Monday, 20 May 2013

You Asked For It!

You had questions, and I have answers. Let's get the ball rolling....
Blast Hardcheese asked... 
Hey D, didya know that Sony's looking to make an Angry Birds movie? Hand to God, not kidding here. Look it up. 
OK, I guess that wasn't really a question. More like leaving a flaming sack of dog poo on your doorstep. Err, sorry about that...
I did hear about Sony's plan for an Angry Birds movie. By the way, sorry to see this news...
I hope the county lockup has internet access.

Next question....
Rainforest Giant here, 
1. How much is netflix spending on their original content? How do they recoup the costs? Do they anticipate the value added will bring more subscribers? 
2. If they can produce their own content, can they more wiggle room with negotiating with other parties? 
3. How do independents make a comeback? 
4. Finally, how much does setting a story in historical times add to the cost? 
Looks like a cluster of questions from our local hairy behemoth.

1. Netflix is is little reticent about giving out exact numbers, but some say that's it's substantial. As for how they recoup their costs... Well, I'm assuming they're going to follow the model HBO business model which follows the model of gym memberships.

Gyms make money by getting a lot of people to buy memberships when they make their New Year's resolutions, go twice, never go again, but keep paying the monthly membership fee out of habit. HBO attracts subscribers by getting lots of media attention for their shows because they're the network that's allowed to have nudity. They then hope you forget to cancel your subscription if you lose interest in the show that got you to subscribe in the first place.

Now once in a while they get real hits, like The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones, but they're not necessary for HBO to keep going.

Now Netflix is its own boss, so to speak since unlike HBO it's not part of the Time-Warner empire, so they may add sponsorships later on. I don't think they'll do straight up commercials, because people would probably skip them, and if they skip-proofed them, people would unsubscribe, but they might add a "Brought To You By" at the beginning.

2. Content is king. The world is awash in outlets, but there's not enough content to fill them. The studios are used to being the kings of the content providing jungle, but the new outlets come with new ways of making content. The big studios can be outdone while by leaner cheaper providers. So this does give the outlet/content makers more wiggle room when negotiating with the studios, because the studios don't have the sort of shared monopoly they once had.

3. Short Answer: Don't do what Hollywood wants them to do, do what Hollywood doesn't want them to do.

Too many independent films have Hollywood as their target audience, when they need to pursue the general public as their audience. Sometimes that means challenging the shibboleths and attitudes of Hollywood itself.

4. The cost of making a historical period film depends on these key factors:

A. The period you're trying to recreate. What kind of costumes do you need? What kind of props? How much do they cost to make or rent? Will you need CGI to recreate an era, and if so, how much?

Starring in my own historical epic.
B. The location you're making the period production in. A production that might be prohibitively expensive to shoot in California, might be cheaper to make in Hungary. Need a castle, they have castles you can rent instead of trying to build your own on a backlot. Eastern Europe is a boon to the historical productions.

C. Just how big you want to make it. Do you want massive clashing medieval armies? Do you only need a suburban house, one family, and one wacky neighbour from the 1980s? 

So the short answer is, it depends on the specific production.

"NEXT QUESTION" he bellowed in all caps.

Sean asked... 
Although it has gotten a great deal of good reviews STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is taking a lot of flak for a great deal of fan service near the conclusion. What are the dangers of fan service in movie making? 
For those who aren't hep to the lingo the kids are using these days, "Fan Service" is when something from a popular franchise does something to make the fans of that franchise go "squee."

Sometimes it's a reference to a specific character, prop or event from the depths of the franchise's history, other times it's putting a popular character in a skimpy outfit for the more lecherous among us.

The danger of fan service in movie making is that you need a bigger audience than a TV show or a comic book. That means you can't make your movie just one big in-joke or the bulk of the ticket buyers you need to make a profit are going to "Huh?" like a dog pondering a grape. That will hurt your word of mouth, and potentially can harm your ticket sales.

Next question!

Vincent asked... 
Hi Furious, This blog does a fantastic job of detailing the incredible incompetence and ridiculous meddling and politics that go on, seemingly, behind the scenes of nearly every major Hollywood film (and most minor ones). However, there are films, every year, that are both amazingly successful, critically acclaimed, and simply good. With all of the executive suits doing their best to ruin movies, how is it possible that we still have good movies made each year? 

Thanks for the compliment, FEED MY EGO! 


But back to your question. Executive suits rarely go out to deliberately bad movies outside of the SyFy originals. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to shitty movie-making is paved with the input of so-called "experts."

You see the people who run studios are constantly searching for some sort of magic bullet or panacea that will guarantee that a movie will be good, and more commonly, successful. That's why every two years you'll hear some story about a math geek who says his computer program will guarantee hit movies, and they always end the same way, someone will buy into it, lose a fortune, and it'll be another two years before someone else says "This time we've got it right."

The fact is that all creative endeavours are a total crap shoot. You can put the odds in your favour by using talented people who have a passion for their work, but even then, there is no way to tell how good the finished product will be.

