The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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How bad can the movies get?

Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, and Michael Bay on the set of Transformers in 2007

Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier had a good story in today's Business section talking about how a host of big Hollywood productions could be derailed before they go into production if the studios can't negotiate a new contract with SAG by the end of the month. Even uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer sounded pretty concerned, saying that if SAG went out on strike, "We'd have to shut it down and everybody goes home."

I'm rooting against a strike as much as anybody -- or at least I thought I was until I perused the list of films that our piece said could be affected by a work stoppage. Our chart had 17 films that were either in production or slated for production that could be shut down by a strike. As I read the descriptions of the films, which appear to be a fairly representative sampling of mainstream studio filmmaking, circa 2008, I started to cry. OK, I didn't really cry. But I did find myself in the grip of a minor depression.

Want to know why?

Of the 17 films in our chart, here's the breakdown, in terms of genres worthy of Hollywood attention:

Sequels: 4. (Including follow-ups to "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Terminator" series.)

Remakes of books or TV shows: 5. (Including movie versions of "Hannah Montana," "The Jetsons" and "The A-Team.")

Sci-fi or action thrillers: 4. (Including the video-game based "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," but not including the "Terminator" or "Transformers" installments, which are already listed under sequels.)

Comedies: 4. (Including "A Thousand Words," from the Eddie Murphy-Brian Robbins team that is bringing you "Meet Dave" next month.)

That's it. 0-for-17 when it comes to challenging adult entertainment. No dramas. Nothing with any grand historical sweep. No provocative biopics. No quirky personal films. In short, nothing really surprising at all. I'm not saying they're all dead on arrival -- I'm curious to see if Ridley Scott can find something new to say about the Robin Hood saga, though if you've been watching the wonderfully smart 'n' sassy  "Robin Hood" series on BBC-America, it's obvious the bar has been raised pretty high when it comes to a fresh look at the ruffians afoot in Sherwood Forest. (Just watch the trailer up above.)

My point is only this: A strike would be a bad thing for the working class of Hollywood, who need a studio paycheck. But for those of us in the audience, I can't say I'd shed a tear. Most of the indie film productions have waiver deals that allow them to keep shooting, strike or not. Imagine the possibilities. Having a year where indie films could dominate the marketplace would be a year where it might be safe to go to the multiplexes again.   

photo of Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, and Michael Bay in 2007 via  Dreamworks/Paramount

Comments () | Archives (17)

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Brilliant Robin Hood trailer. BBC, are you listening? Hire that editor!

Great post, Patrick.

And thank you for posting HeathRA's trailer. It is so much better than those made by the BBC.

Strike or not to strike. If you are like me -- an actor who is being paid half of what you were paid five years ago -- and your residuals are down about 40%, thus for the same amount of work you are making half the money. Meanwhile stars and executives are making millions -- more and more every yeat.. At the end of the day if you care about your career and your family, you can not afford to worry about what a strike will do the industry. If you accept what they are offering, you are hastening your own demise.

Patrick can root for a strike, as he has a cushy gig at the LAT (of course, how much longer that lasts is anyone's guess). But for the home-town paper to suggest that throwing ordinary people out of work is a good thing is just another reason to wonder exactly who's the audience for the Spring Street crowd?

Wow, with trailers like that from devoted fans such as "Heather" on Youtube, who needs American programming?

Hear that bout offering that girl a deserved job, hmmmmm??;-)

Problem with Hollywood is it's a "closed shop" - if you're after an entry level job as an unpaid undergraduate intern or an assistant that will be asked to read Ron Bass's latest script and give notes (lol) then chances are you managed to get your hands on the secret joblist that is distributed by agency UTA (any unauthorized distribution WILL be prosecuted, they warn). Doesn't this break labor laws with respect to fair and equal access to employment opportunites? Likewise any new writer has absolutely zero access to Hollywood unless they are repped by the major agencies - and getting an agent is about as easy as winning the lottery. So the DNA pool of new executives and new writers is basically coming from Beverly Hills High, UCLA, and USC, because they have access through relationships. And you wonder why most Hollywood movies suck?

I wasn't there - at least I can't remember - the 60's but I do remember all those big budget musicals toward the end of the decade and how everything changed when EASY RIDER came along. Seems to me that's what we need now - another film that changes the rules about what is possible (and what it means by changing those rules) and what it means to re-connect with a real audience out there wanting some meaning from films that reflect the world we live in.

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