Twenty years ago this week, I graduated from high school and began preparing to head off into the wilds of film school. I was in love with Alfred Hitchcock and Ingmar Bergman and Sam Raimi, and the recent huge successes of completely independent, micro-budget films like El Mariachi and Clerks made the idea of heading off to Austin and then onto exciting, indie film success seem like a genuine possibility...to an 18-year-old. I had no idea that the film industry was about to start going through a massive revolution, many seeds of which were being planted right there in 1997. So I thought I'd write 1997-me a letter, giving a glimpse of what lies ahead. I'm reminded of Doc Brown's incredulity when Marty McFly tells him Ronald Reagan is president of the United States in 1985. I assume 1997-me would be equally incredulous about much of I have to tell him. Yet off I go, into the Wayback Machine...
What's up? It's me. 2017-you. This is the future where I am, and I've got some future-news for you. Might help out as you get ready to embark on a journey in an industry you fundamentally do not understand at all. But that's cool — but that's cool. Even if you understood it perfectly at this very moment, some stuff's about to go down that's going to completely change all the ground rules. So I want to help out.
Here's my advice. Skip the sad indie film scripts you're about to start writing. Just forget them. Skip ahead to the time travel one. I'm not sure if you've thought of that one yet, but that one's fun. When you do think of it, call up Cameron, your friend who can draw super-good, and make it as a comic book. Don't try to shoot it. Don't drive around in the countryside and find an Old West town and drag your friends out there when it's 115 degrees and try to shoot it. Stop. Just make the comic.
Because something weird's about to happen: nerds are about to become big, big business. And comics are about to become the one medium to rule them all, the one medium to find them; the one medium to bring them all, and in the box office, bind them.
I know you're scoffing at this. I don't blame you. Because you're right, George Clooney just killed Batman. Batman and Robin will be the last of the Batman movies...for, almost, ten years. Then they're going to do this thing called "rebooting," where they're going to take a Mulligan on Keaton-Kilmer-Clooney, and start over with a British guy directing, another British guy playing Bruce Wayne, and playing Batman like Chris Barnes from Cannibal Corpse. The voice is going to be weird. You'll like it, because metal, but other people...not so much. They're going to make fun of it a lot on the internet.
Oh yeah. The internet. That's going to be...there isn't time.
Then, after those guys make three really good Batman movies, they're going to stop, and then new people are going to come in immediately after, reboot it again, and start making way more Batman movies. Seriously, right away. With the guy from Good Will Hunting. The dumb one, in that movie. I should tell you, though...no, I can't. I don't have the heart to tell you what happens to Robin Williams.
Right about the time you're getting out of film school, the Big Thing is going to happen. And the big thing is this: Hollywood will finally understand that Sam Raimi is the best, and they will give him money, and he will make Spider-Man. It will break all the records. It will be badass. They will let him make Spider-Man 2 and it will be equally badass. Spider-Man 3 will really, really suck, and they'll reboot it. And that'll suck, and they'll reboot it again. We're waiting to see how that goes.
Here's why this is important: When 1997 comes to a close, and your mom is doing all your laundry over Christmas break, 16 movies will have made $100 million or more at the domestic box office. That's a lot, right? Total domestic box office of over $6 billion — Billion! 2016 just ended over here and it was...come on present-me, stick to movies, stick to movies...so I've got the numbers right here, and 30 movies crossed $100 million domestically. Total domestic box office? Over $11 billion. Six of those movies will be comic book movies, and most of the rest are cartoons.
Those David Mamet movies you like so much? The ones where people talk and stuff? What I want you to do is not watch those anymore. Just go read comics. Then make comics. Then, maybe learn to draw and start animating your comics. I'm telling you.
Oh...last thing. Don't worry about it. You will, I promise, eventually have sex. I promise.
Vance K — cult film reviewer and co-editor of nerds of a feather, flock together since 2012 (it's an internet thing, just trust me), Emmy-winning producer (I know, it surprised me, too), and folk musician (really...but I still play drums, too, so don't freak out too much).