Monday, April 05, 2010

We Could Take These Guys


Canadians -- Keep this to yourselves, but Hollywood is really vulnerable right now.


They’re teetering (and I’m not just talking about some weekend 7.2 Quake). A perfect storm is brewing that the right people, making the right moves, could use to finally wrest media control away from them.

And who better to do that than the guys they usually can’t tell aren’t them to begin with --- us.

We’ve known they were in trouble for a while.  Almost a third of the people regularly working in the Hollywood industry are already Canadian. But now film and TV production has declined in total numbers South of the border. Disney is down to 10 movies a year. MGM has trouble finding the money to keep much more than the Bond franchise afloat.

Even the number one network, CBS, has been shooting summer replacement shows up here in the hope of cutting costs.

NBC Universal has gone even further, partnering with the Canadian Film Centre hoping to find good ideas in some first year film student’s homework.

That should have been our first clue to the desperation.

But this morning it was revealed that there are no fewer than 86 sequels in development at American studios. That’s right. THEY OFFICIALLY HAVE NO NEW IDEAS.

As a result, even abject failures like “Cloverfield” and “Blair Witch 2” are rolling out versions with a higher number after the title.

Producers all over Los Angeles are currently paying out massive writer fees to “reimagine” concepts which didn’t show much imagination in the first place. How many people do you think are really anxious to buy a ticket to see:

The Phantom 2

Scary Movie 5

Mama’s House 3

Super Troopers 2

There’s also “Five Brothers”, Mark Whalberg’s sequel to “Four Brothers” (in which I believe a couple of the original brothers died). “The Departed 2” which picks up after almost everybody in the original has been dispatched, and Robert De Niro’s “The Good Shepherd 2” – which makes no sense since nobody went to see the first incarnation.

These guys are just going through the motions. They’re spent. Done. Haven’t a clue what might work.

And then there’s us…

1. We’re sitting on a dollar that’s finally at par and likely to go higher. Couple more months and a lotta distributors and network executives with Beverly Hills mortgages are gonna want some multi-colored (make that coloured) folding money to tuck into their safety deposit boxes.

2. We’re already generations past our Health Care freak-out and not looking at 4 years of massive tax bills before anybody can even apply for a sedative. Some American corporations are looking at Billion dollar annual contributions to top up their private plans. How much of that will have to come out of Michael Bay’s F/X budget?

Who wants to see “Transformers 3” with the original toy cars???

3. We are also looking at funding money already geared to new media platforms. 700,000 Americans bought iPads over the weekend. Are they gonna want to download “White Chicks 2” or something made specifically for their device, something in their own language and probably starring some actor they already thought was American --- and with a story they haven’t seen before?

And most important…

4. Do you have any idea how many good scripts have been developed by Telefilm, TMN and any number of other “Funds” over the last decade that are still waiting to be made because Canadian producers only wanted to copy what Americans were doing?

Sure, we could wait around hoping one of these sequels gets made here. Or we can keep partnering in wretched crap like the “Ben-Hur” remake CBC foisted on us last night…

Ben Hur Joseph Morgan

Just for my own edification --- were Ray Winstone and Ben Cross completely shit-faced in every single one of their scenes – or was the wine-soaked Roman aristocrat motif something the idiot director came up with?

Boy, if this is the kind of unwatchable drek the CBC’s new and much ballyhooed Movie division is going to foist on us, I wouldn’t want to be the CBC President campaigning for “value for signal” fees. 

Anyway, all I’m sayin’ is --- we could keep following the same loser-mentality, minority partner, branch plant path that has never worked in this country. Or we could realize Hollywood is broke, unprepared for the future and out of ideas.

We could take these guys.

Let’s do it!


deborah Nathan said...

No kidding. But convince anyone here to part with one of those at par dollars, particularly to develop a property that might cost a few bucks, and they'd rather throw in with whatever the Brits are doing at 20%. Even if it is an unwatchable remake of a classic movie that didn't need to be remade.

Not only that, but the four-hour Ben Hur cost north of $30 million. I think we would all be happy with 20% of that in a Canadian-created four-hour.

And if they're going to OK co-pros of Ben Hur, The Tudors, The Borgias, Camelot - why can't Canadians pitch similar ideas and get a greenlight? If they really want to do such global fare, why not initiate it here and stop hiding behind the supposed rules about "must be situated in Canada, blah, blah blah".

