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Neil Peplow's Industry News Round-Up | 22–28 October 2018

Still from Halloween, a women looking at a crime screne
Still from ‘Halloween’ | Photo courtesy of Variety

As pumpkins are carved and kids overdose on lollies, Hollywood hopes to make money. This year seems to be a good one. The reboot of the seminal slasher movie Halloween has had a strong opening weekend of nearly $80m in the US. The film has hit all the right notes in a franchise that has now reached 11 movies. This is another success story from Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Production who have a Midas touch in the low-budget genre arena, disrupting the studio model from the back of a mini-van office in downtown LA. However, his recent comments about the lack of female directors have got him into hot water, “There are not a lot of female directors – period, and even less who are inclined to do horror.” This fed into the debate about whether the lack of female directors is due to the fact that they are not given a chance in the first place, which creates the self-perpetuating myth. Data blogger Stephen Fellows crunches the numbers and finds that only 5.9% of horror films between 1988-2017 were directed by females directors, against an average of 9.9% for all movies. Not only is it shocking that only 9.9% of movies have been directed by women over that period, but the career-killing fact is that women are less likely to get the chance to direct a second film than their male counterparts. This discrimination against women is not only apparent in film. In the UK the BBC has been called out by a government enquiry that finds “The BBC has failed to live up to this duty. Our evidence suggests women within the BBC are working in comparable jobs to men but earning far less”.

In the online space, things are looking a little less shiny this week. The pushback against FAANGS continues with the UK imposing a tax on digital platforms that has helped push down stocks. Facebook was also issued with the biggest fine possible by the UK for its recent data breach, a paltry £500,000. Short change for the online giant. To counter this anti-FAANG movement, YouTube is asking its creators to protest against EU copyright legislation. I can’t wait to hear the cries at that rally. “What do we want?”, “Freedom to exploit other people’s copyright!”, “When do we want it?”, “In perpetuity across all territories known and unknown…”. There are also a number of signs that counter the hype around streaming with the closure of Warner’s streaming service Filmstruck and questions around the company’s overall streaming strategy. Netflix has issued a further $2bn worth of junk bonds to fund more production which brings their total debt to $10bn. This is a very scaled up version of funding your short film on a high-interest credit card. Netflix’s corporate culture of fear is also being questioned. Meanwhile, the wisdom of using public cash to fund the likes of Netflix through co-productions was questioned by the UK government. Facebook looks like it’s pulling back from Oculus as a sales channel, whilst VR itself is being questioned as the narrative empathy machine it promised to be. On top of that, Snapchat has lost 2 million daily active users. Disappeared – just like that.

Back at home, the networks are presenting what they’ll have to sell in their up-fronts. Nine is bringing back Seachange, commissioning a new series in Legomasters, but otherwise has held a consistent slate (link). Seven announced new drama with Bevan Lee’s Between Two Worlds, an adaption of Secret Bridesmaids’ Business, an updated Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries and Australian Gangster. They also announced a new 7Food channel just in case you can’t get enough MKR (link). Network Ten’s upfront was held on Halloween this year. No axes were used. Instead, it was the boldest event of the three with their CBS ownership starting to be leveraged with 13 new local shows, a new logo, a beefed-up streaming service in 10Play, more international content and a rebranding of their multichannel offerings with Eleven and One becoming 10Peach and Ten Boss.

Behind the slick presentations and hype of the up-fronts, the Rocky Horror Show for traditional media continued with a slide in the share price of Fairfax ahead of the Nine merger. Based on weaker than expected earnings from Domain it was a chance for management to show their confidence in the new business by buying cheaper stock but may de-rail the merger. There was also an announcement that Seven West will partner with ‘frenemy’ News International to offset costs and risks in establishing a new car marketing platform. The question being asked is how long will it take for Seven to be merged or bought? Is the News International relationship the start of a beautiful friendship, or testing the waters for something more serious? Or will Comcast come in and further expand its international kingdom?

As it is Halloween, I thought I’d end with some horror related links asking: What makes a good monster?; What’s it like making a career playing one?; and Can you pay the rent producing them? Finally, the worrying news is that Australia may soon lose the skills to create them. Could very well be a short course offering in future…

Neil Peplow, AFTRS CEO

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