Thursday, 27 August 2009
Will it Ever Stop?

Normally I'm totally annoyed by news of a remake.  But, today's news that Fox and Sony TV are planning to revive Heathers as a TV series makes me want to put my head in a wood chipper.  Here's the thing.  It would probably be okay if studios and networks did remakes well, but it just seems like they can never get it right.  Most of the time, that's because the originial was so good, so unique, that recreating it is a very very difficult task.  

Film studios are scared of their own shadows these days, but what is television's excuse?  Networks and studios get piles and piles of original specs and hear thousands of original pitches.  At some point executives are going to have to walk over the paint and get out of the corner.  Watching terrible things with "built in audiences" (Cavemen?  Are you shitting me?) get an opportunity over great original projects is pretty disheartening.  Particularly when those 'built in' shows end up sucking balls, and fall flat.

TV scribes Mark Rizzo (Men in Trees, Leap of Faith) Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City) are collaborating with Sony Pictures TV (where Bicks has a deal) and Lakeshore Entertainment (the Heathers rightsd holder) to develop this thing.  The original film was about a girl named Veronica Winona Ryder) and a clique of mean girls all named Heather.  When Veronica meets J.D. (Christian Slater), the new guy at school, they rebel and start killing the Heathers, covering up the deaths by faking them as suicides. How that will make for a great TV show, I have no idea.  "We had the title, and talked about doing a film remake at times," said Lakeshore prexy Gary Lucchesi. "But doing it for TV 
seemed like a fresh and original idea."  
What he meant to say was, "Ka-ching!"
I'm always happy for writers who find work in this marketplace, but seriously, some of this shit is really starting to get ridiculous.  Some of the things you thought might be untouchable are getting molested. 
Posted on 08/27/2009 11:31 AM by Todd Carr
Thursday, 20 August 2009
New Elected Academy Prez, Sherak, to Innovate Telecast/Awards

I think the Academy Awards could be spiced up a bit, but the problem isn't the Awards, or the number of nominees.  The problem is really the program itself being boring as hell.  The attempts at entertainment typically fall flat--so why have them?

Frankly, the Academy is terrrible at doing what the Golden Globes does best.  Presents the Awards you give a shit about, and gets on with it.   Do you really need to see a song and dance routine, listen to a bunch of terrible jokes, and see who won for Best Key Grip in a Short Film?  I don't.

So, hopefully, Mr. Innovative, Tom Sherak, will keep what we want, and dispatch with the rest of the fluff.  I don't particularly care whether there are five nominees, or ten, but increasing the number of nominees (there will be ten nominees for Best Picture, to start) does denigrate the destiction.  There's no way around that.  Of course, we'll see less performances left out of the process, but that will only add to the difficulty of choosing a clear winner.

It seems to me that the Academy Awards needs more subtraction and less addition.

Posted on 08/20/2009 3:20 PM by Todd Carr
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Showtime Getting Stoned

So, I 'open' Variety this morning (meaning I load the webpage, because I stopped getting a hard copy years ago) and see that Showtime and Oliver Stone have decided to team up for a 10 hour documentary series about the "secret history of America."  Hm.  I wasn't excited.  I wasn't intrigued.  I just thought, "Okay..."  That's about the same way I felt when I heard Stone was doing Wall Street 2.  

Hm.  Okay...

Don't get me wrong.  I'm about 1/100th as talented as Oliver Stone.  And, he's made some amazing contributions to cinema.  But, he just allowed himself to get stale with things like Any Given Sunday (a football movie?) and Alexander (Ridley Scott impersonation?), for instance.

At least he's getting back to his conspiracy roots by doing this Showtime project (and he recently did South of the Border--a docu about Hugo Chavez).  You certainly can't blame Showtime for wanting to be in business with him.  Maybe it'll be great.  Who knows.  But, there's no denying that Stone has struggled to rekindle the flame.  If he thinks he's going to do that with a Wall Street sequel, and get back to his roots, hey, more power to him.  That's the kind of stuff he does so well.

John Hughes (another iconic director who allowed himself to get stale) quit making films (partly) because the only things studios wanted to finance with him anymore were sequels to his classic films.  Maybe Oliver Stone still has the fire.  That's great.

But, Wall Street 2?  

Hm.  Okay...