If a Canadian creates it, it's Canadian. And how long did we scream that about sci-fi?

DMc said...

First year film student? Jim, I may not have your wizened whiskers or Methuselah-like bearing, but that's pushing it a bit, no?

Dunno where you get your info on this one, but for the record,all the participants in the recent NBC-Universal Content Creator CFC program were people with many produced credits, including one of the Executive Producers of Being Erica, people who've written for Stargate, Sanctuary, MOW's for Hallmark Entertainment & Lifetime, and produced many web series. The program wasn't for newbies.

DMc said...

I agree with you there, Deb, but you know, you could take a second -- I mean the length of a breath pause -- to acknowledge the win in getting that stupid Sci-fi/Fantasy thing changed in the current CMF guidelines. That restriction is gone, because the WGC lobbied to get it gone, and the CMF listened.

Breathe, see? Some tiny, little good.

Now back to our regularly scheduled endless round of complaining. :)

Dwight Williams said...

*evil schemer's laughter!*

jimhenshaw said...


First off, take your new iPad online, find a dictionary and look up "Hyperbole".

And then -- see if you can find a stream for the "Ben-Hur" mini you hyped so glowingly last week.

Stay with it for the full two hours without vomiting.

And then ask yourself how much confidence you have in Fred Fuchs and Tom Hastings (the CBC execs credited) ever launching a shining future of Canadian television films.

Maybe ask yourself the same question after scanning those multi-credited folks standing at the front of the NBC-U line at the CFC.

Sometimes we need to think outside the box, (even when we're only kiddin' around) instead of endlessly supporting the failed production models and pre-approved personalities of the past.

Recycling is always a diminishing return. It doesn't create something new.

deborah Nathan said...

The win, as you call it DMc - that's taken fifteen years - and that's only in my time of struggling for it. So forgive me for not being breathless over the announcement.

DMc said...

Unka Jim,

When I was a story producer for Media Television, occasionally they'd send me out to do interviews with the latest big thinker that had done some sort of book and come back and cut it together. Only there was nothing to cut it together with. There was just an interview, going all over the place, and I would hand it to the Editor Richard, and he would say, "oh, another Chili piece." And it took a few times before he told me what it meant. "You hand me a carrot and an onion and ask me to make chili."

That last comment, though great for Fox News or the Screamers over at Small Dead Animals (You really are in danger of watching too much of that Fox News stuff -- you sound just like it) is so bled of nuance as to be, effectively, word chili made entirely of one teeny carrot.

Argue all you want about the idea of putting minority money into a Ben Hur remake. You're still talking about one project from the company that still does more CanCon than all the stuff put together. You want to argue it's not a good use of that portion of their funds, then fine. But it's not the same as Being Erica or one of their self-developed projects.

CTV claimed that Defying Gravity was Cdn, and City claimed that Robinson Cruesoe was Canadian, But we know they weren't. They were service prods, 6/10 jobs.

I agree about recycling, but you've made your net so wide (and used so much "hyperbole") that you're undercutting your own point.

Nice post though.

My iPad is shiny.

jimhenshaw said...

Points taken.

And yes --- shiny and new is always better.

John McFetridge said...

4. Do you have any idea how many good scripts have been developed by Telefilm, TMN and any number of other “Funds” over the last decade that are still waiting to be made because Canadian producers only wanted to copy what Americans were doing?

No, I have no idea. Is there somewhere we could see these scripts, or even just reviews of them?

But I do know that there are dozens of fantastic Canadian novels that should be adapted. I was shocked when I was at the Film Centre and Jewison himself came to talk to us, and even though his entire career has been made from adaptations, there was no adaptation program.

Ben Hur? That's the novel CBC spends money on. Not A Complicated Kindness?

jimhenshaw said...


I don't know that there's any kind of central clearing house for unproduced Canadian scripts. If there is, I hope somebody reading this will pass it on.

However, virtually every organization that funds script development publishes an annual report of what they funded. Most of those also include a logline or more on the subject matter.

So you could start there and I doubt any writer whose work you might be interested in would decline the opportunity to have you read it.

A lot of these funds also finance purchases of other literary material for adaptation. However, as you've noticed, industry support for most Canadian novels seems to stall there.