Filmmakers have long had an uneasy alliance with the studios who greenlight their movies. The “suits” if you will. The bottom-line driven business men who finance, market, and distribute the creative dreams. Who often interfere with said creative dreams in less than inspiring ways (as in adding their shit creative ideas to muck up the process).
When the films are successful, everyone is happy and everyone takes credit. When movies flop, everyone points fingers in every direction imaginable. Still, bridges usually aren’t burned and the alliance continues, no matter how sucky the past results were. It’s staggering. Once you’ve had any amount of success, all your failures are ignored.
Yay Hollywood! So smart. Because of course M. Night Shyamalan’s next project will be as good as The Sixth Sense. The guy never misses.
But that’s not the story.
The real story is what filmmakers suspect but can never quite prove. When your movie is shit and the studio knows it’s doomed, they dump it. Cut their losses. Like Taylor Swift after a third date.
But the suits will NEVER admit to the filmmakers that’s what is happening. They will bring in the director/producers/stars and do a big dog and pony show with lots of shiny power point slides showing all the incredible work going into promoting their movie.
When the suits believe they have a winner they will ADD to the promotional budget. When they don’t, well yeah, they start to pull it back. But most filmmakers are not privy to the financial contractions – they just see that a TV spot will play on the season premiere of Young Sheldon (and loads of other places that won’t change it’s fate).
Yes that’s the reality. Jexi isn’t gonna get the same support as Jumanji (even though Jexi needed it a lot more – the Jumanji sequel is an easy sell). All movies are not created equal. And neither are all budgets.
Case in point. I’m told awhile back, a certain well-known director/producer (let’s call him Bowfinger) got involved with a dinky little horror movie that had no business getting made, let alone getting a theatrical release, marched into the big studio meeting to get the lowdown from the head of marketing.
“I just wanna know straight up–” said Bowfinger right away (or something like this), “Are you guys dumping this movie, or are we really gonna go for it? Cause it’s cool either way, I just wanna know.”
Yeah I’m sure Bowfinger would have been cool with the “We’re dumping it” response. Yet instead, the marketing chief acted perplexed and responded sincerely, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. We go for it on every movie here. Period.”
It was convincing. Picture Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men delivering it: “We sell movies. Period. We sell movies or people die. Got it, son?”
Anyway, that was the head of marketing’s response.
And he was full of shit.
Course, one could always argue if the filmmakers didn’t deliver a turd of a movie they wouldn’t be in this mess. Which is fair. But it happens to good movies sometimes too.
That’s the real story.