Do Production Values Matter?
After questioning the current state of Zen Pictures and then blowing up the site by simply asking what you thought was a fair price for a video, we decided to go in a less controversial direction with this column and ask one simple question to our readers:
Do production values matter?
Do you need jaw-dropping special effects, picturesque locations, and Oscar-caliber acting in order to enjoy a heroine film? Or are you a just a get-to-the-peril/girl-power/action kind of buyer who could care less whether or not the video is shot in a motel room that charges an hourly rate?
Well, to answer the question, and I think my (Sidekick) answer may surprise some longtime readers. No, I don’t need great production values to enjoy a film. And that answer is coming from a guy who was criticized for using the term “production values” positively way too often in reviews. A criticism I actually came to agree with. And given the producers that I like the most all have high production values, my answer probably becomes even more surprising. But give me a chance to explain.
I really had three gateways into this genre. Two with incredibly high production values and one almost bereft of them. Let me talk about the good ones first.
American Heroine Astro Girl from Zen Pictures – I have no memory of how I found this site or this movie, but to me it represents everything that I love about Zen. They quite literally don’t make them like this anymore. And after watching it I was hooked. It had an outrageously sexy lead actress, girl-power, perilous moments, good villains. Just everything I look for in a movie. But this film just kept me interested in Zen Pictures and no other producer was even on my radar. That is until…
Slayer Paris from Alex Bettinger – Again, this may surprise a few people considering my PG-13 tastes. And I have no exact memory of how I came to find it, but this is the film that got me interested in searching for other producers outside of Zen. I loved the show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and when I saw the trailer for this I just had to buy. It was funny, well-written, had great choreography, the acting was tremendous, and the lead actress Paris Kennedy was way hotter than Sarah Michelle Gellar. And don’t forget that both Christina Carter and Diana Knight played prominent roles in the series. Talk about an all-star cast. I’ve always held out hope that this series would return someday.
So, those two films are what shaped my original attitude of being high on great production values. And then one day Rye posted a comment that got me thinking and actually inspired this editorial. I wasn’t able to find the comment so I can’t give a direct quote, but his gist was that some of the older, lower-budget material that we would look down upon if it were released today really helped shape the high end productions of the present. And just because things look fancier then they used to, doesn’t discount the greatness that is some of the older classic material. Which brings me to my third gateway who had lousy production values across the board. And that’s NGC. NO! Not that NGC….
New Goddess Cinema – Anybody remember these guys? Outside of a cast of incredible looking models, every other “production value” was objectively awful. The locations were terrible, the fight choreography was repetitive and boring, and most of the acting was C-movie level at best. And I loved every second of every film. I can’t explain it, but I did. I actually dusted off an old memory card that I hadn’t touched in years that had maybe a half dozen New Goddess movies saved on it. And I watched every single one and loved them all.
I considered that what I might be feeling was nostalgia more than genuine enjoyment, but I don’t think it was. I’ve never been a particularly nostalgic person and I figured that every fan has certain buttons and New Goddess Cinema in their own low-budget way just presses a lot of mine. So as much as I love and appreciate good production values, I don’t have to have them. I hope my favorite producers keep up their high-end work and even push the envelop further than we as fans ever thought possible, but my days of prejudging a film negatively because it doesn’t look as nice as the material that I’ve come to enjoy are over.
So, as with the other editorials, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Both readers and producers alike. I think it would be particularly interesting to hear the opinions of producers who work on a lower budget than some of the bigger names.