Dear Benh Zeitlin,
My partners and I took in a screening of your movie Beasts of the Southern Wild this afternoon. It is certainly a unique vision brought to life in a beautifully surreal fashion, and we would love to provide distribution for it. However, there are some changes we’d like you to make before we make things official.
The first issue we’d like to address is the kid. Hushpuppy is a great character, and Quvenzhanae Wallis is a revelation in the role. I mean, she has a screen presence like we’ve never seen in someone that young. She lights up the screen with her strong silence and headstrong composure. My question is, though, how are we going to sell a movie focused around such a young kid to teenaged boys? They’re our target audience for everything, and I don’t think any of them will relate to anything that isn’t on fire and shooting something.
If you were trying to make a kids’ movie, though, we totally understand, but the kid isn’t loud. Have you even seen Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer? Even more to the point, have you met any kids? We haven’t, but we think we know how they act. Hushpuppy should be yelling her lines in an exasperated, bratty tone! She should be rolling her eyes at everything! Her fat friend should vomit at least three times, with each time being inopportune and on Hushpuppy! Her father should be clueless and lame! I mean, Beasts is a great movie, but you clearly don’t get kids like we do.
We also love the universe this movie takes place in. The Bathtub is a magical setting that’s mythical in scale, and you show so much enchantment there in the simplest of images. You opted to imply the presence of that magic, and we get that. We also love that you include an extinct species as a metaphor to remind Hushpuppy of what could happen if she doesn’t adapt herself. It’s all wonderful how you create such an amazing sense of scale with such simple imagery and space.
In the end, though, you’re too subtle. The audience wants to be blown out of their seats! Maybe we could animate some pixies in the background hanging out in the forest of the Bathtub, or have dragons walking in the background. You know, just to supplement the magic. It might even make the extinct animals’ presence make more sense if there’s a troll there, or something. Also, why not make the Bathtub edgier? It’s almost too friendly, and too much of a clearly tight-knit community. This is the age of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, Benh. People want dark, gritty, and cynical. Have someone shoot a guy. It’s just a thought.
Speaking of which, one other thing that hit us during the movie is the lack of action taking place. We get that many of the film’s best moments are the quiet ones, but why not have the characters be more active? They never meet any rival groups when they’re traversing through the flood. Have them fight people! Ever seen Mad Max? I mean, there’s only one explosion, and you cut away from it! At least have Hushpuppy fight the extinct animals. It’s pretty boring just sitting and watching beautiful images of nature that, granted, do contribute something to the narrative and to the thematic arc, but are still not packed to the brim with action and shiny things. You just have to have more stuff happen!
And speaking of stuff happening, you have a storm in your movie, and yet you don’t even show your characters running or driving away from it! This seems like a lost opportunity. I’m just saying, people really liked Twister, Benh. Just throwing that out there.
Really, we love your movie a whole lot, Benh. It’s a beautiful hero’s story about learning to adapt and survive while upholding legacies, and is gorgeously realized in a subtle, yet engrossing way. It might be the best movie we’ve seen this year. We just think it could use some more elements to make it more palatable for the audience we’re aiming for, which are teenaged boys who like guns and exploding muscle cars. We could give you $50 million for reshoots over seven weeks. Just make the kids more like characters from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, make everyone shoot guns, and insert opportunities for shots of cool fantasy creatures and we’ll think about distributing your movie.