Hollywood vs. The Blogosphere: A Mutual Misunderstanding

In the past few weeks I’ve researched the evolution of numerous elements of the film industry; this week I want to examine the fascinating correlation between the blogosphere and Hollywood. Every second of everyday someone is blogging about the film industry. From box office analysis to film reviews, the business and lifestyle of Hollywood continues to dominate the interests of amateur writers across the globe. What affect has this medium that allows for instant worldwide dispersion of commentary had on the film industry?

Steven Zeitchik of the Hollywood Reporter explains in his article, Non-Screening are the new screening, that films that go unseen prior to their worldwide debut may have an advantage over films that are reviewed before they open. In the article Zeitchik refers to the conscious marketing strategy of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” By not offering early screenings of the film to semi-professionals and non-professional writers, these authors are forced to blog about how much they wish they could see the movie. While this strategy does not lead to an increase in optimism for the film, it does preemptively stop the spread of undesirable publicity and coverage. Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times also chose to write about the "viral nature" of the blogging medium. Goldstein however chose to comment on the negative effects it has had on Hollywood reporting. In his article, Blogger attacked by (gasp) other bloggers!, Goldstein takes aim at the shameless and unsubstantiated articles that so called credible bloggers put out on a daily basis. In an age dominated by the desire for instant gratification bloggers have been only too happy to appease. Using a real life example, Goldstein shows how even professional writers have traded in their integrity for the opportunity to be the first to break a story. The major downside to the blogging medium is how it promotes a lack of virtue and accountability from writers. Gossip is entertaining and it attracts readers and subscribers. The act of passing on gossip, rumors and unprofessional reviews as reliable intelligence has become an epidemic spreading across the Internet and the blogosphere.

“Non-Screenings are the new screenings”

Mr. Zeitchik thank you for your insightful perspective on perhaps a new trend in Hollywood. It has become the norm to see reviews and advertising for big budget films months before they open and this certainly has not been the situation for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. The blogging medium has influenced many features of our culture and as you and others have pointed out the film industry has also been forced to react. I think Hollywood is now aware of the influential power of the blogging world and until they can find a way to control the medium, it is probably better to not indulge bloggers and offer early screenings for films. A negative review can spread across the Internet extremely fast and be seen by millions of viewers. Hollywood formerly operated with the understanding that any publicity is good publicity. I do not think that is the case any more. Consumers now tend to unquestionably believe negative reviews. The principal drawback to blogs is the lack of accountability and authority from the writers. Personally I find it hard to separate reviews from credible and professional critics and regular unprofessional consumers who paid the same twelve dollars to see the movie as everyone else. However this is not a completely negative phenomenon. For years a majority of consumers felt those being paid to critique films did not represent their tastes and now people can read reviews from real people who they can relate to. What I think will be most interesting about this new covert marketing scheme is if it is a damage control tactic or if the movie is actually good. Your opinion on this new marketing trend and its causes creates an excellent forum for discussion. I appreciate your continued effort that you put forth in your blog and eagerly await future posts on the evolution of Hollywood. I have a few general questions about this topic that I would love to hear your opinion on. Do you think the blogosphere has been overall damaging to the success of some films? Do you believe we will start to see the stealthy marketing scheme used by “Button” on other big films? Are we seeing the end of early screenings for critics?

Blogger attacked by (gasp) other bloggers!

Mr. Goldstein, thank you for your fitting blog post. There is a rash of unsubstantiated reports, rumors and gossip that are being passed off by bloggers as credible information. Unlike the film critics of the past these new bloggers feel no sense of accountability for their work. It is easier to gain readers and blog subscribers when you have the most interesting stories even if they lack evidence and could be completely hearsay. It is also very challenging for the casual blog reader to weed out the few quality blogs from the literally millions of unprofessional blogs that comprise the blogosphere. There are websites like Technorati that attempt to develop a ranking system for blogs however I personally find it a little too complicated. Do you believe that the average blog reader understands that most blog posts contain unconfirmed information? I’m surprised and extremely concerned to hear in your article that credible writers from sources like Variety are not doing the necessary research for their posts. Do you believe this may just be an individual case or have you encountered many gossip driven blogs written by professionals? I read another post this week by Steven Zeitchik of the Hollywood Reporter titled “Non-Screenings are the new screenings”. In the article Mr. Zeitchik discuses how major studios may be starting to follow a more discrete marketing plan in response to the truly bizarre coverage that plagues the blogosphere and the Internet. Do you think this is a growing trend? Thank you again for the intriguing and yet disturbing post.


