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This week, we’re introducing a new feature to Martini Shot: The Martini Shot Extended Universe! OK, we’re not doing that — at least not yet. Instead, on occasion Rob will be talking to people in the entertainment business who he usually only talks about. Executives, other writers, journalists, maybe even actors.
In today’s conversation, Rob sits down with Richard Rushfield, the impresario behind The Ankler newsletter, which regularly beats the Hollywood trades at their own game (and yes, you should subscribe). They discuss the recent purchases of Warners and MGM and what that portends for audiences, and why —according to Rob— the obsession many cable and phone companies have with owning studios is nonsense.
In the popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’s The Producers. To classic-era screenwriters, producers are treated in their biographies as greedy capitalists and script-butchering philistines. To film directors, who screenwriters generally regard as their sworn mortal enemies, producers are generally treated as meddling, movie-altering oafs disguised as white-shoe country clubbers.
Real-life producers laugh this off, but they do resent it. And they’re used to it. Being a producer is a real job and a hard one, whether you’re on the money end of it, the production end of it, or both.
A producer is the prime organizer of a film project. It’s a two-headed eagle of a job with different skill sets for each side of it: getting the money and spending it efficiently. Many producers are entrepreneurs who do both. They originate a project, often well before a director is even hired, and work with a writer or a team of writers to present a script that can win a production deal from a studio. These deals are complex and sometimes involve securing outside money as well, from a bank or an individual. Locking those deals in, and making them stick throughout the long period of production, is a specialized, full-time business skill all by itself. Some producers are valued strictly for that expertise.
I’m going to tip my hand here: I work for the Walt Disney Company. And the Walt Disney Company is easily the most Leftist, politically correct company on the planet. The only difference between working for Disney and the DNC is the characters at Disney are slightly less cartoonish.
Just when I thought things could not become more unbearable – and this is after nearly a year of sniveling, pandering e-mails, and virtual town halls about social justice and how the company is resolved never to give another white man another promotion ever again – today’s Zoom call began with coworkers talking about how “proud” and “emotional” they are to be a part of bringing the New York Times’ race-baiting, historically discredited 1619 Project to the masses as a series of propaganda programs across its television and online platforms.
In this Martini Shot Classic episode, Rob exhorts his fellow writers not to dwell in cynicism and self doubt about their new projects, but rather think of them in terms of wonder, enthusiasm, excitement, curiosity, gratitude, joy, and adventure. Strong advice — if only he could convince himself to take it.