Monday, 26 January 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1213: Floptopsy - Mortdecai

Poor Johnny Depp, his box office record outside of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise is not only less than stellar, it downright sucks donkey balls, and even the Pirates movies have become so expensive, they can't make money at the box office, instead have to rely on TV airings and merchandise to turn a profit.

Depp's latest movie Mortdecai is what's lying on my floptopsy table, waiting for me to dissect it to find a cause of death. So let's fire up the metaphorical bone-saw and get going.

First, let's do a preliminary examination, that'll give you the basics.

Mortdecai was a comedic caper film, a genre you don't really see very much these days, and loosely based on the works of British comic author Kyril Bonfiglioli. In it Depp plays Charlie Mortdecai, a shady art and antiques dealer who gets involved in all sorts of mayhem over money.

Bonfiglioli, a huge fan of PG Wodehouse, created the character, and his manservant Jock Strapp, as mirror-parodies of Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. Where Wooster gets into trouble because he's always trying to do the right thing, Mortdecai gets into trouble because he's always doing the wrong thing.

Now let's see where things went wrong.

1. QUALITY. The reviews for Mortdecai were pretty dreadful, earning a Rotten Tomatoes score of 12%, ouch. Right now the audience is hungry for heroes. Superheroes, war heroes, it doesn't really matter, as long as they get out their and do the right thing.

That's not to say that the audience won't accept an anti-hero, but there's a catch when you're trying to sell an anti-hero, you have to make the movie GREAT! Especially in a comedy, you need to deliver a high laughs-per-scene count, the story must be really complex and interesting, and the character must be if not likeable, downright fascinating.

The critics told the world that Mortdecai was none of those things, and the ad campaign seemed to agree, so let's take a look at the...

2. MARKETING. Like I said, selling a caper-comedy with a shady lead is a tricky thing. It seems the Lionsgate marketing department knew that too, and decided to skip pitching the story and the humour and made the ad campaign all about…

DEPP'S MOUSTACHE!
Don't believe me?

They have a whole series of posters where they photoshopped the moustache on the different cast members. 

Now the marketing gurus who came up with that idea no doubt dragged out Willy Wonka and Jack Sparrow and said: "Look, Depp's wacky outfits and make-up mean boffo box-office, and him looking like Terry Thomas is going to have us rolling in dough!"

But there's a catch.

Both Wonka and Sparrow starred in movies aimed at kids.

Try to sell a crazy outfit, makeup, and affectation combo to an audience over 12, and you're shit out of luck. Just look at the Lone Ranger.


Then there's the hype they put on his costar Gwyneth Paltrow. Sure, Mortdecai's relationship with his long suffering wife is important to the plot, but when it comes to selling tickets Paltrow is the white Nicole Kidman. Not only is she unable to carry a movie with the general audience, she's best known for dispensing scientifically laughable advice in the most smug condescending and incredibly self-unaware way possible.


That ain't gonna put bums in seats.

3. COMPETITION. Like I said at the beginning, the audience is currently craving heroes and heroics. Which means that the movie that Hollywood didn't want to make Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, is currently having Summer Blockbuster level box-office in the middle of what is supposed to be a dead period.

That means the best you can get is a distant second, and even then you need either to bring your A-Game, or have some sort of tacky hook that might bring in people at the cineplex, like a still-good-looking Jennifer Lopez doing a statutory rape turned Fatal Attraction fantasy, but even that is only pulling in about 1/4 of Sniper's business.

That's a little too brutal for a badly marketed weak movie to survive.

I think we've found the cause of death.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1212: The Diversity Conundrum

There's a word that you can't escape from, especially if you spend any time hearing about the business behind media and show business.

That word is "diversity."

According to just about everyone there's not enough of it, especially in Hollywood, and super-especially at the Academy Awards, which is offering up its first all-Caucasian acting nomination slate since 1998. This development is considered especially shocking since Selma, a film about Martin Luther King jr. and the historic March on Selma, was expected to at least repeat, if not beat, the awards performance by last year's 12 Years A Slave, which had 9 Oscar nominations and 3 wins*.

