yeah, seeing the boulder roll after Harrison Ford, that was a Movie Moment, and we’ve all had that, whether it was with Raiders of the Lost Ark, or some other treasured film of our perpetual youth.
Sometimes, it isn’t just the movie that sears itself into your brain; sometimes, it’s the experience too. The anticipation of the night before, the trip to the theatre, the standing in line for the ticket; all this melds into one seamless memory of that movie.
All this is successfully conveyed in On The Lot’s opening, as is the reality that here are 50 dreams, 49 of which will be basically dashed by the end of this season.
And yes, other dreams may emerge over the course of the show, new opportunities present themselves, but let’s face it: 49 of these people taking the Universal tour will not get the dream that is inside their heads at this precise moment in time. But then again, that’s the nature of the beast that is reality television, and On The Lot has the potential to follow in Project Runway’s footsteps, in being that rare reality competition show about creative people where the audience can actually see what the judges are making pronouncements on (as opposed, say, to all those chef shows where someone at home can’t really taste the food, can they?).

And speaking of the judges…
Garry Marshall. Cool. He’s done some funny stuff, but I think more importantly, he seems (like his sister Penny) to be a really funny individual who doesn’t exude an air of Hollywood pretension.
Carrie Fisher. Way cool. I mean, Princess Leia. Come on! And, post-Star Wars, she proved she was an excellent writer (for the printed page and the screen).
And then there’s Brett Ratner. Wha?!
Note that they were introduced as Hollywood “legends” (or something to that effect).
Brett. Ratner.
Let’s just leave it at that, shall we?

At any rate, the first episode shows just how insane this show can be: the first challenge, given one of five loglines*, you’re to come up with a pitch for a feature-length film overnight, and present it to the judges the following day.
On very little or no sleep, the 50 finalists (from a field of over 12,000, from 33 countries) go through their pitches, and there are the overconfident ones, the hyperactive ones, the nervous one, the ones who are just all over the map.
14 don’t make it through, and for the 36 left, they’re told to form groups of three for the next challenge: write the script for, shoot, and edit a 2 and a half-minute short film… in 24 hours.

And though it’s at that early stage of a reality show where you’re still getting a feel for the contestants** (harder still with shows of this sort where you’re privy to the preliminary elimination rounds, when there are far too many contestants to keep track of), I will say that they interestingly decide to present the second challenge and show us the initial part of it (ego clashes, two crews attempting to shoot at the same location at the same time), before coming to the end of the show, thus leaving the audience with a cliffhanger of sorts.
For a premiere episode, it’s got enough of a hook to make me come back for round 2, and though not as cleverly shot and edited as Project Runway, it kicks off to a promising start.

* Personally, my favorite one was the one where a man is watching television, when on the news, his picture is flashed on the screen, and he is reported to be either missing or wanted.

** There are of course, the ones who were focused on who actually got through the first round: Andrew Hunt (confident pitch) and Will Bigham (pointed out by Ratner as having very commercial ideas). Still too early for me to say whether I’d bet on either of these two guys, though Hunt did have a particularly strong and effective pitch delivery.

(Images courtesy of [Marshall], [Fisher], and [Ratner].)

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