Now when it comes to studio interference three things come into play:

1. Beating the "Meddle" Detector. Every executive has a line where they deem a project worthy of their meddling. Usually that line in about money. If the project is big and expensive the executive suits can't help but get involved because their jobs are on the line. But if the project is small and efficient, and done by filmmakers who know what they're doing, it's not worthy of executive attention.

That's how the Coen Brothers and Clint Eastwood have been able to do whatever they want.

2. The Broken Clock Theory. Even studio executives can be right once in a while. One story, which may even be true, was that Francis Ford Coppola delivered an approximately 90 minute first cut of The Godfather because he thought that's what the studio wanted. Robert Evans, who was running production at Paramount then, hated this cut because it was just like all the other failed gangster movies, and told Coppola to forget what the experts were saying and put all the family drama back into the movie. The family drama was what made The Godfather an epic instead of just another crime movie.

3. Filmmakers With Clout.  If a director has a hot commercial track record and the financial and moral backing of a major source of investment capital, then the studio may not interfere.  However, this can be a double edged sword because too often a filmmaker with this clout can fall into the trap of self-indulgence.

ILDC asked... 
I'm now convinced after almost immediately laying off employees and shutting down productions, Disney only agreed to buy Lucasfilm because George wanted it off his hands. That, and Iger felt he needed to spend a few billion on an acquisition every four years. Did they literally only want the rights to Star Wars


I'm not a mind reader, so I can't say anything about the exact motives behind certain decisions. I think Disney/Iger saw a franchise with potential not only for movie/TV opportunities, but merchandise, and jumped on it.

But I'm not sure they put much thought into what they were going to do once they got it, considering Lucasfilm had a bunch of commitments that Disney is trying to get out of so they can reinvent the franchise into a wholly Disney operation.

Next question:

Blast Hardcheese asked... 
Here's a poser. The new "Star Trek" made $70M domestically, and that's categorized as 'ooh dear, that's less than we expected'. 
I remember (back in the old days, when oil hadn't been invented yet and dinosaurs roamed) a $70M haul *total* would have been a Good Thing, let alone an opening weekend. 
But that aside, are we finally seeing the cracks in the current blockbusters-all-the-time business model for the major studios? Have we finally sated the appetite for bombastic CGI stuff?

Good to see the guards are letting you get online.

I too can remember when a $70 million total box office haul was a good thing. I can remember that if you hit $100 million total you were considered a blockbuster.

But those were the days before studios spent the equivalent of the GDP of a small European country to make a movie. 

I don't think that we are seeing the end of the $250 overwrought extravaganza. While too many cost too much to make money without breaking records, the ones that do break records make the guys who gave them the green light look like geniuses.

However, they're not so much the problem as the overall hyper-inflation of film production, distribution, and marketing costs. Technology and expanding outlets means it should be cheaper to make movies and get them out into theatres and onto TV screens. However, the whole business model is so dysfunctional that even projects you think would be modest in the whole budget department are unbelievably expensive.

A good story that illustrates this point was when Warner Brothers passed on doing an adaptation of The Thin Man starring Johnny Depp. The reason they passed was that the producers and director were unable to give them a budget for under $100 million.

Now if you're familiar with The Thin Man you would be flabbergasted to think that it couldn't be done for under $100 million because 2/3 of the action in the original novel, and the original movie TAKES PLACE IN ONE HOTEL SUITE.

Now it's supposed to be the best suite in the city, but not worth going over a $100 million budget.  That means that the people who wanted to make the film were literally planning to waste tens of millions of dollars on time and trouble that were not necessary to make a decent adaptation of the story.

Hollywood is literally forgetting how to operate within reasonable financial constraints. Which is another way executives have failed.

Thanks for the questions. 


  1. I guess I should have bought up Pixar and Marvel being left pretty much the same.

  2. Blast Hardcheese20/5/13 5:09 pm

    I wuz framed! Framed, I tells ya! IT WAS CALLLAHAN, CALLAHAN DID THIS TA ME!!!!

  3. Johnny Depp to replace William Powell? Not on his best day.

  4. However, they're not so much the problem as the overall hyper-inflation of film production, distribution, and marketing costs. Technology and expanding outlets means it should be cheaper to make movies and get them out into theatres and onto TV screens. However, the whole business model is so dysfunctional that even projects you think would be modest in the whole budget department are unbelievably expensive.

    So, D, say some friends and I are looking to take advantage of this fact. Do you think some folks could start making cheaper content to be spread out there? (and/if some are already doing it on blip)

    Question 2: With all this revolution, what do you think could be the minimum spent to get a movie/tv show to "look" decent enough without that infamous "in the basement" style a lot of cheap movies have? (looking at you '80s)

  5. Rainforest Giant here,

    Thanks for the answers. I think the difference between HBO and Netflix is that HBO feeds you their schedule and Netflix lets you choose your shows. Rather than waiting on 'Game of Thrones' you watch 'House of Cards' when you want. It's a different philosophy and distribution model. I finished a netflix series when and how I wanted.

    Netflix obviously has to hope that people don't tune in at the same time like HBO. Bandwidth would prevent that in any case. HBO has the same distribution model NBC did sixty years ago. If the two providers don't have different models they should.