When Selma was seemingly shut out, Hollywood was immediately declared irredeemably racist, the Academy an irredeemably racist institution, and every snub, nomination, win, or loss, is evidence of that racism. 

The truth, is probably far more complex.

Academy voting and counting procedures and statistics are kept secret, and for a reason, because they don't want producers and distributors trying to game the system even more than they already do. So we don't really know exactly why Selma was mostly shut out.

It could all boil down to a mathematical where the film, and the people involved were just 1 vote short of what it took to get a nomination in each category. Or it could all boil down to Academy voters donning white hoods and burning crosses in Beverly Hills. 

We don't know. 

Here's what we do know:

1. The film appears to be perfect Oscar bait. Stories about race, racism, civil rights, and the social-political upheavals of the 1960s really appeal to Academy voters. It should have got more nominations than it did.

2. Sadly, that obvious appeal may have made the producers and the distributor think that they didn't need to burn many calories on the Oscar Campaign. Many Hollywood insiders are saying that the campaign was badly run, chiefly with screeners arriving too late to affect the voting. Screeners are essential to getting Academy members to see your movie because they NEVER pay to see movies in theatres.

3. Many didn't like the film's negative portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson. This may have affected its votes since many Academy members not only voted for, but campaigned for Johnson back in the 1960s. 

Of course what caused the near-total-shutout will remain a mystery, but as you can see it's a little more complicated than many think, or would want you to think.

So, am I saying that Hollywood's diversity problem's a myth?

HELL NO!

Hollywood DOES have a problem with diversity. 

Is it straight up racism and sexism?

I doubt Hollywood executives and filmmakers are dripping with hatred of women and minorities. I suspect the root of Hollywood's diversity problem is that they can't achieve what I call natural diversity, and try to fake their way through it through what I call unnatural diversity.

"What is natural diversity?" you ask, furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand.

Natural diversity is when the make-up people working in front of and behind the camera reflects the make-up of the population at large, and no one really gets too worked up about it.

"All right," you say, your brow still furrowed, "but what's 'unnatural diversity?'"

Unnatural diversity is basically tokenism. Empty gestures meant to make the people making the gesture feel better about themselves, and maybe get some pats on the back for their "open-mindedness."

So why can't Hollywood achieve natural diversity?

1. PRE-SOLD PROPERTIES: Right now Hollywood is obsessed with blockbusters. Big expensive movies that can make hundreds of millions at the box office, and spend the next few decades being repeatedly licensed to TV and home viewing for big profits.

But those blockbusters are mostly based on properties that were created in an age when minorities were not only a smaller part of the population, they were considered even less by filmmakers and publishers. I'm talking about decades old superheroes, super-spies, and remakes out the wazoo, designed or re-designed to appeal to kids and teens.

This leads to talk that the next version of some long-existing franchise character must be changed to be black, a woman, or a black woman. When it is done,  usually in comics, which is comparatively rare, it's usually pawned off as an "alternate universe" version of the franchise, or as a minority character temporarily filling in for the white hero. 

One case where such a racial change seemed perfectly natural was when Denzel Washington stepped in the role made famous by Edward Woodward in the movie version of The Equalizer. That's because Denzel Washington is one of the few actors in Hollywood who could pull off the character of a mature heroic bad-ass and not look ridiculous or cartoony.

Usually, race and gender swapping already existing characters cheat everyone of the chance to develop new and original female and minority characters that might be able to stand on their own two feet with audiences. Which would make them examples of unnatural diversity.

2. NARROW WORLD VIEW: The executive suites of most Hollywood studios are predominantly upper-class white and male. This isn't the product of racism, but of inbreeding.

Look at the life stories of Hollywood's top management and many of them would sound so much alike. Upper echelon suburbs, elite universities, then a job in Hollywood. That's because to get in on the ground floor of Hollywood, you need to be already heavily wired into Hollywood. That might get you the job, but if you don't have a trust fund, or wealthy parents to keep you in vittles and fashionable business attire, forget it.

