Friday, 29 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1003: Two TV Tidbits


Miramax, under new owners, has decided to get back into television, and they're going to do it with a little help from Martin Scorsese.

They're teaming with Scorsese and GK Films to produce a series adaptation of his movie Gangs of New York. The film itself was loosely based on the Civil War chapters of an "informal history" of New York's underworld by journalist and folklorist Herbert Asbury. 

The series, like the book itself will go beyond the slums of the Five Points Era featured in the movie to centre on the turn of the 20th Century and how street gangs of New York, Chicago, and New Orleans evolved into modern organized crime.

I actually like this idea. The movie could only gloss over the colourful characters, and the high drama, and had to mangle history a fair bit to do it, and, to be honest, I just couldn't accept Leonardo DiCaprio as a street tough. I just kept picturing him screaming "not the face" during every fight scene.

Now by moving the focus to the 1900s they have a whole bunch of new colourful historical characters and their mostly untold stories to the screen. Monk Eastman* alone could probably carry his own TV series.

Also costume dramas sell, and if the production values are good, they could sell for years after the show's initial run because they're hard to date.

So how should they handle this show?

Scorsese already has a show on HBO called Boardwalk Empire, so the temptation is to head straight there again, but I think Scorsese and company need to branch out of the premium pay-tv mini-verse. HBO is good at attracting media attention as the epicentre of TV "cool" but it's capacity to bring in viewers is limited in these hard economic times. 

I'm not saying they should go with a mainstream network. The mainstream broadcast networks lack the imagination and even the reach to sell a gritty historical drama. Plus you will have every nimrod in a suit butting in with their two cents if they don't have the change in their pockets.

Basic cable has been having great success with costume drama series in recent years, and while they can't do the nudity on the level of HBO or Cinemax, they do offer a level of creative freedom you can't find in a mainstream network. Plus, the cachet of getting Scorsese's "brand" associated with their channel will do wonders for maintaining that creative freedom.
*Monk Eastman was one of the most feared hoods in New York City, engaging in every conceivable crime. After a prison stint he found his grip on the streets slipping, so he joined the army. During WWI the middle-aged Monk became a full fledged war hero who couldn't get a medal despite his actions.


Brad Grey, the head of Paramount Pictures is looking to undo one of the company's biggest mistakes by getting back into the crucially lucrative television business.

Now I haven't done this in years, but I'd like to suggest that Brad Grey...

As my brilliantly photoshopped campaign poster says, I won't give away one of the most fundamental functions of any major entertainment company.

The history of TV production is littered with people trying the "best," so why not try the rest... chiefly me.

I also promise to not let my position go to my head. 
So hiring me to a powerful, and highly paid executive position makes a lot of sense, sort of like this picture...

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1002: Something The Networks Might Want To Try.

The cable network FX has given the green-light to a TV adaptation of the indie Midwestern noir classic Fargo, that will be executive produced by the Coen Brothers themselves. 

But that's not the important part.

The important part is that they're adapting it not as a regular television series which has an open ended run. They're going to follow a more British format by developing it as a limited run series. That means that it is designed to run for a set number of episodes and then be wrapped up by the end of those episodes. If the audience wants more, then the channel will commission the makers to do more, but the next "series" will be treated as a separate project.

This comes with a wave of other limited run or miniseries projects that the FX family of channels is developing.

Personally, I think it's a good idea that the mainstream broadcast networks could learn from. There are two reasons for this...

1. The audience is incredibly fractured into small niches that full run network style television series are having a hard time reaching. 

This is because the broadcast nets are based on a system where every show has to appeal to the widest range of the audience it can get, depending on its time-slot.

2. Audiences seem to like serialized story-lines, especially mysteries, but it's hard for an audience to accept a serialized storyline, especially a mystery based one, from a mainstream broadcast network. This is because networks want shows to run a minimum of seven seasons, of around 22-25 episodes a season.

This creates the temptation to string along the mystery long past the point where the audience doesn't give a royal crap about whodunnit, or where the aliens are being hidden. If the show's premise is unable to operate if the mystery is solved then the temptation's doubly strong to just keep that puppy going.

But the problem is that it usually never works, the audience either loses interest, or doesn't get involved at all, and the show is cancelled with no questions answered for anyone.

Now this is where the miniseries can step in.

1. Using the miniseries you can create and air niche-targeted programming that don't involve big and expensive multi-season commitments that come with a full strength TV series.

