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Dispatches from TIFF
Post-TIFF notes and kind of a blind item...?
Now that TIFF is over for another year, and I am back home and mostly revivified, it’s a good time to reflect on the festival that was. On Sunday, it was announced that Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut, American Fiction, won the people’s choice award, so consider that Oscar campaign launched (typically, the TIFF people’s choice winner goes on to be a Best Picture nominee). You can see the full list of TIFF audience awards (and their one jury award) here.
Jeffrey Wright, star of American Fiction, is also an immediate Best Actor contender. Everyone wants to make that Cillian Murphy vs. Adam Driver vs. Leonardo DiCaprio, but Jeffrey Wright has, at this point, worked with everyone, made big and small films, he’s extremely well liked and well respected. He could run a very healthy “it’s his time” campaign, and no one would begrudge him it.
The runners-up of the people’s choice awards were Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers and Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron (an early favorite for Best Animated Feature). So, awards season is kicking into high gear as the various campaigns and races start to shape up. But let’s stick with TIFF for now, we have plenty of time to talk awards later.
Speaking of TIFF and talking, though, queue gossip was loaded with strike talk, obviously. The overwhelming sentiment is one that I have also expressed—AMPTP probably needs to break up. At one point, I was seated next to a muckety-muck from a non-AMPTP company who seemed pretty well versed in the issue and I asked her if she thought that, legally, that was even possible. She said based on bargaining agreements she had seen, there should be some extraction language, but she did point out that only AMPTP members know, for sure, what their collective agreement includes.
But it was the most popular talking point, with everyone agreeing that Apple, Amazon, and Netflix are simply not in the same business as the legacy movie studios, production companies, and television networks represented by AMPTP. Specifically, they’re not in the theatrical movie business, no matter what they say to placate filmmakers who care about movie theaters. One guy, president of a production company (non-AMPTP), pointed out that at minimum, those three companies should probably bail on AMPTP and let the “real” movie studios make a deal while the streamers figure their own thing out.
And EVERYONE believes Netflix is a major roadblock to getting a deal done. At this point, everyone is just assuming they are actually losing tons of money and don’t want to show anyone their books because it would mean cratering their value on Wall Street. It might not even be true! But that is now the overwhelming perception, that they’re the big holdout on streaming data transparency, and it’s because the whole streaming model isn’t profitable (which…I’ve been saying for actual years at this point).
Apple and Amazon are also streamers, but Apple TV+ and Prime Video, respectively, are loss leaders for them. I don’t think they care as much about data transparency, because the point of their streaming endeavors is to 1) sell you more sh-t, and 2) get Jeff Bezos invited to the Oscars. But Netflix? It’s their primary business model. They will protect their data to the death because as long as they control the flow of that data, they’re in charge. The minute everyone knows, one way or the other, how well their business model is actually working, though, that power is dispersed.
I asked a producer about his experience working with a movie studio that has a streaming platform, versus working with a streamer, and he said that in his experience, the studios are treating their streaming platforms like they used to treat their proprietary cable channels. He felt those terms in their deals were very similar. But dealing with a streamer was “strange and disorienting”, because while they were generous up front, the lack of data transparency meant he had no idea what terms to use when negotiating his next deal. Was his film a hit? And what is a hit, anyway, how does 100,000 people watching five minutes of a movie translate into a usable point of comparison when making a deal to distribute a film in a traditional theatrical scheme?
And now for a blind item, about the cost of streaming’s lack of transparency.
A rising A-lister with a high-profile film under his belt has a bad taste in his mouth after working with a streamer and feeling like their lack of transparency cost him money on his next contract. Film is a contract business, and like real estate, deals are based on comparable contracts. In this case, it’s not the cost of the houses selling in your area, it’s what you got paid for your last gig. But when his reps asked for data points from his streaming film to use in his next contract negotiation, the streamer wouldn’t provide any.
So, despite being in a film touted as “successful”, he had no real data to prove to the next studio/streamer what his real value is. He’s pretty sure he got underpaid for next his gig. Now multiply that by all the actors bouncing between studio and streaming contracts, and you have a bunch of people unsure if they’re really being paid commensurate with their value, because half the data is missing from their comps.
Just keep squawking,