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C'mon Hollywood: Get your big-budget movies under control!

06.26.2012

Since the news of a date push, reshoots, and 3D conversion of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, it seems that even more big-budget pics have followed suit, leaving most of us to wonder just what the hell is going on in Hollywood that all these movies are in such disarray?
The issue with G.I. JOE: RETALIATION has been beaten to death, but it’s still no less baffling. Reshoots, 3D conversion, and stalling release nearly a year? It’s hard to believe none of this came up in pre-production.

The Brad Pitt starrer WORLD WAR Z seemed to be a no-brainer. Based on the book by Max Brooks, which already had a massive following, and helmed by Marc Forster, who lent his hand to both James Bond and Halle Berry’s naked boobies, the zombie apocalypse flick seemed to be on course. Then, news came that scripter Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the third act and two months of reshoots were scheduled to squeeze some blood out of the orange it had become.

Now, Disney’s THE LONE RANGER is falling out of the saddle, with the budget jumping back to the original cost that stalled it’s production initially (from a trimmed $215 mil back up to $250 mil), shooting delays, and more rewrites.

Lastly, we found out that Michael Bay’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES reboot was essentially put on pause in order to trim the budget by reworking the script, pushing it back from it’s initial Christmas 2013 release date to summer 2014.

So, what’s the problem here? Is this just business as usual or is Hollywood (and, particularly Paramount Pictures) forgetting how to build a film from the ground up? It’s not that hard (or easy). Everything starts with an idea, which is then forged into a script, and finally scrutinized and reworked in order to fit a budget. Then, and only then, should pre-production begin. However, it seems the nature of the business has changed. Who needs a pesky script when you have an all-star cast and a prop department already hard at work? Half the work is done, right?
Obviously, the gamble has paid off enough times to become a trend.

MEN IN BLACK 3 had the script being written as they filmed. IRON MAN was in a similar boat, with the script materializing as they shot it. Talk about a tremendous risk. It seems that today’s big-budget pics are mostly about making a date rather than making a quality film. It’s not an impossibility that the film could be a hit, but how many times do you want to bet on that horse?

Rewrites and script doctoring isn’t a new thing. It’s been around forever. Films are rewritten and reworked as they’re shot all the time, but most have a solid foundation to work from.
There was a phrase we used in the Army called the Seven P’s. It was something we lived by, in a sense. It stood for; Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. It’s a catchy little thing, like most sayings in the Army, and doesn’t always resonate like it should, but it exemplifies a very simple truth; If you don’t have a proper plan then you’re going to fail. Failing in the Army could mean death. With Hollywood, it’s just losing some money and making a shitty movie.

Now, sometimes our best-laid plans went to shit. The same could be said for Hollywood. Sometimes their best efforts can go to hell with no explanation. After all, a well-constructed movie still has to sell itself to an audience. However, I’m not here to discuss the how and why of a movie being a hit. I’m talking about the simple principle of planning and preparing a movie before it gets underway.

Why would you shoot, edit, and market a movie and then decide one month before its release that you want to convert it to 3D and shoot more scenes with a specific actor? Why would you complete production on a film, only to rewrite the third act with a new writer? And why in the f*ck do you need $250 million dollars to shoot a movie about cowboys and Indians? The stalling of the TMNT movie may actually be Hollywood reawakening to the notion of planning a film before rushing it behind cameras. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Like most movie geeks, I am kind of baffled that production on such big-budget flicks begins (and sometimes ends) without any type of plan to see the project through. I liken this notion to the two scientists who signed up for the mission onboard the PROMETHEUS, with no idea of what they got themselves into. They awaken to find out what it is and completely lose their shit once they see an alien. No one thought to prepare these guys for what was coming to ensure they were up to task? It made no sense in the movie and it makes no sense in Hollywood. Why start something so massive without making sure it’s ready to go?

