7th August 2014

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Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger.

Don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger.

18th June 2014

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I’m not proud of this.

I’m not proud of this.

5th June 2014

Post with 15 notes

Does Hollywood have a “white male director” problem?

Yes.

Probably.

Almost definitely.

Lexi Alexander certainly thinks so:
http://blogs.indiewire.com/bent/guest-post-an-oscar-nominated-director-accuses-hollywood-studios-of-being-the-real-film-pirates-20140602

Choice quote:

If at this point you’re thinking “well, then diversity and female filmmakers just have to step it up so they have the qualifications to make some big movies” … you are delusional.

I’m inclined to agree with this. On a purely emotional level, reading that makes me want to pump my fist. The majority of directors are white males. By a HUGE margin. There’s something wrong with that. There has to be.

But c’mon, HELP ME OUT A LITTLE. PLEASE. Because I’ve watched this debate rage on for years, and I have yet to see an argument supported by anything other than emotion. I want to stand behind this cause. I want more diversity in Hollywood, because that’s right and fair and just and all that good stuff, sure… but more selfishly, I’m just bored of cinematic storytelling existing in such a culturally limited vacuum.

A lot of people are rallying behind Lexi, and I get why — my first impulse has always been to back her, not because I particularly care for what I’ve seen of her filmmaking efforts, but because she’s a female director and I want more female directors.

But then she writes stuff like this…

Remember back when you were a kid and you went to a local playground for a pick up game of ….. (soccer in my case), the two best kids would get to choose their teams and some unlucky kid was always the last one standing? That’s a system I believe in.

Not a lot of girls played soccer in Germany back when I was a kid, so every time I went to a new playground where kids didn’t know me, I was the last one picked, guaranteed. But I only had to play one game to become a first round pick from then on. It was also the only social situation that completely erased the divide between the German and the Turkish kids. Not sure how it is now, but back then there was a definite us and them going on. But on the playground, during a pick-up game, a German kid would pick a Turkish kid over his best friend every time if the Turkish kid was a better soccer player (which they usually were). Why?

Well duh? You wanted to win.

You’re great at something, you get picked. You suck, you’re out. Now all you have to do is find something you’re great at. Voilá.

But that’s not how Hollywood works at all. Ask the head of Warner to pick a team, doesn’t matter for what, filmmaking, Cricket, Rugby, synchronized swimming…the roster will always be: Snyder, Nolan, Affleck, Phillips, McG, Singer, Edwards (“wait, who? Can he even play on such a big stage?” “Don’t know, but he looks just like Snyder or McG, so it’s safe to assume he can”).

Wait.. so… Hollywood is not a meritocracy… because Gareth Edwards looks just like Snyder or McG?

Okay. Comparison time. This isn’t a discussion of quality, because (a) thats subjective, and (b) Hollywood don’t give a fuck. Hollywood cares about MONEY. A high Rotten Tomatoes score is an added bonus — gotta own that prestige factor — but mostly… MONEY.

(IMPORTANT: Net profits listed below are pretty much bullshit, obviously, since they don’t take into consideration marketings costs + money made from DVD sales, broadcast rights, etc. — but that doesn’t really matter. Perception is everything. These numbers tell a story, and in the industry, that story matters as much as — if not more than — whatever the reality may be.)

———————

LEXI ALEXANDER

Got to direct a feature film because…?

Oscar nominated short film!


Green Street Hooligans (2005)

Budget: 5.5 mil
Box office: 3 mil

Net profit: -2.5 mil
RT score: 47%

[RESULTS: Box office failure. Barely registered domestically. Middling critical reception. Fairly positively received by audiences who saw it though, so let’s give her a real shot!]


Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Budget: 35 mil
Box office: 10 mil

Net profit: -25 mil
RT score: 27%

[RESULTS: Disastrous box office performance. Critics hated it. Audiences didn’t care for it. Minor cult following.]


Lifted (2010)

Budget: ?
Box office: ?

Net profit: ?
RT score: 0 reviews

[RESULTS: By Hollywood standards, this film does not exist.]


———————

Now let’s compare that to Gareth “wait, who?” Edwards.

———————

GARETH EDWARDS

Got to direct a feature film because…?

Dude’s a fucking baller like woah. Context: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsters_(2010_film)#Production


Monsters (2010)

Budget: 500k
Box office: 4 mil

Net profit: 3.5 mil
RT score: 71%

[RESULTS: Success all around. Lots of good buzz online. Let’s see what you got!]


