Tiberius Rubinstein had been in The Industry for thirty-six years. Balding and grumpy and very picky, he liked to think he could easily spot a Blockbuster from amongst the endless torrent of doomed pitches and storyboards that ended up in his inbox every other week. Tiberius was good at his job. ‘A Shoe’s Destiny’? That was one of his. Instant hit. ‘Three Chickens and an Acrobat’? His. That movie brought in more ticket sales than the Superman franchise.
So when Tiberius was asked to join an experimental think tank to brainstorm ideas for the next big Blockbuster, of course he accepted. He was the best, after all.
The room he had been ushered into at the building of Cinemas Incorporated was small and drab, occupied chiefly by a large mahogany table and four rather underwhelming Experts of Film: two women, one skinny man, and an intern. Like Tiberius, they were the best – except maybe the intern – so they should have been able to churn out a few good ideas before the hour was over.
But Tiberius had been sitting at that mahogany table for almost forty minutes, and so far good ideas had been few and far between.
“How about this,” the intern started, leaning forward in his chair and gripping his Starbucks mug, “The powerful tale of a man’s struggle to reclaim his identity after a plane crash renders him widowed, paralysed from the waist down, and incapable of speech.”
Tiberius rolled his eyes. “You can’t be serious,” he said. “People don’t want to go see something as moving and powerful as that. It’s just depressing.”
There was an awkward silence. The shorter of the two women fidgeted uncomfortably in her chair.
“Okay…” the intern said, the tips of his ears turning pink. “What about… a heart-warming film about an orphan girl bonding with her school teacher who is simultaneously dealing with the recent loss of her own estranged father?”
Another awkward silence. Tiberius sighed and looked out the window, but there was a pot plant in the way.
“Both characters find solace and companionship with each other in their times of need?” the intern persisted hesitantly, glancing at the unresponsive faces of the Experts of Film.
“It’s thought-provoking and compelling drama that draws attention to the flaws of the modern education system?”
“What’s your name, son?” Tiberius asked heavily.
“Right, Jack. Listen, you’re looking for the wrong stories.” Tiberius glanced at the others around the table. “Who can tell me the first rule of movies?”
“Easiness.” The shorter woman said immediately. “They have to be easy; the characters and the plot accessible to the majority of potential viewers.”
“You have to appeal to the lowest common denominator,” nodded the taller woman, tucking blond hair behind her ear.
“Exactly!” said Tiberius. “So, let’s start focusing less on what’s ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘compelling’ and more on what’s -?” he tilted his head, waiting.
“…Easy?” Jack the intern finished doubtfully.
There were various nods around the table.
“But isn’t that lazy? And uninspiring?”
Tiberius chuckled. “Welcome to The Industry, Jack.”
The other Experts of Film snickered conspiratorially. Jack the intern frowned.
The skinny man who had not yet spoken – and, if Tiberius was being honest, resembled in stature the troublesome pot plant at the window – straightened. “What if there’s a boy –”
“A girl,” the shorter woman interrupted. “A girl would be better.”
Tiberius frowned thoughtfully. “A girl, huh? I’m listening…”
“She’s at University,” the pot plant/human hybrid continued, looking affronted at the interruption.
The blond woman nodded and added, “And she’s cynical about romance and the true value of life.”
“Until,” the shorter woman’s eyes widened in triumph, “she meets a boy who becomes inexplicably infatuated with her sarcastic and unwelcoming demeanour.”
Tiberius raised an eyebrow in interest; they could be onto something here.
“And then she finds out that the boy is actually a vampire, who really just wants to brutally kill her and devour her internal organs!”
“Yes!” the blond woman cried, “But she loves him and so as a gesture of her eternal devotion she starts a campus a capella group!”
“I’m officially interested, people,” Tiberius announced. “But it needs something more!”
“I’ve got it!” The pot plant/human hybrid hit his fist on the table. It looked like it hurt, but he soldiered on enthusiastically, “If they win Regionals at the end of the year, she will be able to avenge her recently deceased best friend by – by –”
The shorter woman half-rose out of her seat. “By riding a dragon!”
“I love it!” Tiberius almost cheered. “This is sounding like a Blockbuster, people! But it’s still missing something…”
There was tense silence as the Experts of Film wracked their brains for Tiberius’ something. Shirtless werewolves? A prophecy? Distant parents? “Not like other girls”?
Then, the unexpected. Without warning Jack the intern leapt to his feet, his Starbucks mug held aloft. “Love triangles!”
Applause broke out amidst shouts of “By Joe I think he’s got it!” and “That’s the something! That’s the something!”
Tiberius leaned back in his chair, surveying the jubilation proudly. That was the something. He tried to look past the leaves of the pot plant obscuring his view of the horizon and nodded sagely to himself.
This was going to be a Blockbuster.