I’m hoping this trend of beginning without an end in mind dies a horrible death, much like the esteemed scientists of PROMETHEUS, but it’s likely they’ll continue to act as erratic as David, with reckless abandon in one hand and blind hope in the other. Hell of a way to run a business…

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: Would you rather see a bloated Lone Ranger like the one we're going to get or a modestly budgeted one, say, directed by Walter Hill? I'm just dreamin' here...
Source: JoBlo.com

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3:38PM on 06/27/2012

Great article Paul!

But whats with spoiling PROMETHEUS?? Some of us hadn't seen it yet, you know. (mostly because it didn't open in my country)

Edit: After reading the strikebacks, yeah, you don't have to answer that....still, call me an a-hole, but I want to see it 100% spoiler free Man! (Yes, even the random scientist dying matters)
But whats with spoiling PROMETHEUS?? Some of us hadn't seen it yet, you know. (mostly because it didn't open in my country)

Edit: After reading the strikebacks, yeah, you don't have to answer that....still, call me an a-hole, but I want to see it 100% spoiler free Man! (Yes, even the random scientist dying matters)
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4:07PM on 06/27/2012
You know how you watch a movie and the second you see certain people onscreen for the first time and go, "Oh, that dude's gonna die?" Yeah, there's nothing spoiled here that isn't obvious from the start. My comments are vague enough that you still don't know shit about what happens, BELIEVE me, so you're still in the clear.

You know how you watch a movie and the second you see certain people onscreen for the first time and go, "Oh, that dude's gonna die?" Yeah, there's nothing spoiled here that isn't obvious from the start. My comments are vague enough that you still don't know shit about what happens, BELIEVE me, so you're still in the clear.

12:12PM on 06/27/2012

Akira.

One word- Akira. After being so bored with countless mind-numbing explosions I fell asleep. I realized the roof on huge spectacles the minute I woke up. It's about story and characters, not spectacle. It doesn't have to be world-shaking.
One word- Akira. After being so bored with countless mind-numbing explosions I fell asleep. I realized the roof on huge spectacles the minute I woke up. It's about story and characters, not spectacle. It doesn't have to be world-shaking.
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+0
1:02AM on 06/27/2012

Spoiler

Double Post, darn.
Double Post, darn.
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-1
12:51AM on 06/27/2012

Spoiler

Nice article Paul but you could've done away without the Prometheus spoiler. :-(
Nice article Paul but you could've done away without the Prometheus spoiler. :-(
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3:26PM on 06/27/2012
Uh, what was spoiled exactly? Again, if anyone has any doubt that people will die in Prometheus then I don't know what to tell you.

It's not like I told you that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the same guy in Fight Club or that Bruce Willis is really a ghost in The Sixth Sense.

This "spoiler Nazi" stuff is getting silly...

Uh, what was spoiled exactly? Again, if anyone has any doubt that people will die in Prometheus then I don't know what to tell you.

It's not like I told you that Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the same guy in Fight Club or that Bruce Willis is really a ghost in The Sixth Sense.

This "spoiler Nazi" stuff is getting silly...

11:30PM on 06/26/2012

thats..

what ive being wondering, why every big film costs 100-250 mil to make?
stupid.
what ive being wondering, why every big film costs 100-250 mil to make?
stupid.
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7:53PM on 06/26/2012
A Walter Hill led, more classical "Lone Ranger" would be amazing!!!
A Walter Hill led, more classical "Lone Ranger" would be amazing!!!
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8:18PM on 06/26/2012
Right?? Man, give Hill $30 MIL, cast Mickey Rourke as a villain, Ry Cooder to score, throw in the classical themes and mix them with his gritty western style and you would have yourself one hell of a Lone Ranger movie, rather than Pirates of the Hiyo Silver. Ah, well...
Right?? Man, give Hill $30 MIL, cast Mickey Rourke as a villain, Ry Cooder to score, throw in the classical themes and mix them with his gritty western style and you would have yourself one hell of a Lone Ranger movie, rather than Pirates of the Hiyo Silver. Ah, well...
+11
1:59PM on 06/26/2012

how in the fuck does the Lone Ranger....

