When it comes to getting teen movies set up at the studios, producer/literary manager Warren Zide is considered a 30-year-old sage. Zide made his start by representing first-time writers with youth-oriented scripts, which he continues to do in concert with producing teen films.
The teen film genre is proving to be a cash cow across the board. According to a recent study by the Motion Picture Association of America, film buffs ages 12 to 24 are buying 37.4% of total movie tickets. Couple this number with the fact that teen flicks are also cheaper to produce (at around US$15 million, they cost just under one-third of the film industry average of US$53 million), and it’s no big mystery why one new teen movie is debuting each week for the next two months.
In 1997, Zide partnered with Craig Perry to form Zide/Perry Films, which boasts numerous projects in development, as well as Universal Pictures’ teen and young adult offering American Pie, slated for release on May 28. Also slated are Zide/Perry/New Line Cinema projects Flight 180, centering around a metaphysical character of death who is never seen, but returns to reclaim the lives of a group of teens saved from a plane crash, and Gigantic, a spoof on Titanic. Sony Pictures Entertainment will produce Zide/Perry Films’ Providence, a teen romance.
Due to his solid track record in bringing teen projects to fruition, studios pick Zide’s brains about what works in the genre. Zide allows that Titanic’s massive teen box-office results renewed interest in the genre, but also points out that teen movies are as old as the hills. ‘A lot of the teen movies being made now have been in development for a long time,’ he notes, adding that ‘teen movies have been around forever-things like Fast Times at Ridgemont High in the early `80s, and beach movies in the `60s and `70s.’ Zide attributes the fact that more teen films are being greenlit now versus the first half of the `90s to both Titanic and the marketability of today’s young TV stars, many of whom seek out movie projects to film while on hiatus.
‘You need a story good enough to attract someone from a TV show,’ Zide explains. ‘You also need a script that you can make for a reasonable amount.’ Zide says TV actors like Dawson’s Creek’s Katie Holmes, once attached to a project, can get a movie off the ground. Holmes stars with Canadian starlet Sarah Polley in Go!, while TV co-star James Van Der Beek leads in Varsity Blues, which hit theaters in early `99. Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress Alyson Hannigan helped give the American Pie project the momentum it took to enter production, but star power is not the sole reason for a teen film’s casting choices. ‘Alyson was the best actress for the part,’ Zide notes.
One trend Zide would like to foster in the teen genre is movies with a female lead. ‘That can scare away the studios,’ he admits. ‘But I believe all that is going to be changing.’ The next few screenplays Zide is trying to set up feature female leads.