Hollywood Studio Cinema – The Producer

Producers were some of the most important decision makers in the studio system because the had the power or authority to: • ‘Greenlight’ a project (i.e. approve the start of a production). • Organise contracts and budgets. • Agree a production schedule. • Oversee the entire production process. • Represent the views of the studio – their decisions were final. • Veto the final cut, and hire and fire any of the personnel involved in the shoot (including the director and stars.

New Hollywood Cinema
In contemporary Hollywood a new form of product standardisation has evolved, the ‘High Concept’ film. • ‘A’ list stars. • Director with a proven track record at the box office. • Based within a successful genre (action, sci-fi, teen, horror). • Spectacle, special effects and action. • Highly stylised cinematography (high visual gloss). • Classic three part story structure (to be retold in less than 15 sentences to a producer). • Romance, heroes and villains. • Merchandising and franchising possibilities. • Musical score by a famous composer and/or a ‘hot’ pop act.

High Concept Films
• High concept films are a response by Hollywood studios to the high risks of film production. They may involve: • Repackaging previously successful elements, such as big name stars and/or directors • Remaking past hits in the form of sequels (extending the franchise) or variations on currently fashionable genres. This often means mixing genres.

What are the pros and cons?
Pros

• Less risk • Any more?
Critics argue that the intention is to make audiences become engaged with the “surface” features of visual set pieces at the expense of coherent narrative development or characterisation. Action scenes are linked only loosely to a narrative based on cause and effect.

Cons

The Matrix Reloaded
• The longest car chase up to that date (17 minutes) were what impressed audiences even if they never really became involved with the narrative or characters.

• In high-concept movies, parts of the film can be easily transferred or adapted into other “windows” of exhibition, such as a pop video for the soundtrack or a computer game. The computer game Enter the Matrix was released in the same week as The Matrix Reloaded.

• Investors will only commit to a package when they have a clear presentation of the target audience and markets likely to be attracted by the selling points of the film. When they are persuaded that a return on their investment is possible they will strike a deal, giving the project the “green light”, which means the studio agrees to fund the next stage – writing the screenplay or putting it into production

Investors
• Funding by studios • If a major studio is producing the film, it will usually finance it. • Many independent producer who develop ideas and raise the money for a movie also have a short term production contract with a studio. In this sense, they are dependent producers because they depend on the studio for funding. Studios insist on the right to approve the script, cast and budget of any film they finance.

Film Finance and Film Production
• Investment may come from a number of sources, rather than one single investor. • Not until the producer has all the finance needed, does the film go ahead.

Costs
There are two types of costs that are incurred during the film making process. – ‘above the line’ costs. These are the most predictable costs for the film. They are fixed costs and do not change. E.G Salaries and fees. – ‘below the line’ costs. These are not so easy to predict. E.G locations, film stock and costumes. These costs can easily escalate during filming.

Task
You have been granted a five minute ‘pitching’ meeting with a top producer. You hope to convince her to greenlight your film idea. She has $50 million to spend on a new blockbuster but is your High Concept pitch what she is looking for…? Produce an A4 treatment of the film utilising the ideas from the list of key ingredients, remember to include;

• A Title for the film.
• A cast wish list. • Outline of the story (in 15 sentences or less) • Budget requirements • A rationale of why she should invest in your movie (refer back to the High Concept key ingredients)

The High Concept Movie

Pearl Harbour – Dir Michael Bay - 2001

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