Godzilla (2014)

Budget: 160 mil
Box office: 375+ mil

Net profit: 215 mil (and counting)
RT score: 73%

[RESULTS: "Can he even play on such a big stage?" That’d be a “yes”.]


———————

In this particular case… It would appear Hollywood did in fact pick “the better soccer player”.

Mkay, fine, but what of her other examples of Hollywood’s default “white male” roster?

———————

ZACK SNYDER

Got to direct a feature film because…?

Commercial work as director and cinematographer for Audi, BMW, Subaru, Nissan, Nike, Reebok, Gatorade, etc.


Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Budget: 26 mil
Box office: 102 mil

Net profit: 76 mil
RT score: 75%

[RESULTS: Aw snap! Well received and made a bunch of moolah.]


300 (2007)

Budget: 65 mil
Box office: 456 mil

Net profit: 391 mil
RT score: 60%

[RESULTS: Quick, throw more money at him! Let him direct whatever he wants!]


Watchmen (2009)

Budget: 130 mil
Box office: 185 mil

Net profit: 55 mil
RT score: 65%

[RESULTS: This risky endeavor did not pay off the way the studio wanted. Disappointing theatrical run. Excellent DVD sales. Registered enough with comic fans/critics/audiences to keep Snyder on the map in a big way.]


Legend of the Guardians (2010)

Budget: 80 mil
Box office: 140 mil

Net profit: 60 mil
RT score: 50%

[RESULTS: “Oh yah, Snyder did that animated owl movie.” Whatevs. Next.]


Sucker Punch (2011)

Budget: 82 mil
Box office: 90 mil

Net profit: -8 mil
RT score: 23%

[RESULTS: Snyder got his asshole torn open for this one. No more writing for you!]


Man of Steel (2013)

Budget: 225 mil
Box office: 668 mil

Net profit: 443 mil
RT score: 56%

[RESULTS: Redemption! Financially, anyway. Now give him Batman! Wonder Woman! Who else we got?]


———————

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

Got to direct a feature film because…?

He personally funded his first feature and shot it on weekends over the course of a year.


Following (1998)

Budget: 6k
Box office: 48.5k

Net profit: 42.5k
RT score: 78%

[RESULTS: Impressive debut. Let’s see what you can do.]


Memento (2000)

Budget: 9 mil
Box office: 40 mil

Net profit: 31 mil
RT score: 92%

[RESULTS: So far so good!]


Insomnia (2002)

Budget: 46 mil
Box office: 114 mil

Net profit: 68 mil
RT score: 92%

[RESULTS: Not bad! What else you got?]


Batman Begins (2005)

Budget: 150 mil
Box office: 374 mil

Net profit: 224 mil
RT score: 85%

[RESULTS: You did it! Batman is relevant again!]


The Prestige (2006)

Budget: 40 mil
Box office: 109 mil

Net profit: 69 mil
RT score: 76%

[RESULTS: You’ve had your fun. Time for more Batman.]


The Dark Knight (2008)

Budget: 185 mil
Box office: 1+ BILLION

Net profit: 820 mil
RT score: 94%

[RESULTS: Mother of God… Please, more Batman. We’ll do anything. Anything!]


Inception (2010)

Budget: 160 mil
Box office: 826 mil

Net profit: 666 mil
RT score: 86%

[RESULTS: Okay, yeah, you can do whatever you want. Forever. Until the end of time. But also more Batman plz.]


The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Budget: 250 mil
Box office: 1++ BILLION

Net profit: 834 mil
RT score: 88%

[RESULTS: Nolan, don’t make us beg here… Because we will do it…]


———————

BEN AFFLECK

Got to direct a feature film because…?

He won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. He’s a household name. He’s a millionaire. He’s fucking Ben Affleck. Do I really need to explain this one?


Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Budget: 19 mil
Box office: 34 mil

Net profit: 15 mil
RT score: 94%

[RESULTS: Holy shit, Ben Affleck can direct?]


The Town (2010)

Budget: 37 mil
Box office: 154 mil

Net profit: 117 mil
RT score: 94%

[RESULTS: Holy shit, Ben Affleck can direct!]


Argo (2012)

Budget: 44.5 mil
Box office: 232 mil

Net profit: 187.5 mil
RT score: 96%

[RESULTS: Won Best Picture. Critically adored. Made a fuckton of money. Free pass for life, basically.]