2. If the miniseries has a central mystery then the fact that it's a miniseries tells the audience that they won't be left hanging if the shows doesn't play with the middle class tween girl demographic in California.

3. There are a lot of popular books that don't really translate into feature films. They're too long, too bulky, and any movie version would be just a quick skim. However a miniseries can do a more detailed adaptation, and the performance of shows like Game of Thrones show that people seem to like detailed adaptations of their favourite books.

4. If a miniseries turns out to be popular, you can always do a sequel, but pace them out so people don't get sick of them.

5. Miniseries can sell after their initial run as DVDs and/or downloads.

So there is a place for the miniseries, and networks should consider it.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Trailer Trashing: World War Z's Second Trailer...

Paramount has unleashed a second trailer for their upcoming horror/sci-fi epic World War Z. I had reviewed the first trailer and expressed some misgivings, let's watch this new trailer and see if it assuages any of those misgivings...

I'm afraid this new trailer hasn't really eased my misgivings and I may be forced to repeat myself.

1. It still looks like they spent the Gross National Product of Bolivia to make this movie.

2. I still think Brad Pitt's "I'm the producer, I don't need to shave or get a haircut" look doesn't fit in with someone who is supposed to be a senior UN official. Also, making him an official for an organization known for impotence and corruption doesn't seem all that heroic.

3. I think they miss the point of zombies that author Max Brooks was trying to get across. Zombies are your friends, family and neighbours who have had their humanity forcibly removed, and now they want to feast upon your flesh and make you one of them. The movie's faceless blob of body parts that moves with the speed of a cheetah on meth is a completely different kind of monster and might have worked in another movie, but not this one.

You can go click the link to the piece on the first trailer for the rest of my misgivings, which are not assuaged, not assuaged at all.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1001: Lynne Got A Gun & Shot Herself In The Career.

Now here is a story of something you don't see every day.

After 9 months of the development and pre-production the independent drama Jane Got A Gun began production. On the first day of shooting the actors showed up, the crew showed up, and they were all ready to get the show on the road.

But they couldn't.

The film was missing a somewhat vital ingredient.

The film's director Lynne Ramsay hadn't showed up. She wasn't running late, she hadn't been kidnapped by aliens and was sharing a cell with Elvis Presley. Ramsay had walked off the production.

The film's producers worked quick to get a replacement, possibly saving the production, that's not the reason for this post.

I'm not going to go into speculating as to the reasons why she ankled the show, that's her business, but her decision probably sank her career, and cautionary examples are my business.

You see there's a line that she crossed that, barring some magical excuse that may involve unicorns, that could cause her to never work again. It all boils down to timing and time.

You see the biggest thing a film production budget buys is time. Cast and crew are being paid for their time, equipment, props, costumes, and locations all must be rented. Everything in production is built around time.

This is exponentially more important in independent production. Independent productions don't have much money or time, so they usually can't afford to have any time wasted.

Now people walk off productions all the time, but if they expect to work again it depends on their timing. The time for leaving a movie is during the development stage, when people are hashing out the final script, doing the casting, and other big decisions. You can leave a production during development and not really worry about any negative repercussions to your career, because people will just assume things didn't work out.

Now if you leave during pre-production you run the risk of being branded "difficult" unless you have a really good excuse, like contractual obligations rearing their ugly head, or illness. Final commitments are being made during this stage, but even if you don't have a good excuse the film community can handle difficult people if they believe the person has talent and/or commercial viability.

Which brings me to Ramsay's situation.

Once production has begun there is only one reason a director should be off set, and that involves a potentially deadly illness or being mauled by wolves. In fact, I can't remember any story of a director just walking off in the way she did.

To leave everyone hanging like that does way more than brand her as potentially difficult. It brands her as difficult, erratic, and expensive, because she could have completely killed the production, cost people their jobs, as well as millions of dollars. The independent film business has a hard enough time attracting the investors it needs to stay alive, and a stunt like that is not going to help attract more.

After doing all that, I can't conceive of a defence she can mount that could save her from complete unemployability.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #1000: Escape From Remake Hell!

IT'S MY 1000TH


What should I do to celebrate?

I know, I'll do a blog about a really shitty remake idea.

Joel Silver, who dominated the big action genre in the 1980s, has announced his next project. He's going to do a remake of John Carpenter's 1981 science-fiction action film Escape From New York.

But wait there's more.

