"Brett Ratner told me I could make commercial films! That hasn't really sunk in yet."
I had every intention of avoiding On the Lot -- a Spielberg-produced reality show that's dangling a million-dollar DreamWorks development deal over the groping hands of 50 wannabe directors -- because I didn't want to see Fox bastardize the magic of the movies. But you see, American Idol jumped right into it without commercial buffer time for me to switch off the TV. And then I had to watch, especially when they introduced Garry Marshall ("The king of comedy!" gushes one contestant), Carrie Fisher ("I'm sitting 10 feet from Princess Leia!" slobbers another) and Ratner as the judges/hosts/token dingbats. I'd be terrified to go in front of these three and pitch a movie, which is exactly what the contestants had to do in tonight's series premiere.
And it's a shame Marshall, Fisher and Ratner don't have a decent show to back up their crazy egos. I'd like to pick apart every piece of On the Lot, but let's not labor over this. Let's just conclude: Like any reality show about artistry, On the Lot doesn't use the magic of the creative process to craft its drama. It feeds on confrontations between contestants. It's all about discord and humiliation, not self-discovery and inspiration. Now that they're on this show, the contestants aren't artists. They are characters in a TV series and they are being duly manipulated by Fox. Yes, there were tears and yelling during the premiere. There was no delight or uplift. It's depressing to watch. So I won't be.
A parting note to Mr. Spielberg: You were born to make movies. Through pluck, luck and talent, you got into the industry and proved to be a consummate commercial artist. I know you want to give some kid the same kind of shot you had. That's great, but this is not the way to do it. You've thrust a bunch of budding, bushy-tailed filmmakers into a sitcom. It's a mockery of the filmmaking process and, on a superficial level, it warps the allure of "making it big." And it's delusional to think, in this digital age of populist filmmaking, that anyone would look to a reality show for the next big director. The next big director is unfolding his mind in his small apartment somewhere, writing and dreaming in private for now, instead of clamoring to be seen on Fox.