———————

TODD PHILLIPS

Got to direct a feature film because…?

Many reasons, all of them respectable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Phillips#Career


Road Trip (2000)

Budget: 16 mil
Box office: 120 mil

Net profit: 104 mil
RT score: 57%

[RESULTS: Nice!]


Old School (2003)

Budget: 24 mil
Box office: 87 mil

Net profit: 63 mil
RT score: 60%

[RESULTS: Still nice!]


Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Budget: 60 mil
Box office: 170 mil

Net profit: 110 mil
RT score: 63%

[RESULTS: Nice nice nice!]


School for Scoundrels (2006)

Budget: 35 mil
Box office: 24 mil

Net profit: -11 mil
RT score: 25%

[RESULTS: THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT. YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME?]


The Hangover (2009)

Budget: 35 mil
Box office: 467 mil

Net profit: 432 mil
RT score: 79%

[RESULTS: lol we was jus playin bae, u know we love u]


Due Date (2010)

Budget: 65 mil
Box office: 212 mil

Net profit: 147 mil
RT score: 40%

[RESULTS: This is less than we made on The Hangover. We want more The Hangover. Do The Hangover again.]


The Hangover Part II (2011)

Budget: 80 mil
Box office: 587 mil

Net profit: 507 mil
RT score: 34%

[RESULTS: YESSS. YESSSSS. AGAIN.]


The Hangover Part III (2013)

Budget: 103 mil
Box office: 362 mil

Net profit: 259 mil
RT score: 19%

[RESULTS: Annnnnd this teet has been milked dry. Good work, Phillips.]


———————

MCG

Got to direct a feature film because…?

Drew Barrymore was impressed with his music videos (of which he had directed over 50!) and approached him about directing a Charlie’s Angels film. Sorry, he got the job because who again?


Charlie’s Angels (2000)

Budget: 93 mil
Box office: 264 mil

Net profit: 171 mil
RT score: 67%

[RESULTS: Oh, well then. Sequel!]


Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

Budget: 120 mil
Box office: 259 mil

Net profit: 139 mil
RT score: 44%

[RESULTS: Decent take. Alas, higher budget didn’t translate to bigger box office.]


We Are Marshall (2006)

Budget: 65 mil
Box office: 44 mil

Net profit: -21 mil
RT score: 49%

[RESULTS: Hey. Hey. Stop it. Stupid action movies or GTFO.]


Terminator Salvation (2009)

Budget: 200 mil
Box office: 371 mil

Net profit: 171 mil
RT score: 33%

[RESULTS: Made money, but… Tsk tsk. This was your chance to prove yourself and revitalize the franchise, McG. No more tentpole blockbusters for you.]


This Means War (2012)

Budget: 65 mil
Box office: 156 mil

Net profit: 91 mil
RT score: 26%

[RESULTS: Yeah. This is more your speed.]


3 Days to Kill (2014)

Budget: 28 mil
Box office: 44 mil

Net profit: 16 mil
RT score: 33%

[RESULTS: *fart*]


———————

I fail to see the problem here. Terminator Salvation wasn’t a bomb, but didn’t perform as desired. Now McG is off helming hacky, throwaway, marginally profitable fare that nobody gives two craps about.

———————

BRYAN SINGER

Got to direct a feature film because…?

Received funding for low budget indie off strength of short film. Made a splash at Sundance with said low budget indie (budget: 250k). Won Grand Jury Prize.


The Usual Suspects (1995)

Budget: 6 mil
Box office: 23 mil

Net profit: 17 mil
RT score: 88%

[RESULTS: Won 2 Oscars.]


Apt Pupil (1998)

Budget: 14 mil
Box office: 9 mil

Net profit: -5 mil
RT score: 53%

[RESULTS: Didn’t matter, the wheels were in motion for Singer to direct X-Men after The Usual Suspects.]


X-Men (2000)

Budget: 75 mil
Box office: 296 mil

Net profit: 221 mil
RT score: 82%

[RESULTS: Score! Sequel!]


X2 (2003)

Budget: 110 mil
Box office: 408 mil

Net profit: 298 mil
RT score: 87%

[RESULTS: Sequel! …S-sequel?]


