Monthly Archives: September 2013

WGA Members See Darker Days For Feature Film Work

Far brighter outlook seen for TV writing

While TV offers growing opportunities for scribes, members of the Writers Guild of America East are forecasting a bleak future for themselves in writing screenplays for feature films .

According to a survey released Wednesday by the guild, half of the members who responded said that the declining number of movies being made is the biggest challenge WGA East will face in the next five years. “Many also decried the lack of development deals in feature film and limited revenues from digital/online reuse,” the WGA East said.

The WGA East represents about 4,000 members while the WGA West has about double that number. About 20% of the WGA East’s members participated in the survey.

“Members view television as a more writer-driven medium than feature film, and a growing slate of compelling, creatively satisfying shows is being produced for the small screen,” the WGA East also said. “Although more than half of the respondents said they wrote feature films in the last five years, nearly 90% said they intend to seek Guild-covered work in television in the next year. In other words, screenwriters plan to explore opportunities in TV.”

The finding comes with Hollywood’s major studios opting to continue allocating a growing portion of their resources on a few mega-budget franchise tentpoles. In a report released in July, the WGA West said that Hollywood writer earnings rose 4% last year to $1.02 billion as a 10.1% surge in TV writing overcame a 6.1% decline in feature film work.

TV earnings for the WGA West amounted to $667.2 million while feature film employment slid 6.7% to 1,537 writers earning $343.4 million — the third straight year of declines as the six major studios made fewer mid-budget features. Feature film earnings in the WGA West have plunged 35% since 2007 when pre-strike stockpiling generated $526.6 million in writer earnings.

The WGA East survey also found that about 45% of its respondents said they have also produced; nearly 30% have directed; and about 18% have acted. Nearly 20% of the survey respondents are also playwrights; 20% write novels and short stories; 16% write nonfiction books and articles; 10% write in nonfiction television; and 17% of the respondents indicated they have been paid to write for digital media.

The WGA noted that it first won jurisdiction over writing for digital media as part of the settlement in the 2007-2008 strike.

One of the anonymous respondents said, “What I’ve learned the last few years is that I have to be open to more kinds of work – feature, TV, cable, etc. – and then work much harder to get the job.” Another reiterated a longstanding complaint: “There is far too much ‘free’ work expected from producers and studios. This needs to change ASAP.”

The two Writers Guilds negotiate jointly with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the current master contract runs out on May 1. No negotiations have been set.

Dave McNary – VARIETY – September 25, 2013

2014: A banner year for Oz cinema?

By Don Groves INSIDEFILM – [Thu 19/09/2013 03:38:42]

This may turn out to be a premature and fanciful call but 2014 is shaping as potentially one of the strongest years for Australian films, commercially and critically, in recent memory.

The 2014 release schedule has a broad mix of genres although crime thriller seems the most popular genre. “It’s a good slate,” says Mike Baard, MD of Universal Pictures International, while lamenting the dearth of comedies, with the notable exception of Wayne Hope’s Now Add Honey. Universal will release Jocelyn Moorhouse’s comic drama The Dressmaker, which toplines Kate Winslet and Judy Davis and will shoot in early 2014.

The Weinstein Co’s acquisition of US rights to Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man and John Curran’s Tracks virtually guarantees both will get a hefty marketing push and choice screens in the US.

Matt Saville’s thriller Felony got rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, particularly for the performances by Joel Edgerton, Tom Wilkinson and Jai Courtney. Writer-director Aaron Wilson’s debut feature Canopy, set during the Japanese invasion of Singapore in WW11, got positive reactions in Toronto. Greg Mclean’s Wolf Creek 2 had its world premiere in Venice after being pre-sold to every major territory except the US, where a deal is pending. Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce and Scoot McNairy star in Animal Kingdom director David Michôd’s crime thriller The Rover. Roadshow will release Wolf Creek 2, Felony, The Rover, Now Add Honey and These Final Hours.

