Former Disney and Fox exec Bill Mechanic goes on record about the state of the film industry.
... the independent world, which should be aiming to do things better and different from the Studios, doesn’t have that as a mandate at all. If anything, the only thing that independent distributors and financiers look for is the SAME. Maybe costing a little less than the Majors, but they want what the Studios want, or in “Fight Club” speak, they want copies of a copy.
... It’s disrespectful if not downright dumb to think audiences can’t tell the difference between the original, which occasionally might even have some fresh faces, and the copy, which almost always is populated with retreads. It’s like thinking you can sell yesterday’s news under a different banner.
... Hollywood in the broadest sense of the word is much like Detroit. It’s a manufacturer’s mentality that reigns, seemingly indifferent to the consumers it serves. Ignore whether the consumer likes our product as long as they buy it.
Mechanic was shown the door for Fight Club, which went from being a box-office bust to one of the steadiest sellers in Fox's entire caatalog and a cultural touchstone (whether or not you like the film, which is something I have to talk about in detail later).
The problem with movies like Club and Titanic — another roaring success story that happened on his watch — is that they do not reduce themselves to formulas. Very few, if any, of these success stories come because someone followed a formula. That doesn't mean, however, that success follows inevitably in the wake of doing away with a formula — it means the fact that great movies happen is something that only comes at huge risk. It requires courage all along the way.
Who wants to take those kinds of risks anymore? Who today would give Werner Herzog the money to make something like Aguirre, the Wrath of God, or Akira Kurosawa's Ran? ($12m in 1985 dollars)? Or Fight Club, or Titanic? Forrest Gump, even? They gave Peter Jackson money to make District 9, the results of which apparently surprised everyone involved — including, most critically, the audiences, who hunger for new things without ever quite knowing how to ask for them.
The formula right now is to make fast little movies that gobble up as much money as they can and get out of theaters for the next wave of things exactly like it, and it's twice as much a formula for mediocrity as the big-tentpole-blockbuster system. Which is still in effect — look at Transformers 2: Robot Boogaloo — but the pickings have become even slimmer. Harry Potter only has a couple of movies left in it (at which point I guess we wait a decade and get the inevitable "reboot"), and GI JOE was a major fizzle.
What I would love to see is a production company that only puts out 1-2 releases a year, all in about the $30-50M range, but all of them with the same maverick flavor as District 9. They could be comic book adaptations, or comedies, or horror, or anything, really — as long as the whole notion of "how do we market this?" is the last thing they think about, and in a good way.
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