Superman Returns (2006)

Budget: 270 mil
Box office: 391 mil

Net profit: 121 mil
RT score: 76%

[RESULTS: Uh. NOT GOOD ENOUGH, SINGER. Although we did spend 70 million trying to reboot this thing before you even signed on, so…]


Valkyrie (2008)

Budget: 75 mil
Box office: 200 mil

Net profit: 125 mil
RT score: 62%

[RESULTS: That’ll do.]


Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Budget: 195 mil
Box office: 198 mil

Net profit: 3 mil
RT score: 52%

[RESULTS: Yeah, no. FUCK NO. X-Men or GTFO.]


X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Budget: 200 mil
Box office: 503+ mil

Net profit: 303 mil (and counting)
RT score: 92%

[RESULTS: Bryan Singer is relevant again!]

———————

So far, when judging numbers alone, this gender disparity cannot fairly be linked to “male privilege”. I’m not saying it isn’t a factor — it very well may be — but I look at those numbers and the response to those films and these careers all make sense to me. Lexi Alexander’s is no exception.

But then, she’s hardly the only female filmmaker.

CATHERINE HARDWICKE has been a noted example of the industry’s gender bias. She got her name on the director map with Thirteen, which made 10 mil off a 2 mil budget (Net profit: 8 mil). This got her Lords of Dogtown, which received mediocre reviews and bombed with 13 mil off a 25 mil budget (Net profit: -12 mil). She got another chance with The Nativity Story, which received negative reviews and barely made a dent with 46 mil off a 35 mil budget (Net profit: 11 mil). Two strikes, but hey, could be flukes. Didn’t stop her from being able to direct Twilight, which brought the legions of fans of the young adult series out in droves and was a massive cultural phenomenon (Net profit: 356 mil). And… then what?

If Hollywood were fair toward women, this would’ve propelled her career to new heights!

Instead, she was fired from the sequel.

…Except that didn’t happen. She chose not to do the sequel. And the (widely publicized) story is, she had been clashing big time with Summit Entertainment from the start. Word got out, as it often does. After the dust settled, nobody wanted to touch her.

Except Warner Bros, apparently, who wanted to replicate Twilight’s formula for success with Red Riding Hood… which was then critically eviscerated and is generally considered a huge box office flop due to poor domestic performance. In actuality it didn’t do all that terribly (89 mil worldwide off a 42 mil budget; Net profit: 47 mil). But as many of those white guys’ “failures” above also demonstrate: Perception is often more important than reality. This sort of shit happens a lot in the industry, no matter who you are.

After Red Riding Hood, she wrote & directed another film called Plush. It made 3k at the box office (off a 2 mil budget; Net profit: -1.9 mil). It was shat on by critics and audiences, though not many of either camp saw it. It has a 29% on RT with a whopping total of 7 reviews.

The story all this tells make sense to me (the success of Twilight is credited less to Hardwicke than it is to, you know, Twilight — ditto Harry Potter and Chris Columbus), but who knows what exactly went on behind the scenes. It’s very possible that Hardwicke’s tumultuous relationship with Summit was predicated upon, however directly or indirectly, her being a woman. I don’t know. And I have no problem admitting that. I. Don’t. Know.

In the case of Catherine Hardwicke, I don’t mind conceding. It’s plausible to me that the Twilight debacle screwed her over unjustly.

But I need more. If things were as bad as they say, it should really be easier to examine the careers of these filmmakers and recognize blatant cases where Hollywood didn’t give them their due.

Please, if you care about this issue at all, I implore you:

Help me to identify as many other female filmmakers as you can whose career trajectories reflect a gender bias in the Hollywood system. Which of these directors’ “stories” don’t check out? I’ve included a sample list of active female filmmakers below.

Also worth considering: How many of these filmmakers are even interested in making traditional high concept studio films? How many are interested in making four-quadrant blockbusters?

———————

KATHRYN BIGELOW

SOFIA COPPOLA

NANCY MEYERS

SARAH POLLEY

JULIE TAYMOR

AMY HECKERLING

NICOLE HOLOFCENER

JANE CAMPION

MIRA NAIR

LYNN SHELTON

MIRANDA JULY

KELLY REICHARDT

MARY HARRON

LYNNE RAMSAY

———————

I ask the same of you in identifying a racial bias. Sample list below.

