The Making Of A Cinematic Flop

The art of film making eludes many. From casting pitfalls to maintaining directorial authority, crafting satisfying endings, and understanding audience expectations, creating successful films requires keeping key elements in mind.

The Making Of A Cinematic Flop

In both the realm of fiction and on the silver screen, every tale commences with a disclaimer, and here, is no exception – be aware that all characters and scenarios within this discourse are purely born from the realm of fiction. Any semblance to real-life occurrences or individuals is purely coincidental.

The most assured method of crafting a cinematic disaster lies in the careful orchestration of poor or mismatched casting. When we speak of 'poor casting,' we are referring to the selection of marginally talented or inadequately trained actors. On the other hand, 'mismatched casting' involves the deployment of actors whose age, appearance, or other attributes do not align with the roles they are tasked with portraying. More often than not, it is the novice directors or producers who stumble into the abyss of ill-suited casting. Even experienced hands may fall prey to the allure of favouritism or, driven by financial constraints, find themselves making compromises on quality. These actors are unable to authenticate the roles they are assigned, and in the worst-case scenario, resort to embellishing their characters – nothing sinks a film more effectively than overacting.

Another tried and tested method for leading a film astray is allowing producers and actors to usurp the director's authority. This is, fundamentally, a question of discipline. Occasionally, producers enlist highly acclaimed actors to work with fledgling directors. If these actors fail to heed the director's guidance or insist on excessive screen time – "keep the camera on my face" – the film is inevitably headed towards doom. Producers themselves can contribute significantly to this debacle by encroaching upon the director's domain. This is more likely when the producers are financing the film themselves – a professional producer would certainly abstain from such interference.

Every storyteller understands the classic three-act structure of a narrative – the beginning, the middle, and the end. In the first act, known as the 'beginning,' we are introduced to the central conflict, the problem at the story's core. The 'middle' unfolds the crisis, building towards the climactic moment, and in the 'end,' the initial problem finds a resolution. In this equation, the ending or resolution must align harmoniously with the climax. In other words, when the story reaches its zenith, it must find a suitable conclusion. If this balance is not maintained – if the denouement lacks cohesion – it leaves the audience frustrated and dissatisfied.

Consider a classic melodrama. Its theme revolves around the pursuit of justice, with a hero charged with the mission of punishing wrongdoers and restoring order. Melodramas are often rich in sensationalism, action, and impassioned dialogue. They possess the power to captivate the audience on an emotional level, raising expectations of witnessing justice meted out to the malefactors. Picture this scenario: a gang of villains has stolen the treasure, causing food shortages and plunging the populace into misery. The audience swiftly identifies with the hero as he embarks on the quest to apprehend the bandits. During this pursuit, the audience rarely concerns itself with the method – right or wrong – the hero employs to complete his mission successfully.

Ultimately, all the audience craves is the triumph of the hero and the punishment of the malefactors. This represents the logical culmination of a melodrama.

The chase begins. Our hero springs into action, facing numerous challenges. The plot takes an unexpected turn. Friends become foes. In a brutal confrontation, the malefactors prevail, leaving our hero betrayed and wounded. The villains revel in their triumph, plotting to exile our protagonist. Alas, the narrative founders, for the climax fails to align with the resolution. Discontent takes hold of the audience, transforming into disillusionment. Empty bottles are hurled at the screen, furniture is shattered, and some even attempt to set the entire theatre ablaze. The filmmakers remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that a flawed ending spells doom for the movie.

There exists yet another, more subtle avenue to cinematic failure – assuming the role of a producer and nurturing the belief that one possesses the talents of a writer. Thus, one embarks on crafting a film based on a narrative that has always held a special place in the heart. However, such narratives often spell disaster on the silver screen. Why, you may ask? The answer lies in an unwavering attachment to the tale, rendering one oblivious to the myriad other elements that the art of cinema demands. The desires of the audience become secondary, eclipsed by the imposition of one's personal preferences, leading to the film's inevitable downfall. Such narratives are frequently spearheaded by socially and politically motivated producers, convinced of the profound message they seek to impart to the audience. Yet, this fervent conviction blinds them to a fundamental truth – the audience does not pay for a message; they have not invested in being lectured. Such films may accrue numerous accolades, yet invariably flounder when exposed to cinema audiences – a phenomenon amply demonstrated by several Pakistani films from the past decade.

So, if a producer is hell bent upon creating a cinematic disaster, he must ensure the inclusion of the list of tasks I have provided in the preceding sections of this article – bad casting, undermining the director’s authority, disappointing the audience with an unconvincing ending, and trying to lecture the audience with a story close to your heart. Any diversion, may cause the film to succeed on the box-office.

The author holds a PhD from the University of Glasgow, UK. He hosts a political talk show on TV and appears as a political commentator in TV shows.