Netflix Gets Rich on Docs

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Good morning: In today’s edition of The Industry we look at:

Is Netflix playing unfairly? Adam Driver brushes up on his Italian, a breakout LGBTQ film from China, and Brad Pitt visits a hospital.

Let’s Go!

NETFLIX GETS RICH, PIVOTS TO DOCS

network

Netflix is getting rich on Docs.

And we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!

(For those under 30, that’s a reference to an American classic.)

Except some SAG members don’t have bedroom windows to yell from because they’re living out of cars.

As one member tells Variety:

“I ran out of money [during] the strike, you build a nest egg in this silly town, and then events like this happen to take it away. I burned through my savings, and I burned through my IRA.”

We feel for them, it’s horrible to watch everything you’ve worked so hard for disappear.

Meanwhile, Netflix has:

  • Raised subscription prices.
    • $11.99/month for Basic, up by $2.
    • $22.99/month for Premium, up by $3.
  • Made $8.54 billion in Q3 revenue, surpassing Wall St. expectations.
  • Increased share prices 12.3%.
  • Added 8.76 million subscribers in Q3.
  • Amassed $5 billion in cash flow in 2023. A $3.7 billion increase from last year.

Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos announced:

“We want nothing more than to resolve this and get everyone back to work.”

This quote flies in the face of Sarandos walking away from talks with SAG just days ago. It seems that Netflix, given their massive Q3, has no incentive to play ball with SAG.

We’re not trying to be anti-capitalistic but from our perspective it feels unbalanced given Netflix’s tremendous quarter.

There’s an opportunity for the SAG actors that appear in the content to share in the profits just as they did when TV shows were syndicated, and that’s all that’s being asked for.

And A-list actors, including George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson, aren’t helping the cause. Instead, they’re pressuring SAG-AFTRA leadership to resolve the 97-day actors’ strike. We don’t know what’s motivating them, and we’re hoping it’s altruistic.

But Clooney, in fact, has a history of being anti-strike.

In 2008, he implored SAG members to vote against a strike authorization, citing economic fragility as an unfavorable backdrop to industry shutdown.

Whether you think SAG should toe the line or concede, the primary point of contention remains SAG-AFTRA’s demand for $500 million annually in steaming residuals.

For anyone out there struggling, you can find help here:

The Motion Picture and Television Fund which has handed out more than $3 million in relief grants.

For more:

The new Beckham documentary on Netflix got 3.8M views in a week and received rave reviews. The trailer exposes the mania of Becham’s stardom.

Netflix beats Apple. Skydance Animation is severing its partnership with Apple after only two years, citing executive roadblocks. Netflix has previously fast-tracked animation projects like:

The move makes sense as Netflix continues to expand its animation slate. Upcoming Skydance/Netflix projects:

In some good news, Netflix is reopening LA’s famous Egyptian Theatre, which closed during COVID in 2020. And we’re overjoyed that they’re giving back to the community.

First billing: Fincher’s The Killer. With a wide opening on November 10th, 2023. Main-line it into our eyeballs, please.

THE INDUSTRY NEWS

adam driver

Adam Driver has polished his Italian accent since House of Gucci. His white hair and even keel clash with his crimson red automobiles in FerrariThe trailer made my blood pressure spike.

Driver plays the titular role, concealing anger as his company collapses and his wife (Penélope Cruz) holds half the stock as a bargaining chip.

He finds solace in his mistress (Shailene Woodley) and an automobile race. The latter, for some puzzling reason, features a sloppily executed visual effect where an automobile launches at a telephone pole.

Director, Michael Mann (CollateralHeat) is too obsessive to let that error make the final print. Releasing Christmas 2023 by Neon.

We have high hopes for this one!

Ridley Scott is doing documentaries. His production company, Scott Free, is building out their Non-Fiction division with some new hires.

Congrats to Elyse Seder, brought on as the EP and head of the division. Previously, she helped Sony Pictures Television produce Shark Tank.

If you have her email, we have a few pitches:

  • Docu-series on sending Elon Musk to Mars. Let’s see how long he lasts.
  • Sigourney Weaver narrates Congress’ UFO hearings. Aliens not included.
  • Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling explore the latest in robotics. The audience tries to guess if they’re human.

George Clooney is once again calling the shots. His latest directorial work is a drama set in Nazi Germany.

His film, The Boys in the Boat, takes us on a thrilling ride with WashU’s underdog rowing team as they strive for glory at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany.

There’s something arresting about the lead actor Callum Turner’s (The Only Living Boy in New YorkTramps) performance in the film. He joined the WashU team less out of collegiate passion and more for survival to secure housing.

Check out the trailer here. It feels a little one-note, but the one Cloon-ifiying factor in all the movies he directs seems to be a deep nostalgia for 1930s-1950s America.

THE ACTOR SPOTLIGHT

sly's new doc

Stalone lifts himself out of the gutter in a new doc, Sly. The piece follows his meteoric rise, but more compellingly his struggle to become a respected actor in the first place.

Admittedly, we’re suckers for docs that follow these trajectories.

Similarly in Ye Kanye flounders in Chicago to get people to see him as a rapper. It culminates in a painful scene where he drags himself through Jay Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, scrambling to play his CD on the boombox for any assistant who will listen.

