Tag Archives: Film Industry

Passion Counts: Patton Oswalt Edition

Lest any of you think I’m going to populate the blog with repeatedly grim tales of people being sucky (as I have for a couple Wednesdays and this morning), I just wanted to highlight the Patton Oswalt interview I linked in last week’s post about film distribution.

Patton Oswalt, circa 2018 (the time of the interview)

Really, if you are at all interested in his career or perspective on things (he is a tremendous film geek in addition to his other geekdoms), the hour will fly by. And it’s applicable to any creative industry.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Hollywood Accounting

Last Wednesday’s post about how some film distributors led to some discussion amongst friends on the Interwebs and elsewhere. One colleague who’s been a filmmaker and exhibitor pointed out how there are so many sticky problems with film distribution, it’s a difficult problem to handle — and there are definitely some issues with some of the smaller distributors. However, that made me think of how the major distributors engage in creative accounting that’s about as alluring as a blow to the nether regions. For example, did you know the Harry Potter films, in one way, didn’t make money?

They gaze in horror at the dark magic that is Hollywood accounting.

There’s nothing I can really add to this that will be additionally edifying, but for those of you who didn’t know about these shenanigans, now you know.

Video

The New Paradigm of Film Distributors Really Not Caring About Their Films

If you read last Wednesday’s post about standardization of suck that is the McDonald’s ice cream machine, you hopefully felt a little irritation — assuming you believe in truth, justice, and lovely intangibles.

Well, alas, I have more fuel for the ire fire, which I have a special interest due to my connection to filmmaking and knowing many a fellow indie producer who is either in this position or about to be.

Now, if you’re like me, you find this more than a little annoying. I mean, any indie filmmaker understands they need to wear multiple hats, often at once, to get their film completed and out into the world. But it really shouldn’t be too much to ask that people whose livelihood is based on your movie making money for them to care about, not the movie, but how to make sure that money maximizes money for them.

It reminds me of Patton Oswalt talking about having passion for the industry you’re in whether it’s running a comedy club booking stand-up comics or, say, distributing films. Enjoy the industry you’re in on one or more levels. There are so many other jobs you could do if you don’t care about this one. And I like that the discussion that especially when it comes to artistic and creative pursuits, it’s about being a fan and a ‘connoisseur’ of whatever the pursuit is… and you can be a fan at any budget level (some of that discussion begins at the 16:28 mark, but the whole interview is great).

While Deverett would possibly empathize, it’s clear he’s accepted this is the way things are, even if it’s more than a little irksome. In fact, if you watch his whole 4-hour interview or even some of the other segments, he points out all sorts of irksome aspects of the industry when it comes to film distribution. Film distributors in many cases are ripping filmmakers off. Brazenly. He even documents how he went after some “whoops” missing money from some of the territories a film of his was being distributed in. And he documents why is was so hard to do and holding people accountable is hard, expensive, and therefore unsustainable — this assessment from a lawyer and former film distribution professional!

So I won’t say, “Go forth and storm the barricades!” But I do want to give voice to that ire in the hopes that someone somewhere will figure out a way to beneficially disrupt a part of the film industry that seems to be doing its level best to standardize the suck.

Writers: Beware the Hope Rustlers!

Could be I’m just thinking of writing more this week, what with NaNoWriMo looming and having just finished J. Michael Straczynski’s Becoming a Writer, Staying a Writer, I’m thinking of how little writing I’ve done of late.

Reading the book above will certainly inspire you to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. J Michael Straczynski (aka “JMS” as he often referred to) spends a good amount of time validating the choice to be a writer and to create, even though the amount of work involved is significant.

Part of the work, especially early on, is trying to avoid the people who feed off the hopes and dreams of writers. JMS recounts some notable examples in his own career and he’s not the only one. Mark Evanier has a great column on what he calls “Unfunded Entrepreneurs” ready to harness your creativity for absolutely nothing in return. The fact that the article is over 20 years old yet still relevant is sobering. On Scriptnotes, both John August and Craig Mazin regularly debunk the bullshit “realities of the industry” presented by less-than-honorable producers, agents, and managers, eager to gaslight young writers. Basically, there’s a whole host of people who want to make money off, not their dreams, but yours.

In fact, writer-producer CJ Walley contends that this host of people is a fixture within the Hollywood ecosystem in a page on his site, Script Revolution, documenting what he terms “Goldrush Economics.”

Several readers may find some useful info on the site in general.

It’s hard, because in many other walks of life, “you get what you paid for” rings true. And I certainly have encountered too many filmmakers in the indie sphere who should go ahead and spend the money for that location or extra gear rental or, I dunno, cast and crew health and safety?

But within that space come the gaslighters, trying to convince people that they are the ones that can make connections, open the right doors, and that you need to pay to play… and doesn’t everyone want to play?

And this isn’t to say there aren’t useful services for writers and aspiring writers out there, but for too many of these would-be indispensable middle men and women, you mention free resources or anything involving running stuff by lawyers and you get a nigh-on allergic reaction. This should always raise red flags.