a movie about a indian and a cowboy cost 250 million? how does it even cost $100 million? they need some efficiency experts to see who is spending what and where, my good god!!!
a movie about a indian and a cowboy cost 250 million? how does it even cost $100 million? they need some efficiency experts to see who is spending what and where, my good god!!!
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+14
1:33PM on 06/26/2012
I still honestly don't get it. How come an entire season of Games of Thrones can cost between 50-60 million and a cowboy movie 250+??? Sure GoT doesn't have huge battle scenes like LoTR.. but come on.. a cowboy movie? Is just horses and guns (and an Indian).. it makes zero sense other than purely self-inflated actors and producers.

Nowadays it seems as bigger budget = bigger crap

Great article BTW Paul. I truly enjoy your writings. Keep it up.
I still honestly don't get it. How come an entire season of Games of Thrones can cost between 50-60 million and a cowboy movie 250+??? Sure GoT doesn't have huge battle scenes like LoTR.. but come on.. a cowboy movie? Is just horses and guns (and an Indian).. it makes zero sense other than purely self-inflated actors and producers.

Nowadays it seems as bigger budget = bigger crap

Great article BTW Paul. I truly enjoy your writings. Keep it up.
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2:20PM on 06/26/2012
Thanks, man. And great point on Game of Thrones. The show looks like it cost a hundred million per episode and it's really nothing more than costumes, sets, and great fucking acting, with a few CGI shots thrown in for good measure. Amazing what they've accomplished. Hollywood as a whole should take note of GOT's accomplishments in production.
Thanks, man. And great point on Game of Thrones. The show looks like it cost a hundred million per episode and it's really nothing more than costumes, sets, and great fucking acting, with a few CGI shots thrown in for good measure. Amazing what they've accomplished. Hollywood as a whole should take note of GOT's accomplishments in production.
2:42PM on 06/26/2012
That's because the Lone Ranger has werewolves, monsters, and evil spirits in it. I shit you not.
That's because the Lone Ranger has werewolves, monsters, and evil spirits in it. I shit you not.
5:16PM on 06/26/2012
While I kinda get your point Bob, again, GoT has white walkers, dragons, all sorts of magical creatures and places still under the 100m budget (for an entire season!).

The Lone Ranger with werewolves... I still cannot get my mind around it.. Is just... wrong!
While I kinda get your point Bob, again, GoT has white walkers, dragons, all sorts of magical creatures and places still under the 100m budget (for an entire season!).

The Lone Ranger with werewolves... I still cannot get my mind around it.. Is just... wrong!
11:15AM on 06/26/2012
While I liked Prometheus, that scene- sigh, yeah. But Paul, you forgot the part where they lost their shit at seeing a 2,000 year old decapitated Alien- and then a few scenes later, are completely gazed at the sight of the 'Cobrahugger' .. and want it as their next pet. ;-/
While I liked Prometheus, that scene- sigh, yeah. But Paul, you forgot the part where they lost their shit at seeing a 2,000 year old decapitated Alien- and then a few scenes later, are completely gazed at the sight of the 'Cobrahugger' .. and want it as their next pet. ;-/
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11:46AM on 06/26/2012
There's a Prometheus-themed C'mon Hollywood on the horizon. I kind of loved it for its ambiguity, but logically it's a complete fucking mess.
There's a Prometheus-themed C'mon Hollywood on the horizon. I kind of loved it for its ambiguity, but logically it's a complete fucking mess.
9:07AM on 06/26/2012
Whoa! The new "The Lone Ranger"'s budget is $250 million? Didn't Disney learn anything from John Carter? Big budget doesn't ensure success all the time. I'm pretty sure Warner Bros. learnt from Green Lantern. Disney Should learn from John Carter. I'm not saying the new The Lone Ranger is going to bomb. It will be a hit alright. However, with $250 million budget, it might (just might) still be considered as less profitable. Extra tidbit: Yeah, I'd love to see that.
Whoa! The new "The Lone Ranger"'s budget is $250 million? Didn't Disney learn anything from John Carter? Big budget doesn't ensure success all the time. I'm pretty sure Warner Bros. learnt from Green Lantern. Disney Should learn from John Carter. I'm not saying the new The Lone Ranger is going to bomb. It will be a hit alright. However, with $250 million budget, it might (just might) still be considered as less profitable. Extra tidbit: Yeah, I'd love to see that.
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8:01AM on 06/26/2012
The problem is they're making the scripts up as they go along. Desperately trying to appeal to the broadest possible demographic, it backfires because not only does it end up costing the studios, they end up with a bland homgenised final product. Like a McDonald's Happy Meal, but a lot more fucking expensive.
The problem is they're making the scripts up as they go along. Desperately trying to appeal to the broadest possible demographic, it backfires because not only does it end up costing the studios, they end up with a bland homgenised final product. Like a McDonald's Happy Meal, but a lot more fucking expensive.
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7:56AM on 06/26/2012