EOne Hopscotch will distribute Son of a Gun; Rolf de Heer’s Charlie’s Country; Tony Ayres’ crime thriller Cut Snake, which stars Sullivan Stapleton, Alex Russell and Jessica de Gouw; and I, Frankenstein, Stuart Beattie’s Melbourne-shot contemporary fantasy thriller which sees Frankenstein’s monster protecting the human race against an uprising of supernatural creatures, featuring Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Socratis Otto, Jai Courtney and Caitlin Stasey.

Transmission is handling The Railway Man (which opens on Boxing Day), Tracks, Stephen Lance’s My Mistress and, co-distributed with Footprint Films, Fell, a drama starring Matt Nable and Daniel Henshall from first-time writer-director Kasimir Burgess.

Pinnacle will release Peter and Michael Spierig’s Predestination, a time-travel thriller starring Noah Taylor, Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook.

Among other titles due for release next year are Craig Monahan’s drama Healing, John V. Soto’s crime thriller The Reckoning, starring Luke Hemsworth, Jonathan LaPaglia and Viva Bianca, Nadia Tass’ comedy The Menkoff Method, Michael Petroni’s supernatural thriller Backtrack and, from first-time directors, Jennifer Kent’s psychological thriller The Babadook, Josh Lawson’s sexy comedy The Little Death and Geoff Davis’ WW1 drama The Stolen.

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Too many good Aussie dramas?

MICHAEL BODEY – The Australian  – September 21, 2013 12:00AM

I BELIEVE we’re “drama-ed out”. Too many good Australian drama series haven’t
attracted the audiences they deserve this year.

One of them, Power Games: The Packer Murdoch Story (M, Roadshow, 250min, $39.95), is released on DVD this week. Another local series, Upper Middle Bogan (M, ABC, 237min, $29.95), perhaps shows where television programmers and producers should head.

This year reminds me of 2005-06, when we saw a generational distaste for Australian drama. The industry got ahead of itself, launching dramas of differing style and budget, including The Cooks, Young Lions and Canal Road. There were too many and we turned off until new funding led to splashier fare such as Sea Patrol, City Homicide and the Underbelly franchise. There has been a run of success since.

We over-egged it this year. Every week, there has been a new Australian drama, “an important story” that “Australia’s talking about”. There is not space for them all.

The accessible, middle-Australia space previously inhabited by Packed to the Rafters is now taken by House Husbands and Winners & Losers. Offspring managed to recover from its mid-season madness to take the quirky space while the jury’s out, just, on Wonderland.

Nine’s reliance on men behaving badly through the Underbelly and the Packerfocused Howzat and Power Games series is telling. Underbelly: Squizzy was competent but began timidly. Power Games is splendid but niche, particularly when Seven’s A Place to Call Home took the period space not taken by ABC1.

The ABC has had winning telemovies such as Cliffy and Mabo, and played to a formulaic strength with Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. But scheduling The Time of Our Lives against Underbelly and House Husbands was the kind of hubris that saw audiences shun local drama.

Which brings me to Upper Middle Bogan. DVD Letterbox enjoys the work of Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope, which includes The Librarians and Very Small Business. They’re not laugh-a-minute comedies but keenly observed and performed beautifully. Anyone who casts Glenn Robbins, Michala Banas and Robyn Nevin, as they did here, knows what they’re doing.

Upper Middle Bogan is a ripper, the kind of narrative comedy we don’t see enough of. It’s a little bigger than most ABC1 comedies without overreaching. And it hits a socio-political moment, the comfort of middle Australia, without being meanspirited. I doubt it would have worked on the commercial networks but it should raise the question: why aren’t Seven, Nine and Ten doing narrative comedy or sitcoms?

They’re happy to air imports, and fill panel and reality shows with comedians. So why not risk the Australian sitcom? It’s not solely the job of the ABC. Is anyone even looking at setting a sitcom around, say, Anh Do? I’d bank on that before another local drama series.

