The Broken Star System

If you want to get your movie made, you need a star attached to it. Of course, I’m talking about a film with a budget of a million dollars or more. But under that budget, you will have to ask your parents for the money, or hit up your dentists, because there are no professional resources for films that cost less than that (that I am aware of.)

OK, so you need a star. The trouble is: there are only about ten stars that can get a film financed and they are all men over 40, most over 50. The sad state of the industry is that women stars do not get your film financed – with the exception of Julia Roberts (40) and maybe Reese Witherspoon.

If you are sending out your script where the main character is a 40 year old man, then you get to deal with the usual routine of getting agents to call you back, etc. But you have a chance, as slight as it may be, because, if the star says yes, then you can have your movie.

But if your script does not call for that 40 year old male lead, you’re are basically shit out of luck because it doesn’t matter who you get, you are still not going to get your film financed.

I have a producer friend who is sending a script out with a lead for a 30 year old man. It has an A-list director attached and a studio behind it. Who was the first person they sent it to? George Clooney. Age 47.

I have a script where the lead is a 22 year old woman. There is no question in my mind that any 22 year old actress would die to get this part. It doesn’t matter. They are not going to get this film financed. I have heard that Sigourney Weaver isn’t enough to get your film financed, unless you’re doing Alien 6.

For this, and another film I’m raising funds for, we have to look to the supporting roles to attract the stars. Why would Robert Downey Jr. want to be a supporting role in an indie film? He just got back into starring roles. Basically, if you’re a big enough name to get a film financed, you want to be the lead.

There are two things I find incredible about this. One is that I am talking about indie films, films that used to take less money so that they COULD USE NO STARS. After all, why make a film for a million dollars if you need to meet every requirement that a studio is going to throw at you? But the indie financiers are even more dependent on foreign sales agents, so they need stars to sell your movie and make a profit.

Which leads me to the second thing, which is that Hollywood has largely moved on from the star system. That’s not to say that they don’t still make star-driven films. But they have started making films where the concept takes the lead in their M+A, like Cloverfield or Confession of a Shopaholic, or the superhero sells it.

So indie films are basically fucked. Are we doomed to see only films with 40 year old men as leads? I guess that’s been the case for a while, but I don’t remember a time when the stars were so old and so few, or when independent film was so reliant on them.

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