Peter Bart, former Paramount executive, producer, and longtime mainstay at Variety, posted this piece about how many European filmmakers are trying to fill the gaps being left in the movie market by the major US studios.
He makes a good point.
Look at the release schedules of the major studios and you'll see that they're chasing the mad pipe dream that it's possible to only make blockbuster mega-hits. This leaves many genres including non-comic book action, drama, and many types of comedy, horror, thrillers, mostly out in the cold despite having the potential to be extremely lucrative at a low cost.
Bart sees the biggest problem is connecting with a North American audience, and like many Euro-producers think "international stars" are the key.
If the European filmmakers want to truly connect with North American they need to follow some key rules.
1. DON'T USE HOLLYWOOD'S IDEAS OF STARDOM GUIDE YOUR CASTING.
In Bart's article they mention that a producer is working with Sean Penn in a movie that they hope will break through with the American audience. Better to just put their money in a big pile and set it on fire, because at least that way they might be able to cook wienies off the fire. There is an elite list of actors in Hollywood who are downright toxic at the box office, but still get major leading roles because Hollywood keeps telling people they're big stars.
The casting of Sean Penn, Nicole Kidman, Tina Fey, Russell Brand, and Ricky Gervaise can literally toss a film into box office oblivion. George Clooney is on his way to that status unless his agent can use black magic to convince people that his glorified cameo in Sandra Bullock's Gravity was the key to its success.
|As accurate a headline as "Dewey Defeats Truman"|
I call these people "Media Appealers" because their appeal seems to exist almost entirely within the Hollywood community and the media outlets that want to be in that Hollywood community. The problem is that they usually bag big roles with big fees despite being unable to sell tickets to the last lifeboat off a sinking ship.
What these producers need to do is to do the serious research needed to find out which stars are really worth the investment. Maybe do a variation of the sabermetrics that weighs costs (in both money & hassle) against how many bums they put in theatre seats. I'll bet you'll be surprised to discover who is worth what, and then you can base your decisions on that.
2. DON'T DO BUSINESS LIKE THE BIG HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS.
The biggest problem with the way the big Hollywood studios do business is that it doesn't seem to make anyone involved happy. Litigation is so common that it's not even considered news anymore, and it's affecting business. Since everyone is expecting to be screwed if their film's a hit, everyone with the slightest amount of clout gets everything they can up front regardless of real market forces, and that drives up costs, and drives down profits.
Treat people with a modicum of respect and honesty and you'll be shocked at how it will drive your costs down and your potential for profit up.
3. GET A DISTRIBUTOR WHO REALLY NEEDS YOU.
Form a partnership with a distributor who will treat you with the same modicum of respect and honesty that you will use on others because if they don't you'll go and leave them in the cold. That means avoiding the big studios and their shady practices.
4. AIM FOR QUALITY.
Back in the day a film had a week in theatres to make their money, and that was that. That changed thanks to the arrival of television, then the advent of new streaming and home video outlets. That's actually a good thing if a film is well made and entertaining because even if it gets lost among the crush of big studio blockbusters in theatres, it still has a chance to find its piece of the audience via other outlets.
It doesn't take much money to make a quality film. It just takes hard work and imagination which are both rarer than money, especially in Hollywood.
That's my advice.