On the Lot: Season (Series?) in Review
On the Lot: Season (Series?) in Review
On the Lot felt like a slam dunk prior to its premiere.  The concept (competitive reality show for up and coming filmmakers) was rock solid.  The creative team behind the show (Mark Burnett and Steven Spielberg, along with Carrie Fischer and Garry Marshall) was more than formidable.  When it was announced that FOX was producing On the Lot, who would've bet against the show's success?  FOX has proved to be a master of shepherding reality franchises into the troposphere.  After weeks of promos on FOX, most of which appeared during American Idol, On the Lot premiered and the let down was almost immediate.  FOX, Burnett, and Spielberg had failed miserably in delivering on the promising concept of On the Lot, leaving audiences with a troubled, contrived, and arbitrary reality show.

After initial poor ratings, FOX started tinkering with the On the Lot format right away.  They scrapped plans for the contestants to make new movies, went from two episodes a week down to one, wavered between live shows and taped, and generally punted the whole operation once it became clear that the show was a ratings nightmare.  For instance, look at the two week finale.  How did FOX tell audiences to choose the winner?  By looking at their previous films.  That's right: the finals of On the Lot didn't even allow the contestants to make a new film.  You think FOX gave a crap about this show?

Although, you can't blame the network for the lack of support.  The show's ratings were poor enough where a swift cancellation would've been understandable, but they stuck it out.  The big question is, why were the ratings poor in the first place?  On the Lot, to be frank, totally botched a good idea.  Instead of rewarding the best filmmakers who tried out with a spot on the show, they decided to go the way of stunt casting, putting on people with interesting stories or angles rather than real-life talent.  I don't want to take away from the directors on the show, a lot of them are supremely talented and deserved their spot.  The final five (Sam Friedlander, Zach Lipovsky, Adam Stein, Jason Epperson, and eventual winner Will Bigham) were all extremely worthy contestants and should all find solid work in Hollywood.  Even someone like Shalini, who I don't think made any good movies, is ridiculously talented.  She's a documentary filmmaker by trade, but after witnessing the visual splendor of her films, I bet she finds a good career as a DP. 

The big surprise of the season was the elimination of Zach prior to the final four.  He appeared to be pegged as the favorite to win from early in the season, but for some reason America thought otherwise.  Will Bigham, the winner, is a wonderful visual storyteller, very old-fashioned, and I hope he makes a good film for Dreamworks.  Overall, it's difficult not to be disappointed by the end result.  On the Lot had the potential to be a big-time success, I thought, but through poor execution, the show was probably doomed from the start.

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer
(Image Courtesy of FOX)