Filmmaking panel wary of future

Industry folks take aim at Internet, studios

The members of Thursday’s “Future of Filmmaking” panel hosted by Syracuse U. at Gotham’s W Union Square took a surprisingly wary view of the future.

“I’m a guy who sees nothing good having come from the Internet, period,” said Sony Pictures boss Michael Lynton, sitting between Anne Hathaway and Nora Ephron. “It seems to have done damage to every part of the entertainment business by creating this notion that people can get whatever they want right now, for free.”

Moderator Ken Auletta dryly asked, “So, Michael, what’s your next career?” Lynton replied, “Broadband! I’m going to go out there and lay cable.”

Hathaway and Ephron noted the upside of digital filmmaking tools, which help ease pressure on actors and directors to nail a take in waning daylight, for example. But they echoed Lynton’s skepticism, especially in regard to the blogosphere and online video.

The Web “has given everyone a bathroom wall they can write on,” Hathaway said. “Thankfully, we’re not in high school anymore … I just don’t look.”

All three panelists grappled with why the quality of mainstream films has declined in recent years. Talent windows and gaps in a studio’s release schedule are the most common culprits, Lynton said, as is moving quickly before the script is perfected.

“It’s just like the war in Iraq,” Ephron quipped. “There was a start date, it had a cast, but it was a bad script.”

Without naming any names, Hathaway spoke of the awful realizations she’s had that she was about to embark on one of those schedule-fillers. “When I feel that way, I’m usually right,” she laughed.

She said cutting her fee to make “Rachel Getting Married” was the kind of move that should be made automatically by stars who believe in low-budget projects. “Why make a movie for $30 million when it should look like it was made for 10?” she said. ” ‘Brokeback Mountain’ cost $11 million, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I think I made SAG day rate for that one.”

Ephron said she mistrusts studios’ frequent cries of poverty, especially their claims that talent and writer-director costs have hit them hard.

“I look at the movie business as this giant Ponzi scheme set up to compensate a small number of people,” she said. “Everything about it is puffed up, including the executives. You wouldn’t believe the scale of wealth in Hollywood. They live like pashas. I know people live like that here, too, but we all live in apartments so you can’t see it.”

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