Politics and Film: The Separation of Hollywood and State

This week, in an attempt to keep my blog current and up-to-date I searched the net and newswire for the most current rumors, rising trends and information regarding Hollywood and the film industry. I was shocked and surprised to find that most entertainment bloggers and writers were continuing to dedicate their columns and headlines to the changes going on in Washington instead of the changes taking place in Hollywood. This presidential election was the most publicized and entertaining race in history and the combination of media coverage with Hollywood involvement is why. Straight ahead journalism is lost, people now want to be entertained while they hear about the issues and the news. Hollywood is all too happy to oblige. I do not remember the past few elections exactly and whether Hollywood went as crazy after each but I am positive that our new rock star president will have a definite effect on the industry. In this post I will discuss the historical and current relationship of the ruling presidential party and the film industry.

It appears that many authors spent this week finding correlations between politics, specifically the presidential administrations, and everything else. Why not with the film industry and the box office? Through intensive research Steven Zeitchik of the Hollywood Reporter found some interesting and more surprisingly consequential connections. This relationship should have studio executives and all employees of the film industry smiling and more optimistic about the economy then most other industries. Over the past seven elections a democratic president has consistently resulted in a box-office upswing. “As an average, box-office spiked 6.8% after a Dem was elected but crept up only 3.2% after a Republican took office”. A direct cause and effect relationship is very difficult to prove; however, one theory is that under a Republican administration consumers tend to be more concerned about their finances and chose not to spend on non-vital expenses like entertainment. This is opposed to a Democrat administration that historically promotes creative expression and fosters a more movie friendly climate. I will admit that this is a loose tie however the numbers do show a visible relationship between the success of the film industry and the party in control of the nation.

Box-office receipts are not the only element of the film industry affected by the presidential campaign and the new presidential elect. Filmgoers can also expect an adjustment in the production slate of studios. For example, in case the nation and the media did not get enough of Barack Obama over the last couple months they can relax. Just days after the election HBO advanced Amy Rice and Alicia Sams a low seven figures deal for the rights to their documentary about the Senator’s presidential campaign. There was a substantial risk for investors of this documentary as no one could guarantee who would win the presidential election two years ago. After Obama’s win however, the investment is going to have big payoffs. Cameras have been following the campaign since 2006 after Edward Norton agreed to co-finance the film and secured Obama’s cooperation. The documentary team had been given close access to Obama, his family, friends, staff and volunteers and should offer an insightful view of the president elect and his journey to the White House. Sam Pollard, who has cut several other critically acclaimed HBO films and documentaries, will edit the film. Edward Norton has been quoted saying "We believe this film will capture a tipping point in American history… when a new generation of leadership emerged and old prejudices were finally vaulted over." This was a monumental race and is a story that wont saturate quickly. Consumers can expect many more documentaries, film shorts and features based on the president elect and the 2008 election.

Just as politics have infiltrated the film industry, I believe that Hollywood may be creeping into the White House. Nobody in the film industry expects the same star-studded White House parties that creative community remembers from the Clinton years; however, major studio heads are generally happy and optimistic about what the new president will be able to do for their industry. In one article I read I discovered an interesting tie between the top spot of the president’s new staff and the entertainment industry. Obama’s appointment of Chicago native Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff has caused some insiders to wonder if the White House will bear similarity to Endeavor talent agency run by Rahm’s brother Ari. Ari Emanuel is the immortalized Hollywood agent portrayed as Ari on the popular HBO show Entourage. Those who know the Emmanuel brothers agree that they share many similarities. Both are intelligent and fiercely motivated and both have been known to also be hasty and curt. One Endeavor client said, “The White House under Rahm will be like no other White House. It’ll be pure showbiz, but not about showbiz at all.” Perhaps this is exactly what our country needs, a White House that gets things done and looks good doing it.


