“A few months ago I was on this Jet Blue flight going from New York to Burbank…I’m getting comfortable in my seat—You know, I spent the 60 bucks to get the extra the legroom— so I’m starting to get a little comfortable and we make altitude. And there’s a guy who is in the other side of the aisle in front of me and he pulls out his iPad— he’s about to start watching stuff. I’m curious to see what he’s going to watch—he’s a white guy in his mid thirties— and I begin to realize that what he’s done is he’s loaded in half a dozen sort of action extravaganzas and he’s watching each of the action sequences. He’s skipping over all the dialogue and the narrative. So this guy’s flight is going to be five and a half hours of just like mayhem porn. And I get this wave of —not panic, it’s not like my heart started fluttering—but I had this sense of ‘Am I going insane?’ or ‘Is the world going insane?’ Or both?
Writer/director Steven Soderbergh
State of Cinema 2013 talk at the San Francisco Film Society
Odds are pretty good that that guy Steven Soderbergh mentioned seeing on that Jet Blue flight was in the audience this weekend for Fast & Furious 6 as it hauled in over $300 millon worldwide in just four days.
Fast & Furious 6 was written by Chris Morgan and directed by Justin Lin and though film number six in the franchise even some critics had some favorable things to say about the action packed film:
‘Fast and Furious 6’ is the fastest, funniest and most outlandishly entertaining chapter yet. I’m not kidding, I kinda loved this insanely stupid movie.”
“True, the movie doesn’t know when or how to put the brakes on. It does, however, understand precisely what it is.”
Los Angeles Times
The odds are also pretty good that Steven Soderbergh didn’t spend his money this past weekend on Fast & Furious 6. It’s safe to say that Soderbergh is not in the intended demographics of the movie. But Soderbergh does understand the economics of why Universal Studios would shell out $160 million to produce that film and who knows how many tens of millions advertising the film.
“Well, how does a studio decide what movies get made? One thing they take into consideration is the foreign market, obviously. It’s become very big. So that means, you know, things that travel best are going to be action-adventure, science fiction, fantasy, spectacle, some animation thrown in there. Obviously the bigger the budget, the more people this thing is going to have to appeal to—the more homogenized it’s got to be, the more simplified it’s got to be. So things like cultural specificity and narrative complexity, and, god forbid, ambiguity, those become real obstacles to the success of the film here and abroad.”
State of Cinema
The middle-class of filmmaking is not just shrinking, it’s disappearing. As Soderbergh points out in his State of Cinema talk, the real problem for many filmmakers today is a $30 million film needs $30 million in advertising, and since the movie theaters take 50% of the gross that $30 million dollar film has to make $120 million just to break even. So the studios will focus on tentpole movies and many screenwriters and filmmakers will focus on opportunities in the indie world of no-budget to $10 million—or cable television.
The reports of Soderbergh retiring are greatly exaggerated. But, like Kevin Smith, you will more than likely see his name popping up on projects less and less in movie theaters. His Behind the Candelabra airs on HBO Sunday and there is talk that he is executive producing a ten-episode drama with Cinemax.
Scott W. Smith
Read Full Post »