Comic Con 2015: Studio Chiefs Talk Blockbusters, IP, and Finding New Talent


IMG_4729Even though we here at Awards Circuit chat about what gets films made, it’s always nice to hear from the people directly involved in the making of films. Particularly given that the industry has moved towards things based on IP (superheroes, books, etc.) or genre material, hearing why this happens is valuable. Comic-Con brought together three major studio executives: Daria Cercek (Fox), Drew Crevello (Warner Bros), and Jim Miller (Lionsgate), to talk about story, finding creative talent, and where the industry is going.

IP is very important, but story is still king

All of the panelists come from studios with huge properties, but they all mentioned that even with these you still have to find the stories worth telling. Drew mentioned that studios are always looking for ways to tell multiple stories and the challenge is to make sure that each film has a satisfying story, while also seeding in future franchise films. Jim Miller mentions that though the loyalty to the property is a strong factor, the source material and films are two different mediums.

Development is better, but still long

Despite the fact that it seems they are churning these superhero films out like hot cakes, the long lead on the films is still big. Crevello mentions that all of the DC films are planned at least five years in advance, which is a long process for any film to endure. Other films get sequels quickly green-lit, but the process of making a big budget film (1-2 years) still means development will take a while.

Original Vs IP Content

One of the most interesting aspects of this panel was the discussion about original content. Despite heavy concentrations of non-original material, each panelist mentioned that the studios are after diverse slates of films. Daria chimed in that in many ways comedies are leading the charge at Fox, with many of their biggest hits, like Spy and The Heat, being bought on spec. She also highlighted that Fox Searchlight is tasked with finding those films as well. In a rare moment of studio honesty, Crevello told the audience that while they would love original films to be more prevalent, studios are based on an advocacy model, meaning that budget pressure can be a factor in a film getting made.

Cultivating New Talent

There was a lively discussion on the last podcast regarding directors being picked for big properties and one of the audience questions centered around how they bring new talent into the fold. While it is true that they do have list of people they like working with, by virtue of the insane development and production slates they have to be incredibly resourceful. Crevello mentioned that Warner Bros is in the habit of doing blind deals with new aspiring writers, meaning that if an exec likes their work they will commit to paying them to write something new for the company. Daria mentions how something as simple as being emailed a short film can get a filmmaker in the fold, which is what happened with Wes Ball. He went in for a general meeting and mentioned his love of Lord of the Flies, after which Fox sent him The Maze Runner books and now he’s the director.

How to be a Studio Executive

Well according to the panel you have to work your way up and it doesn’t matter what degree you have. Two of the three panelists were working in law and one was a History/English major. However, all of them worked at an internship that allowed them to move up the ranks.

Listen in full here:
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