The Fear of Hollywood: The Status of the Horror Genre

In the spirit of the holiday, I decided to base my post on the condition of horror films in Hollywood. I searched the blogosphere for reputable bloggers who were equally interested in the topic. I sought to add my own comments and questions to the ongoing debate on the state of the horror genre. I personally remember peaking through blankets watching the horror films of my childhood and since then I feel as though no recent movie has lived up to my memories. The new craze is for special effects driven “torture” films, which I believe to be juvenile compared good writing and well-crafted characters. A superior horror film is not scary simply because the audience cringes or looks away instead the film creates a widespread mood of pure terror and anxiety. A truly frightening movie leaves the audience member looking around after each shocking scene for reassurance that what you are looking at is not real. I don't believe today’s films, like Saw and Hostel, ever make the viewer think that what is happening on screen might ever happen to them or to anyone for that matter. The horror genre is one of only a few film types where the audience reacts on pure reflex instead of having to think their way through a movie. My childhood addiction and attraction to horror together with the spirit of Halloween drove me to offer my personal thoughts on two highly regarded blogs. The first post I commented on, The Horrific State of the Horror Film is written by Noah Forrest, a regular writer for the blog Movie City News. Noah not only excellently analyzes the modern horror film but he also provides insight into why the general quality of the genre has greatly diminished over time. Steven Zeitchik a media and entertainment journalist for The Hollywood Reporter wrote the second post I commented on, HSM 3, Saw V, and the definition of torture. Steven’s article comments in detail on the transformation of the horror category into one almost completely dependent on torture scenes and human disfiguration. In addition to submitting my thoughts and comments directly on the authors’ individual posts, I have also attached these comments below.

“The Horrific State of the Horror Film”
First off, thank you for your thoughtful and succinct post. You appear very knowledgeable with the on goings of the film industry. I am equally unimpressed with the quality of horror films being made today and I feel as though most of your arguments take the words right out of my mouth. While you do not cite other sources you provide ample examples that support your claims. Perhaps some readers may have been turned off by the lack of quotes and citations I however found the structure very inducive to having a conversation. After reading several other articles regarding this topic, I felt that you sympathized the most with horror fans. I agree with your final remark that in all cases in Hollywood, it is all about the money. Despite directors and producers asserting to be fellow supporters and fans of horror films you very accurately show it to be simply greed. Given the evident motive of easy profits, do you think there is anything average viewers can do to stop the lambasting of our favorite horror franchises and characters? The American horror film viewing public is not even aware of the negative effects that go with purchasing a ticket for "Saw VI". The only suggestion I have would to perhaps add some box-office receipts and DVD purchases to show how each viewer shapes the horror film production slate. Overall you wrote a very strong post about a topic that numerous others and myself are very passionate about. Thank you again, and I look forward to your 3rd annual horror film update, which I hope for the both of us, will be more positive or at least optimistic.

“HSM 3, Saw V, and the definition of torture”
Thank you for your comprehensive blog on the success of horror franchises. While your remarks on the topic are more data intensive than analytical, I do believe that you have noticed a downward trend in the quality of today’s horror films. I am shocked to see that there is still life in the “Saw” franchise despite the annual release schedule and zeitgeist. The horror films today lack the very essence that defined the genre. These “torture” films offer the audience nothing more than a cringe or shudder at the grossness of the situation rather than the possibility that it may be real. After watching “Saw”, I did not find myself lying awake in bed wondering what I would do if someone trapped me in a room with a slicing contraption around my neck, because that would never happen. Films like “Saw” and “Hostel” are not like “Jaws” where I was afraid to go in a swimming pool for months let alone the ocean. I am extremely disturbed to hear that “Saw” is now Lionsgate’s holy grail, are the industries and major studies merely taking advantage of a dedicated and loyal audience base? I understand that Hollywood is a business and consistency is very rare however are the numerous remakes and franchise additions building a creatively stifling genre? I am also interested to see how critics’ approval rating has had no affect on the box office receipts these horror movies receive. It appears that creativity and quality do not go hand in hand with profitability especially in horror films? As evidence from the article’s indifferent tone, I am curious if you believe this is an incurable dilemma or if you reserve some hope that there may be a revitalization of the genre coming. You use appropriate data in your blog, which greatly adds to its credibility. Aside from my suggestions, I truly appreciate your blog as it has certainly aided me in my search for the reason Hollywood continues to put out lackluster horror films.


