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in Filmmaking
on Mar 25, 2007

The Times of London runs a sobering story from a Hollywood producer who can’t get a film made. In “Will I Ever Eat Lunch in This Town Again?” “Mr. X” discusses the travails of producing movies within the system.

Here’s how he begins:

Ostensibly, I produce movies for a living. The most recent movie I had a hand in producing won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Pretty heady stuff, to be sure. The reality, though, is slightly less fulfilling. We shot that film two years ago and, since then, I’ve produced nothing. Zilch. Not a frame of film, a byte of sound, a kernel of popcorn.

How, you may ask, does one survive in the film business without actually making any movies? Or, more relevantly, what the hell have I been doing for the past two years? Good question. Here’s the answer, which is really a guide for those of you looking either to become a producer or waste your time completely. The two are often indistinguishable.

What follows is a blow-by-blow account of the development of his latest project, a thriller set on the Mexican border with an acclaimed African-American actor set in the lead. “Mr. X” takes us through the endless development process, the vexing search for a director, and the crushing apathy of an industry only looking for a sure thing.

With a good project with seemingly saleable elements, “Mr. X” finds himself in a precarious position:

People in the industry were beginning to wonder – what was I working on? Calls were going unreturned. I developed the unmistakable stench of desperation. My wife started leaving the mortgage payment notices (and her shopping receipts) on my bedside table.

A producer friend once told me: “You’re either making a movie or you’re not. Everything else is just talk.” (He hasn’t worked in five years, but that’s another story.)

I clearly wasn’t making a movie. What I was doing was bleeding money. I had rung up a profoundly large credit card bill (wooing the various talents), ludicrously high legal fees (negotiating everyone’s deals) and astounding costs for therapy and medication (very poor health care system in America). This was in addition to actually buying the script, paying for rewrites and flying people back and forth for meetings.

The article is written as an anonymous account, but the author leaves strewn enough clues for insiders to make some fairly educated guesses. (So many clues, in fact, that he must want his colleagues to know what he’s going through — maybe in hopes of getting them to give the project a second look.) Nikki Finke pegs him as Blueprint’s Rick Schwartz, who was involved with The Departed, was a former Miramax employee, and has been shopping a script called Southbound with director Terry George attached.

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