Double Post

Knibb High football rules!
Knibb High football rules!
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7:55AM on 06/26/2012
Great article. It reminds me of when Fincher came in to direct Alien 3 in '91-'92 (film debut), which he had to deal with an unfinished script and creative differences with studio heads. I think he got pissed off when the studio released the first trailer which gave the illusion that it takes place on earth. It all seemed to work out though as he learned how not to do things (proven with everything he has in since then), however, he did create a fine movie with what he had.

Here is a very
Great article. It reminds me of when Fincher came in to direct Alien 3 in '91-'92 (film debut), which he had to deal with an unfinished script and creative differences with studio heads. I think he got pissed off when the studio released the first trailer which gave the illusion that it takes place on earth. It all seemed to work out though as he learned how not to do things (proven with everything he has in since then), however, he did create a fine movie with what he had.

Here is a very interesting and great book regarding everything behind the scenes.
"The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies" by Edward Jay Epstein. I just checked and it's available on amazon in North America for about $2.50 new.
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+4
6:28AM on 06/26/2012
At the end of the end of the day most of these 'big budget' projects don't have artists that really care about the finished product. When you compare The Avengers to Battleship it's obvious Whedon really cared and Berg was trying to blown shit up.
At the end of the end of the day most of these 'big budget' projects don't have artists that really care about the finished product. When you compare The Avengers to Battleship it's obvious Whedon really cared and Berg was trying to blown shit up.
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4:50AM on 06/26/2012
Someday I would like to see some kind of report on the expenses of a movie. Not only the total, where they are spending the money and how much. I mean, we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, it baffles me how some movies require this big a budget. It almost seems like someone is increasing a budget on purpose, just to scam the movie company and steal more money for himself.
Someday I would like to see some kind of report on the expenses of a movie. Not only the total, where they are spending the money and how much. I mean, we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, it baffles me how some movies require this big a budget. It almost seems like someone is increasing a budget on purpose, just to scam the movie company and steal more money for himself.
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9:44AM on 06/26/2012
If that's what you're looking for, then I'm pretty sure that this will be incredibly enlightening:

[link]0,6005119.story

It's an LA Times report on the production of Sahara back in 2005 (anyone remember that movie?). A lawsuit caused some documents relating to that film's production to be released to the public, and when the LA Times got a hold of them, they used them as a case study in production costs running out of control.
If that's what you're looking for, then I'm pretty sure that this will be incredibly enlightening:

[link]0,6005119.story

It's an LA Times report on the production of Sahara back in 2005 (anyone remember that movie?). A lawsuit caused some documents relating to that film's production to be released to the public, and when the LA Times got a hold of them, they used them as a case study in production costs running out of control.
2:15AM on 06/26/2012
The Hunger Games was made for $80 million+ and made twice that in the first weekend. That's the way to make movies, and of course it was helped by the insane amounts of hype generated by the book. In terms of quality, plenty of mid or low budget films far outshine the $200 million brass. A good movie is never all bells and whistles. Of course, there are times when a huge budget can benefit a film, but only in conjunction with skilled talent in front of and behind the camera, like with Inception
The Hunger Games was made for $80 million+ and made twice that in the first weekend. That's the way to make movies, and of course it was helped by the insane amounts of hype generated by the book. In terms of quality, plenty of mid or low budget films far outshine the $200 million brass. A good movie is never all bells and whistles. Of course, there are times when a huge budget can benefit a film, but only in conjunction with skilled talent in front of and behind the camera, like with Inception and the Avengers.
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+10
2:08AM on 06/26/2012

Did you just randomly spoil Prometheus?