To All Aspiring Directors: Sorry, but Hollywood Isn’t Looking

It is no secret that Hollywood is taking fewer and fewer risks when it comes to deciding what movies will be green-lit or put into production. Despite rises in ticket prices, yearly box office returns have been increasing stagnant. This truth combined with the current economic downtown has forced studios and their larger conglomerates to scrutinize bottom lines more attentively than ever before. The big news in the last two weeks has come from Paramount, which announced that it would be slimming down its production slate from close to thirty films a year to roughly twenty films a year. Only a dozen of those films will be produced by Paramount and the other eight will be a mix of Vantage, DreamWorks Animation and Marvel productions. As a result of major film studios minimizing their production slate, the success of films that are green-lit have more significance than ever before. The above-the-line profession most affected by the studio executives’ reluctance to invest in anything new is the director.

Last week I was stunned to hear the news that successful actor and comedian Ben Stiller has been given the directorial reigns over the much-awaited DreamWorks passion project, The Trial of the Chicago 7. The move was made after Paul Greengrass and Steven Spielberg turned down the project. Stiller is best known for his acting in slapstick comedies including Zoolander and Dodgeball. The idea of Stiller directing a period political story revolving around the 1968 Democratic convention riots and their aftermath is not something I am very comfortable with. He has directed several films in the past, however, they have all been generally the same type of comedic films that he himself would act in. The Trial of the Chicago 7 shows great promise with a script by Aaron Sorkin and seasoned producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald attached. I am not going to say that Stiller would ruin the film, in actuality I think he would bring an interesting element to the film, my issue is that this is the perfect opportunity for an up and coming trained director to show his merit. There is tremendous risk when investing in a blockbuster film and Hollywood has traditionally aimed to mitigate that risk by attaching famous actors and proven personnel. I challenge the idea that a popular actor is a safer bet to put in charge of a film compared to a trained and educated director that has completed several smaller to mid-level budget films. There is no reason why Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Joshua Jackson can find top-level administrative jobs and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) and Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) cannot. At some point, studios are no longer mitigating risk by choosing a high-profile actor and actresses to direct instead they are creating risk by putting an uneducated and untrained overseer at the helm of their project.

There are of course exceptions to the idea that actors cannot and should not direct. Mel Gibson (Braveheart), Sean Penn (Mystic River), Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck) and I believe the most talented of them all, Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) have all proven themselves to be extremely talented behind the camera as well as in front of it. While all of the above are talented, I believe that most of them really only succeed when they are directing films similar to those that they once starred in. Due to the fact that they were not traditionally trained as directors their pictures and directing style usually lack a learning curve seen in more seasoned directors. Clint Eastwood on the other hand appears to strive for a permanent learning curve. We all know that it is easy to fall into a routine; Eastwood on the other hand has spent the last half-century continually changing and for the better. He has gone from a hard-nosed cowboy who was a good guy but not very serious to a gracious man thoroughly dedicated to his craft. He is continuously searching for stories worth telling tacking serious topics in a serious manner. This year he has directed Gran Torino and Changeling both are receiving Oscar nods and the future looks bright for the 78-year-old director. What I admire most about Clint Eastwood is his ability to use his star stature to gain creative freedom for his films, which he makes the way that he wants to. This is what most actors turned directors lack; I do not believe they challenge themselves in how the convey a film, instead their style is limited to how they have seen it done so many times before.

As Hollywood reacts to our recent economic downturn we as viewers can expect more sequels, more remakes and much less original work. Excellent projects such as Wolfman, Factor X, The Avengers and Halo are still in pre-production phases because Hollywood is under the impression that all of the marketable directors are attached to other projects. I’m not sure when the change occurred that a director of a film had to be a big name star, but I do believe that the quality of a film is not dependent on the audience recognizing the director’s name.


Hollywood Online: Film Industry and the Web

This past week, I concentrated on probing the Internet for high-quality blogs and fascinating as well as reputable resources pertaining to my interest in the evolution of Hollywood. Spending this time searching for additional resources and links will aid me in creating more comprehensive future blog entries. Following both the Webby and IMSA criteria for website evaluation I have added twenty unique links to my linkroll which I believe capture or report-on one or more important aspects of Hollywood. In this entry I will, give a brief summary of each of think links located under my linkroll which is located on the right side of my blog.

