The beginning of a new year is the time for big ideas, optimistic vows to drink less, exercise more and live better. Most of these pledges are made with fingers crossed. Simply making them is half the point. We're acknowledging our weaknesses and hoping, at a minimum, to take a small step in the right direction. And it is in that spirit that I suggest the following New Year's resolutions for Hollywood: eight grandiose ideas, arranged from most possible to pipe dream.
1) If at any point in development you start thinking of the main female character as “the girlfriend,” rewrite that part. Hell, if for no other reason, do it for your male lead: A drippy, bimbo heroine makes him look like a chump.
2) Find great roles for the following underused – or wrongly used – talents: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Miles Teller, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Dan Stevens, Emily Blunt, Randall Park and Riz Ahmed. And let's advocate for Chris Pine while we're at it, who proved in Into the Woods that he's not just a callow leading man – he's a multitalented crack-up.
3) Convince Woody Allen to retire. Is there no one with the clout to persuade him that his latest movie, an as-yet-untitled film slated to star Joaquin Phoenix as a professor who falls in love with his much-younger student, is a terrible idea? (Granted, I can't wait to review it.)
4) Invest in the next crop of talented writers. Find young geniuses for cheap in schools and the theater, or see if you can still afford to hire them away from TV. Give the brightest few a mentor, enough money to share an apartment, and do-or-die deadlines.
5) Accept Chris Rock's challenge to hire more minorities both above and below the line. “You're telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up?” Rock wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. “There's probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody's company right now. The odds are that there's probably a Mexican who's that smart who's never going to be given a shot. And it's not about being given a shot to greenlight a movie, because nobody is going to give you that — you've got to take that. The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it's the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It's like, 'We only let white people do that.'” If you missed his must-read essay, click here now.
6) Hire at least two female directors per studio. As Manohla Dargis recently reported in The New York Times, last year the six major studios released only three films directed by women – total. That's half a woman per studio. That's embarrassing.
7) Pay women equally. The silver lining in the Sony cyberattack was that it numerically proved that Hollywood underpays both actresses and female executives, with Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams earning several backend points less than their male co-stars in the ensemble film American Hustle, and co-president of production Hannah Minghella making $800,000 less than her male counterpart with the exact same job — a 37.5% salary cut. Do it because it's right, or do it because, like Sony, your emails could be hacked, too.
8) You know your weakest still-in-development blockbuster? You know you do. That one that nobody in the office thinks is going to be any good (and that several executives worry will lose money). Cancel it. Instead, invest that $200 million in a half-dozen smaller films — a couple $30 million movies, a handful of microbudget flicks mimicking Blumhouse Productions' ultra-profitable $3 million model. Low budgets afford you moderate risks. Since you'll have less on the line for each film, instead of having to appeal to everyone, test the strength of audiences you suspect exist. Greenlight movies for women and minorities, for the old and the odd and the middlebrow sophisticates who've been staying home with TiVo. Make them return to the theater. Look for new talents — even Julia Roberts was once a nobody — and give them a star-making shot. And if you need big name actors, cast brave ones, like Ethan Hawke, who took next to no cash upfront when he made The Purge and earned well over his standard salary when it was a hit. That could be the new way Hollywood works. And if so, you don't want to be another year behind.
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