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更新时间:2014-1-21 13:58:13 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

For Movie Producers, A Golden Age Fades

They still sit on the northern edge of the Universal Pictures lot -- symbols of an era when producers were the kings of Hollywood.

The Tuscan-style villa covered in ivy, with balconies and a fountain in an interior courtyard, was built to fit the tastes of Robert Zemeckis, the writer and producer of 'Back to the Future' and 'Forrest Gump.' A huge, white modernist structure housed Ivan Reitman, who made 'Ghostbusters' and 'Dave.' A blue Cape Cod house with Adirondack chairs in the front yard provided a cozy office for Michael Lobell, the producer of 'Striptease' and 'Honeymoon in Vegas.'

All three buildings were constructed in the 1990s, a time when the film business was flush with cash, to entice their first occupants into production deals. Studios regularly gave producers millions of dollars a year as part of so-called 'on the lot' agreements. In exchange, they got the right of first refusal on any project the producer generated.

Life is different for producers in the new, tightfisted Hollywood. The number of on-the-lot deals has fallen 52% since 2000, according to an annual survey by Hollywood trade paper Variety. Average spending on each producer deal has also dropped sharply, say studio executives. And houses aren't being built for anyone.

Funding in Hollywood's flush days came in large part from booming DVD sales, which peaked in 2004. Consumers were so willing to pick up a disc on their way out of Wal-Mart or Target that even box-office flops often ended up profitable. Now, thanks to cheap options such as Netflix and Redbox, home-entertainment revenue at studios is off about 40%, executives say, and it is easy to lose money on a movie.

Studios have responded in two ways. All have cut their slates of new pictures. The six major studios released 120 movies last year, compared with 204 in 2006. They also have sought to slash spending -- and nobody has felt the brunt as much as producers.

'It's not something you'd want your son to be these days,' says Mr. Lobell.

Producer is a nebulous title that can encompass everything from coming up with the idea for a movie to writing the check that made it possible. Producers who work with major studios are typically soup-to-nuts types who oversee every aspect of a production and ensure it finishes on time, on budget and with the original creative vision intact. Though they aren't studio employees, they are, essentially, the CEOs of individual films, and they are the ones to receive the trophy for best picture at the Academy Awards.

Before brand-name franchises like 'Transformers' and 'Spider-Man' became the locus of power in the movie business, megaproducers such as Jerry Bruckheimer ('Pirates of the Caribbean,' 'Bad Boys'), Joel Silver ('Lethal Weapon,' 'Sherlock Holmes') and Brian Grazer ('The Da Vinci Code,' 'A Beautiful Mind') were among the mightiest figures in Hollywood. That is because they had strong relationships with A-list talent and exclusive access to the most desirable original scripts and books -- the main source of hit movies before the ascendancies of superheroes and toys.

'When I was a young executive, producers could kick and scream and muscle their way through a conflict to get what they want,' says Nina Jacobson, producer of 'The Hunger Games' films and a former Walt Disney Co. executive. 'They can't boss around studio executives anymore,'

On top of hefty fees for producing individual films, the most powerful producers often received more than $5 million a year in 'overhead' for staff salaries and other expenses from studios, which sometimes spent an additional $10 million or more annually to buy and rewrite screenplays on the megaproducers' behalf.

'In the 1980s and '90s, Hollywood seemed to operate like a welfare state, and rich producer deals were a key part of it,' says Bruce Berman, chairman of Village Roadshow Pictures and a former president of production at Warner Bros.

To attract its first big-name producer in 1992, New Line Cinema, then a scrappy independent studio, gave David Permut ('Face/Off,' 'Captain Ron') equity along with a seven-figure producing deal.

'It was very sexy at that time,' says Mr. Permut, who was lured from a first-look deal at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and a 'second look' at Disney, which paid him for the next chance at any pitch MGM rejected.

Mr. Permut declines to say how much he made when Turner Communications acquired New Line in 1993 for about $500 million, or when Time Warner Inc. bought Turner in 1995. New Line is now part of Time Warner's Warner Bros. studio.