Some of the most credible blogs I could find came from Variety.com’s main blogging website. The directory provides links to extremely reputable bloggers all with documented histories in the film industry including, Peter Bart, Pamela McClintock, Ben Fritz, and Anne Thompson. Variety succeeds in providing commentary on all facets of the entertainment industry. Nikki Finke writes another great blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily. The site is the Internet version of her popular LA weekly column. Ms. Finke won the 2007 Southern California entertainment journalist of year award and uses this online medium to break news 24/7 about the entertainment industry. The website moviemarketingmadness.com/blog is one of several websites run by Chris Thilk. Chris is a social media strategist, film marketing author, and the director of marketing of the popular online movie community site Spout.com. While not as notable as the authors mentioned previously Chris offers excellent opinions and up to date news regarding the marketing aspect of today’s films. A similar blogger Berge Garabedian is responsible for the website joblo.com. Berge unlike Chris however is more of a film critic than a reporter on the general industry. Berge and joblo.com pride themselves in critiquing movies from the perspective of an average film-goer or your everyday “joe shmoe”. Other than an up-to-date blog the site also offers but is not limited to real time release dates, downloadable scripts and movie trailers. The last blog that I added and will comment on is the Steven Zeitchik’s riskybusinessblog.com. The Risky Biz blog examines “the film industry’s “ups, downs and deals from around the world and the heart of Hollywood”. Zeitchik is part of the Hollywood reporter’s worldwide team and has also contributed pieces to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. The site also offers an extensive list of links including homepages for the major Hollywood critics, studios, business data and entertainment gossip websites.

There were other less reputable film critic websites that were nonetheless very provocative and interesting. These sites offer rants and raves about all aspects of the industry as well as news and articles from less traditional perspectives. Empireonline.com/empireblog/ and lucidscreening.com are two great examples. These sites, while probably not citation worthy, are great for inciting different ways to think about film industry topics.

During my search of the net I also came across several sites that provided enormous data on box office receipts and projections. Both Box Office Guru and Box Office Mojo offer comprehensive box office reporting services. Box Office Guru presents the information in a very friendly almost garage-made layout. Box Office Mojo on the other hand is much more institutionalized. Founded by Brandon gray in 1999, Box Office Mojo now averages over 1 million distinctive users per month. The information and analysis provided by Box Office Mojo is cited regularly by L.A. Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes and countless other high-end publications. While Mojo and Guru provide after-the-fact analysis of films, websites such as the Hollywood Stock Exchange and Projectionz strive to predict the respective success a film will have. HSX functions exactly like a real stock market. Users buy and sell shares of actors and movies resulting in a realistic prediction of success. The values rise or fall based on the success of the box office success of the film. Projectionz offers a more traditional style of predicting success. Two members of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association make predictions based on quality of script and above-the-line personnel.

While limited in number there were several film websites dedicated to the inner-workings of the independent film world. Two of these sites include www.filmthreat.com and www.indiescene.com. Indiescene provides mostly commentary on films as well as Do’s and Don’ts on how-to market smaller budget films. FilmThreat offers film festival information, exclusive interviews and original videos in addition to film reviews. Both websites are progressive journalism while staying true to the renegade nature of independent films.

There are a number of great film industry directory type websites. Darkhorizons.com, IMDb.com, TotalFilm.com, and Cinemaspot.com are just some of these types of websites. Each of these sites offers the latest industry news, reviews, trailers, cast and crew, summaries and business information for both upcoming and past films. A few other great websites consist of apple.com/trailers, superherohype.com and themoviespoiler.com. Apple’s website has the most in depth archive of new and old film trailers. Superherohype.com offers news and updates of popular comics and there transition to the silver screen. Themoviespoiler.com provides users with spoilers for new releases and upcoming films which can be extremely helpful I understanding the basic plot line for upcoming films without having seen them. My investigation of the film industry and how it is represented online this week has left me a greater understanding of the resources available to me and other interested parties.


Business vs. Art: The Hollywood Release Date

The days when studios made hundreds of smaller, character-driven pictures each year for moderate budgets and respectable gains are long gone. Today’s business is all about big stars and big returns. The occasional international blockbuster smash hit has launched a Holy Grail-like pursuit for the next “Titanic” or “The Dark Knight”. Because of the skyrocketing costs associated with the ever-elusive blockbuster, Hollywood has become a creatively stifling industry with a limited slate of mediocre major studio films. Perhaps the people who suffer most are the members of the viewing audience, who find themselves flipping through the newspaper, struggling to find a decent film that may have some semblance of plot and character. As the quantity of films produced began to decrease, an emphasis on big releases and marketing campaigns targeting mass audiences took place.