Now people have been trying to do remakes of Escape From New York since its long belated sequel Escape From L.A. pretty much killed any hope of the original movie spawning a franchise. 

Though I might be getting a little ahead of myself here, and should start with a history lesson for those who aren't familiar with the original.

The 1981 Escape From New York movie was set in the distant future year of 1997. In this bleak dystopia World War 3 has come and gone, America is a police state grappling with out of control crime and social chaos, and the island of Manhattan has been walled off and the rivers and bridges mined to make it the nation's central prison.

Things take a turn when the President (Donald Pleasance), who is English for some reason, is dumped in the middle of Manhattan when communist terrorists take over and crash Air Force One. The President's taken hostage by The Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes), who leads the prison's biggest and most violent gang, and he's demanding freedom for himself and his cronies in exchange for the President's life.

The Warden (Lee Van Cleef) knows that more is hanging on this than just the life of the President. The President has a cassette tape containing data vital to world peace. Both the President and the tape have to be retrieved and fast.

His only option is to recruit ex-Special Forces veteran  turned bank-robber Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to do the rescue. But Plissken's a self-centered nihilistic asshole, who kind of needs to be nudged into becoming the hero by having microscopic explosives implanted into his neck and told to do it or die.

I won't spoil the rest of the movie for you, only that it involves lots of running, fighting, and Plissken remains a self-centred nihilistic asshole throughout the whole movie.

The movie had $6 million budget, which was modest for the early 1980s, and made $25 million at the US box office, which was a big success for an independent film released in the early 1980s, and became a staple on home video and late night/cable  TV.

It's status as a cult film got a sequel made in 1996 called Escape From L.A.. The sequel cost $50 million to make which was a lot for a mid-1990s movie, and made $25 million, which was a disaster for a big budget studio movie at that time.

Ever since every time a new "tough guy" actor popped up there's been talk of remaking Escape From New York. The closest before this announcement involved Gerard Butler after his Spartan comic book blockbuster 300 but that film died in development hell. 

However, none have come as loud as Joel Silver's announcement, which kind of scares me into thinking they might actually go through with it.

I think the biggest problem comes from suspension of disbelief which is highly dependent on the spirit of the time the film is made.

Back in 1976 when Carpenter wrote his first draft, and 1981 when the film was made, it wasn't that much of a stretch to imagine Manhattan being turned into a prison. The city was a far cry from where it is today, when crime is so low the Mayor now has time to obsess over soda sizes and salty snacks. Back then New York City was more or less a shit-hole. Crime was beyond rampant in New York. You took your life into your hands just entering the city, as murders, rapes, violent robberies, and just plain old motiveless assaults occurred at rates that would seem unbelievable today. The middle class had fled the city in droves to escape the crime, the city's crippling debt, and the plummeting property values.

New York seemed like a black hole of unsolvable problems, and it wasn't much of a flight of the imagination to just evacuate the law abiding and wall the rest in.

Times have changed. New York is now an island of hyper-expensive real estate and is a major economic and cultural centre again. The idea of walling it off for a super-prison has gone from the realm of semi-plausible science fiction to completely implausible fantasy. You might as well have a unicorn ranch in Central Park.

Also, I fear that any remake will make the same mistakes as the sequel.

You see, the original movie was made, and succeeded because it was just that, original. It presented the action in a dystopic setting like so many before it, but with a darkness that set it apart from the others. There's no heroic characters, just people out either for themselves, or for revenge, not for some noble goal like saving lives or improving the world.

The sequel was trying too hard to be a cult movie, with ham-handed attempts at satire, and self-conscious stunt casting instead of the original's use of available character actors they could afford on their modest budget. Also, the fear of crime was no longer dominating the zeitgeist in the 1990s the way it did in the 70s-80s, so they tried to replace it with a fear of the religious right, a phobia that's not very strong outside of the Axis of Ego.

I fear that this remake will capture nothing of the public's fears or concerns but instead illustrate Hollywood's own prejudices, which is a guarantee for box office failure.

And that's not getting to the biggest problem the remake would have as a trilogy: Snake Plissken himself.

"A remake I can believe, but a trilogy, what the hell?"
Intentional trilogies are supposed to contain story arcs that involve the lead characters growing and changing because of their adventures and the moral and ethical choices they face, like in Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

Snake doesn't change, doesn't learn anything, and certainly doesn't wrestle with any moral or ethical issues because they require morals and ethics. That makes him a catchy and amusing anti-hero in one movie, but a kind of obnoxious presence in a trilogy unless they radically change the character.

