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As a professional writer, the question I’m most often asked (other than “Can I get fries with that?” or “Where have you been, I called Uber an hour ago?”) is: “Where do you get your ideas from?” For $14.95 a month you can join the service ‘Ideas.com’ where plots, characters, and themes are sent via email, all rights given to subscribers to choose from what they want.
Ah, if that were true.
The truth is, I have no idea where I get my ideas from. Snippets of conversation overheard, something that pops whole cloth into my head, Frankenstein creations stitched together in my frontal lobes, things broken off from other ideas I might have used or discarded, who knows? What I do know is that it seems there is only a finite amount of good ideas floating around out there for us all to grab, that it is ever harder these days to come up with something wholly original and maybe the old axiom that everything has been done already, is true.
The amount of sequels, previews, offshoots and reimagining we see seem to prove this point.
I live pretty darn close to the Broadway theatre scene in NYC. I have been privy to (but usually can’t afford to pay the exorbitant ticket prices for) Disney properties like Mary Poppins or The Lion King becoming successful theatre musicals, as well as older popular movies reimagined for the stage, like Sunset Boulevard, 9 to 5: The Musical, Spamalot (which I did see actually). In many of these instances, it becomes a case of fitting a round peg into a square hole, and I’d say more of these movie-to-staged-musical conversions fail than make it (either commercially or as productions worth seeing), or they have such a never-ending well of money behind them they simply can’t close.
As of late American, T.V. seems to have even Broadway beat with taking from one medium and making anew. I just caught the commercial for the new T.V. series “Frequency.” Based on the fairly decent 2000 movie-but not a particularly huge hit-somebody somewhere ran out of ideas and thought…’Hey, why not make Frequency into a television series?’ Also, will come “Lethal Weapon” this fall (from a more popular movie then Frequency) and God knows what else we will see?
Unlike M*A*S*H* of years ago, one of the most beloved television shows of all time taken from Robert Altman’s powerful 1970 satire, movie-to-T.V. conversion, like movies-to-Broadway musicals, like a Star Wars’ offshoot, like any prequel or sequel, even someone else taking a beloved wizard and writing a whole new book or stage adaptation about him, at the very least often does not add anything to the original story or, at the worse, bastardizes it to the point we can’t ever again go back to the original. We all know this, but like much else wrong with life, we just ignore the ill-conceived ‘new’ works and hope maybe this new thing will just go away quietly after a time.
Stealing I get, taking off from a popular franchise makes commercial sense, even maybe remaking something for a newer audience who probably have never seen the original (though in most cases there is really no need to make the thing anew as almost always the original has done it better), all of this I understand. But really, have we come to the place now where new ideas have come to die?