Once Again, If You're Trying To Save The $200 Million Movie, Perhaps You're Asking The Wrong Questions
from the why-$200-million dept
Many years back, when discussing new business models that don’t need to rely on copyright at a Cato event, an NBC Universal executive demanded to know how he could keep making $200 million movies. As we said at the time, that’s asking the wrong question. It’s makes no sense at all to start from a cost, and then derive back how to make that profitable. I could just as easily ask how can we possibly make $1 trillion movies in the future? The only thing that should concern Hollywood is how it can make profitable movies in the future. That could mean figuring out ways to make a profit on a movie that costs $200 million (and, certainly big blockbuster movies like Avatar sure seem to still be able to make plenty of money, despite being widely downloaded via unauthorized means). However, it might also mean making really good movies for a lot less money. Of course, we’ve suggested that in the past, and got mocked by Hollywood folks who seem to insist that any good movie has to cost a lot of money. That seems pretty presumptuous.
I’m a bit behind on this (the SOPA/PIPA stuff took up a lot of time), but filmmaker/actor/director/writer Ed Burns, who came to fame a couple decades ago with the massively successful indie film The Brothers McMullen, likely had every opportunity to follow the path of plenty of successful indie moviemakers: go mainstream. He could have hooked up with a big studio and been filming the latest of those $200 million bubble-gum flicks. And while Burns has appeared in a few big studio films (Saving Private Ryan), over the last few years, he’s really focused on staying close to his indie roots. In fact, he’s stayed so close to them, that you could argue his latest efforts are even more indie than his first film.
He filmed his latest movie, Newlyweds for a grand total of $9,000 ($2K for insurance, $2k for actors, $5k for food, transportation, and other costs) and was done in just 12 days — but spread out over 5 months. He used a three-man crew, natural lighting, found locations that didn’t require paying, and filmed with a Canon 5D camera.
Of course, no one is saying that all movies should be made for $9,000 (though, I’m sure some of our regular critics will pretend that’s what I’m saying). But there is an argument that lots of really great movies that would never have been made before, now have the ability to get made, distributed, watched (and be profitable!) in a way that simply wasn’t possible just a few years ago. Frankly, I’d rather focus on ways to help more filmmakers be able to make movies like this, than worry about how some exec at NBC Universal defends his decision to waste $200 million on the next “reboot” of some franchise no one cares about.