There is a long history of B-movie producers using ads in the industry trades like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to trick financiers into giving them money. You didn’t need to have a script yet or even an actual story idea. If you had a good title paired with a cool poster you could bluff your way into securing funding. Just take out and ad and pretend like you’re much further along in the process than you really are. That’s how Sean Cunningham was able to make the first Friday the 13th. The schlock masters behind Canon Films, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, practically perfected this in the 1980s.
You don’t hear about that kind of thing all that often anymore. However, Eric D. Wilkinson just proved that you really can still elevate your industry profile via a well-placed ad. He previously co-produced the horror spoof Paranormal Movie, among 11 other producing credits on his IMDB page, but he might be best known for the ad he recently took out in The Hollywood Reporter to pitch his idea for Die Hard 6. His ad coincided with the news that Fox is opting to make a Die Hard prequel focused on a young John McClane, with Bruce Willis possibly back to bookend the movie as the older McClane looking back on his life. Wilkinson had a different idea: What if old man McClane ends up in a Russian prison somehow, but when the inmates take it over as part of an attempt to break out two dangerous terrorist he does, well, the Die Hard thing.
As Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently put it, yippie kyak, mother buckets!
Kick-Ass writer Mark Millar liked Wilkinson’s pitch, but openly offered him notes and suggestions for ways to streamline the story. But, wait, this is not a movie which is actually going to get made, right? This is just a cute little story. Why is an actual Hollywood screenwriter/comic book writer treating this like it’s a real thing?
When a THR writer caught up to Bruce Willis and told him about Wilkinson’s pitch, he merely responded, “It seems far away right now… I don’t know.”
Not surprisingly after that kind of non-commitment, Wilkinson’s version of Die Hard 6 is probably not going to happen. However, now people know his name, and if his goal was to simply get his foot in the door somewhere, anywhere really, it absolutely worked. Based off of the buzz for his Die Hard 6 ad, Eclectic Pictures (Olympus Has Fallen, Lovelace, Playing for Keeps) invited him to pitch any other story ideas he might have. Along with his writing partner Richard Schenkman, Wilkinson did have a script with the working title The Devil, which has been described as “an action/horror franchise-starter loosely based on a true story.” Eclectic Pictures liked it enough to option it.
It worked! This guy took out a completely unexpected ad and ended up selling a script off of the notoriety it brought him. Yippie kyak, mother buckets!
Note to self: Look up how much it costs to take out a full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter. I have a pitch Platinum Dunes really should hear for their next Friday the 13th movie.
Reply to self: Um, I just looked it up. There isn’t a set cost because it varies based on content, placement in the magazine and time of the year, but it’s probably at least three grand and possibly as high as eight grand if not higher.
Huh. Yeah, never mind about that. Good for Eric D. Wilkinson, though.