Who The Hollywood Reporter thinks are producers worthy of notice — and why you should question that

Each year during awards season, The Hollywood Reporter organizes a series of roundtable interviews — two featuring actors (separated by gender), another with directors and yet another with producers — and the conversations center on moviemaking broadly and their (maybe nominated) projects in particular. The interviews are filmed and in recent years they’ve started airing on Sundance.
Some participants are more frank than others, but there’s usually an interesting tidbit or two that emerges.
The interviews function as a barometer of what The Hollywood Reporter (and by extension, Hollywood in general) values. These roundtables are a mark of prestige — of whose work matters.
Some quick thoughts on the producer roundtable that aired this past weekend:
• Every producer on the panel is white; all are men except one.
That's a conscious choice by THR. The charitable assumption is that they simply wanted a sampling of producers who worked on what THR considers "major" movies of the past year. But the end result reinforces the idea that the old boys club is normal.
The roundtable participants: Judd Apatow (for “The Big Sick”), Jason Blum (“Get Out”), Eric Fellner (“Darkest Hour”), Amy Pascal (“The Post”), Seth Rogen (“The Disaster Artist”) and Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner 2049” and “All the Money in the World”)
It’s always a bit of a juggling act to coordinate the schedules of high-powered players; that probably complicates who ends up at the table.
Still, there’s no reason not to include a broader selection of white women and people of color, whether their films are in Oscar contention or not — for the very reason that it would have been more compelling to hear a variety of producers discuss their work experiences. (And Blum, Fellner and Pascal are the only true producers at the table; meaning, they aren’t also actors or directors.)
THR isn’t new to this — nor is it unaware of these criticisms. None of these publications are, but the same pattern keeps repeating: Vanity Fair, which has a long track record of assembling mostly white stars on the cover of its annual Hollywood issue; the LA Times Magazine, which has roundtables of its own this year featuring actors and actresses, all of whom are white.
It’s conspicuous. And it reinforces the misperception that white is the default and the norm. As someone said to me on Twitter about THR producer roundtable this past weekend: “I have my DVR set to record all episodes. I took a peek last night to see who’d be on today’s show and canceled my recording for this very reason.”
• The best portions of the roundtable came from “Get Out’s” Jason Blum, who is the most interesting producer at the table in terms of how he approaches the job. He talked about the fact that the cost of making movies needs to come down. Way down. Blum’s whole thing — and this has been his process for a while now — is that he will not make movies that cost more than $5 million. Notably he strips out the perks (no one even has chairs on set with their names on them; egos are not inflated on Blumhouse films).
Blum uses this approach to make successful genre fare (Blumhouse is known for its profitable horror movies including “The Purge” franchise) but also well-regarded Oscar-nominated films including “Get Out” yes, but also “Whiplash” (and Emmy wins for the HBO projects “The Jinx” and “The Normal Heart”).
At a time when mid-range budget movies are a rarity, Blum basically says that’s fine, I’ve figured out a smarter, better system. I’ve interviewed him a few times over the years and I think he’s a real outlier and his ideas make sense. And I like that he’s not coy explaining how he does it. (He talked about his process with me here and here.)
• Ridley Scott was baffled about Blum’s approach. He could not conceive of how Blum keeps his budgets so low and insisted that Blum must be using non-union crews. To which Blum said: Not true!
Do you know how many producing credits Ridley Scott has? A lot. And yet he is completely ignorant of how someone like Blum has rejiggered the financial model. I’m not judging, I’m saying that’s interesting.
Seth Rogen chimed in to say that a lot of his films aren’t expensive either, around $20-$35 million range — but think about that: The budget for Rogen’s “Superbad” was indeed $20 million and that’s four times as expensive as any of Blum’s films. I was surprised no one at that table said to Blum: “Explain this to me in great detail, because I want to learn from you.” Instead Apatow joked: “Wait, wait, how does that affect my fee?”
Hint: It affects your fee big time; Blum takes no salary on his films. He’s hedging his bets that his projects will make money, and pretty often they do.
The dynamic at the roundtable is interesting in that it reveals even very experienced and respected producers such as Scott aren’t necessarily speaking from a place of knowledge.
Can all films be made for less than $5 million? No. But if Blum had produced “All the Money in the World,” there’s no way the budget would have been the $50 million that it cost under Scott. A good chunk of that money was Mark Wahlberg’s salary. (Whereas Blum’s actors work for scale, with profit participation on the backend should the film turn a profit.)
I’m betting THR’s roundtable interviews were done before the pay disparity between “All the Money in the World” stars Michelle Williams and Wahlberg became public. That’s what Scott should have been asked about, since producers determine how much an actor will be paid.
Who The Hollywood Reporter thinks are producers worthy of notice — and why you should question that Who The Hollywood Reporter thinks are producers worthy of notice — and why you should question that Reviewed by 1 on February 13, 2018 Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.