Netflix Wants Their Star Wars (or any PG Family Friendly Franchise)

Breaking: Movie studio wants something with mass appeal that covers 4 quadrants...

It may not seem like news but it captured headlines all over. Netflix is looking for its Star Wars, something that can capture the hearts and minds of people of all ages, spin-off toys, and gather multiple sequels, building out a huge universe. 

I mean...everyone in town is always looking for this. 

My hope is that Netflix finds its own not from IP but from an original screenplay idea from a talented writer who dreams big and has fun on the page. 

If Netflix pays big bucks to just buy the next buzzy YA novel...I worry that original worldbuilding in spec screenplays might be dead for a while. 

But Vice President of Original Film Tendo Nagenda made the company's intentions pretty clear to The Hollywood Reporter: they're open to original ideas and to building a fantastic world. 

“We’re looking at big, broad-audience, PG-level adventure films as something that we want to get into. Something along the lines of the first Star Wars, or Harry Potter 1 and 2. A lot of family live-action, fantasy, spectacle movies that we think are big and can play great. A Jumanji-type of story. That is the next frontier. Well, we look at it as what aren’t the studios focused on. New ideas. We want to encourage great talent to think that way. George Lucas created Star Wars, it wasn’t based on a book. If you have that kind of imagination, like the Wachowskis with The Matrix, we feel like we’re the place to take the chance on those types of innovative ideas and filmmakers.”

The very idea that they could buy a spec and build a world should excite every writer in town. I know I immediately called my manager and begged him to send over some of my work. They tried to do it with Bright, which was written by a terrible human and directed by David Ayer. That movie did well on the Nextflix platform but its sequel is not coming any time soon.  

Its two biggest hits are Extraction and The Old Guard, both of which had big budgets but were adaptations of graphic novels. 

It has the $200+ million espionage thriller The Gray Man with Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in the lead roles and the Russos directing coming down the line as well as Dwayne Johnson’s mega-budget Red Notice arriving sometime next year. 

Netflix knows how to build big movies, but has yet to build a franchise outside of the Kissing Booth series. 

Good luck to every writer out there. 

I truly cannot wait to see how Netflix makes someone's dreams come true and inspires the next generation.      

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I've always said that what limits Netflix is the lack of franchises. And it's why Disney+ came in so fast and so strong.

To create a "fantastical world", you need a mythology builder. George Lucas is the best one we ever had in cinema. He's able to spin out stories of past and present, and gear, for the worlds he creates. While Lucas is passable as an actual script writer and a director, he's unmatched in mythos building.

And that's the actual problem with franchises.

It requires someone to recognize a genius in that specific domain, into someone else. And this by definition can't happen in cinema, particularly in today's world. You see, when Netflix goes to a production studio, and it tells them "make me a super hero movie, or a space opera movie", they assume that the production studio can pull a mythos genius out of the sleeves. Such people are incredibly rare, and studios only work with "regular" writers and directors.

Same way, when studios pitch an idea to Netflix, it mostly has to do with pitching talent with a basic story, rather than starting with a bigger trust on the story.

Remember, even Star Wars was NOT greenlit by studios. It was an independent movie, that managed to get a distribution deal. If Lucas had gone through the studio system, he would have never made SW.

As for the other big franchises, Marvel is based on previous work (comics), Lord of the Rings is based on previous work (books), and Indiana Jones was greenlit after the Jaws and SW success (and having both directors together in the same project, it was a no brainer for the studio).

But in today's day and age, to greenlight something that has the potential to be epic and spin a franchise, you must FIRST find your myth builder. And you must be smart enough to identify that this person can carry a whole universe in an incredible detail on his shoulders. That's not easy, and it might never happen.

August 6, 2020 at 5:30PM

You voted '-1'.
Eugenia Loli
Filmmaker, illustrator, collage artist

(Pushes glasses up on nose) Actually, Alan Ladd Jr. at 20th Century Fox greenlit and financed the original STAR WARS, after it was turned down by every single other studio. But brilliantly, after the success of AMERICAN GRAFFITI during the writing of STAR WARS, rather than renegotiate a higher fee, Lucas instead retained the merchandising and sequel rights, which means every STAR WARS movie of his afterwards WAS an independent production, financed by licensing deals and toy sales. Fox just distributed the originals and prequel trilogies. All that being said, I'm in total agreement with you. Interestingly, post-Lucas pop culture mythmakers / worldbuilders seem to come from literary traditions - JK Rowling and George RR Martin are the first two that come to mind, and their film/TV successes seem to be more of a side effect of first being bestselling authors.

August 6, 2020 at 6:43PM, Edited August 6, 6:45PM

Trey Lindsay

Well said. Another reason I'm very excited about the Wheel of Time series from Amazon. Robert Jordan was that guy, may he rest in peace. Obviously that's a book adaptation going to TV, but your point rings the same. You need someone who can dream big, but ground everything to the tiniest of details and hang with the nerds when it comes to mechanics and logic.

August 6, 2020 at 7:20PM

Cory Anderson
VFX Artist

Just a cool script won't cut it: it has to be full of subtextual history and a glimpse of a larger universe.

These mythbuilders seem indeed be more present among non-film writers.
They tried it with Riddick, but Chronicles somehow missed a few layers of context.

August 7, 2020 at 1:40PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

They gonna shoot at the already dead franchise. Disney just killed it

August 9, 2020 at 3:15PM