What’s It Like To Write A Flop? Go To Quora To Find Out From Conan The Barbarian Screenwriter

Ever wonder what it’s like to be called a failure? The Hollywood writer of Conan the Barbarian 3D can’t resist answering the question on Quora.


Failure is never good. Even when you learn from it in the long run, in the moment failing, well, sucks. Of course, there is the consolation that everybody does it too. Whether a math test, a diet, or a relationship, a common human experience is failure. But, what about Hollywood types – who have not only personal pride but also money and career on the line? How do they feel about failure?

Well, when someone on Quora asked “What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?” , screenwriter Sean Hood was compelled to answer. Mr. Hood was the screenwriter for Conan the Barbarian 3D which cost $90 million dollars to make but brought in a mere $10 million in its opening weekend.

He begins with: “When you work “above the line” on a movie (writer, director, actor, producer, etc.) watching it flop at the box office is devastating. I had such an experience during the opening weekend of Conan the Barbarian 3D” and continues to outline the process of bringing a big budget movie from page to screen. He eloquently compares the process to a presidential campaign. It appears to be an apt analogy that allows Hood to speak freely and openly about his feelings while keeping a healthy distance from actual names and circumstances.

He notes: “Any film production, like a long gruelling campaign over months and years, is filled with crisis, compromise, exhaustion, conflict, elation, and blind faith that if one just works harder, the results will turn out all right in the end …  Privately you may oppose various decisions, strategies, or compromises; you may learn things about the candidate that cloud your resolve and shake your confidence, but you soldier on, committed to the end. You rationalize it along the way by imagining that the struggle will be worth it when the candidate wins.”

He describes the opening weekend in brutally honest terms, but finishes optimistically saying that, “I sit, coffee cup steaming in its mug and dog asleep at my feet, starting my work for the day, revising yet another script, working out yet another pitch, thinking of the future (the next project, the next election) because I’m a screenwriter, and that’s just what screenwriters do.”

The answer is wonderfully honest. In fact, it is so much so that it has encouraged a few other Hollywood writers to weigh in. Neal Edelstein, producer of Mulholland Drive says that the only thing worse than a box office flop is a straight to DVD release. Chris Weigl, who worked on Not Another Teen Movie, agrees with Mr. Hood’s comparison to presidential campaigns: “I had the best possible outcome in 2008, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling that came with the 2004 election results.”

The thread is insightful, interesting, and useful thanks to the considerate answers of participants. It is also an awesome example of the kind of discussions that can happen on Quora.

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