How China’s Homegrown Biz Is Threatening Hollywood’s Payday

China’s evolving movie biz shows an increasing sophistication and diversity that
challenges U.S. studios to rethink their approach

In the past few years, Westerners have exulted in the country’s box office boom, which included hefty grosses for major-studio films such as “Iron Man 3,” “Pacific Rim” and “The Croods.” With the liberalization of access to the market and a greater share of distribution money, Hollywood began to see China as the land of opportunity after decades of feeling thwarted by tight quotas for imported movies.

Yes, the China box ofice is growing, but not for everyone. In the current year, ticket sales for local films increased 144% to $1.12 billion, while imported films saw a 21% slump to $670 million — despite the relaxing of quotas.

Is Hollywood doing something wrong, or are Chinese filmmakers doing something right? Both, which is why American studios need to quickly rethink their roles and goals. Continue reading How China’s Homegrown Biz Is Threatening Hollywood’s Payday

Ruin wins prize in Venice

Australian film wins prize in Venice

Rous Mony and Sang Malen in the uncompromising <i>Ruin</i>, a romantic road movie shot in Cambodia.Rous Mony and Sang Malen in the uncompromising Ruin, a romantic road movie shot in Cambodia.

Australian film Ruin, a surreal and meditative love story filmed in Cambodia, won a special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday night. Ruin, directed by Amiel Courtin-Wilson and Michael Cody, was shot on a shoestring budget with Khmer-speaking actors. The directors and cinematographer Ari Wegner were awarded the prize in the festival’s cutting-edge Horizons section.

The Horizons jury was headed by American director and screen-writer Paul Schrader, whose many credits include the coruscating script for Taxi Driver. It is the second film the directing duo has screened in Venice; their first feature Hail showed there successfully two years ago. Ruin’s success as an Australian film shot in Asia follows that of The Rocket, made in Laos by Kim Mordaunt, which has won prizes in a succession of  international festivals.

Venice was at its hot, steamy worst for the final night of the festival, having trailed to an end as seemingly the majority of visitors decamped in the middle of last week for the much bigger and more business-like festival in Toronto. A sprinkling of international press remained to see Bernardo Bertulucci, Italy’s greatest living cinematic maestro and head of the Venezia 70 jury for the main competition, give the Golden Lion to his compatriot Gianfranco Rosi for Sacro Gra, an intriguing and frequently bizarre observational documentary about life along a Roman ring road. Australian film Tracks, directed by John Curran, was among the 20 films in competition.

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Australian distribution – a major problem?

Distribution: are Australian filmmakers simply wasting their time?
by: Sandy GeorgeScreen Hub
Friday 30 August, 2013
With three key Australian distributors on the podium, a CinefestOz audience played with some honest facts and some ghastly fears. Do you have the courage to read Sandy George`s report?At CinefestOZ on the weekend representatives from Madman, Hopscotch and Roadshow, three distributors who are supportive of Australian film, answered questions about the type of projects they responded to and why Australian films don’t do better at the box office. What they said was utterly sobering which is why everyone who is developing features should read this report, then ask themselves if they’re wasting their time.

“It’s competitive and we are an English speaking market up against the Hollywood juggernaut, which puts incredible amounts of money into film,” says Roadshow Films head of production Seph McKenna in response to the question of why Australian films don’t do better at the box office. “If Australians had $150 million to spend they could compete against Hollywood films, but we don’t have, we can’t afford it.

“On the (Australian) features that Roadshow acquires, which are budgeted at $8-15 million, we spend an average of $40-$50,000 on the trailer and one-sheet. The studios are spending $6-8 million on their trailers and their one-sheets. We are outgunned, a speedboat against aircraft carriers. Which means that when we do have films that find an audience – like Red Dog, Bran Nue Dae, The Sapphires and Animal Kingdom – it really is an incredible achievement. The bad and good news is that we have to be twice as good and work ten times as hard as the people in Hollywood … It’s hard to make films of that calibre, hard to tell stories that good. You’ve got to be at the top of your game and you have to have a little bit of fairy dust sprinkled on top.”

Continue reading Australian distribution – a major problem?