That's a long way from the old days. During the Golden Age the upper management was about 100% male and about 98% Jewish. But that didn't mean that the people they hired for management jobs had to be just like them. They were mostly self-made people who were looking for smart self-starters who could make them money. One of the top men at MGM was Eddie Mannix, who ran what you would call the "plant" aspect of the studio. He made sure the stages, the equipment, the budgets and the schedules, were running. He wasn't Jewish, and he also wasn't college educated. He was a fairground bouncer that MGM's owners realized was smarter than he looked, and they recruited him for management.

Lou Wasserman, the last of the classic-style moguls, was talent spotted by mega-agency MCA when he was a high school kid in Chicago and came in to book band for his school dance and showed he was already a tough negotiator. That led to a job in the MCA mailroom, that paid crap but enough to live on, to inspire him to work his way up the ladder. He did and ended up running the whole show.

Nowadays, neither Mannix or Wasserman would be even looked at by a modern studio. They didn't go to the right schools, belonged to the right clubs and fraternities, and they sure as hell didn't have the right social and familial connections to even be considered for a spot.

Such a narrow world view can lead to believing that the next cause is better than doing anything concrete.

3. THE PURCHASE OF INDULGENCES: One of the causes of the Protestant Reformation was the practise of the the "selling of indulgences." This was a way of buying forgiveness of sins in advance by giving money to the Catholic Church.

While the Church ended the practice centuries go, the practice thrives in Hollywood in a secular form.

Basically the people in Hollywood can deny opportunities to women and minorities, violate the environment with wild abandon, and commit other politically correct heresies and blasphemies without blowback. That is as long as they vote for the correct candidates, voice support for the correct causes, donate to the correct organizations and campaigns, and make the correct  gestures, whether these gestures achieve anything concrete or not.

I'm sure many in Hollywood are looking at all the complaints about their lack of diversity and saying: "They can't be talking about me, because I bought a 'This Is What A Feminist Looks Like' t-shirt, and I told MSNBC that they were doing a great job with Al Sharpton's show, even though I've never actually seen it."

This inability to see that they're part of the problem can lead to an extreme case of...

4. BLAME IT ON THE OTHER GUY: In the old days the folks running Hollywood could get away with a lot of racist and sexist shit by putting the blame on someone else. The most common stooge was the Southern United States. Wanted a black leading man? Can't do it, blame the South. Want to discuss racism or sexism in a serious way? Can't do it, blame the South.

Nowadays the blame has shifted to the "foreign markets" and they'll say things like: "Can't have a black lead, or a woman director, the Chinese won't buy it."

But is that right about foreign markets?

Was it even right about the Old South?

That's just it, we don't really know the truth, because all we have to go on are the people who complain the loudest. The people who scream and yell, and flood an office with letters of complaint that someone they don't like is doing something they don't like on the basis of their race or gender are most likely few in number. The great silent majority probably doesn't give a flying fuck as long as they're entertained. They have lives to live and don't have time to waste harassing people on the other side of the country.

That means the outraged, vocal, and occasionally violent can usually get their way regardless of whether or not they actually represent the majority of people they claim to speak for.

All these things pile up in the collective consciousness of Hollywood, giving it a case of nuclear level cognitive dissonance. They see the complaints, but can't conceive of any real way to fix the problem, because they can't see that they're part of the problem.

That's what I think, what do you think.

________________________

*In total 12 Years A Slave won 213 awards from various bodies out of 398 nominations, including the Oscars.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1211: Amazon's Getting Theatrical


They're setting up a new feature film production company with veteran indie producer Ted Hope as head of production, and will release the films theatrically, and then in video streaming on their Amazon Prime service four weeks later.

Now let's look at the PROS & CONS!!

PROS:

1. Ted Hope is an experienced producer renowned for his good taste in projects by critics and cinephiles the world over.

2. Despite recent losses & feuds with just about everyone they've ever meet, Amazon is a big operation with deep pockets and a wide reach.

3. The project could open up opportunities to new filmmakers.

CONS:

1. While Hope is known as an critical and awards darling his record doesn't exactly burn up the box-office. If he's going to survive as the head of production of what I'm pretty sure Amazon wants to be a mainstream studio he's going to have to find a way to translate his tastes into something that will put the maximum number of bums in seats. 