Mr. Silver, long the most powerful producer on the Warner Bros. lot, received lush treatment. As part of his multimillion-dollar deal, the studio paid for a personal publicist, driver and a projectionist who ran his home theater. It also paid for the renovation of a second bungalow added to the producer's office compound around 2000 that included a waterfall outside of Mr. Silver's office.

Like other Warner producers, Mr. Silver enjoyed occasional access to the studio's corporate jet and to its vacation villas in Acapulco and Aspen.

Mr. Silver's deal with Warner ended in 2012. A new agreement with Comcast Corp.'s Universal doesn't cover any professional expenses and only gives him access to the studio's distribution operation for movies he finances with independent investors.

Mr. Bruckheimer's deal with Disney recently ended after 20 years because, he says, the studio didn't have enough movies for him to make anymore. His lavish deal included a 'discretionary fund' that allowed the producer to use Disney's money to buy scripts without the studio's approval.

A new deal with Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures is significantly less generous, says a person with knowledge of its terms.

Mr. Grazer's Imagine Entertainment, which he runs with director Ron Howard, is still with Universal but has seen its deal cut substantially, according to a person familiar with the terms. He no longer employs a 'cultural attache,' an assistant whose job was to introduce him to fascinating new people and ideas, as he did for much of the 2000s. An Imagine executive says the position wasn't cut for financial reasons.

Previously, Imagine's deal with Universal gave it 'puts,' or the ability to compel the studio to finance and release a movie it made under a certain budget.

Now, like many producers, Mr. Grazer must increasingly look outside of Hollywood to finance his movies. For a coming biopic of the soccer star Pele, Mr. Grazer traveled to the Cannes International Film Festival to personally raise funds from investors.

'Everybody has to find ways to augment funding,' he says.

Cuts don't necessarily mean a producer is on the outs with his or her studio. Michael De Luca says his annual overhead was reduced by Sony to $660,000, from $1 million several years ago, just before a run of hits that included 'The Social Network,' 'Moneyball' and 'Captain Phillips.' Last month he was named a president of production for Sony's Columbia label.

Maintaining any overhead funds, producers say, is better than a dismal and increasingly common alternative.

'A lot of these deals now are just 'housekeeping deals,'' said a senior executive at one major studio. 'That means they get an office, a secretary and a Xerox.'

Producing fees, typically between $1 million and $3 million per film, have stayed roughly even. But producers' share of the spoils when a movie succeeds -- historically a larger source of wealth -- has been hit much harder.

Particularly rare now are 'gross points,' a once-common practice that gave producers and other talent a percentage of every box-office dollar, regardless of whether the movie broke even.

'There was a time not so long ago when as a studio you could have a movie lose money, and some of the money you lost was in the pockets of the person who produced it,' says Ms. Jacobson, the 'Hunger Games' producer.

At one studio, there are signs producers are becoming irrelevant.

The only credited producer on most of Marvel Studios' superhero films is the Disney unit's president, Kevin Feige.

Executives are taking a more active producing role at the company's Walt Disney Studios division as well. There is no independent producer attached to a live-action 'Jungle Book' remake scheduled for release in 2015, nor to a new 'The Sword in the Stone' currently in development.

'Most of these movies will have a producer on them at some point, but we sometimes decide to get the ball rolling ourselves,' says Sean Bailey, Disney's president of production and himself a former producer.

No other studio appears poised to follow Disney's lead, in part because none release as few movies and few have as powerful a brand or as strong a trove of in-house movie franchises.

'Producers are as essential today as they have ever been,' says Adam Goodman, the president of Paramount's film group.

Few producers are signing new studio deals, however, and the small number who are fit a different profile. Many are screenwriters who also produce, essentially overseeing both the creative and business sides of a film simultaneously. Successful ones include J.J. Abrams ('Star Trek') and Chris Morgan ('Fast & Furious').

'The writer-producer has become one of the most lucrative roles in town,' says Mr. Goodman.

Similar deals have long been common in television, where writers produce and oversee programs. But as franchise films increasingly resemble TV series, with annual installments that need a guiding hand to maintain stability, the approach has come to make sense on the big screen, too.

