Every investor is different. They each have their own distinctive tastes, personal motivations, preferred methodologies and, yes, creative expertise. They are as individualistic, in other words, as the filmmakers they support. Which is why we at Slated have just inaugurated our Filmonomics Talks, a monthly series of candid film financing discussions that recognize investors as much more than just the money. Investors are full partners in the filmmaking process and like every other player in that ecosystem, they want to learn from one another, swap war stories and make meaningful connections both across the industry and among their peers. Slated’s online filtering tools, scoring systems and informational resources are designed to remove much of the guesswork out of that matchmaking process; Filmonomics Talks now adds a personal dimension to what is after all a human business still driven by personalities and preferences.
In this guest Filmonomics post adapted from his initial think pieces on the Cinema Research Institute (CRI) blog, CRI 2014 fellow Colin Whitlow explains why the film industry would benefit from a dedicated performance index – and how he is approaching building just such a valuable tool.
Hollywood has always fallen hard for films about scam artists and their clever schemes. Even before American Hustle and The Wolf Of Wall Street, there was Catch Me If You Can, House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, The Grifters, The Sting, Paper Moon and seductive confidence artists stretching all the way back to The Lady Eve in 1941. The cons vary but the tricks remain much the same: victims are fooled into trusting in a stranger's good faith through greed, vanity, opportunism, desire, compassion, desperation and any other basic urge you can name. It is easy to see the greenlight appeal of such stories. Not so much because of Hollywood’s own history with charismatic charlatans, or even because their conniving tales can provide such giddy entertainment, but because filmmaking itself so often involves elaborate self-deception and blind trust. The human lust for storytelling, and the constant craving for money required to feed that, is such that some of the strangest bedfellows are thrown together in the name of cinema.
It has been ten years since the publication of Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game and still the quest goes on to find those hidden signals and data points that might do for the film industry what Billy Beane and his bean-counters did for professional baseball – namely, unlock the secrets of success in a business distorted by old wisdoms. There is much to be gained from such a statistical treasure trove. In film entertainment, as in sports, the scouting establishment has shown a habit of undervaluing those most often responsible for winning results. A costly obsession with conventional star performers has blinded both industries to what really makes teams tick. To borrow both baseball and cinema parlance, it all comes down to finding those players who can truly “produce”.
“I lost money for the first time ever in my career over the last two years,” beamed Matthew McConaughey in his signature drawl as he picked up this year’s actor trophy at the recent Hollywood Film Awards. “But I did have a helluva lot of fun.” McConaughey’s conscious decision to"recalibrate" his shirtless rom-com persona into something edgier has since led him to a succession of eye-catching performances in director-driven, lower-budget films - MAGIC MIKE, KILLER JOE, THE PAPERBOY, MUD – and now to the brink of Oscar recognition with DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. It’s the kind of Travolta-style career revival, a McConnaissance if you will, that should give fresh hope to indie filmmakers still hitting heads against talent agents’ doors in their casting quests.