Who do you think it the biggest player in Hollywood right now? Who’s pulling the most strings? Probably a director, right? Maybe a few months ago you might have said Christopher Nolan. He had complete creative freedom while making Interstellar, something not a lot of people get to enjoy during their careers. Unfortunately, due to the film ‘under performing’ ($671 million worldwide doesn’t seem too bad to me) he’ll never get that kind of creative pull again.
Maybe there’s another director you have in mind? James Cameron perhaps? He was behind the two biggest commercial hits of all time, Avatar and Titanic, has a handful of Oscars and other awards, and has the respect of both critics and the general public. Unfortunately, his last directorial effort was the aforementioned Avatar, a film that a lot of people agree is one of his weakest (despite its multi billion box office), and his next film? Avatar 2, followed by Avatar 3 a year later, and one year after that, Avatar 4. And when are these unwanted sequels coming out? 2017, 2018 and 2019. That means there will have been eight years without a James Cameron film, and if these three films aren’t better received than the first installment, his reputation could be permanently damaged.
There are a few other directors I could talk about, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, and even people like Brad Bird and Michael Bay, and while they’re all free to pick and choose their projects (as long as you can keep making money, you can keep making films), I think there’s another group of people who are really starting to hold the power.
Every Marvel fanboy (here’s looking at you James Forbes) knows the name Kevin Feige. He’s the man credited with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and rightly so. I’m sure he’s not the only one that deserves credit, but it is his brainchild. And who doesn’t love the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Sad people. That’s who. This isn’t Feige’s first endeavour though, if you look him up on IMDB, you’ll notice that he’s been a producer on almost every Marvel film since the first X-Men in 2000.
Much like some of the directors I mentioned earlier, he has almost unlimited creative freedom. He’s the man who pitched Guardians of the Galaxy to the suits at Disney, and walked away with one of the biggest box office hits of 2014. He’s also the man who got a studio to agree to announcing NINE films in a franchise. Nine films. Imagine if they announced the next nine James Bond films, or Fast and Furious films in one go. Lunacy. He’s the man behind the biggest franchise in the world, and one of the biggest franchises of all time (if it isn’t already, it will be when Avengers: Age of Ultron makes a billion dollars this year), but I think we can do even better than that.
Ever heard of Jason Blum? Well, have you watched a horror film in the last five years? If the answer was yes, then you’ve seen one of his films. While he might have made a lot of films before it, the first Paranormal Activity was where he first made his name. He’s been involved in all five and the upcoming sixth installment of the franchise, which, whatever you think of those films, they’re made for nothing, and print money at the box office. It’s not just the Paranormal Activity films though, the Insidious franchise (soon to be a trilogy), Sinister, Dark Skies, the Purge franchise (again soon to be a trilogy), Oculus, Ouija and a load of upcoming horror films all have him behind them. Pun intended?
He’s more or less had an entire genre to himself over the past few years, which is something not a lot of people can claim. He’s also responsible for bringing a lot of other careers to prominence. He’s the one who gave the Insidious films to James Wan, who went on to make The Conjuring, and his next project? Furious 7. His films took Patrick Wilson from being ‘that guy, oooooooooh what’s his name?’ to being Patrick Wilson. His films revived Ethan Hawke’s career, so much so that Hawke has openly spoken about how much he owes Blum.
It’s not just horror though. Jason Blum is using the power and industry respect he’s gained from dominating one genre to start making other types of films. He had a hand in Lawless, the generally well liked crime drama from 2012. Even better than that, have you seen this years Oscar nominations? Five time nominee Whiplash is one of his too. The Boy Next Door might have been universally bashed by critics, but making four times its budget in the US, in only a few days is something you can’t ignore. He also helped get family friendly film Jem and the Holograms made, although the jury’s still out on that one.
So, what is it that makes Jason Blum, and even Kevin Feige so successful, and so powerful? It’s being a producer. Blum has twenty-one upcoming projects, and the possibility of twenty-three being released this year (it’s not even February and he’s had five credits to his name). That’s almost two a month. To put that into perspective, a director can usually make a maximum of one film a year. Even better than that, from the producers chair, when things go well, you can take as much credit as you like, and when they don’t, you can say that you were barely involved. On top of this, he’s specialising in low-budget (which means low risk), high return projects, so studios are much more likely to take a chance on something he wants to make. This might have always been the way things have been in Hollywood, but it seems like now more than ever, the producer is becoming the star.
Who do you think has the biggest influence in the film industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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