.
.
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2:34AM on 06/26/2012
I could think of probably 20-30 other ways to "spoil" Prometheus. Saying that people die in it is hardly spoiling the film. Give me a break.
I could think of probably 20-30 other ways to "spoil" Prometheus. Saying that people die in it is hardly spoiling the film. Give me a break.
1:46AM on 06/26/2012

To hell with you double post

Yeah...that happened.
Yeah...that happened.
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1:42AM on 06/26/2012

John Carter and Battleship

No mention of those since they've come and gone, but they certainly factor into the whole thing. I think John Carter could've been re-conceptualized to lessen the budget, which would've increased profit. That's kind of a "no duh" but if that's the case, I don't see how some movie nerd columnist (ahem) is the first to think of it (I'm not). Had Robert Rodriguez shot the film as he originally toyed with doing, I think it would've had a better chance at being a highly profitable film. However,
No mention of those since they've come and gone, but they certainly factor into the whole thing. I think John Carter could've been re-conceptualized to lessen the budget, which would've increased profit. That's kind of a "no duh" but if that's the case, I don't see how some movie nerd columnist (ahem) is the first to think of it (I'm not). Had Robert Rodriguez shot the film as he originally toyed with doing, I think it would've had a better chance at being a highly profitable film. However, another reason I didn't mention JC is that, in my opinion, it's a great movie. I don't know that it's a great movie in relation to cost, but it's not something that was lacking in passion or follow through. I think a lot of the money is onscreen as well. It's one of those cases where the wolves smelled blood and went to feast without looking at what they were eating. Battleship on the other hand...
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+5
1:06AM on 06/26/2012

can't believe

there wasn't one mention of John Carter or Battleship... two films that had budgets of over TWO HUNDRED MILLION each.

I have no problem with big budgets, if the budgets are used to their fullest. However they rarely are (the only time I can really think of budgets really being used to their fullest are Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Avengers kind of thing)

and animated movies, what's up with their budgets? The Incredibles cost under 100 million to make... and Cars 2 cost more
there wasn't one mention of John Carter or Battleship... two films that had budgets of over TWO HUNDRED MILLION each.

I have no problem with big budgets, if the budgets are used to their fullest. However they rarely are (the only time I can really think of budgets really being used to their fullest are Avatar, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Avengers kind of thing)

and animated movies, what's up with their budgets? The Incredibles cost under 100 million to make... and Cars 2 cost more than 200 million?! Why do all these animated movies need budgets close to 200 million? I mean, nothing against Pixar here but damn near everyone of their recent movies comes close to a budget of 200 million... why?! Then you look at equally if not more visually stunning movies like Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss, both of which have budgets $150 million or less. Even still, $150 million for an animated movie just doesn't make sense to me... I mean where is all the money going? You have to pay the cast and crew just like any other production... but everything is made on a computer. Sure you buy new animation technology and such but for $150 to $200 million? You would think that the budget would decrease drastically once they have all the main tech bought and such... not increase every year. I mean it's not like they're renting out New York to film, buying 1,000 new cars to blow up and setting up expensive explosions and action scenes in the middle of the street. Same thing goes for live action movies that are mostly CG (like Battleship)... why did that cost more than $200 million? All the action was CG explosions... it really costs $160 million or so to pay a computer animated team to make less than an hour of total CG sequences? I just don't see how it could cost that much time after time. Seems to me like someone's asking a lot, lot more than what it costs to actually make...
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