Of course if they radically change the character, they might as well do an original science fiction action movie, and leave people's memories well enough alone.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #999: 50 Shades of Wrong?

There's buzz buzzing about the buzzosphere that former Harry Potter starlet Emma Watson may or may not be playing the female lead in Universal's film adaptation of the "mommy-porn" publishing phenomena 50 Shades of Grey that taught a generation of women that abusive relationships are great as long as the abuser is rich and good looking.

Some are saying she's doing it, some are saying she isn't, while others are saying she's thinking about it, and it's become one of those situations where no one is exactly sure what's happening.

Sounds like a prime target for my patented PROS & CONS!


1. A lot of people seem to think she's right for the part. I don't know, since I'm a man, I haven't read the book. From the reports about the book just about any attractive actress in her early 20s would fit the bill.

2. Universal is heavily invested in 50 Shades, having spent millions for the movie rights, and tens of thousands more fighting a porn-parody for committing the sin of laziness for not coming up with a proper porn parody title. That means that the film will be hyped to the ends of the Earth, and probably more than a few alternate dimensions. There's a chance that it could take Emma Watson more than just an actress from a hit franchise into a household name.


1. The chance that 50 Shades could make Emma Watson a household name is a double edged sword. If the movie is bad, or a box office failure, she will then be permanently bonded to a big overhyped flop that will dog her for the rest of her career. You don't want to be known as the "chick from the failed porno movie."

Also I want you to think back to other actresses who starred in hyper-sexualized roles in hyper-sexualized movies. Most actresses who try that path become pigeonholed as "that girl who will get naked" and end up on Cinemax or in the DVD discount bin, and it's very rare for them to have much of a career outside of those kinds of roles until they get too old to get them.

2. Then there's the book itself. Last year it was a phenomenon, the trilogy selling 60+ million copies. But how many out of those millions are willing to admit buying the book without embarrassment? Will those people wait in line and ask the pimply kid in the booth for a ticket to see it as a movie?

3. Then there's the fact that this is a movie and not a book. The book's target audience was sexually frustrated women, and research shows that women enjoy erotic text over erotic images. Men however like  erotic images, but would then spend money to see a 50 Shades movie for the chance to see Emma Watson naked, or just download the relevant imagery after it's leaked online so they can "enjoy" it in the comfort and privacy of their own masturbatoreum. Besides, who wants to talk about around the water cooler in anything but an ironic manner so they don't come across as a sleazy perv.

And I'm not getting into the mess that will arise over it's MPAA rating and the editing that will have to be done to get it into theatre.

All of that doesn't bode well for the film, or its effect on her career, which she appears to be managing very carefully so far.

As you can see, the cons appear to outweigh the pros of this project. If I was her manager, I'd tell her to give it a pass.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #998: The Return Of Veronica Mars

Yesterday saw a rather interesting development in the way movies are made. The long cancelled TV series Veronica Mars got a second chance at life, raising over $2 million for a feature film in 10 hours on Kickstarter.

For those who aren't familiar with the show I'll give you a quick history lesson.

Veronica Mars was the story of a titular high school student who follows in the footsteps of her father, an ex-sheriff turned private investigator, at first to solve the murder of her best friend.

The show was a critically acclaimed combo of teen drama and crime-busting, but it struggled to find a big enough audience on the equally struggling UPN, and its successor CW, and was cancelled after three seasons.

Ever since star Kirsten Bell and creator/producer Rob Thomas have been trying to bring the show back, chiefly as a feature film spin-off. The show developed a strong post-mortem fan-base thanks to DVDs and Warner Brothers agreed to help release a Veronica Mars feature film  if Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell could demonstrate just how dedicated those fans were by raising at least $2 million from them on Kickstarter.

I think it's time we take a look at the PROS & CONS!


1. Fans might actually get what they want. This is pretty self explanatory, the fans want more, and this deal might get them more of what they want.

2. It's educational. Those same fans will be giving money to a massive multinational film and television company and will probably not see a penny of return on their investment. Now they'll know what happens to a lot big investors in the movie business.


1. Death by expectations. If this movie is not beyond perfection the fans could be in for a massive disappointment. It can't be just good, it has to be stupendous, or it will be judged a disaster. Remember, people tend to view their favourite cancelled shows through rose-coloured glasses, and those glasses get pulled off in the theatre.

