Hollywood Execs - So, what do I (Ted Hope) Miss!

Joseph Chianese
Joseph Chianese Member Posts: 87
edited June 4 in Producers

I thought you'd enjoy this (following up on my Linkedin post from Saturday -


Some further insights from Ted Hope (definitely sign-up for his newsletter - https://substack.com/%40tedhope )

“Is 2024 the year of the box-office megaflop?” stated another recent headline. Seems that way, but why is that really?

Imagine if we could really change the world. What if they stopped making the stuff you are not interested in, and only made the good stuff. I wonder how many business plans got funded on that unrealistic strategy? Sadly, probably too many to count. People love to believe they know better than others.

And then there’s the problem that folks don’t really like the good stuff. They don’t. We’ve trained people to think the good stuff is too much hard work, be it to make or to watch. How do you solve for that? Do you just give the folks what they want, or think they want, or actually watch? Where does that get you? Generally, people seem to think that’s where the Netflix strategy currently is: don’t give them HBO style awards-bait, but instead feed them ABC-style junk food & keep them snacking. It seems to be the policy of most of the GSPs these days. Maybe that’s where all business heads: why try to “improve” the audience? Don’t fight them. Just keep them hooked to the screen? After all, that’s strategy pretty much worked for the last fifty years, right?

Is there a point where a steady diet of the same thing stops being something you can swallow? There was a moment not so long ago when most in Hollywood thought all the audience needed was another superhero spectacle. Since horror did not end up being a passing fad, why should comic book flicks? Or so they thought, until people abruptly stopped going. One day they not so long ago they didn’t want Westerns either.

So, if figuring out the cadence of variety in the supply of entertainment is something that the best and the brightest, the most powerful and well capitalized can’t figure out, does it classify as another DADTBABTMPAWDOARB? Shouldn’t more of us have been able to figure out what the healthy diet is to keep audiences engaged by now?

Let’s be clear. Personally, I really don’t care about the audience. Yup, that’s true, or almost true. Rather I don’t care about the general audience’s desires. I care about all those that love cinema. That I do. Full stop. Granted, I think there are more of those that deeply love cinema (or could) than even they themselves know. And they could expand beyond that and even multiply further if we did things a wee bit better too. It would be nice if that is what we were all trying to do… but… I believe all of us are constantly becoming — we are all works in process —and the role of leaders and artists both is to help move folks to their true selves. And while I would not begin to venture that I will ever have a clue to what that is for anyone (and nor should we try), I do think art – and cinema in particular – is an accelerator for that process. We love to see our fuller selves on the screen, particularly the parts that are most hard to express. One of the many attributes of cinema that I deeply admire is that films enable us to talk about the difficult things a wee bit better.

I encourage to you try to define for yourself what the attributes of cinema are, at least the ones that you hold dear. I have. And also, for the “indie” sort I love so much. I think it is very hard to speak accurately about any art form or process until you’ve tried to define what those attributes are. And this is where you can see large swaths of industry going wrong. They haven’t done it. They don’t do it. And they won’t do it, even when you suggest they do. It’s a tell. And a significant one. Speaks volumes.

I doubt any executive at any GSP, or studio has bothered with such a task as defining the attributes of cinema. The math is probably not much better in the producer ranks either, or it is particularly in those two job categories I think such an exercise is needed most. If you are making something, you want to know how best to utilize its core components. Recognize what it does well and emphasize that. That is, do that, unless your goal is to ultimately undermine it to such an extent that it no longer is a worthy competitor for people’s leisure time. Makes one wonder if it all could be one big conspiracy to kill off cinema for good, doesn’t it?

I am going to show you how doing so will lead you to not just find better movies to make, but entire slates. I will even suggest those slates for you now. It may be your path to riches and glory. Or on the other hand it may lead you to write a newsletter and shake your fist at the clouds. Maybe you are like those execs and producers I mentioned. Sometimes it feels a whole lot safer to have your head deep in the sand, or even a less savory space. I started with cinema’s attributes and built from there — and I suspect that will give us a head start over most.

If I was on the game show where you have to define the world as we really want it to be, and the category was cinema, I’d first probably suggest that all movies lean into cinema’s attributes. And yeah, if you resided on that planet where I was the benevolent decider of all, and you were a film exec, you darn well better have written up that list of cinema attributes if you want to hold onto your gig. But what’s the next step if you are one of the smarties that already has that list in your project? What are the themes and genres you want to focus on next? Let’s play that game now.

If I was to give you, say… five million in development funds and one hundred million in production funds and you had to deliver a minimum of fifteen films, and the mandate was to launch NEW labels for NEW cinema, with NEW themes, and NEW forms, from NEW perspectives that would engage OUR audience – and considering there is nothing new under the sun only the under-examined and underutilized or misunderstood – how would you spend it?

And again, if I was launching a new company and you were applying for a development or acquisition gig, at any level, this would be one of the questions I’d ask you, so I suggest you add to you list of “Answers To Know Before The Questions Are Asked” or AKA ATKBTQAA. Add another acronym to the HFF list, matey!

If I was on the other side of the table, this is how I would answer. Don’t think of one-offs. Think of strands or labels. If you don’t, you are leaving money and opportunity on the table. If you use 3-5 titles that are somehow aligned to launch a label that are you disciplined about, in success that label will bring both audiences and creators to you. I’d aim for 15 films and 3-5 labels – the number would depend on whether we had early success or not; if we did, I’d do more in that successful vein and end up with fewer labels. Mine the gold while you can! And if we are aiming for five labels, I’d develop for seven or nine labels. In development, I’d just want to make sure each project had another one or two in the same vein.

But let’s focus on what these new themes, genres, and approaches may be. This is HopeForFilm afterall, so all the work would first and foremost be authored. Authored requires a point of view; it must feel like only that author could deliver it. It should feel deeply human and deeply specific. That isn’t new, but that’s what I care most about it.

And we are now talking about the business side of things. If it was just art, I think you know where I would go. I previously shared the movement that I wish was a fan obsession, as it is a type of cinema I perhaps love most: COMMITTED. But here we are looking at the business, the sort of thing you can make money on.

My candidates for new genres to launch are: WTF, Puzzle Me This, Tomorrow Is Today, Transformative, Doc Thrillers, Deep Honest Emotion, and Exposed! I need to provide the caveat – again – that nothing is new. You can find pre-existing titles in each of these genres for sure, but the genres themselves are not generally focused on. I am going to offer a brief description of each and why I think we should love them. That said, what I most want to know is what you think we need or want. Sure, I’d like your thoughts what I got right and wrong, but I am sure there is more to consider that what I can launch over my morning coffee with you.

So, what did I miss?


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