Company Bets Bad Movies Are Good For Business

fromKPBS

There area a lot of bad movies out there. Some movies are so bad that they're good. For some reason people love them. Is there an art to making films that are deliberately bad? Can a company be successful by producing bad movies?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The film "Plan 9 From Outer Space" from 1959 is about space aliens trying to conquer the earth. It's a really, really bad movie - exactly why a lot of people love it. Director Ed Wood didn't mean for it to be like that. These days, though, there are people making so-bad-they're-good movies on purpose. From member station KPBS, Beth Accomando has this report on one of them.

BETH ACCOMANDO, BYLINE: Meet gonzo filmmaker and part-time ballistics expert Saint James Street James.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POOLBOY 2: DROWNING OUT THE FURY")

ROSS PATTERSON: (as Saint James Street James) In 1990, I was hired to write and direct the groundbreaking films "Poolboy: No Lifeguard on Duty" and "Poolboy 2: Drowning Out the Fury." Thunder and lightning.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDER)

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POOLBOY: DROWNING OUT THE FURY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Saint James Street James rocked Hollywood by making his directorial debut at the age of 10. Bucking the system at every turn, he quickly amassed more than 100 movie credits to his name. His revenge opus, "Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury," was thought to be lost. But a massive online petition has brought the film back from oblivion. Now it graces the screen again with startling behind-the-scenes footage added in along with the director's commentary.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Someone call an ambulance. I'm really shot.

PATTERSON: (as Saint James Street James) Out of the 109 films I've done, that's the only scene I look back on and regret.

ACCOMANDO: OK, Saint James Street James isn't a real director. He's the creation of Ross Patterson, and "Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury" just pretends to be a bad action film from the '90s. Patterson is an actor who got tired of auditioning for bit roles in formulaic Hollywood movies. Patterson gave Hollywood his best shot. Now he's giving it his worst.

PATTERSON: "Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury," literally, is the worst film ever made.

ACCOMANDO: Boom mics drop into frame, actors forget lines, special effects go awry, and there's plenty of scenery for an actor to chew up. But there's an art to being bad, says Patterson.

PATTERSON: The best way I can describe it is it's kind of like Los Feliz hipsters out here, where it's, like, it takes a lot of money to look poor. It takes a lot of hard work to make bad movies.

ACCOMANDO: You still have to cast talented actors, hire top crews and efficiently plan shoots to make the best use of locations. But then you have to make it bad, says editor and producer Ivan Victor.

IVAN VICTOR: It's looking for the right thing, even though the right thing may be someone delivering a line in a truly awful, bad-actressy kind of way.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "POOLBOY: DROWNING OUT THE FURY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm fighting back tears. Are there no phones, too? You couldn't call me one time the whole time you were at that (unintelligible)?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I'm sorry I only called you one time. It's just...

VICTOR: So, you know, from an editing perspective, it's what's the best worst read that you have of this particular line?

ACCOMANDO: Here's the thing. Most of what Hollywood makes isn't bad. It's bland and mediocre. What audiences want is something entertaining, something that's fun to watch with their friends. And there's nothing like sharing a deliciously bad movie. Key ingredients are inspiration, genuine passion and a knowing affection for the source material. Then a kind of alchemy comes into play, says actor Jesse Merlin.

JESSE MERLIN: What you have here is like an almost Hegelian transformation into opposite. It's something that is so bad, it approaches the sublime.

ACCOMANDO: Merlin plays Werewolf Hitler in Patterson's new film, "FDR: American Badass."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "FDR: AMERICAN BADASS")

MERLIN: (as Character) That's amore. Mussolini. It's der Fuhrer. Yeah, heil me.

ACCOMANDO: Patterson's business plan is to make the films quickly and cheaply, and then release the trailers on the Internet to generate buzz. The plan works. "Poolboy" got picked up by a distributor, and is available video on demand, while the "FDR" trailer is getting passed around on Facebook and Twitter.

PATTERSON: Getting it out virally to everybody is the best way. You don't have to depend on a studio anymore.

ACCOMANDO: Now Patterson is enjoying a new deal in Hollywood, as distributors are calling him to inquire about buying "FDR." For Patterson, being bad has never been so good.

For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando.

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