For those of you who haven't read Robert Evan's ''autobiography'' ( I use itallics because I suspect given the subject there is a lot of hyperbole involved!) I really do recommend it. I first read it a couple of years ago and have recently started again. It is THAT good.
A passage I was reading early this morning struck a chord. Bear in mind Evans was referring to Paramount in the seventies, when Paramount was rapidly going down the toilet. He had a stand up/knock down fight with the distribution arm, because he reckoned the problem was that distribution was telling production what to make when in his opinion production should be making what they thought was great, then tell distribution to go out and sell it. He won.
The result was Chinatown, The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, Goodbye Columbus, Marathon Man and a host of others. True or not it's a great story. But the situation has become much worse since then.
With the cost of movies spiralling the studios are only willing to greenlight what they think are sure fire winners. They've been vetted by marketing and distribution long before the cameras start rolling. No exec is willing to put their head above the parapet and take a risk.
In this industry the corporate culture and creative culture have to rub along in an uneasy alliance for the best work to reach the screen. In the last 20 years I feel corporate culture has annexed the Sudetenland. Marched in. Declared Marshall law. Okay my own hyperbole there, but you know what I mean.
10 years ago do you think a writer had any idea what ''4 quadrant'' meant? This ''marketers'' speak is now on the lips of every newbie trying for a shot with a studio. It's a cultural change but the prize is so great it is very difficult not to fall in with the buzz words and statistics and demongraphics that the marketers throw around. That's fine if you can do that and feel it doesn't actually harm the story you want to tell.
But when that story then has to become the one the marketers believe they can sell then you have a dilemma.
And it's not quite the same dilemma as a director or producer asking for artistic or production based changes. This is about a pre-emtive strike solely based on what the marketing department ''think'' they can sell. Emotional beats changed to suit a predicted audience whim long before sneaks and previews. Give a girl a chance will you, before you give her a pre-prom makeover so she'll make it big with the jocks? Assuming she's not a swamp monster maybe the jocks will like her just as she is?
Yes, film making is a business, and for studios, anticipating the market is essential, but it's not like making kettles. It's about emotion and zeitgeist. And I defy anyone to anticipate what that will be 2 or 3 years down the line when a greenlit film is actually finally released.
A film should be made on gut instinct more than statistics, but bravery has gone out the window thanks to the quick and high price of executive failure. The sack!
This defensive production culture has also permeated through Uk TV to some extent. Witness the bland load of bollocks littering the schedules. Though truth be told, and I may be way off base, I am detecting a sea change. I think it is a sea change born out of desperation as ratings stagnate or dwindle, but I am beginning to hear what I think are encouraging noises. Michael Grade's assertion that content is king sounds very much like Robert Evans' plea to Paramount. It apparently worked for him? And saved Paramount if not the movie industry.
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3 years ago