Producer and Elevated Film Sales CEO Cassian Elwes used his keynote address at the Independent Film & Television Alliance Production Conference today to rip studios for ignoring movie audiences’ demands for smart, theatrical fare in exchange for comic-book franchises, and warned that the current flood of franchise movies threatens smart filmmaking, particularly for the younger generation. “Studios don’t want to make a movie for $10 million and see it fail, rather they’re looking to make films that generate $100 million-$200 million profit,” he said. “This has made the agencies complicit in this business.” The result, he says: Studios have dwindled their picture pipelines and stars’ salaries have eroded. “Twenty years from now, I’m convinced we’ll be seeing Fast & Furious 37 and these characters will have an advantage because they’ll be able to park in the handicapped zones,” Elwes quipped to the crowd.
There is good news for the indie business that made up the crowd at IFTA’s annual confab at the InterContinental hotel in Century City. Elwes, the former agent whose footprints have long been all over the independent film business — from packaging and financing to producing (among his recent credits are Dallas Buyers Club and Lee Daniels’ The Butler) — still believes there is plenty to gain for his colleagues in the current franchise environment.
“Actors will realize that these (comic-book and franchise films) isn’t their best work, and they’re interested in doing great work. When an actor’s peer such as when the late Marlon Brando turned to Sean Penn and compliments him on his work, that means a lot. So as the studios make less movies and make more rubbish, these actors want other ways to make films and the agencies don’t want them to do these movies. However, actors want to do these [high-brow] films and that’s where we come in — there’s an audience for alternative fare,” he said, referring to the recent box office success of films like American Hustle, 12 Years A Slave and Philomena.
During the course of his short speech, Elwes glibly pointed out that “the straight-to-DVD business is done as well as the horror business, except for those films that Jason Blum produces. If you make a horror movie and it doesn’t come out on 2,000 screens, it’s not going to be platformed either.”