The movie biz is a treacherous place. Not everyone that puts in the effort to make a film ends up being a success, and no one can say how many films with great potential got scrapped before anyone could see them. Directors and writers have had a lot of close calls and sometimes it takes the saving grace of a merciful angel to save a movie, and sometimes that angel looks a lot like a box of corn flakes. Keeping on top of your movie money is a lot different from keeping track of your money at home. If people run out of money at home they just take out quick loans and work a bit of overtime. If movie budgets run out, though, it is over. But, there are some cases of creators pulling back their projects from the brink of collapse.
Nightmare on Elm Street:
The iconic horror classic that we all love and remember almost never existed. It seems impossible to imagine since the franchise grew to such epic proportions, spawning sequel after sequel and some memorable horror team-ups. One of the main difficulties Wes Craven faced in his endeavour to make his masterpiece was finding a film studio that recognised his vision. Disney were the first to pitch him an offer and at first Craven was interested, but soon he found out how much Disney wanted to change in the film and he wasn’t going to accept that. Paramount Pictures were the next to come along and it seemed that everything was going well for a while until Paramount backed out at the last minute. It seemed that none of the major companies wanted anything to do with the loveable Freddy Krueger, but along came a little, not very well known company called New Line Cinema. They bought the film at the perfect time and did what they could to fund it. There was a point towards the end of filming where the funding completely ran out and no one got paid for two weeks but, despite all of that, the project was completed. Nightmare on Elm Street was a massive success and New Line Cinema became one of the big companies in the industry as a result.
Return of the Killer Tomatoes:
While perhaps not quite a real life story, if we’re talking about iconic film investments then the one that absolutely has to be mentioned is Return of the Killer Tomatoes. The plot of the Killer Tomatoes film series is a tale as old as time: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, and sentient fruit comes to life and starts eating people. In the sequel of the original cult horror spoof you can sort of tell that the writers and director weren’t taking a story about killer tomatoes as seriously as they should. Part way through the film the director breaks the fourth wall and tells the crew that they have completely run out of funding. So, what was the solution? Unapologetically blatant product placement, of course. For the rest of the film you’ll see everything from Pepsi to toothpaste being promoted by the actors. During one particularly funny scene a disembodied hand slowly lifts a box of cornflakes in front of two characters midway through their dialogue, and while the box of cornflakes is filling the whole frame the conversation is still going on behind it.
While these product placements were obviously part of the comedy – carrying on the theme of no one taking the film seriously – you can’t help but wonder whether these product placements are technically valid. The products are shown and advertised during the film, after all. Does that mean that the product placement routine wasn’t entirely just for comedic effect? Were there really budget problems? After all, the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was hated by critics and didn’t get a following until it was old enough to be an ironically good film. Well, we may never know.