Sunday, April 15, 2007

LA Times Film Business Article

The Times today had a group of articles that are among the best I've read about the current state of the film business, using SAHARA as its case study. There are a lot great facts in here, many of them buried in different parts of different articles, so be sure to read them all. Even on the Internet, the main article is 19 pages long.

Some facts that stick out:
  1. The producers were given a refund check for $20M at the end of shooting as tax benefits for shooting outside the US
  2. Many local workers earned less in a week than US crew would have earned in a day
  3. The director brags that they bought all of a local's possessions as set dressing "for about a dollar."
  4. The writing alone cost $14M with ten different writers doing drafts
  5. Numerous bribes totaling over $200k were written into the budget
  6. Perks for actors range from overpriced to ludicrous
  7. Numerous scenes were in the movie only for the money derived from product placement
Although it's long, it's definitely worth the read.


Anonymous said...

David, that was a fascinating series of articles. I read most, if not all. I would love to see a thorough and extensive series of reports on product placement tracing the corporation connections. Since we're unlikely to ever see reports explaining where the oil in Iraq is now flowing, while gas prices climb, I doubt that the average joe will get a peek behind the veil at secrets more closely guarded. Thankfully, we'll at least soon know Baby Dannielyn's permanent residence. Whew! That was close!

Thanks again, Eddie of Sherman Oaks.

Anonymous said...

There is so much rich content here it's hard to know where to start.

Suffice it to say that bribes is hardly the issue -- one would be extremely naive to assume that bribes (or kickbacks) have not been part of Hollywood from the get go. If that statement bothers some, consider this: documents do reveal that GODFATHER I involved some serious payoffs in NYC neighborhoods from Paramount.

It's interesting to note, however, that we don't require a statement on the film that "No Natives Were Economically Abused During the Course of Shooting this Film".

By way of comparison: Clark Gable made $120,000 for GONE WITH THE WIND, the biggest of the big budget pictures in it's day -- and he was the hottest and highest paid star at the time. Inflation adjusted from 1930 to 2006, this translates to $1.6M.

I guess Matthew McConaughey (paid $8M, not including perks) must be 5X the actor (or 5X the draw) in today's Hollywood.

And it's not that Gable was underpaid for his efforts by the Studios. In 1936, the MGM Studio boss, Louis B. Mayer made a $1M salary -- and was the first executive in the US to do so. And, remember, that this was for a full year's worth of work! (Principal photography for Gable -- assuming he worked every day -- was only 5 months from Jan to Jun 1939.)

Note also that the preaching Hollywood Elite (i.e. the George Clooney types) are associated with other projects in Morocco (e.g. SYRIANA). One can assume that the budgets were similarly "fair" to the locals.

Of course, this is the same group of hypocrites that (correctly) chastise us to think about energy consumption, global warming, and other important causes while (incorrectly) using a disproportionate amount of those resources, even by American standards.

This do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do game is no different than that played by our politicians, it's just that the actors have whiter teeth.

Anonymous said...

There is unfortunately a typo in my comment above. The Clark Gable salary was adjusted from 1939 (not 1930 as mistyped), so the numbers are correct as they stand.

Bondelev said...

I forgot to mention that the only reason that these figures made it to the media is that there is a gigantic lawsuit about the production, and they were deliberately leaked ot the TIMES to make it look bad. We'll never know the real story on other films, but I think it's reasonable to assume any film with $100M+ budget has some of the same problems.

Anonymous said...

I agree. There is no reason to expect that this movie was particularly special. I bet all action films look roughly like this one in terms of budget.

One of my favorite stories is that to make FIGHT CLUB, the producers had to bring on Brad Pitt and his salary ($17M) was 1/3 of the cost of the movie.