Posted on 08/19/2009 1:22 PM by Todd Carr
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Neither the Weinsteins, Nor Miramax Is the Same, Unfortunately

After reading the article on the Weinsteins in the New York Times this morning, I was struck by a thought.  The article seemed to focus on the 'downfall' of the Weinsteins--so to speak--and fails to present the argumentative portion of the picture (pardon the pun).  Not only has The Weinstein Company been a bitter disappointment (at least for me), but Miramax (a company founded by the Weinsteins--named after their mother and father for God's sake) has been as well.  Many of us at the time knew this divorce would hurt Miramax/Disney, but very few of us doubted the brother's ability to duplicate their success. I remember having lunch with an agent friend and we both came to the conclusion that Disney and Eisner were making a huge mistake and that the Weinsteins would just "build it again."

We couldn't have been more wrong.

The Weisteins put their own nail in the coffin when they sold the company to Disney.  I'm not sure there could have possibly been a worse choice/place for them.   Walt Disney?  Walt Disney makes huge, sappy films like Flipper and Mickey Mouse and Pluto.  What would possibly have made them think Disney was a good place for an independent film company known for taking risks?  I could see why Disney might have wanted Miramax, sure, but not the other way around.  Once Miramax sold out, they were no longer an independent film company--no matter how much latitude the Mouse House gave them.  They were a corporation, answering to a bunch of suits.  When you have been your own boss for almost 15 years, I don't care how much money someone puts in your face (in the Weinstein's case it was 70 million) you either don't sell, or you sell and leave.  I remember people thinking the Weinsteins were crazy for selling.  I think what they were after, though, was money to make bigger pictures.  In short, I think they were bored, but didn't want to lose their own money.  

Enter a "partnership."

The flip side of it is, what was the value of Miramax without the Weinsteins?  We're finding that out today.  Other than the library itself--not much.  The brothers were the obsessive, aggressive, take no prisoners driving force, and without them, Miramax was a paper tiger.  So, the deal was 50% retaining Bob and Harvey.  There might not have been a deal without them (I don't remember for sure, but I doo think that was the case).

I think had the Weinsteins left in 1993, they would have been able to build it again, quite easily. But, by 2005, the film industry had begun to sink into the abyss, and the movement/market that the brothers had started (the production and acquisition of art and independent films) had become saturated.  The brothers delving into other things with their financing certainly didn't help matters.

Sometimes marriages deteriorate because neither party is willing to compromise.  And, the Weinsteins and Michael Eisner were War of the Roses.  It's hard to put three moguls in a room, and not break some china.

It leaves the rest of wondering what could have been.  And, maybe Bob and Harvey as well.  After all, they were/are as big of fans of great films as anyone. Now, instead of two companies developing, buying and financing independent films, you essentially have two neutered entities that don't add up to the sum of what was once the whole.  I'm not ready to write The Weinstein Company and Miramax's obituaries yet.

But, we might want to start looking at headstones.

(You might have to register to view this Times story--link below)

Posted on 08/16/2009 12:00 PM by Todd Carr
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Futurama Update

Uh, yeah.  As these things usually turn out (particularly in animated television--the voice cast of The Simpsons faced this same showdown and eventually caved), the cast of Futurama is coming back at a much lower rate.  Just like everyone else associated with the show. During a recession. When advertising revenues have been cut in half.

When faced with either getting a contract for 26 episodes (that will initially run on Comedy Central and might run on Fox--but highly doubtful) at a substantially lower fee, or not getting any money at all, the cast decided to take the money and run.  So did the producers, animators, writers...

Of course, the cast said they weren't asking for $75,000 per episode--and perhaps they weren't--but, I guarantee their agents were.

Having the show back is great for television, great for Comedy Central, great for viewers, great for everyone involved.  It's a quality animated program with a loyal fan base, and it's production values are off the chart for a network that small.

It sucks to know you are disposable, but that's exactly what the cast was facing.  In fact, that's what a lot of talented folks who were getting big pay checks only a year ago are now facing in this economy.  

The reality is, even at a fee that is half of what they were asking, for 26 episodes, they're still going to gross $910,000 for the season.  Even if their fee is $20,000, they're making $520,000.  To talk into a microphone for 2-3 hours a week.

I know screenwriters who were getting a million dollars a script a year ago who have taken jobs for $150,000, just to get their project off the ground.  No one's happy about that.  But, when the economy is humming, the studios get the screws put to them, and this is just as much about them getting some value as it is about them returning the favor.

TV in particular is challenged.  While fim revenues have generally stayed the same, television relies on a revenue stream determined by advertisers, not viewers.  And, it is public knowledge that those revenues unfortunately continue to dwindle.

In this economy, I see this as a win-win for everyone.  And, if Futurama has wild success on Comedy Central, this cast will make more money.

One thing about Hollywood--they worship--and very often reward success.  

Posted on 08/02/2009 7:43 AM by Todd Carr