Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #654: Will Success Spoil Your Career?

Welcome to the show folks...

Recently I wrote a piece about the failure of James L. Brooks latest film How Do You Know, and how a romantic comedy with a small cast ended up costing Columbia Pictures over $120 million just to make. That post set a fire under my commenters and some theorized that it's all just another Hollywood money shell game. Of course if that were true, there wouldn't be rumors of Columbia execs having conniptions behind closed doors, and other rumors that James L. Brooks may never make another film after this debacle.

I've also written critically of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, where I've royally shat upon just about everything associated with it. I've griped on the songs, the costumes, the script, the stream of injuries, and especially the record breaking $65 million budget, which will no doubt get bigger after the injury lawsuits, both here on my blog, and at my Twitter.

Why were both projects given the green-light even though both had "boondoggle" written on them in big neon letters bright enough to outshine Vegas?

Well, I talked about it a bit in the other blog, but I'll re-state my point here to fill space:

Well, you've heard the term "Too big to fail" when it comes to justifying massive taxpayer funded bailouts. In show business there is something called "Too big to deny." Hollywood is like a small town high school, and Brooks, thanks to his Oscar wins, nominations, and
Simpsons money fountain, is the equivalent of a member of the football team. Maybe not a captain, but definitely someone on the starting line-up.

In the
high-school-with-money world of Hollywood, that person usually gets what they want, when they want it, and it would take the equivalent of blowing the State Championship, like pissing away $120+ million on a failed movie that should have cost 1/6 as much.

The same goes with the
Spider-Man musical. It's being put together by Julie Taymor, who has more Tonies than Southern Italy, and has music by Bono & The Edge of the rock band U2. We are talking about exponentially bigger fish, in an exponentially smaller pond otherwise known as Broadway. You don't say no to these people unless you wish to be a complete outcast next summer at the Hamptons.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I can explain how the artist can do this to themselves, and possibly damage their career.

It's all about freedom.

When you get a certain amount of power and prestige in show business, you get a certain amount of artistic freedom to go with it.

Now artistic freedom is great, but as my regular
commenter Gary T. Burnaska pointed out, you need to temper your freedom with a certain amount of discipline.

You see it's great that you can do whatever you want, but sometimes what you want to do is bad for you. That's why you need someone, a proverbial angel on your shoulder, who can tell you that just because it dripped out of your particularly successful brain-pan doesn't mean that it's going to be greatest creation since the sliced bread slicer.

Knowing that you don't know everything is the first
step toward true wisdom. The sort of wisdom that tells you that $120 million on a romantic comedy is a recipe for disaster, the sort of wisdom that tells you that your latest idea for a musical sounds like something out of a comedy sketch about a disastrous Broadway musical. It's the sort of wisdom that keeps you from committing the sort of epic scale pooch screw that could sink your career.

This is one of the reasons I admire Clint Eastwood as a filmmaker. I don't like every one of his films, but I don't have to.

Do you see my point?

Eastwood's secret is that when it comes to costs, his films seem tiny in comparison to films made by other filmmakers of similar stature. That leaves the studio suits out of his hair, and it gives him a safety cushion to take artistic risks. If a film fails at the box office, it's no biggie, literally. No one is going to lose their job for giving him the green light on a project, because it wasn't a great financial loss, and could probably earn back the investment in future home video and television sales in the long term.

So I guess the point I'm making is that it's great to be the big fish in the small pond, but if you're not careful, you just might end up hooked by your own ego and chopped up as shark bait for all your enemies and rivals.


  1. Thanks for the name drop, Movies require a ARMY to make. Like any army you need discipline, if you don't you get studio ruining fiasco like Heaven's Gate, and Cutthroat Island and even Julie Taymor's other big budgeted self indulgent mess Across the Universe.

    Prognosis for Spiderman: Turn off the Dark does not look good.

    First the budget is not going to be payed off by the sold out because of morbid curiosity will not pay off cost overruns and lawsuits.

    The woman playing the spider-villian quit the project, this is a up and comer quitting their big break. When this happens you know something is inherently wrong with this production, when someone who is struggling to find a place in this industry is quitting a dream gig.

  2. Eastwood has the right idea, if you want to experiment and take risks do it on a small budget. D not blow millions and millions like Cimino did with Heaven's Gate.

    If you costs are low, if you fail no biggie. But if you succeed your budget will not eat into your earnings.