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Jem, the Holograms and the Crowdsourcing a Franchise Era

Jem, the Holograms and the Crowdsourcing a Franchise Era

| On 21, Mar 2014

A perfect storm of a lack of original ideas meets online development has arrived. Not to be outdone by the success of the Kickstarter-funded “Veronica Mars” and its loyal fans, “Jem and the Holograms” is making its long-awaited return to our collective conscience. But is this the female-driven franchise that will shatter the gender problem in Hollywood?

The Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow Productions (the same team that produced “G.I. Joe” & “Transformers” late 80’s hit cartoon series will be getting a big-screen treatment thanks to director Jon M. Chu and his loyal Twitter followers. The Japanese anime company Toei Animation-produced series will become a live-action movie produced by Blumhouse Productions, Scooter Braum Productions and Hasbro. For those not familiar with the 3-season series, it is currently streaming on Netflix. There was also a limited series of collectible fashion dolls from Integrity Toys Inc. that came out in 2012 and quickly sold out.

In a departure for casting and story ideas, Chu is asking the public to submit non-copyrighted ideas and auditions via YouTube submissions so he can get to work on script and deliver yet another animated-to-live action treatment that surely will be forgotten by the end of opening weekend.

Teamed with producer Jason Blum and Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun, Chu is rechanneling his creative attention away from the long gestating script for “G.I. Joe 3” and collaborating with screenwriter Ryan Lendel on a story according to The Hollywood Reporter about “an orphaned teenage girl who becomes an online recording sensation. She and her sisters embark on a music-driven scavenger hunt — one that sends them on an adventure across Los Angeles in an attempt to unlock a final message left by her father.”

Imaging Josie and the Pussycats with Holograms with a Barbie doll like tie-in for a clearer picture.

I fear this may be another disappointing retread Hollywood is shoving down our throats. Will Jem and the Holograms become girl superhero film we have been waiting for?  My gut feeling this is not the gender-bender we have been waiting for.

This will get lost in the endless 1980’s nostalgia we are witnessing. “Transformers,” “G.I. Joe,” “Teenage Mutant Turtles,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “He-Man,” “Rescue Rangers” and even “Ghostbusters” are in one stage or another of their respective reboots. Instead of the girl-power vehicle Jem & company could be, it may become a bad joke of 1980s nostalgia.   

Chu’s previous films include two “Step Up” films, so a movie about an all-girl rock band will be in familiar hands. Jason Blum on the other hand, is more versed in small budget horror films including the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, so this is may be a bit of a departure. On the other hand, this partnership could produce an interesting mix of music, dance and action that the original series delivered.

The team of Blum, Chu & Braun are asking for online auditions, original music and ideas with the hashtag #JemTheMovie” or on their website, JemtheMovie.com. Because nothing gives more confidence than letting amateurs crowd-source a film.

Odds are these online performances will be used as supporting or background players. This announcement has been generating plenty of buzz, but will that be enough to generate interest from a new generation of fans?

Think of this as an online marketing contest for a junk food brand that has become popular the last few years. That’s all this is. Another channel to “sell” a film to consumers, in the hopes of rebooting a long dormant Hasbro franchise. If it’s a hit, product tie-ins and more spinoffs and sequels will be on the table. If it’s not a hit, Chu and company can refocus their efforts on “G.I. Joe 3” and Justin Bieber, and the world will continue to turn.

I fear this may be the wrong direction to jumpstart a female-heavy franchise but incorporating a tacky online “contest.” Girls and women have been lacking in the world of franchises today. Yes, we have “The Hunger Games,” “Twilight,” “and “Frozen” but “Divergent” may or may not stick and the female superhero cinematic experience has been relegated to mostly supporting parts.

In the end, content is king. The script needs to be strong, the cast talented, studio execs need to keep their greedy hands out of the production process and the music good. In 2014, I don’t think this mix is a reality for a presumably low-to-mid budget project like “Jem and the Holograms.” We should only hope this does not set back girl franchises several years.

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