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02/23/2002 - I'll Trade Ya

It's been said that the movie business is glacial. You wouldn't know that by reading the trades. They make it all sound so easy.

Peel open Variety and The Hollywood Reporter on any given day and the articles make production companies look like glowing movie factories. Every day there are deals announced as though they were souffl?s whipped up the night before. A brilliant script appeared, actors fluttered in like birds and voila! Success, to be envied by all.

This is all a lie. Sure, deals sometimes gel quickly, but don't fall for all this hype, or let it discourage you. Most deals take an unglamorously long time to find their feet. Months go by while producers look for project funding, then comes the endless process of trying to put together the producers' conference calls, the producers' lawyers conference calls, the dragging in of the agents in to help the producers' lawyers unravel the back end woes, and so on.

Then there's the crumbling period of the deal. It's all coming apart. So-and-so won't budge. Fifty people want a producer's credit, clawing so desperately at the little lifeboat of a project that it threatens to sink. Office doors slam. So-and-so gets another offer. The other players become engrossed in less exacting projects. The lawyers stop returning phone calls. Everyone starts sighing and shrugging shoulders when asked how it's coming along.

Then, somehow, not always but often, the lawyers have no more comments. The contracts arrive with little red flags sticking out. It's ok. It's on. An article appears in one of the trades with everyone sounding so smooth and congratulatory. They say things like, "So-and-so is a creative giant and we are excited to have the chance to bring such a meaningful project to life."

My old boss Producer X once told me, "It's crazy; you place an item in the trades, and you know it's a lie, but you believe all the other lies in the paper." It's an addiction.
Industry people need to believe in the showbiz fantasy, so much so that I've seen grown men and women have a grand mal if they don't get their trades on the stroke of 9:00 a.m. (Old trades aren't any fun. Like pancakes, they're only good when they're fresh).

If the dealmakers didn't look forward to that announcement, that fait accompli, what would propel them through the years of hassle? Like screenwriters leaving a movie theater with renewed determination, the dealmakers needs to know that success is out there. Somewhere.


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