Walls between film, TV gone, panelists say

Home video has blurred lines

For creative talent and for the entertainment-consuming American public, the already blurry lines of distinction between film and TV are quickly disappearing, panelists said Monday at the Hollywood Radio & TV Society luncheon.

“Films are television right now,” said Fox topper Peter Chernin, who moderated the “Television/Motion Picture Crossovers” sesh at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“Most people watch homevideos (of feature pix) at home on their TV sets — they don’t make the distinction,” said Chernin, chairman and CEO of Fox Group and prexy and chief operating officer of News Corp. “With all the changes in our business, the whole notion of crossover (talent) is going to disappear. It’s all going to be one business — the entertainment business.”

That sentiment was echoed and amplified by panelists Debbie Allen, Melanie Griffith, Martin Short, producer Marshall Herskovitz and scribe Kevin Williamson.

Williamson, who followed his B.O. success with 1996’s “Scream” with the WB Network’s coming-of-age drama “Dawson’s Creek,” said he never gave much thought about his quick segue from the large to small screen.

“It was never my intention to crossover, I just kind of got employed,” said Williamson. “Now, it’s the TV side of things that brings a smile to my face. With feature films, you open and close. With ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ I get to live and breathe with these characters.”

While TV has its tight deadlines and time restrictions, Herskovitz argued that TV offers more creative freedom if only because it isn’t as risky as the movie biz these days.

“I’ve always had much more creative freedom in TV,” said Herskovitz, whose producing credits include “Legends of the Fall” and the acclaimed drama series “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life.” “The movie business now is driven by fear — there’s so much (money) riding on it, and there’s so many people second-guessing what you’re trying to do.”

Chernin concurred, adding that the climate of fear in studio executive suites is changing the way prospective feature projects are evaluated, while TV has a credible — if not sterling — track record for giving quality shows time to build.

“Word-of-mouth is dead in the movie business — it’s all about marketability,” said Chernin. “It’s a tremendous sea-change in our industry … It’s not so much about making a good movie but about things (studios) can market, things you can open on a Friday night. TV gives good shows time to build.”

Panelist Allen drew the biggest laugh of the sesh by contrasting the box office take of her labor-of-love production of “Amistad,” revolving around a rebellion on a slave ship, with the history-making gross of “Titanic.”

” ‘Amistad’ did OK … but I guess I picked the wrong boat,” Allen quipped. “Now when (both films) go to television, if we could just somehow combine these two ships … .”

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