If We Ran a Studio: Part Two -- Five More Good Ideas

I know, I know! Hollywood is a business! It's only out to make money! But even given its craven grasping after nothing but moolah, it still does a lot of stupid things, like letting budgets escalate beyond all hopes of turning a profit. When I run my studio, I'll do things a little bit differently:

1) For every $100 million-plus movie my studio produces, I take another $50 mill; I'd divide it evenly among 10 young, hungry filmmakers based on their scripts, their previous experience, and their passion; then I'd let them go to town, with no interference from me, from my accountants, from my marketing experts or advertising execs. None of these films may be focus-grouped or test-screened in any official way, yet will be guaranteed minimum and equal levels of support (prerelease advertising, scope of theatrical play, eventual DVD release). It's not only an investment in the future, it's a way to jump-start the generation of creative, low-budget hits such as Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, and Paranormal Activity. It should also be expected to produce modestly performing films that nevertheless easily turn a profit because of their low budgets.

2) No director may take the helm of a movie with a budget of more than $100 million for my studio unless he or she has directed at least two films (for any studio, or independently) that cost less than $20 million to make and have earned back at least twice their budgets. If you can't reliably tell an appealing story on a small budget, your lack of talent will only be exacerbated with a big budget.

3) No salaries over $5 million for anyone, I don't care how huge a star or hotshot director you are. Payments beyond that amount may come only as a result of generous profit sharing (with none of that "creative" accounting involved; profits will be calculated fairly). If you're big enough to attract audiences on the strength of your name alone, then you'll choose carefully those projects most likely to appeal to your existing audience, in which case you'll certainly earn well over $5 million. If you want to branch out and be creatively adventurous, you'll shoulder as much risk as the studio does.

4) Three strikes and you're out. If you've directed, produced, or starred in three movies in a row -- for any studio, or independently -- that didn't at least earn back its production costs, you won't be making movies for me. Risk taking is fine, once in a while, and necessary for creative breakthroughs, but prudence is a virtue, too. Make two sure-thing $25 million pix before you ask for the dough for that "can't-miss" $200 million 3-D IMAX CGI theme-park-ride flick based on Moby Dick.

5) Guaranteed refunds to unsatisfied moviegoers. If you sit through one of my studio's movies and you think it's crap -- or if you believe the marketing mislead you into thinking the film was something it isn't -- you'll get your money back. That'll keep me and my filmmakers honest.

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MaryAnn Johanson dreams of being a studio mogul at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)