Friday, 22 April 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #715: Independent Film- Great For Lawyers

Okay, the other day I cranked about how they should unseal the records on the whole David Bergstein/ThinkFilm debacle so that people may someday learn from it. The report/records have now been unsealed. Grab a copy before they get sealed again, and maybe glean something from the acres of legalese and needless complications.

But that's not the only courtroom based action going on right now. The Weinstein Company is suing Relativity Media over who has distribution rights to a remake of The Crow. You may remember
The Crow as the film about a ghostly avenger that claimed the life of actor Brandon Lee in an accident with an improperly prepared blank. It also spawned a cluster of rapidly forgotten sequels and a short lived Canadian made TV series, during which a stuntman was killed in an accident. To sum it up, not only has the franchise suffered from exponentially diminishing returns, it also has left at least two people dead that I know of.

If the Weinsteins were suing to keep another remake / reboot / re-imagination / rehash / regurgitation of a spent franchise I might give them a little "you go girl" in the manner of the token gay and/or black friend of the female lead in a romantic comedy. However, since they're just fighting over distribution rights, I will spit out a hearty pshaw and fie on the whole deal.

Naturally Relativity Media is responding , and have even released a list of open lawsuits against the Brothers Weinstein.

Here's the list if you're too lazy to click the links:

Open Lawsuits Against The Weinstein Company:
  1. Brem v. TWC
  2. Browder v. Q. Tarantino, TWC
  3. Cat Entertainment v. TWC
  4. Dannez Hunter v. Bob Weinstein, TWC
  5. Degeto Film v. TWC
  6. Flowers v. Glowing Report, Ltd, TWC
  7. Tony Leech v. TWC
  8. Lionsgate Films v. TWC
  9. Moore v. TWC
  10. NBC Universal v. TWC
  11. Pariah v. Dimension Films (TWC)
  12. Rodriguez v. Klum, TWC
  13. Stratus Film v. Miramax et al
  14. Summit Financial v. TWC
  15. Herrick Co. v. TWC
Open Lawsuits Filed By The Weinstein Company
  1. TWC v. Skip Huston
  2. TWC v. Collins
  3. TWC v. Derrickson
  4. TWC v. Columbia Pictures
  5. TWC v. Nu Image
  6. TWC v. Smokewood
  7. TWC v. Lionsgate
  8. TWC v. Sloss
  9. TWC v. Walker
To sum it up there are currently 15 open lawsuits against the Weinstein Co. and 9 lawsuits that the Weinstein Co. has filed against others, making a total of 24. That's just the ones that are open and pending, I'm sure a complete list of past lawsuits, including out of court settlements, would make this one of my longest blog posts ever.

Now I want you to sit back for a minute and ponder this question:

What does all this lawsuit business tell you about The Weinstein Company and the state of independent film?

The first it tells me is that when it's all boiled down, the biggest winners in the independent film business are the lawyers. If things keep going the way they are Harvey & Bob Weinstein are going to have to sue each other, and then file lawsuits against themselves. It's no way to run a railroad.

But it's an all too common story in the world of independent film. A company is started, it has some success, then the people behind the company start acting "clever" when it comes to how they run said business. This "cleverness" creates complications, these complications create more problems than they solve, then the lawsuits start.

After enough litigation people start thinking that despite whatever mojo they once had, it's just not worth the hassle and expense to do business with said people anymore, and they just stay away. It's already hurt them in the past, and have only been able to survive another by handing over their entire film library to their creditors.

So why do independent film companies follow these convoluted, and usually suicidal business plans?

Mostly because the big boys do, and they want to play in the same sandbox.

Only there's a lot of pee in that sandbox, and while the big studios have big parent companies to protect them from that pee with the copious fiduciary wet-wipes stored in their big deep corporate pockets, independent companies just come out of the sandbox reeking of piss, and if the smell gets bad enough, no one will play with them anymore. Sure you might have grabbed a few toys for yourself out of said sandbox, but when they smell like pee too, the sense of accomplishment is tainted for all but the most emotionally stunted.

Which brings me to the point of this rambling jeremiad.

The first step of being an independent film company is to acknowledge the fact that you are a small independent company, and not the tax write-off scam of a massive multinational conglomerate. You need to create a business model that reflects that simple reality. One based not on elaborate accounting scams schemes, but on doing your best to make money out of movies.

The movie business is rife with risk just by the fickle nature of audience tastes and film-making talent. It doesn't need the people running it to be a risk all by themselves, because then the only people making money will be the lawyers.

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