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SXSW: Jason Blum’s Keynote Points to Low Budget Television

AUSTIN — To build his low budget film empire, Jason Blum has subscribed to a staunch business model: Shoot 80% of his films in Los Angeles for between $3 to $5 million with seasoned directors and actors who will say yes to a huge pay cut in order to sleep in their own homes “and kiss their kids goodnight.” He has a first look distribution deal with Universal Pictures, has no problem working as a producer for hire (most recently with MGM for “The Town That Dreaded Sundown”) and has a built-in back end pay system for everyone who works on any of his films (scaled, of course).

At SXSW Sunday, Blum delivered a keynote that analyzed his own business, largely opting out of conversation with the moderator and instead providing an elongated harangue. From the moment he turned on his mic, Blum caused the audience to perk up and listen, despite the evidence that many people were operating on very little to no sleep.

A former Miramax studio exec, Blum created Blumhouse Productions and largely carved a niche as the producer and developer of micro budget horror films. Now, he’s growing his reach, working with the likes of Ryan Murphy on the aforementioned MGM film, extending beyond just genre films most recently with “Whiplash,” starring Miles Teller, that opened the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. “I would have never made [that film] five years ago. One of the things I want to do is make different things, add my name to something that wouldn’t get made, “ Blum told the auditorium.

He’s also getting deeper into television, looking to replicate a similar low cost business model to the small screen. Pointing out the migration of high level talent to television, Blum says he’s taking plenty of meetings with showrunners, who often have to mine through notes from both a studio and a network.

Blum argues that his “total freedom” approach, which allows directors final cut in exchange for working within the parameters of his business model, will be attractive to showrunners. Blum says that because he doesn’t make a point of giving notes, oftentimes directors will come to him with questions. “They get to work within a box of total creativity,” he said, driving home the point that he “relinquishes creative control.”

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