2. The reports don't say if Amazon will start their own distribution company or if they'll make an output deal with a distributor like Open Road, eOne, or Lionsgate. Either way Amazon's stomp & destroy business ethic might alienate relations with theatre owners, and their distribution partners. 

3. The odds of anyone new getting a chance via Amazon are slimmer than a haute couture model. Look at their TV pilot program that was supposed to bring new voices and ideas into the TV biz, and just about every show that gets produced is by someone with a minimum of 20 years of experience and deep connections in show business. I don't see that practice changing with their feature films.

That's what I think.

What do you think?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1210: Oscar Nomination Snark Attack!!

The Oscar nominations are out, and here's the list with my snarky commentary.

Film
"American Sniper" - Unlikely to win for being too "right wing" but Academy voters don't want Clint Eastwood to kick their ass, so they're going to at least nominate the movie.

"Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" - Academy voters love a comeback story and this is Michael Keaton's show. However, they might give him an acting trophy and pass on the best picture.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel" - It's nominated because it looks and sounds like it should be an Oscar nominee, but Academy voters think Wes Anderson is too fucking twee to win.

"The Imitation Game" - Front-runner, because it's a costume drama biopic of a dead British guy who did great things, and was oppressed for being gay. The last thing the Academy wants is Harvey Weinstein calling them homophobes during the run up to the final vote.

"Selma" - Nominated to avoid accusations of racism, but won't win because the film dared to bad-mouth LBJ, and most Academy voters were also LBJ voters back then.

"The Theory of Everything" - Second runner, might win if Hawking dies between now and the final vote, or if the producers can guarantee them that he'll give the acceptance speech.

"Whiplash" - Won't win.

Lead actress 
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”

Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything” 

Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”

Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl” 

Reese Witherspoon, “Wild” 

It'll be a fight between Moore and Witherspoon, with Moore having an edge since this is her fifth nomination without a win, and Witherspoon won for Walk The Line

If there's a vote split it won't go to Cotillard, because she dropped some 9/11 truther talk a while back, and Pike's movie was too commercial, so Felicity Jones could come right up the middle for a surprise win.

Lead Actor 
Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”

Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”

Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”

Michael Keaton, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything" 

Michael Keaton has an edge, but there's still time for Harvey Weinstein to threaten to call the Academy homophobic if Cumberbatch doesn't win for playing a gay character, even if they sanitized most of Turing's gayness out of the movie.

Director
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Won't win.

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood” Won't win. He's too "un-Hollywood" without being fashionably un-Hollywood.

Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher” Won't win.

Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” Won't win.

Morten Tyldum, “The Imitation Game” Will win. The Academy loves movies about dead British men.

Selma director Ava Duvernay was shut out of the directing nominations. Most are criticizing the shutout as being because she's an African-American woman, but it's most likely because of the aforementioned unsaintly portrayal of LBJ, who really had opposed civil rights up until he realized he could use it for his own political advantage.

Supporting actress

Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood" - Could win, but she works mostly in TV, which Academy voters are still wildly snobby about.

Laura Dern, "Wild" - If she wins and Reese Witherspoon doesn't, Witherspoon will strangle her on stage.

Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game" - Too young and pretty to win.

Emma Stone, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" Meryl Streep, "Into The Woods" - Too young and pretty to win.

Supporting actor 

Robert Duvall, "The Judge" - Past winner, curmudgeon. Odds are about even.

Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood" - Slim chance.

Edward Norton, "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" - Better chance, the Academy seems to like him.

Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher" - Won't win because he does The Avengers now.

J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash" - If there's going to be a surprise winner, it'll be Simmons who is probably one of the best character actors working today.

Animated feature film 

"Big Hero 6" 

"The Boxtrolls" 

"How To Train Your Dragon 2" 

"Song of the Sea" 

"The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" 

Documentary feature 

“CitizenFour” - Front runner if the director promises to blame Bush during their acceptance speech.

