CONSUMED BY MEDIA

When Joey confronted Paula: Future of Film Summit

Posted in indie film, movies, recession, studios, Warner by Diane on December 9, 2009

Ralphie, as we knew and loved him.

“Hi Paula. It’s Joey.”

Only then did I realize that the flamboyantly-dressed gent across the room was Joe Pantoliano aka Joey Pants aka Ralphie Cifaretto from “The Sopranos.” Thesp commandeered the microphone at Variety’s Future of Film Summit to quiz keynote speaker Paula Wagner, she the former partner with Tom Cruise and head of UA. Why, Joey wanted to know, were studios asking him to take 80% to 90% pay cuts without offering him a piece of the action? Specifically, why did Warner Bros. ask him, a working class actor, to take an 85% cut? After all, he said, Fox gave him a piece of “Daredevil.”

Wagner, a one-time actress who made her bones as an agent and now toils as an indie producer, had no easy answer for Joey Pants. Later in the day, however, QED founder Bill Block, another former agent, stressed the need to give talent a “a fair shake with a real transparent back end,” adding, “We need to find our way to a better model that rewards today’s box office performance.”

Throughout the day, panelists stressed the need for filmmakers to trim costs in line with the realities of today’s movie economics. But studio execs, Pantoliano pointed out, have not been willing to do the same. Hence, the hard feelings.

“At what point do we not need studios anymore and when do they start taking that cut?” he implored.

Again, no easy answer.

Oren Peli, writer-director of this fall’s Cinderella story, “Paranormal Activity,” admits that at some point you do need support of studios to get movies out there. “That’s probably part of the system that is not going to change,” he said. After considering for a moment whether to editorialize further, he simply offered a bit of resigned Hollywood-speak. “It is what it is.”

For more on confab, check out my Variety dispatch.

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