In ArnoldSchwarzenegger’s obsessive desire to lift himself out of Austria by packing more muscle onto his body is spell-binding. His ultra commitment to sculpting himself as a Herculean figure actualizes his stardom.

And from what we can see in the Sly trailer, that’s exactly what we have. A man run down by rejection pens his way to stardom. Releasing on Netflix November 3, 2023.

Chris Rock + Kevin Hart = Comedy magic. Both share the stage for Headliners Only, another Netflix documentary (when did all these shoot?!).

“I didn’t go to college, I barely went to high school. I had holes in my shoes.”

Rock says.

The film, premiering December 12th, offers an exclusive look into the duo’s sold-out New York shows, showcasing their personal and professional journeys, struggles, and enduring camaraderie.

TECH SECTION

A Haunting in Venice. 20th Century Studios.

Cinema is fascinated with the waters of Venice as a mechanism for horror.

Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now stands as a prime example.

A Haunting in Venice, directed and starring Kenneth Branagh, taps into this terror. The supernatural thriller based on an Agatha Christie novel revolves around Hercule Poirot (a famed detective) investigating a supernatural murder in a rotting palazzo alongside Tina Fey.

Branagh demanded the VFX be as realistic as possible, so he brought on Artemis Oikonomopoulou (Edge of Tomorrow, Annihilation, and Thor: Love and Thunder)

A particularly challenging moment for Artemis’ team was to ground Poirot’s hallucinations in a way that didn’t seem hokey.

There is a sequence where Poirot sees cascading water running down a wall that shapes out the letter ‘M.’ This needed to feel as real as possible, and having established earlier in the film that the Palazzo was dilapidated and leaking water, we tried to base the look on both of those visual themes.”

Other challenges involved removing any traces of modernization from Venice:

“One of the challenges was to remove all ongoing construction, from a vast cityscape. Furthermore, the terrace where the two characters stand was not geographically accurate within the story’s context, so we had to rebuild in CG the area around Poirot’s house, and add the terrace on top, ensuring it looked seamless.”

For our money, Branagh accomplished this by keeping us squarely in 1940s Venice, even though that must have cost a fortune.

In theaters now. Check out the trailer here!

INDIE FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT

Lea Rener for Institut Lumiere

Wim WendersWes AndersonJonathan Glazer, and Terry Gilliam all congregated at the glorious Lumiére Theater in Lyon, France, this past week.

One of our readers was in attendance, and we’re more than a little jealous.

When Gilliam (12 Monkeys, BrazilMonty Python and the Holy Grail) took to the stage for a masterclass he remarked:

“I don’t make fantasy films, though, because that doesn’t interest me. What interests me is this battle, the tension between imagination and reality. The most important of our senses is not hearing, or touch, or taste – it’s our sense of humor. We live in an absurd world – as a species we’re rather absurd – and if we can’t laugh about ourselves, I don’t see the point of living.”

He emphasized the success of 12 Monkeys was stripping Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis from any semblance of type-casting. He continued:

“Brad worked incredibly hard to prepare for the role – he went to psychiatric wards, visited mental hospitals… and the first day of the shoot, he exploded on the set! It was breathtaking how funny he was, how strange, how psychotic, it was incredible! So, in the end, Bruce did one of the best performances of his life, and so did Brad.”

Some fascinating talks from Gotham Film Week.

At Held in Care: Healing and Harm Reductionist Practice, Camaro West (Peace is Loud) asked:

At the center of our industry are stories—sometimes our own, sometimes others. What does it mean to earn a living off of someone else’s stories if they’re not being compensated?”

His question ignited a debate about consent as an ongoing conversation in the filmmaking process. The documentarians discussed care taking many forms like financial support, mental health resources, credit, and pacing.

If anyone attended this or any other talks, we’d love to see a video!

Sundance tickets are going fast. Click here for in-person or online ticket packages for the films. While nothing beats trudging down Main Street in the latest winter chic, catching the films online is a great way to stay involved.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

A Song Sung Blue. Trailer. Totem Films.

Blue and pink are the warmest colors. Those hues crystalize the competing energies of the film A Song Sung Blue.

We have found that movies often have dueling energies and that’s what’s been done here with the colors pink and blue. Blue is used to express isolation, pink is used to convey passion. Each of these is embodied by one of the characters in the film.

The movie, featured at Director’s Fortnight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is Geng Zihan’s debut feature.

The film bleeds in silence as a prepubescent photo assistant is allured by a model who walks into her father’s studio. The scene is treated with utmost delicacy. Glances. Colors. Shifting poles of focus.

Director, Zihan Geng revealed during an interview:

“It’s not easy to tell LGBT stories in China, but we were more interested in the fact that Liu Xian (the photo assistant) is at a stage in her life when she doesn’t understand or have any way of defining her feelings. It’s an age of exploration and confused emotions, and we thought the ambiguity was much more interesting than spelling out to the audience what the characters feel.”

No release date as of yet. So feast on this second clip.

ON THIS DAY

1990 Dances with Wolves directed by Kevin Costner and starring Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell premieres in Washington, D.C. (Academy Awards Best Picture 1991).

Today’s edition was written by: Gabriel Miller and Spencer Carter.

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