What female Hollywood producers have in common

My post on Reese Witherspoon’s production company Pacific Standard (from “Wild” and “Gone Girl”) has a feminist backbone to it and it’s surprisingly my most viewed and commented so far, which goes to show people wan’t to know more and discuss this important subject. My classmate Giada Palma wrote a post on female producers in Hollywood, that I’m reblogging below, where she takes the time to showcase the work that some great women are doing in Hollywood and also some upsetting stats on gender representation in the industry. Be sure to also check her blog for more great content.

What are your thoughts on gender representation in our industry?

GIADA PALMA Today in L.A.

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This post derives from my recent encounter with an article about the adaptation of The Seven Five, the Tiller Russell-directed and Eli Holzman-produced documentary about one of the most corrupt police forces in 1980s New York.

Sony Pictures just brought on board John Lesher and Megan Ellison as producers. And I started wondering,

who are the most influential female producers in Hollywood? Where do they come from and what do they have in common?

1)     Megan Ellison is always a controversial example for me, as it’s pretty easy to become a producer when you’re the only daughter of a multi billionaire, who gives you $200M as a 25th birthday present. You can be the smartest script digger on earth, a talented and strong willed executor, a charming comrade, but at the end of the day, I’ll never think of you as a model for my career path. A lot…

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The full details on HBO Now

Earlier today HBO announced more details on their much anticipated standalone OTT service, HBO Now. The service will be available starting in April, 2015— just in time for the Game of Thrones premiere we’re all waiting for— exclusively on Apple devices for a monthly subscription fee of $14.99.

As you can check on the video above, their offer is pretty irresistible: full access to all of HBO’s acclaimed original programming — past, present and future — as well as their huge catalog of blockbusters. It will be interesting to see what impact this will have on Netflix since it seems that  HBO Now will have a much more current and relevant offering for only a couple more dollars and, even though Netflix has had a good run for a while its original programing is starting to level off with most programmers especially after House of Cards Season 3 was so poorly received.

This is probably the most anticipated event of 2015 for TV fans. Curd-cutters and cord-nevers have been around for years now and they’re not changing their minds – times have changed, content consumption habits followed along and there’s no way out for programmers except to adapt. It is a complicated issue for them because going standalone OTT is a big hit on the cable providers but no one else was in a better position to start the movement than HBO.

Will you be subscribing to HBO Now?

Netflix faces a second round of boycott from the country’s biggest theater chains

“Beasts of No Nation”

Earlier this week Netflix announced that they have bought the worldwide distribution rights to “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga’s new war drama “Beasts of No Nation”, and are going to release it simultaneously on their streaming service and in theaters later this year. Following the news, Variety reported that the nation’s four largest exhibitor chains — AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike — have announced a boycott to Netflix’s new movie. Insiders have also told Variety that Netflix’s course of action is to fight the boycott by exhibiting the movie at roughly 200 arthouse and independent theaters, many of which have already confirmed their commitment to the movie.

There is an ancient rule in place regarding the protection of the value chain in the film industry wherein producers maintain a  90-day delay between the theatrical debut and the home entertainment premiere in order to guarantee that the theaters have a window of exclusivity with the movie and exclusivity is — or used to be — the key to making a profit in the entertainment industry. By releasing day-and-date, Netflix might seriously endanger the exhibitors profit, hence their harsh reaction.

Netflix has pulled it off before with two Oscar nominated documentaries “The Square” and “Virunga” but this is fiction and that is a very different game. Almost a year ago the internet was flooded with news of the streaming company’s first attempt to break the rules when they announced similar plans to debut “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously in theaters and online and were also boycotted by the major exhibition chains.

Netflix is pushing the game forward and that’s a great thing. There’s much discussion as to the role of theaters and if they’re still relevant or not but boycotting movies and the taking the power of choice out of the spectator’s hands is not the answer. The theatre is a magical place and no one would ever stop going just because the same movie could be watched at home. Sometimes, you just want to go to the theatre, right? Instead of acting out like this these large chain would profit from investing in revamping their infrastructure and creating new dimensions to the theatre experience because that’s what patrons want – more perks, not less choices.

On the same note, Netflix is on fire and wont be backing down anytime soon: they’ve also acquired all rights to “Jadotville” starred by Jamie Dornan which is set to debut online but might also be released theatrically for Award nominations purposes, they have a deal with Adam Sandler for four films and another with Weinstein Co. and Imax to debut “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” day-and-date in theaters and on Netflix in August. What do you think of the theater chains resistance to change in the way we consume movies?

The concerning future of the tentpole Studio strategy

2014 tentpole releases

 

The film industry has long been standing on a schizophrenic system also known as the tentpole system. Production and marketing costs have skyrocketed and tentpole movies have starting budgets of $200 million that can reach absurd sums of money as have the two most recent Pirates of The Caribbean movies that both costed more than $300 million to be made.

But Studios see a return on these investments, right? Well, ideally, yes, but it isn’t so easy. You’d be surprised to know how little of the box-office money actually make their way back to the studio and then we have to add to that the demise of the DVD business, which once accounted to half of a movies source of investment return, and the enormous effect piracy has on diminishing exploitation revenues. It’s a tough time to be trying to make a profit on movies.