2. Warner Brothers. The studio has pledged to help distribute the film, but we all know that there are contractual obligations, and contractual obligations. If Warner Brothers doesn't think they're going to get a blockbuster level of return on their investment with this movie, they could dump on DVD, or cable TV, or they could cancel the project completely, and claim the $2 million was spent on developing a project they ultimately declared a write off.

Anyway, I wish the filmmakers good luck, and maybe create a new method for cult level filmmaking.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #997: Adaptation Palpitations, Or, So, You've Sold Your Book To Hollywood

Let’s have one of our little thought experiments. Okay, close your eyes and imagine that you are a writer whose latest tome has hit the best-seller list and now the Hollywood studios are sniffing around.

What do you do?

Well, you have two options. One is to say “no” and be content with never seeing your book portrayed on screen until a century after your death and it becomes public domain. However, very few authors can actually afford to do that, because Hollywood studios are masters of presenting you with offers that look so good, in relation to your present circumstances, it would be wildly financially irresponsible to say “no.”

So let’s just assume that you’re going to sell the movie rights and look a look at the process before we get to the things you need to look out for. The first thing is something called the option. The option is where a producer will pay you money, and in exchange you will let the producer hold onto the movie rights for a set period of time, usually two years, and if in that time a film version goes into production, you get paid the rest of a pre-determined amount. If the film isn’t made in that period of time, then the buyer can either pay you for another two year option, or you can find someone else to sell it to.

Okay, now that we have the process down pat, let’s take a look at what you need to look out for.

Look for the best people. In movies it’s all about who you are dealing with. So when an offer comes in, do your research. That means looking at their track record, see what their friends say about them, see what other writers say about them, and, more importantly, what their enemies and rivals say about them.

Look for the best up-front money deal. The studios will offer you a piece of the action. They will give this piece of the action many names, but those names are usually cover for the “net.” The net is a myth. Legend has it the last movie to pay off net profits was Splash in the early 1980s, and ever since it’s been harder to catch than a Sasquatch.

They’re not going to offer you a piece of the gross, that’s strictly for “A-List” movie stars with scary agents. So while you’ll have to settle for net, make sure you get the maximum you can get in cash, up-front. If you are looking for a piece of the action make sure that your contract gets you a piece of any and all merchandising and related licensing, as well as fees for TV/video/streaming sales, sequels and remakes based upon the performance of the first one as well as the new film’s budget. But don’t give up any up front money, because there’s a good chance that will be the only money you get.

Don’t sign anything that will force you to talk about the movie. The history of cinema is loaded with stories of books being completely bastardized. Even books considered classics can be chewed up by the Hollywood machine and spat out leaving a gooey pulp that has no relation to the original product other than a title. You might, for example, have a collection of stories that tackle the philosophical and ethical issues that surround the development of artificial intelligence, and end up with an FX heavy action movie starring Will Smith wearing what appears to be a leather condom on his head.

You do not want to be put into a position where they completely bend your book over a chair and bugger it with a wire brush, and then be contractually forced to say how happy you are with it.

But, and this is a big, Will Smith’s trailer sized but, you don’t want to be caught bad-mouthing the movie version in public. Remember the cautionary tale of action-thriller author Clive Cussler. Cussler was paid $10 million for the movie rights to his best-selling adventure novel Sahara. The movie was made, and it was a critical failure, and made about half of its total production and distribution budget at the box office. Cussler filed suit for millions, claiming that the producer, Phillip Anschutz violated Cussler’s agreed upon script approval, and that was why the movie tanked.

Anschutz countersued, claiming Cussler’s criticisms had sabotaged the film and that’s why the movie bombed. Both sides sent in their big money legal attack dogs, and Anschutz won almost $20 million in damages and court costs from Cussler.

Then that verdict got tossed on appeal.

Cussler then filed another lawsuit, but by this point it doesn’t matter who wins, because by this point the only people winning anything were their overpriced lawyers.

The lesson here is, if you like the movie adaptation, then feel free to plug it. If you don’t like it, it’s best to just remain silent, and not be contractually forced to say anything.

Now that we’ve gone over the horrors to look out for, the best policy is to just sell it, cash the check, write another book, and when someone asks: “What do you think about what they did to your book?” answer: “They did nothing to my book, it’s still there on the shelf, they just paid me to let them make a movie.”