I’m especially wary of people who insist that only professional consultants will do, when there is so much quality free information out there and working screenwriters willing to share it (one self-proclaimed mediocre screenwriter has some choice words on this front). Free resources are out there and they are valuable. Upgrade from “free” to “cheap” and you still have a ton of options before you necessarily need to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Speaking of which, if you’re a screenwriter or aspire to be, definitely check out Scriptnotes. Always interesting, often insightful. A huge chunk of it is free and their back catalog doesn’t cost too much either. You can even check out their listener guide to see if the topics of yore would be worthwhile to you.

The Script Revolution column estimates 5,000 – 10,000 spec scripts are written each year by aspiring screenwriters. Think about that. That means there are likely thousands upon thousands of new aspiring screenwriters added to “the supply” each year. That’s a lot of hope to prey upon.

Don’t be prey.

James Bond Will Return… With Free Shipping

Last week, I mentioned the big news that was AT&T’s retreat from WarnerMedia (still to be approved). And, as many people have noticed, media consolidation continues apace.

This week’s revelation? Amazon is looking to buy MGM.

“Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to increase our market share!”

Now, since MGM has been trying to sell itself for a while, this may not come as a surprise, but what this means for consolidation… well, who knows?

Media Mashup as Discovery to Acquire WarnerMedia

I first learned of this over the weekend in an LA Times piece, but AT&T, who only a few years ago, bought Time Warner in a bid to become a new powerhouse entertainment ecosystem, is planning to sell its media goodies to Discovery Communications.

The resulting combination of scripted and unscripted shows, films, and assorted media could be peanut butter & chocolate or cookies & okra. I honestly don’t know and don’t particularly have a battlebot in this fight.

Photo via Getty Images/Bloomberg from Ars Technica article

But from both the LA Times above, a piece in Ars Technica, and one from the New York Times that the various Conventional Wisdom is abuzz amongst the factions that are wont to have Opinions and Conventional Wisdom: other media companies, telecoms, Wall Street — and the people who follow media companies, telecoms, and Wall Street.

Now, all of this is dependent on shareholders and regulators agreeing to the sale, but there’s sure to be ripples from this.

Theater Strategy Post-Covid

I’ve been watching how theater and film productions have been coping with the pandemic (as you can see from June, July, and earlier in December). Safely producing new works is important not only considering my role in running Jabberwocky Audio Theater, but also thinking of my many colleagues whose livelihood requires being on stages and sets.

Federal Theater Project production of Macbeth, 1936 (Library of Congress)

So this article in Fortune, not my usual source for theater news, was an interesting read. Author Michael Barra puts forth some predictions about how theater may change, starting with Broadway and how the tourist percentage of audiences will drop, and then taking that change and extrapolating out to theater trends overall.

Considering how many performers are affected outside of Broadway, I hope cities and localities begin to look to how ‘creatives’ can help the economy (as, in truth, they have always done).

Warner Bros. Decides to Upend Theatrical Releases

Just shy of two weeks ago, Warner Brothers decided to drop a bombshell by saying that all their 2021 films would simultaneously go onto their streaming service, HBO Max, along with theaters, as reported in industry publications, Variety and Hollywood Reporter.

Some of the 2021 film slate (photos courtesy of Macall Polay/Warner Bros.)

This announcement broke a certain segment of the Internet the Thursday it dropped because –shockingly– Warner Bros. evidently didn’t let any of their producing partners know.

And that’s a big deal, not simply from being courteous to your business partners, but there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake since a big way production companies and above-the-line people get money is through profit participation in the theatrical ticket sales.

Now, Warners evidently wants to mitigate this by generously estimating what the ticket sales might have been and paying the profit participants thusly as they’ve done for the director and star of Wonder Woman 1984.

Of course, this may mean money is left on the table as far as directors, stars, and producing partners are concerned –to say nothing of potential problems with existing contracts. Director and lover of the big, big screen, Christopher Nolan is reportedly furious. And the director of the new version of Frank Herbert’s epic saga is absolutely incensed — in part, fearing that this move might tank the possibility of this kicking off a proper Dune franchise (a lot of books have been written in this series).

If you know The Business, a weekly news show about the entertainment industry led by veteran report Kim Masters, you might expect they have something to say about it and they do.

The week of the announcement, they devote much of the opening segment to it (where it really drives home how much Warner Bros. did not tell anyone this was coming). And the episode this past weekend is all about it.

We knew there would be more and more of shift to streaming in the next few years, but what falls out from this attempted unilateral shift by the Bros remains to be seen.

Keeping COVID Safe on Set

For my colleagues who are going back into production, stay safe.

Aimee La Joie has your back.

A Great Disturbance in the Mouse

2020 continues to be decade of twists and turns stuffed into one unrepentant year.

Now, the whole future of filmed entertainment might be changing course because a certain large House of Mouse has recently said it’s focusing on streaming.

Make no mistake. This is big.