'Each of these franchises is a billion-dollar company, and we're the main architects,' says writer-producer Simon Kinberg, whose multimillion-dollar deal at 21st Century Fox Inc.'s Twentieth Century Fox has him writing and producing the studio's 'X-Men' and 'Fantastic Four' superhero movies.

The increasing importance of franchises poses a challenge for traditional producers. Previously, studios assigned them to the biggest movies they wanted to make, as was the case for Mr. Bruckheimer with 'Pirates of the Caribbean.' Now, they must stake their claim at the earliest stages to a film with sequel potential.

'One of the differences these days for all producers is you're looking for what could potentially be the next branded property before anyone else finds it,' says Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who helped sell 'Transformers' to Paramount and is now producing his fourth movie in the multibillion-dollar series.

In the past, it also was common for powerful producers to have several films in the works at the same time and assign deputies to handle the day-to-day management of each. But being an absentee landlord isn't an option anymore.

'I used to marvel at how many producers felt they didn't have to show up,' says Mr. De Luca. 'Now you have to really make yourself essential.'

它们仍然矗立在美国环球电影公司(Universal Pictures)的场地北端——制片人主宰好莱坞时代的标志。

那里坐落着一座覆盖常春藤的托斯卡纳风格别墅。这座别墅拥有阳台,内院还有一个喷泉,建造时就考虑到了《回到未来》(Back to the Future)和《阿甘正传》(Forrest Gump)编剧兼制片人罗伯特•泽米吉斯(Robert Zemeckis)的品味。那里有一座极为宽敞的白色现代风格建筑,曾经接待过《捉鬼敢死队》(Ghostbusters)和《冒牌总统》(Dave)制片人伊凡•雷特曼(Ivan Reitman)。还有一座科德角范式的蓝色别墅,其前方庭园内放置着阿迪朗达克(Adirondack)风格的椅子。这曾经是《脱衣舞娘》(Striptease)和《赌城蜜月》(Honeymoon in Vegas)制片人迈克尔•罗贝尔(Michael Lobell)舒适的办公室。







在《变形金刚》(Transformers)和《蜘蛛侠》(Spider-Man)等系列大片成为电影业的力量核心前,制作《加勒比海盗》(Pirates of the Caribbean)和《绝地战警》(Bad Boys)的杰瑞•布鲁克海默(Jerry Bruckheimer)、制作《致命武器》(Lethal Weapon)和《大侦探福尔摩斯》(Sherlock Holmes)的乔•西尔沃(Joel Silver)、制作《达•芬奇密码》(The Da Vinci Code)和《美丽心灵》(A Beautiful Mind)的布莱恩•格雷泽(Brian Grazer)等大牌制片人都是在好莱坞最有话语权的人物。这是因为他们与知名演员有着深切的关系,并在获得最受欢迎的原创剧本和书籍(这是在超级英雄和玩具主题流行前卖座电影的主要来源)方面拥有其他人所没有的渠道。

《饥饿游戏》(The Hunger Games)制片人、华特-迪士尼公司(Walt Disney Co.)前高管妮娜•雅各布森(Nina Jacobson)说,当我还是一个年轻的公司管理人士时,制片人还可以在一场争执中采取强硬立场来得到自己想要的东西,而现在制片人已经不能使电影公司的高管完全听命了。


威秀电影公司(Village Roadshow Pictures)董事长、华纳兄弟(Warner Bros)前制片业务总裁布鲁斯•伯曼(Bruce Berman)称,在上世纪80年代和90年代,好莱坞的运作方式就像是一个福利国家,其中给制片人的丰厚报酬就是关键的一部分。

1992年,为了吸引首个大牌制作人,当时还只是个独立工作室的新线电影公司(New Line Cinema)不仅与大卫•佩尔穆(David Permut)签订了一份七位数的制作协议,还给了他股份。佩尔穆是《变脸》(Face/Off)和《脱线游龙》(Captain Ron)的制作人。

