Zombieland opened this week and let me tell you it is, in my opinion, one of the best films of 2009. Only a day into its release Hollywood insiders were predicting the movie could go onto make $30 million in its opening weekend. If that happens it means Zombieland will have made back the $26 million and change it cost to make. While those numbers may not carry the weight of the billion dollars The Dark Knight made Zombieland’s rapid return on investment cannot be overlooked. Hollywood, take note, Zombieland should be the new standard of success.
All that said, I’m not writing a review of Zombieland by any means (Chris already wrote a great one), nor am I looking to talk about the merits of the film, of which there are many. No, I’m casting all the business stuff aside for the moment to speak about one thing: inspiration. You see, immediately after watching Zombieland I got home and was compelled to write (in this case a novel I’m working on). I had in me a burning desire to create. Therein lies the true success of Zombieland. For this writer, it spurred the creative forces that drive cinema.
How did it do this? Simply put, the film was honest. There was no allusion to a grand design or twist ending. The characters were endearing and story practically A to B simple. Moreover, it defied stock conventions of the genre. The girls weren’t running away screaming and guys not always the most heroic. These were characters anyone in the theater could relate to personally or through friends they probably know. Being able to create that rapport with the audience was the secret weapon of Zombieland. It connected with viewers (trust me on that, I saw the response from the packed theater first hand) and even if only for a few moments at a time they could see themselves in that world of zombies and loved it. Those are the moments writers, specifically, aspire to.
Now, I realize there’s a certain amount of subjectivity to all this. While Zombieland got me fired up it may not do the same for others. That said, however, I’m sure there are movies that resonate equally with other artists as this film did with me. Those are the films that we should be taking stock of because they are the works which will fuel future generations of filmmakers. That shouldn’t be taken lightly either. Thinking back on all the movies I saw this year I’m hard pressed to mention one that inspired me to rush home and tell a story.
This is by no means a call to arms, but I’d encourage anyone with a dream of making movies to go through your DVD collection. Pull out the films that get to your artistic core and stimulate creativity. Honor the stories that resonate with you at a level that supersedes flashy stunts or computer effects. You owe it to yourself to tell your story, and should your movie make it to the big screen it could very well inspire the filmmakers to come.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers of Hollywood. Dollars earned. Tickets sold. Days in theaters. The general idea behind most movies is to appeal to consumers and the millions of audience members who simply want to have a fun night out then get back to whatever job they do each day. In this we can lose sight of the fact the movies we see today should also inspire those we will see tomorrow. There are filmmakers sitting in that audience as well looking for inspiration. Find your own Zombieland and you’ll never be at a loss for inspiration again.