We’re living in a time of massive change in the film industry. Once upon a time, movies would run in theaters until the film started to tear, and audiences would come out in droves because there were no TVs, and no way to consume these stories at home.
Times changed when television hit, and the industry had to adapt to that particular beast. Now, we’ve reached a new era where streaming is all the rage. Practically everyone and their mom is creating a streaming service of their own, and Netflix — the leading name in streaming — has gone on to produce a myriad of TV content.
In more recent years, they’ve also started focusing on film content. In addition to the TV shows, they’ve been putting out midbudget films like hotcakes. Some of the more recent offerings were War Machine, Okja, and Death Note. Coming up this year as potentially the biggest highlight is the David Ayer-directed urban fantasy, Bright, which has a budget of $90 million.
They’ve managed to secure some pretty big actors like Will Smith, Willem Dafoe, Noomi Rapace, Tilda Swinton, and a whole lot more. It seemed like they were gaining real credibility, and blazing a brand new trail of filmmaking. However, when asked about this at a recent media event, Stacey Snider, chairwoman and CEO of Fox’s film division, threw shade at Netflix.
“I couldn’t find, and I won’t say their names, the Netflix movies that we were supposed to be upset got made at Netflix. Point me to an article or campaign that gets me excited. There’s nothing about the experience of making them in a churn-like environment that appeals to filmmakers. This is not conjecture on my part — I speak to them. There’s nothing better about watching a film on Netflix or Amazon. There just isn’t.”
Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack there.
Let’s start with that first statement. Basically it sounds like others have led her to believe that studios should be upset, since Netflix is making movies that they normally wouldn’t make. Apparently, she sees few films with merit there, and as a result, isn’t upset that they didn’t end up at Fox. There’s nothing there to make her excited.
Fair enough, she’s not a fan of what they’ve produced.
She then criticizes them for making them in a “churn-like environment.” She has a point there. Due to Netflix trying to get as much original content on their site, they’re putting down a significant amount of money to put out these movies. In doing so, they pad their library with a lot of movies.
In addition to adding a higher figure to their “originals” category, they also are able to make a bunch of different types of movies that appeal to different niches. While I see this as a good thing, Snider seems to believe that it likely decreases the value of the film in the eyes of a filmmaker (at least that’s what I can gather based on her statement). If there are a lot of different films hitting, each gets less attention, less focus, and is therefore less appealing to filmmakers. And, if she’s telling the truth, she’s spoken to filmmakers who feel the same way.
Of course, this is all hearsay from someone who has a real dog in this race, so it’s no surprise she’d say something like that.
Will Smith in Netflix’s Bright. However, there are some filmmakers that would disagree. At San Diego Comic-Con this year, Bright helmer David Ayer had nothing but positive to say about his experience with Netflix.
“For me the only real difference is just there is a lot more freedom of creativity and it’s less about how we’re going to see this and more about just having another cool place as a filmmaker to go make movies.”
Additionally, in an interview with us here at LRM, Death Note producer Masi Oka stated that the film would not have happened without Netflix.
“Netflix came in and saved the day. Warners was not going to make it anymore, and Netflix said, ‘You know what? We love it.’ We’re actually very grateful, because this movie actually wouldn’t have been made at any other studio because of the content. Because [director] Adam [Wingard] wanted to push the envelope. There’s a lot of gore, and that gore is not gratuitous. I think it’s really important to the storytelling to let people know that these are life or deaths takes. It was important to push the envelope. And because of Netflix and how they allowed us to have creative freedom, if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have been able to push that creative envelope and put Adam’s vision on screen.”
Of course, there are positive statements, but just as Snider has a dog in this race in terms of praising more traditional filmmaking, Ayer and Oka are also pushing their own films, and working to remain in Netflix’s good graces. So we just have to think about the evidence they’re presenting. Sadly, at this point, it seems far too early to make any assumptions about this.
We can see it both ways. From all we’ve heard, filmmakers are given a decent amount of freedom because the way they track success is a lot different from how studios do.
The result? Netflix is churning out a lot of varied content, trying to cover their bases and appeal to a wide array of audiences. While some folks (like Snider) may see this as a bad thing, we’re not so sure. In all honesty, we’d love to hear some thoughts on actual filmmakers discussing this topic. As of right now, the only ones we’re hearing from are those who revere the theater-going experience, like Christopher Nolan.
Are there filmmakers who think that Netflix is actually ruining the process of making films? We’d like to know.
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SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times