“Finding Vivian Maier”

“Last Days in Vietnam”

“The Salt of the Earth”

“Virunga” 

Documentary short subject 

“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” “Joanna”

“Our Curse”

“The Reaper (La Parka)” 

“White Earth” 

Foreign language film

“Ida” (Poland) 

“Leviathan” (Russia) - Will win if Putin threatens to annex Beverly Hills.

“Tangerines” (Estonia) 

“Timbuktu” (Mauritania) 

“Wild Tales” (Argentina) 

Adapted screenplay 

Jason Hall, “American Sniper” - Won't win.

Graham Moore, “The Imitation Game” - Might win.

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice” Anthony McCarten, - Won't win, Academy voters don't "get it"

“The Theory of Everything” Damien Chazelle, - Might win.

“Whiplash” - Wasn't even an adapted screenplay.

Original screenplay 

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo, “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

Richard Linklater, “Boyhood” - Might win because they love it when someone takes their time.

E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, “Foxcatcher” - Might win as consolation for being shut out of everything else.

Wes Anderson (screenplay), Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness (story), “The Grand Budapest Hotel” 

Dan Gilroy, “Nightcrawler” 

Animated short film 

“The Bigger Picture” “The Dam Keeper” “Feast”

“Me and My Moulton” “A Single Life” 

Live action short film 

“Aya”

“Boogaloo and Graham”

“Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)” “Parvaneh”

“The Phone Call” 

Makeup and hairstyling 

“Foxcatcher,” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier 

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White - Will win.

Original score 

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Alexandre Desplat 

“The Imitation Game,” Alexandre Desplat 

“Interstellar,” Hans Zimmer

“Mr. Turner,” Gary Yershon 

“The Theory of Everything,” Jóhann Jóhannsson

Zimmer and Desplat will fight for it.  

Original song 

“Everything Is Awesome” in “The Lego Movie”

“Glory” in “Selma” - Selma's consolation prize for being shut out of everything else for being mean to LBJ.

“Grateful” in “Beyond the Lights”

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” in “Glen Campbell ... I’ll Be Me” 

“Lost Stars” in “Begin Again” 

Cinematography 

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” Emmanuel Lubezki - The film's really long takes might be seen as enough of a challenge to get him the trophy.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Robert Yeoman 

“Ida,” Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

“Mr. Turner,” Dick Pope 

“Unbroken,” Roger Deakins 

Costume design 

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Milena Canonero 

“Inherent Vice,” Mark Bridges - Too many Academy voters have similar outfits in their closet. Won't win.

“Into the Woods,” Colleen Atwood 

“Maleficent,” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

“Mr. Turner,” Jacqueline Durran

Film editing 

“American Sniper,” Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach 

“Boyhood,” Sandra Adair

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Barney Pilling 

“The Imitation Game,” William Goldenberg 

“Whiplash,” Tom Cross 

Sound mixing 

“American Sniper,” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga 

“Interstellar,” Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

“Unbroken,” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

“Whiplash,” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley 

Sound editing 

“American Sniper,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock 

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

“Interstellar,” Richard King

“Unbroken,” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro 
Production design 

“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Adam Stockhausen (production design) and Anna Pinnock (set decoration) - Front runner.

“The Imitation Game,” Maria Djurkovic (production design) and Tatiana Macdonald (set decoration) 

“Interstellar” Nathan Crowley (production design) and Gary Fettis (set decoration)

“Into the Woods” Dennis Gassner (production design) and Anna Pinnock (set decoration)

“Mr. Turner” Suzie Davies (production design) and Charlotte Watts (set decoration) 

Visual effects 

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick 

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist 

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould 

“Interstellar,” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

“X-Men: Days of Future Past,” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Doesn't matter who wins, they'll all be bankrupt before the next Academy Awards.

By the way.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Hollywood Babble On & On #1209: What It Takes To Make Movie Studio

Reading The Genius Of The System by Thomas Schatz is an eye opening experience, letting you know exactly what it takes to make movies and to build a company that makes and releases movies on a professional level.

