Mechanic: Studio system needs repairs

Former Fox head to model his co. after Revolution

In his opening address to the American Film Marketing Assn.’s production conference Wednesday, 20th Century Fox head-turned-indie producer Bill Mechanic found support from AFMA members when he announced that he would join their ranks.

Mechanic also stunned his audience — and gained an additional measure of admiration — when he declared that the studio systems as we know them are “broken” and that independent filmmakers are currently the purveyors of all that was interesting in current cinema.

Although Mechanic has yet to outline specific plans for his new company, his speech did confirm that he would build a production company much in the model of Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios. (Daily Variety, Sept. 12)

Mechanic called the Roth model the “template for my future.”

What Mechanic’s audience didn’t expect, however, was such a blunt assessment of the studio system, where he spent the last 19 years of his career.

“The most interesting movies coming out are from the independent sector,” Mechanic told Daily Variety.

Added Mechanic, “The studios are making movies that are hard to fall in love with.”

Cinema critic

Mechanic did not reserve his criticisms on the current state of cinema for the studio sector, however. He also chided independent production companies for creating movies solely on the basis of how easy they were to sell and in the process attaching “fading stars” to weak scripts.

During the Q&A following Mechanic’s speech, a producer said that it was fine to focus on the art but he still had to figure out a way to get his movies financed.

Mechanic, however, pointed out that any movie takes a year of your life and a lot of other people’s money and that filmmakers have a responsibility to make the right movie — not necessarily the one that is easiest to sell.

After the speech, conference attendees were upbeat about Mechanic’s prospects in the independent sector. However, at least one AFMA member voiced a note of caution.

Said the independent producer, “Right now, he’s a little like a recent convert to nonsmoking.”

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