The Studios response to the increase in production costs and fragmented audiences has been to put in place a system that produces less movies a year and bets on huge, tentpole movies to hold the fort. These huge movies not only have to make a profit to pay themselves off but also offset any financial shortcomings other movies from the Studio’s slate might have suffered.

Such a huge bet has to be as safe as possible. That’s why we barely see anything original being made anymore, it’s mostly the usual Superhero fare, the everlasting franchises or the book adaptations. Those come with a loyal audience from the start and diminishes the risks. But it also accounts for a very homogenized and quite boring offer for the movie-goer.

Earlier this week Doug Creutz released a report entitled “Memo to Hollywood: You Can’t All Be Successful Doing the Same Thing”. In it he noted that the numbers suggest we are on a downward shift in theatrical demand and that there’s a clear convergence to nearly identical film franchise strategies at the major studios which risks “damaging the ecology of the business and accelerating already existing negative secular trends.” Tricky business.

Want to know more? Check out this Hollywood Reporter article on the subject.

What’s your take on the future of the tentpole system?

At last: Emmy’s announce new rules

If you’re a series enthusiast and enjoy watching the Emmy’s you’ve probably experienced lashing fury whenever the nominees were announced over the past 3 years or so. It’s a “who can squeeze what into the easier category” game that produces a ton of injustice and have always left everyone wondering why nothing was ever done about it by the Academy.

(A little background information about this in case you didn’t know – the shows producers themselves are the ones who submit their shows for consideration in the category they deem more appropriate, hence the common chess playing with the Academy.)

So rejoice TV fans because last week the Academy announced that they have at last made changes to the Emmy’s rules to keep up with the fast changing scripted television programing landscape. Is it everything we’ve been waiting for? Absolutely not – but it’s a change in the right direction. The full list comes out on March but for now let’s talk about the best that has already been announced.

In order of fury-raising common category juggles:

1) Increase in Series Nominees to 7 shows per category

This is very sensible given that production has increased tremendously over the years and there will be no shortage of great shows to fill those seats. That being said, a larger increase would have been more fit.

2) New hard-and-fast Comedy/Drama distinction guidelines

We all know this has been a tricky one over the past years with the rise of popular dramedies such as “OITNB” and “Girls” that don’t particularly fit in either category. Then there’s also the shady – I’m talking to you “Shameless” – shows that submit themselves in the Comedy category simply to increase their chances at being nominated even though they’re not comedies.

If it was up to me we would solve this by creating a dramedy category. Then we’d have “Girls”, “OITNB”, “Transparent”, “Louie” and their like all together. Would it be perfect? No. But it would be better.

The Academy’s solution however was to qualify Dramas as shows with episodes with more than 30 minutes and Comedies as shows with episodes with less than 30 minutes. Producer’s can appeal to be submitted in different categories than what the rules implies.

The effectiveness of this rule will depend on how this appeals process will be conducted. If they perform good analysis we won’t be seeing “Shameless” in the Comedy category ever again and “OITNB” won’t be forced to submit as a Drama. But we’ll have to wait and see.

3) The Mini-Series catch

This is another category that has been frequently juggled to snatch nominations on easier fields. “Downton Abbey” is literally aristocracy when it comes to pretending they’re not a regular show and recently more shows have joined the bonanza such as “Fargo”.  “True Detective”, on a very ballsy move, submitted as Drama last year and competed against heavy-weights but that’s the end of the ride for it.

No more – Mini-Series are now programs of two or more episodes with a total running time of at least 150 minutes that tell a complete, non-recurring story, and do not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons. Comedy and Drama are still programs with a minimum of six episodes with an ongoing storyline, theme and main characters presented under the same title. Producer’s may also appeal.

4) “My guy is only a Guest Actor”

This is the typical “this actor can’t play with the other big boys so let’s submit as guest actor even though he’s in 90% of the episodes”. Guest actor now have to appear in less than 50% of the episodes so this category is sure to have a good adjustment.

What did you think of the new rules?

Boyhood

(this is a new series on the blog – and one that’s nowhere near being fully fleshed out. I’ll likely be sharing my take on recent shows and movies and also some classics. If there’s anything specific you guys wanna hear about let me know ;) )

It took me forever to watch “Boyhood”. The concept seemed interesting but the trailer just didn’t appeal to me.

Then I finally watched it and it was very much what I expected except it was beautiful. The concept is indeed interesting but that’s where the specialty about this movie ends. What’s beautiful about it is not that it’s director, Richard Linklater, decided to make a movie about a boy over 12 years but that the story he decided to tell over 12 years is a perfectly normal one, about normal people, living normal lives. What could be more poetic than that?

So I aplaude this movie for being so sincere and casual. It’s a beautiful thing when a person takes 12 years to admire the simple flow of life.

On a Oscar note – did it deserve a Best Picture or Director Award for that? I don’t think so. It feels a lot more like a window into our own lives, a train ride if you will, but it doesn’t break the glass and drags us somewhere else. It’s a ride, not a destination.

So – should you spend (long) 3h on it? Absolutely.