Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #824: More On Producers & Producing

Hi-yo Silver AWAY!

Yep, the Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer production of The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, and a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda as the titular ranger, and directed by Gore Verbinski has finally been given a start date.

This is news because the Western franchise revival was shut down by Disney because the first budget proposed by Bruckheimer was approximately around $275 million, roughly enough to buy Portugal.  After much haggling, begging, pleading, and some actual cutting they were finally able to get the film's budget down to about $215 million, or what it would cost to buy Greece.

Bruckheimer detailed some of the cuts here. (h/t to Blastr)

"We redid the production plan. We originally laid it out to avoid winter. Every single location we had, there was winter—30s at night, 50s during the day, best case scenario. We were jumping around. California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah. If we had a big crowd scene and then the next day we were shooting just Tonto and the Lone Ranger, we still had the crew "on" because you have them weekly. So we bunched the sequences that were big together, and for the smaller scenes [we] laid off the extras, the effects people, the makeup people. It costs an enormous amount with 150 extras on the set. It's not the extras, it's the people that support the extras. You're still carrying all the wardrobe, makeup and hair people. We bunched together scenes with Tonto and the Lone Ranger, so we had a much smaller crew. We saved about $10 million just by doing that." 
So basically Bruckheimer is saying that he was able to cut the budget by doing his job.
You see a lot of Directors would love to have all the time and all the money in the Universe to make their film. Some thrive on tight schedules and budgets because of the challenge they pose, but most would love to be able to do whatever they want, as big as they want, and take as much time as they want.

The problem with that desire is that we live in the real world.  A world governed by immutable natural laws that include money.

That's why Xenu created Producers. Part of the Producer's job description is to be the bad guy, the guy who pinches pennies and challenges the Director to get it done on time and on budget.  It's the job of the Director to make the film watchable, but it's the Producer's job to ensure that the film has a shot at being profitable so that they can make another film someday.

Now that doesn't mean that Producers have to be crazy miserly. Like I said before, it's all about balance.  A good Producer has to be able to find ways to get the director's vision on the screen without wasting money.  A Producer that's too Scrooge-like ends up with movies that are not only cheap, but look cheap too, on the flipside a Producer that is too indulgent may make films that look wonderful, but need to earn the equivalent of the national debt of a mid-size European country at the box office in order to just break even.

I'm still not sure that balance has been achieved yet on this project.  I mean how the hell can you spend $215 million on a freaking Western?
Studio Publicity Photo of the Actor Playing The Lone Ranger.


  1. I would dearly love a look at the salaries involved.

    How much is Depp getting to play second fiddle to the titular star of this movie?

    How much is said titular star getting paid to play second fiddle to Depp? (And who the hell is Armie Hammer, anyway?)

    Are the bad guys aliens, hence sky high special effects costs? (Also aliens won't work for scale.)

    As you have so eloquently pointed out, It's a Freaking Western!

  2. Reports say they cut a scene where they fight ghost coyotes, so I'm assuming the film will be rife with supernatural critters & varmints instead of the usual outlaws & claim jumpers.

  3. Blast Hardcheese20/10/11 10:19 am

    And if you want to avoid winter, maybe...shoot in one location in the summer? Y'know, plan? IT'S A FREAKIN' WESTERN!

    Look at 'The Searchers'. John Ford took four square miles of Monument Valley and turned it into the story of a multiyear odyssey. An all-time classic.

    It's not going to get any better until the money spigot gets turned off.

  4. Reports say they cut a scene where they fight ghost coyotes, so I'm assuming the film will be rife with supernatural critters & varmints instead of the usual outlaws & claim jumpers.

    Of Course!!

    How could I have forgotten all of the ghosts, goblin's, and other supernatural critters that ran rampant through the Lone Ranger television show I watched as a wee lad?

    Something tells me that with Depp as the headline star and a nobody as the Lone Ranger, add in some ghost coyotes, and you have a film that is focused on Native American Spiritualism and the evils of the white mans westward expansion rather than the Hero rescuing the townsfolk from the Evil Villain.

    Hope I'm wrong about that because if I'm not this film will fail so hard the shock waves will be felt in remote solar systems.

  5. One of my favorite directors of all time is Mario Bava. He only did one "big" budget movie (big by 1960s Italian standards, anyway). He didn't like the studio supervision, and went back to movies that cost only $1 million or so, so that he could do whatever he wanted.

    But then he was a genius. In his viking epic, Gli Invasori, he pulled off a whole battle at sea without any ships!

    Where is today's Bava? Or for that matter, today's Hitchcock - he did a whole film with 8 folks in a boat, or everyone in the same room. I bet his films were inexpensive.

  6. Ghost Coyotes? Whats next a giant metal spider?

  7. Some reports say it's going to have werewolves.

    They can't be bright werewolves if they go after a guy who always carries silver bullets.

  8. Just one thought - why not just shoot in the damn winter? The Old West DID have a winter season, after all. I've seen John Ford Country with snow on top of the rock pinnacles, and it looked pretty darn terrific. Also it would give an excuse for those long dusters people wear.

  9. Sandy-

    It's actually more about money than aesthetics. Winter weather's more unpredictable, and more likely to do something that can stop production and cost the studios and possibly their insurance people some serious scratch.

    A rainstorm in the summer will most likely shut down a production for a day. A full on winter blizzard can shut everything down for a week. That's major league lucre.

  10. Why don't they combine the Lone Ranger and Stretch Armstrong movies? That would be awesome.