The trouble now is that there are more summer blockbusters than there are summer weekends to open them. As the annual slate of blockbusters squeezes out competition from the bulk of lower-budget films, marketing executives go to battle for the increasingly coveted perfect release date. Blockbusters were once distributed to target the summer season, a time when teen audiences with plenty of pocket money traditionally spend extra time in the theaters. According to one journalist, “the trouble now is that there are more summer blockbusters than there are summer weekends to open them”. Studios hate clashing with each other for the same pie, so they go out of their way to schedule their release dates strategically. With studios averaging more than forty million dollars alone in marketing costs for the typical summer blockbuster, it comes as no surprise that they constantly bump release dates in the hopes of avoiding certain death at the box-office.

Earlier this week Nikki Fink a writer for the Deadline Hollywood examined how the Weinstein Company put pressure on Scott Rudin and Stephen Daldry to finish editing “The Reader”. The director had previously announced that the film would not be completed in time for the Holiday release date. After considerable deliberation the director agreed to have the film debut on schedule. This type of pressure from studios illustrates how quality of work has taken a back seat to the marketing of the film. Last month Warner Brothers announced that they were moving the November release date of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince back to July 17th the following year. Some have speculated that this move was made as a result of the writers strike however others like myself insist that since the film was already in the post production stage that movie was made purely to gain more summer box office dollars. Rodney, a blogger for the movieblog.com agrees that the move was made strictly to increase potential box-office profits. When the industry spends almost as much time and money marketing and promoting its seasonal blockbusters as it does making them how can we expect film quality to do anything but decline?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Delay Explained

Firstly I would like to thank you for your simple and to the point explanation of the Warner Brothers’ decision last month to push back the film release date of the sixth installment of the Harry Potter franchise. President and Chief Operating Officer Alan Horn’s announcement rocked the world for a large and loyal fan base. Due to the skyrocketing costs associated with producing blockbusters the marketing aspect of film production appears to be taking the front seat to film quality and consumer (viewer) delight. I agree with you, Warner Brothers is abusing fan loyalty in attempt to get more money. I don’t believe that the writers’ strike has anything to do with the delay, do you? At least the WB was brave enough and smart enough to admit that the change in release dates had less to do with the quality of the film and completion status than marketing and overall studio business. With the type of loyal built-in fan base that Harry Potter receives do you think that the box office numbers of July instead of those in November will be that different? Large studios heavily seek both release dates. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is expected to have a final budget of around $200 million. With $200 million at risk companies must do anything and everything to minimize costs and reduce risk as much as possible. Are loyal Harry Potter fans willing to have a film produced on a $30 million dollar non-studio budget in trade for not dealing with the business and marketing ploys of the large studios? Are we as consumers addicted to the high-octane special effects and major star power that drives up the production costs of films today? Is it too much to ask the large studios to be honest and great at making big-budget films?


Nikki Finke, thank you for your prompt and sensible post. It seems as though the business side of Hollywood and the artistic side have clashed yet again in the ongoing battle for importance and control over the life of a film. As you well know the days when studios made hundreds of smaller, character-driven pictures each year for moderate budgets and respectable gains are long gone. The skyrocketing costs associated with film production have allowed the marketing aspect of film production to gain more importance than the overall quality of the film. The time it takes for an artist to realize his/her vision is no longer as important as finishing the film on the agreed upon completion date.
As the annual slate of blockbusters squeezes out competition from the bulk of lower-budget films, marketing executives go to battle for the increasingly coveted perfect release date. How important is releasing the film on time for blockbuster success and academy award consideration? Is this type of disagreement typical for the industry or is this a response to the general dislike for Harvey Weinstein by the films producer and director? Daldry’s email to Weinstein illustrates the distaste towards the man and his business practices. Do you think Daldry may have been able to finish on time and choose not to in order to exercise the little power artists have over business executives in the film industry today?


