Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sunday Morning Shootout - no actual shooting took place :(

So there you are sitting in your cushy comfy seat in the movie theatre, your popcorn in one hand, and a frosty beverage in the other. The lights dim, and you settle in for the trailers. When suddenly it happens… that trailer that could almost pass for a Saturday Night Live skit, if the special FX weren’t so expensive. It takes on many forms, but there are obvious signs, such as the guy narrating in the background with a deep voice who says “In a world…” Sometimes it’s a trailer for the first in a series of epic sci-fi films that are sequels to a small independent film that had limited financial success. Other times it’s a comedy involving a former marine who must now work as a suburban nanny. You’ve seen it all before. It’s the riddickulously bad studio film.

Now you sit there and you ask yourself, who greenlit this movie? Who was the guy (or gal) who said, “That sounds like a great idea, let’s do it!!”

Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to former Vice-Chairman of Universal Pictures, Mary Parent and Scott Stuber. Stuber and Parent who have been partners in crime for some time now, very recently announced that they would be leaving their executive positions at the studio to become producers with an exclusive deal with Universal. These executives have had a hand in almost every film that’s come out of Universal in the past two years, some were good and some were bad. Some were very, very bad. In particular I think its their whimsical taste in summer flicks like 2 Fast 2 Furious, Johnny English, Van Helsing, Two Brothers and The Chronicles of Riddick that amuses me.

As some of you may or may not know, every Sunday morning at 10:30 AM, AMC (American Movie Classics) airs a show called “Sunday Morning Shootout” hosted by Peter Guber and Peter Bart. Guber and Bart are respective Hollywood legends in their own time, each of them having accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish in this town. They’ve produced movies, run studios, written books, been fired, had career comebacks and have lived to tell the tail. Every Sunday they invite high profile people in the entertainment industry to sit and talk over coffee about their experience in the business. Usually its an actor or a director, but today, hot off the heels of their announcements, Peter and Peter invited Mary Parent and Scott Stuber to join them and discuss their former work and future prospects.

Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for them, I captured their publicity outing on TiVo.
Here’s a brief excerpt of Parent and Stuber’s responses to the questions asked to them by Peter and Peter. Keep in mind this is a WORD for WORD transcript, made possible by the handy TiVo pause button. Any grammatical errors may be attributed to them.

Peter Guber: “Your proviso for one company is both- …its a great asset and its also in some sense a liability because there is somebody that can say no. There is somebody that can say ‘Hmmm, I don’t want to make this picture’ or ‘We have one like it” and you really then can’t make that picture, you can’t go somewhere else with it. So in some respect you’re ‘hostage to the environment’ you get the benefit of it, but what do you do to manage that? Are you going to bring capital to the equation? Are you going to bring other executives to the equation? Do you have a strategy to hold on to the properties that they won’t want to do? I’m just curious as to what you’ve thought through in making your departure.”

Mary Parent: “We’re hostage to the environment now. I mean,… our, you know, -our, ….we have to be, we have to have a sense of what’s going on at the other studios, what’s going on in the culture. I mean we have to anticipate, -get out ahead of stuff, …get a feeling for when a movie needs to…. – you know? Movies don’t come out for a year at least, later; so its really getting a sense of ‘wow, we need to get this one going, here,…- there, in order to this or land here.’ And that’s, that kind of um, creative strategy, is something that I think we’ve, we just live it every day…”

If anyone can pull a remotely coherent and intelligent statement out of that garble I will pay them a million bucks! (well not ACTUALLY a million…) And what’s up with Parent completely sidestepping Guber’s question? The man asked her how she planned to circumvent potential rejection from studio heads and she responded by saying she’s always kept up with the gossip and the culture. Sweet.

Peter Bart, who seemed slightly put off by Parent’s response, did a redirect on Stuber:

Bart: Uh now, to return to my earlier question. When things were not going well, in other words the year that the pictures weren’t telling out well. What sort of reassessment went on with the slate of pictures that were rather expensive pictures, and didn’t quite cook?

Stuber: You know the great thing for us about last year? The company made about 940 million dollars domestically, which is considered….you it was like “oh it wasn’t a great year?” It was a terrific year for our company, it was one of the greatest cash years ever, if not the best.

{Hey buddy, didn’t anyone ever tell you DE NIAL ain’t just a river in Egypt? Also way to spin the question, sheesh he’s worse than a publicist reacting to a page six article.}

Stuber cont’d: We had a summer where we had two movies that had higher expectations that didn’t live up to it. In that you go, ok, you know what in Riddick, we over analyzed something, we should’ve kept the cost down on that movie and not expanded into a giant sci-fi franchise we should’ve kept with the DNA of pitch black and expanded upon that. And that was a mistake. I mean we acknowledge that, and you learn form that, and it wasn’t a movie that had that kind of financial success to make it that big a sequel.

{Hindsight can be a real bitch can’t it? Anyone want to clue him in on how many of us could have told him that all that BEFORE they went into production!? Also nice use of DNA, he should get points for malapropism of the year.}

Stuber Cont’d: And Van Helsing, that was a film that, you know, sadly got saddled with um, with a knock. The movie made-, …it was a profitable film it made over three hundred million world wide, and Steve Sommers is a guy who we would make that movie with every single time. He’s that good of a film maker.

{Gee, I sure hate it when I get saddled with a “knock”. Also, let me try to be totally clear on this one….he’s saying that if he had to make that movie over and over again (a Hollywood version of Groundhog’s day if you will) that he wouldn’t do anything different? Mama Mia!}

I could go on, but well…I won’t. They’ll be plenty more Stuber and Parent for us to dissect in the upcoming years. Universal has already handed them a passel of projects to produce, so this should be interesting. Let’s just hope that being articulate isn’t a requisite for good film making. Come to think of it, they should fit in just fine.

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