Making a movie is relatively easy when you boil it down to the basic elements: Money & Time.

Anyone with the money and the time to make a movie can do it.

Whether or not they make a good movie is totally up to the talent of the filmmakers.



But what does it take to make and release movies on a consistent professional basis?

Well, that takes, not just an army, as Orson Welles said, but an organization, perhaps a company or what we have come to call a "studio" whether they actually own real physical studios or not.

Let's have a little thought experiment.

Let's say that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and the Sultan of Brunei all drop dead, and the shocker is that they have left their combined fortunes to you. You, as a movie fan, decide you're going to make movies, but without buying a major studio, you're going to start your own.

What will you need?

Well, it's not so much what you need, but who you will need.

Your intention is not to make a bunch of movies no one will see, you want to make movies that people see, and build a self-sustaining business. Now let's look at who you will need.

Let's start at the top, titles may vary, depending on the structure and nature of the company, so I made up some vague descriptions.

Artist's conception of a movie studio's executive board.
BUSINESS ADMINISTRATOR: Every business needs someone to run it. Someone to handle the money, negotiate contracts, and oversee the business aspects of the company as a whole.

PRODUCTION CHIEF: This is the person who decides what to do in the creative realm. They're the one who picks and develops projects, forges relationships with other producers and talent, and oversees the creation of the company's output from script to screen.

Then we move onto the departments:

PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT: This answers to the Production Chief and can consist of producers or production supervisors who each oversee individual productions and do what they can to see they come in on time and on budget.

DISTRIBUTION: This department oversees the how, when, and where the movies will be released in theatres. 

MARKETING: This department oversees the selling of the movies to the general public.

HOME VIDEO: This department handles release and marketing of DVDs/Blu-Rays, and licensing to television broadcasters, and video-streaming services.

FINANCIAL: This is the department of accountants and bookkeepers who monitor spending, revenue, and all the other financial doodads and report directly to the business administrator.

That's the core people and departments that a film company needs.

Now what sort of intangible qualities does a film company need?

INSPIRATION: Despite what the Harvard MBAs say, a movie studio is in the business of selling stories. Stories that people will pay money to see, and hopefully inspire merchandise, theme park rides and other money-making ventures.

DISCIPLINE: Inspiration is one thing, but to build a company that's viable requires intense self control on the part of the filmmaker and the studio. This goes beyond staying within budgets and on schedule, it's also important to practice creative discipline. That means not letting ego make decisions that your creativity should be doing, which I will be getting to in just a second.

What qualities should a film company avoid?

As I said just a couple of lines ago, the ego, when out of control, can overwhelm creativity and lead to these two destructive tendencies:

INDULGENCE: We've seen it with filmmakers, where a director with clout spends over a hundred and fifty million dollars to turn what should have been a simple romantic comedy into an overlong, self-important mess. But it can also happen to producers and studio executives who think that bloating a project will improve their own importance. It's an all too common problem, especially with blockbusters, where the solution to every problem is to just overdo everything.

INTERFERENCE: This is a tendency among studio executives and certain producers to meddle needlessly in a production. This differs from enforcing discipline because discipline in needed. Interference is unnecessary.

Legendary super producer David O. Selznick burnt himself out while just in his 40s because he lost the ability to tell the difference between discipline and interference.

After the gruelling creation of his monster-hit Gone With The Wind, he began to believe that he was more than just indispensable and that everyone, regardless of talent, could not do the simplest, smallest job without his intricately detailed instructions. His meddling had gone from above-the-ordinary to downright nuclear proportions and it alienated his talented staff until they all left for other companies as soon as their contracts allowed. This forced Selznick to expend immense amounts of unnecessary energy and money out of ego and fear. During the making of his last big mega-epic Duel In The Sun, he burned through 8 directors, countless writers, and several million dollars because every single camera angle of every scene had to pre-approved by Selznick.

His output dwindled, and so did his once legendary stature within the industry, and he was pretty well spent and out of the business at an age when most studio heads would be hitting their peaks.

Those are the basics of what you need, and what you need to avoid when you're starting a movie company.