Max Payne: Maximizing Canada's GDP

On October 17, 2008, "something wicked this way comes... Max Payne [is] at large". The film is based on the third person shooter video game developed by Remedy Entertainment with help from Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games. The game which originally was limited to PC platform discovered a cult following and as of March 12, 2008, The Max Payne franchise has sold over 7 million copies. Much of the attraction to the game derives from the dark and noir style that the game is presented. Max Payne tells the story of a rogue police officer seeking revenge on those responsible for the brutal murders of his partner and family. The aggressive pursuit leads Max on a nightmarish journey from a grim New York City to an even darker underworld where enemies appear to be beyond the natural world. With a built-in audience and an already acclaimed cinematic style, the video game is a prime choice for film adaptation.

Abandon Entertainment and Twentieth Century-Fox present another action film from the budding genre of films based on action video games. Examples of these films include Doom, Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat. Directed by John Moore, whose credits include Behind Enemy Lines and The Omen, Max Payne promises to be an action packed blockbuster appealing to the coveted 18-24 male demographic. The film's production team of Scott Faye and Julie Yorn are not the most seasoned producers, however they are very familiar with the horror genre. With titles such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Devils Rejects under their belts viewers can expect to see some truly horrifying scenes. Unlike other video game adaptations the producers secured star power with Mark Wahlberg (Shooter) and Mila Kunis (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). Max Payne has stayed true to today’s typical Hollywood formula; find a story with a built in audience and following, attach major star power, produce the film for as little as possible then market the “hell” out of it.

The ability to produce a film for cheap is the element that threatens to drive away much of the low to mid level film production jobs. The Hollywood film business model places great importance on the strategy, design, problem solving, ownership and accountability jobs; very little loyalty and value are given to the below-the-line jobs. As a result, many of the core competencies are kept in Hollywood while the other jobs are outsourced. The loss of job opportunities for film crew employees has had a dramatic effect on many California residents. Countries such as Canada, Mexico and India have undercut the film worker unions of the U.S. and have enticed the big studios and small producers alike to bring them their business. The “American” produced film Max Payne was filmed and assembled in Canada. All of the film locations are in various parts of Toronto, including a New York subway scene that is filmed using the Toronto bay station. The director will use low-level shots in order to make the modest buildings of Toronto look like the giant skyscrapers of New York. The money saved by producing a film in Canada outweighs the director’s inconvenience and the lack of film location authenticity. Another issue is the use of Toronto based visual effects companies, Mr. X and Spin VFX. In a big budget action film with stylish fight scenes, the special effects budget can be enormous. For instance, in films like The Matrix and Spiderman 2, over $70 million or about 20% of their entire respective budgets was spent on the editing phase of production. The capital and wealth spent during this phase of production is now money that the U.S. is missing out on.

Some U.S. States, such as New Mexico, have caught on to the income potential that the filming industry offers. By offering numerous incentives New Mexico is quickly developing a mutually beneficial relationship with film producers and studios alike. New Mexico offers an exceptional and extensive crew base, the largest between Los Angeles and New York. The climate and geography of the state also makes it a perfect candidate for any film location. What is more important financially, New Mexico offers a 25% film production tax rebate combined with a film investment loan of up to $15 million per project. The incentives for filming in California are much more modest. California offers a 5% tax exemption on the purchase of California film equipment, no state hotel tax on occupancy, free access to state owned properties and the use of fire marshal and police officers. By not seriously competing for the attention of film producers and the major studios Hollywood and the rest of California is missing out on a successful industry and valuable job opportunities.

Since 1997 there has been a 40% decline in the number of filming days in the Los Angeles area. As California’s state budget crisis continues it would be a huge mistake for Sacramento to forget the problem with runaway production. Iron Man director Jon Favreau and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have teamed up to push lawmakers into creating more tax breaks for entertainment production in California. In a reaction to this new fight for Los Angeles productions Marvel Studio executives have agreed to buy a studio lot in the Los Angeles area if a significant California filming incentive package is put into place. This new studio lot would bring in a guaranteed four upcoming Marvel films with combined budgets surpassing $600 million. Max Payne is an example of a typical Hollywood moving forward in production without the help of Los Angeles, California and the United States. If the level of outsourcing spreads "above-the-line" the industry and consumers can soon expect blockbuster films to be made entirely without Hollywood's influence and personnel.
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