It’s the only way you can survive the book to movie process with your money and more importantly, your sanity, intact.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #996: Doing Something Wrong & Doing Something Right

The movie All The Boys Love Mandy Lane made a huge splash at the Toronto International Film Festival. The little teen-whodunnit thriller that was made for $600,000 attracted a lot of attention, especially from horror fans, and many companies scrambled to buy it. 

In the end the Weinstein Company won the auction by offering $3.5 million in cash and a commitment to release the film on 800 screens. Now the Radius-TWC is planning a multi-platform release, including a wide theatrical release.

That sounds like an indie-movie fairy tale, except that SEVEN YEARS passed between the purchase of the rights and the film's proposed North American release, which I will believe when I see it. It's a great illustration of so many of the things that are wrong with the independent film business.

You see, in 2006, after the film's initial purchase, legend says it was hit by a double whammy. TWC had a bad reaction at a test screening and the failure of their overpriced overindulgent mega-B-Movie Grindhouse. TWC allegedly pissed their pants at investing in another horror film and then sold the film to a fledgling distributor called Senator Pictures, which immediately went belly up, and the film went on to dwell in limbo, until Radius-TWC untangled the mess to pick it up again.

We have huge promises made, contracts broken, overextended companies overspending trying to compete with the major studios, bankruptcy, litigation, and huge messes being made out of small films.

In short, it embodies almost everything wrong about independent film these days.


I read this piece about home-entertainment company Shout! Factory and how they're growing in the home entertainment field when the major studios are suffering from declines in DVD sales.

They keys to their success seem to be efficiency (there's only 60 employees), putting out products people want, and carefully targeting the people most likely to buy their products without having to spend millions on ad buys.

So here's a big shout-out to Shout! Factory for doing something right.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #995: Toasted & Jammed

Artist's conception of a company board meeting.
Two Wall Street vets Neil Grossman and Howard Silverman have formed Toast & Jam Holdings as their big foray into show business.

So far Toast & Jam Holdings is holding...

Cosmic Toast Studios: An animation company.

Cinipix: A film production, acquisition, and distribution company.

Cinirents: A film production equipment rental company.

Toast & Jam are also in talks to acquire a digital distribution company, and a marketing firm.

Now the word is that these chaps have already kicked in amounts in the "seven figures" which shows a certain amount of confidence on their part. However, investing in movies is inherently risky, even at the best of times, and as the old saying goes, the quickest way to become a millionaire is to start out as a billionaire investing in Hollywood.

So how can these Wall Street mavens avoid being jammed and toasted by the vicissitudes of the entertainment business?

1. CREATE A CUSHION: Most indie companies fail because they have just enough for a couple of productions, but if just one of those productions doesn't make a big profit the whole thing falls down.

There is no way anyone can accurately predict if a film will make money, or not make money. So you need a lot of money held in reserved to keep that kind of a company afloat.

A best case scenario is getting some material on television. That's where the serious money is these days, so it's best to get as many TV series on air as you can, and have some sort of output deal for your movies with a major cable channel(s) or a local station syndication outfit.

2. MAKE FRIENDS: As an independent producer & distributor you will be doing business with other independent companies. In this case, honesty is the best policy.

Remember, you are not a major studio with a massive multi-billion global media conglomerate as your parent company who can simply bully or crush smaller players into compliance. In this situation, you are the smaller player and you're going to be doing business with other smaller players. 

If you get a reputation for treating your partners well, and honestly, you will not only continue doing business with them, you will avoid giving all your money to lawyers.

The history of indie film companies is a history of lawyers making more money than producers. Change that and you might have a chance.

3. FILL NICHES, THEN EXPAND: The temptation to just leap in with a big smash blockbuster is great. However, trying to play with the big boys entail massive risks that could sink a company faster than you can Samuel Bronston.

The best strategy involve gaps. The big studios are all cutting their output and the films they are putting out are leaning toward big budget science-fiction/ fantasy/ and superhero type projects and obvious Oscar bait, with very little in between.

That means the fields of horror, suspense/mystery, drama, some aspects of science fiction, and others are pretty much wide open. Thanks to new technology they can all be produced and distributed inexpensively as long as you don't waste money on so-called "A-List" stars. They can also have long life-spans on television and home video if they're well made and have good production values.

Smaller budgets mean smaller risks, and if they catch on, really big rewards.

Then you might have a chance of carving a nice little piece of the market for yourself.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #994: 2 Things That Sound Good, But Probably Aren't That Great...


