Despite huge successes like "The Hunger Games," Hollywood is under fire for producing what Meryl Streep refers to as "big tentpole failures." In 2012, Walt Disney Studios took a financial hit with "John Carter" while "Battleship" nearly sank Universal in a sea of bad reviews and consumer indifference.
In contrast, Kevin Cooper, a film professor at Columbia College in Chicago, thinks this is a very exciting time for new filmmakers to be entering the industry.
"When I went to film school, there was this 'celluloid wall' that you had to climb [to make a film]," Cooper explained when reached by telephone. "It was expensive; you had to find technicians who knew how to use a 35mm camera. You had to find the right lab and be able to afford the film. Those processes resulted in a real barrier."
Cooper, who directed the new family-friendly film "I Heart Shakey," said a lot of his friends were unable to climb such a high wall, despite their talents. The director points out, though, that the wall is no longer an excuse for young filmmakers.
Broken Lizard alum Steve Lemme shifts into family-friendly mode.
"I Heart Shakey" stars Broken Lizard alum Steve Lemme as J.T. O'Neil, a single dad starting over in Chicago. Daughter Chandler (Rylie Jo Behr) had to grow up a lot since her mother died, but her dog Shakey helps the young girl stay a kid at heart. When J.T. is forced to give the faithful pooch away, Shakey has other plans.
Cooper said that when he was attending film school at NYU, he became friends with Broken Lizard founding member Jay Chandrasekhar.
"I thought [the group] was a lot of fun. They were irreverent with a kind of raw, sophomoric humor," he enthused. "They had these video sketches playing so they could change their stage and wardrobe during a live show."
After meeting Chandrasekhar, Cooper volunteered to help the group make those video segments: "Basically, all my projects at NYU were the very first Broken Lizard projects. That started my lifelong friendship with these guys. For my thesis film, we went all the way down to Florida and made 'The Tinfoil Monkey Agenda.' It was a neat opportunity for us to model professional practice," he explained.
"Broken Lizard is known for doing the beer and pot humor. They are now over 40," Cooper said. "I called Steve Lemme and said, 'You guys are funny people, likable people. Why don't we do a family film and you can be yourself? Expand your horizons a little bit. We'll drop off the cuss words."
"I Heart Shakey" explores non-theatrical platforms
Calling their family film the "little engine that could," Cooper said that he and his wife are working with Phase 4 Films on the distribution of "I Heart Shakey." The film became available via Video on Demand (VOD) June 15 and will enter limited theatrical release on June 29.
"We're at this weird stage in the history of our business. If you look at the music industry, there's a lot about where they were 10-15 years ago, how they got turned upside-down because of the Internet," Cooper said. "[The movie industry] is faced with a similar thing. I think people will want to continue to exploit non-theatrical platforms."
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