佩尔穆说,这在当时是很有诱惑力的。米高梅公司(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.)和迪士尼分别给他开出了“第一优先合作协议”和“第二优先合作协议”。“第二优先合作协议”是指一旦他的剧本被米高梅拒了,迪士尼会给他第二次机会。

特纳广播公司(Turner Communications) 1993年以大约5亿美元收购了新线电影,时代华纳公司(Time Warner Inc.)则在1995年收购了特纳,佩尔穆拒绝透露他从中赚了多少。新线电影如今是时代华纳旗下华纳兄弟的一部分。



西尔弗与华纳兄弟的协议已于2012年到期。他与康卡斯特(Comcast Corp.)旗下环球影业(Universal)签订的新协议不含盖任何专业费用,他只能参与环球影业的电影发行业务,并且只能是他与独立投资人出钱拍摄的电影。


知情人士说,布洛克海默与维亚康姆(Viacom Inc.)旗下派拉蒙影业(Paramount Pictures)签订的新协议则远没迪士尼那么慷慨。

知情人士表示,格拉茨与导演朗•霍华德(Ron Howard)共同经营的Imagine Entertainment目前仍与环球影业合作,但签约量大幅减少。在本世纪头10年的大部分时间里,格拉茨都会雇用一个“文化专员”向他介绍令人着迷的新人和新思路,但现在他已经不再雇用这样一个人。Imagine的一位高管说,裁掉这个职位不是因为经济原因。


现在,与很多制作人一样,格拉茨必须越来越多地想办法从好莱坞以外的地方寻找资金。为了即将开拍的讲述足球明星贝利(Pele)的传记电影,格拉茨远赴法国戛纳国际电影节(Cannes International Film Festival),以个人名义向投资者募集资金。


削减开支并不一定意味着制作人与电影公司关系不和。迈克•德鲁卡(Michael De Luca)说,他每年的日常开销被索尼从几年前的100万美元削减到66万美元,而且正是在《社交网络》(The Social Network)、《点球成金》(Moneyball)和《菲利普船长》(Captain Phillips)等一系列卖座电影推出前削减的。上个月,德鲁卡被任命为索尼旗下哥伦比亚电影公司负责制作的总裁。







以漫威影业(Marvel Studios)制作的超级英雄影片为例,其中大部分影片只有一个制片人署了名,就是这家迪士尼子公司的总裁法伊格(Kevin Feige)。

华特•迪士尼影视制作公司的高管们也在越来越积极地扮演制片人的角色。计划2015年上映的翻拍实景动作片《森林王子》(Jungle Book)没有独立制片人,正在拍摄的新版《石中剑》(The Sword in the Stone)也没有独立制片人。

迪士尼负责影片制作的总裁和前制片人贝利(Sean Bailey)说,大部分影片到了某个时候会有一个制片人,但我们有时也决定自己做制片。


派拉蒙电影集团总裁古德曼(Adam Goodman)说,现在的制片人和以往一样不可或缺。

不过,几乎没有哪个制片人正在与电影公司签订新的交易,而为数不多的例外也需要另当别论。他们中很多是编剧兼制片,实际上同时负责一部影片的创意和商业运作。这类人中的成功者包括《星际迷航》(Star Trek)的制片人艾布拉姆斯(J.J. Abrams)和《速度与激情》(Fast & Furious)的制片人摩根(Chris Morgan)。



编剧兼制片欣贝里(Simon Kinberg)说,每部系列影片都像一个价值数十亿美元的公司,而我们是主要的设计者。他与福克斯娱乐集团(21st Century Fox Inc.)旗下的二十世纪福克斯影片公司(Twentieth Century Fox)签订了数百万美元的交易,他本人负责编写并制作该电影公司的超级英雄影片《X战警》(X-Men)和《神奇四侠》(Fantastic Four)。


迪博纳文图拉(Lorenzo di Bonaventura)称,作为制片人,你必须赶在其他人之前找到下一部有可能拍续集的影片,这是与过去不太一样的地方。迪博纳文图拉游说派拉蒙买下了《变形金刚》,目前正在制作这个数十亿美元的系列影片中的第四部。