Word is bopping around that Carrie Fisher is set to head again for a certain galaxy far far away and rejoin Harrison Ford for the upcoming Disney/J.J. Abrams Star Wars sequel.

Here's the working title: Star Wars Episode 7: A New Hip.

Personally, I feel that bringing back the stars of the original trilogy is something that sounds great to someone inside Hollywood, but probably doesn't ring all that true to those living in the real world.

When the original trilogy ended with Return of the Jedi we had the space opera equivalent of the happy ending. Bringing them back, 30+ years older, is a bit of a downer. The fans want to remember them as they were in the last movie, still young and heroic. Not old and yelling out the window of the Millennium Falcon for the kids to get off their lawn.

I think they would have been better off starting a new franchise with new characters that can explore different parts of the "expanded universe."

But that would be original, and Disney, being a Hollywood studio fears originality, even though it was the originality of the first trilogy that made it a cultural touchstone. So they try to copy as much of the original as they think they can get away with, except its originality.

Does that make any sense?

CORRECTION: Now the word is that she was just jerking our chain.


Stephen Spielberg has announced that he's developing Stanley Kubrick's massive script for his unrealized epic Napoleon as a television miniseries.

On the surface it sounds like a great idea. Miniseries, especially historical costume dramas, seem to do great business these days. Also it's probably the best way to do Kubrick's highly detailed and meticulously researched vision for the project, which he and his writing partners could never condense into a feature film length.


Maybe it's me, but while Kubrick greatly respected Spielberg's talent, their styles, at least in my eyes, don't mesh. Kubrick was cynical in tone and clinical in style, Spielberg is an emotional romanticist, which made their post-mortem collaboration A.I. kind of a disappointment, at least to me.

Then again, maybe I'm just a worrier.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #993: Paramount Returns To Television

Now you're probably wondering "When did they get out of television?"

Well, they got out of it in 2006 in a big shuffle that requires a little history lesson.

Paramount Television began as an independent company called Desilu Productions which was founded in 1950 by entertainers turned producers Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. 

In 1957 Desilu bought the RKO studios which set them up as a major player, not just in the booming field of television, but in Hollywood in general. During the 1960s the company produced big hits like Mission: Impossible, and cult classics like Star Trek. Their success and clout made Desilu an attractive takeover target, and Gulf+Western bought them in 1967, and remade the company as the TV division of the then struggling Paramount Pictures that they had also recently purchased.

And thus Paramount got into the TV game big time.

Now Paramount had mixed results in television. Their productions for networks were fairly hit and miss, but the company enjoyed more success in syndicating shows to local stations. Star Trek died on the network, but went to heaven in syndication, which in turn led Paramount to expand their syndication operations into original first-run syndicated programming like Entertainment Tonight, and Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as its assorted spin-offs.

Paramount Television reached its peak in the 1990s when its parent company Viacom started UPN, the United Paramount Network, which was all Paramount all the time, and the company's answer to the Fox Network, and the WB Network from Warner Bros.

UPN wasn't a success. It started small, and it pretty much stayed small throughout its existence.

That existence ended with a major shake up at Viacom. The UPN was merged with rival mini-network The WB to become the CW Network. 

Paramount network sister CBS was also spun off from Viacom as its own independent company, and part of that spin-off was that all of Paramount Television's past and ongoing productions became part of the newly CBS-Paramount Television, which soon became just CBS Television Studios.

Paramount Pictures was now pretty much completely out of the TV business, but now they want back in.


Why does any business do anything, because that's where the money is.

In recent years Paramount has slashed its feature film output, giving them a shrinking piece of an already collapsing market, and they've recently licensed the home video rights to over 600 of their past titles to Warner Brothers, which means whatever profits those movies make, now have to be shared.

If Paramount is going to continue as a viable entertainment company they need the regular, predictable revenue that a studio can only get from having shows on television.

Now Paramount CEO Phillipe Dauman said some things that have me worried. He said that the first show will be based on a pre-existing Paramount property, and will require "very little investment."

That's scary because it's giving me a frightening vision of a really cheesy movie based reality/competition show, like Mission: Impossible Meets Survivor or Star Trek Idol.


Update: Looks like Paramount's TV comeback will be the Beverly Hills Cop series instead of it being done by CBS Productions. Bit of a relief after the nightmare scenarios that Dauman's comment put in my head.