———————

STEVE MCQUEEN

CARY FUKUNAGA

SPIKE LEE

JON CHU

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN

JUSTIN LIN

TYLER PERRY

ANG LEE

ANTOINE FUQUA

LEE DANIELS

JOHN SINGLETON

TIM STORY

TARSEM

JOSEPH KAHN

———————

Help me find the disparity. Because I’m having a hard time seeing it. I look at these filmmakers and I see the same story. They started small (short films, commercials, music videos, TV work, super low budget and/or self-financed indie features, etc.), got recognition for that work, were hired by a studio to prove they could work within the system on something with a budget, and from there either failed or thrived depending on the financial/critical success of that output (oftentimes getting multiple shots to recover from a lackluster performance, depending on the scale, previously earned clout, public perception, etc.).

I don’t like the way Hollywood operates, for a wide variety of reasons. But the argument being made here is that it doesn’t matter if you successfully demonstrate your worth outside/inside the industry, because the white male will still beat you, simply by virtue of them being a white male. There’s undoubtedly an element of truth in that — nothing resembling a justification, but not necessarily insidious in intent. We’re a tribal species. You put a bunch of men and women of various ethnicities in a room together, and everyone begins gravitating towards the group with whom they share a cultural compatibility. Hollywood, unsurprisingly, is predominately run by white men. It’s not difficult to see where the problem lies.

And yet, those white men still seem perfectly willing to bet on a female, black, Asian, et al filmmaker… if it means they can make money.

Last year, for example, saw the feature debut of two filmmakers.

RYAN COOGLER (black) wrote & directed Fruitvale Station. It cost 900k and made 17 mil (Net profit: 16 mil). Based on the success of that, he’s now writing & directing Creed, the latest film in the Rocky Balboa saga.

CARL RINSCH (white, protege of Ridley Scott) was a hot name in Hollywood for about a year, having attracted a lot of attention for his visually spectacular short films and commercial work. He had a ridiculous number of irons in the fire: Alien prequel (i.e. Prometheus), remakes of Logan’s Run and Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Gift (adaptation of his short film of the same name)… Then he made 47 Ronin. It cost 175 mil and made 150 mil (Net profit: -25 mil).

What’s Carl Rinsch doing now?

Hello?

Anybody?

Again, I don’t want this post to be confused with me suggesting there isn’t a problem with gender and racial diversity in Hollywood. There obviously is. And in all likelihood, it’s manifesting in more subtle ways, ones that are difficult to ascertain purely through numbers. But at the same time, the argument that Hollywood doesn’t pick the “better soccer player” strikes me as disingenuous.

Kathryn Bigelow got where she is today despite stumbling repeatedly with financial failure. Her first film, Near Dark, made 3 mil off a 5 mil budget (Net profit: -2 mil). Her next film, Blue Steel (starring Jamie Lee Curtis), opened at 5th place at the box office and made a total of 8 mil (Net profit: ?). Then she recovered with Point Break, grossing 84 mil off a 24 mil budget (Net profit: 60 mil). This earned her bigger studio films, which ended up being gigantic flops: Strange Days cost 42 mil, made 8 mil (Net profit: -34 mil); K-19: The Widowmaker cost 100 mil, made 66 mil (Net profit: -34 mil). After that she made The Weight of Water (starring Sean Penn). It grossed 109k. (Net profit: ?).

If Kathryn Bigelow’s career ended there, I would understand why. That would make sense to me.

Instead, she was given a budget of 15 mil to make The Hurt Locker, which made 49 mil (Net profit: 34 mil) and won six Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director). This earned her Zero Dark Thirty (aka “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man”), which cost 40 mil and made 133 mil (Net profit: 93 mil). It was nominated for five Oscars.

Now, hot off the success of those films, Kathryn Bigelow can pretty much do whatever she wants. She has her pick of the litter. Why? Because she’s effectively proven to Hollywood that she’s “the better soccer player”.

Lexi Alexander claims to believe in that system. I don’t think she does.

But what the heck do I know, I’m delusional.

21st September 2012

Photo with 22 notes

I am the law, neighborinos!

I am the law, neighborinos!

8th August 2012

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From the makers of “Where’s Waldo?”

From the makers of “Where’s Waldo?”

12th February 2012

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Break down with your bad self.

Break down with your bad self.

17th January 2012

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I hope they all die.

I hope they all die.

13th December 2011

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The Great Gatsby has a visitor.

The Great Gatsby has a visitor.

1st December 2011

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The apes will rise. In more ways than one.

The apes will rise. In more ways than one.

1st December 2011

Photo with 4 notes

John Carter has mad hops.

John Carter has mad hops.