Everyone loves a good rags to riches tale. The film industry is liberally peppered with them: stories of the down-and-outs, the unhopefulys, the everymen given a slim chance to pull themselves from their rut and make it in the big time. We as an audience go nuts for it! Ultimately, as people, we all like to see someone succeed, especially if we’ve seen them suffer and strive in the process. It’s a message of hope, sympathy and shared humanity; we see outselves in the inbetween Peter Parker, and his struggle to reconcile his powers with his responsibilities, where we might not feel quite the same way about Thor. That simple formula – down-on-luck protagonist finds redemption in x – is responsible for some of cinema’s most cherished moments: Rocky, The Karate Kid; Star Wars; the list goes on and on.
But as cinema changes with the times; the ways in which the rags are dispensed for riches have changed also. An increasingly popular trend in the art of uplifting is the talent show. Talent shows have become a staple of television entertainment since the format’s translation in into a genre of reality television. These talent shows are instant-access stories of effort nad success, as average Joes audition and are catapulted forth into a deserved world of stardom and plenty; shows like The Voice, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor all push this message, and engross the viewer in a world of potential celebrity and success. As you read, The X Factor is scheduled on TV, letting viewers vote in and carve the futures of the ragged. Climbing with the popularity of the talent show is the popularity of betting on talent shows; it’s an extra level of immersion for the audience on top of voting, where people can stake their claims on the next underdog to rise to the tops. The popularity of this particular niche is proven by the popular existence of independent betting sites like Flashbitch, where you can bet on your likely star.
With this undeniable popularity of the talent show on all counts, from audience to industry and back again, the film industry are not slow in catching up. The last two decades have seen an explosion in talent-based tales of personal struggle and growth, and million upon millions of box office bucks to boot. Perhaps the most directly influenced talent show film yet, 2013 saw James Corden play Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts in the biopic Once Chance. The film focused on his life as a shop assistant and moonlighting as an amateur opera singer, and had a star-studded ensemble cast including Julie Walters and Mackenzie Crook. The film was well received in it’s honest portrayal of a working man with a big dream that saw reality, and was a big hit especially with British audiences. Its sucess saw Hollywood also by the rights to the Susan Boyle Story, with Meryl Streep tipped to play the Scottish BGT winner.
In terms of Hollywood blockbusters, the Pitch Perfect films, which denote the struggles and successes of a college all-girl a cappella group, have won big in the film charts, which the most recent sequel Pitch Perfect 2 having taken in more than $100 million.
The beauty of the talent show format is that there’s no exhausting available material – each year could see another Paul Potts, another Susan Boyle, another Will Young, and another story worth telling.