October 25, 2007

October 25, 2007

What Women Can Learn from Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry is a huge success, even a phenomenon. His new film Why Did I get Married? opened to over $21 million beating both George Clooney's and Mark Whalberg's new films. He plays by his own rules. He didn't screen the film in advance for the critics because he knows that the film critics (especially the newspaper critics) won't help sell tickets to his targeted audience which is Christian, middle-class, African American women. Not your typical Hollywood audience.

Tyler Perry gives me hope. Hope that thinking outside the system works.

Here are some other things I've learned from Tyler Perry.

1- Niche films can be successful. Lately, every article about women in Hollywood calls us a niche market. So if they want to categorize us that way, let's embrace it and use it. Perry built a brand first on a successful stage show, then with films, then with TV, then with books. He has upwards of 600,000 people on his email list. The TV business is more comfortable with niche shows and the successes of Seventh Heaven, Girlfriends, and Army Wives shows how far ahead TV is in its thinking. The concept of kitchen sink entertainment no longer works. With so many choices, you need to give people what they want when they want it.

2- Hollywood conventional wisdom is flawed. Even though there are several movies that are about and directed by women they will never really appeal to women because they have been developed in the Hollywood pipeline. We need to escape from Hollywood conventions and be adventerous.

3- Find independent financing outside the studio system. Venture capital has been streaming into the movie business and women need to get some of that money. When Perry first tried to get money for his films "hollywood executives told him that African Americans who went to church did not go to the movies. None of the majors would take a chance on Perry on his terms so he cut a nonexclusive deal with Lions Gate, the independent studio known for its horror films "Saw" and "Hostel." Lions Gate gave Perry total autonomy and released the $5-million movie, which was co-financed by the star. It grossed more than $50 million." (LA Times)

4- After you are a success, don't go Hollywood. This is the most important piece. Everybody wants to get a Hollywood deal and the studios bank on that. People try to parlay their small successes into bigger deals that at most times don't lead to movies being made. Perry has made a ton of money but has stuck with Lion's Gate and has just built a 75,000 foot production studio in Atlanta to make his films and TV. Keeping control of his vision and his brand is key to his success.

So, in following Perry's model, women we need our own money, our own studio and people who are willing to think outside the box. The issue I don't have any answer to is the distribution problem. There are a finite amount of screens and too much product. Perry could only get his film in 2,000 theatres.

What do you think?

Tamara Jenkins' tribute to Sundance Institute's Michelle Satter in presenting her the Women in Film Leadership award via Ann Thompson.
Satter has helped nurture female writers and directors including:
Michelle Satter (Variety)

More on Hollywood writer it girl Diablo Cody
Diablo Cody

New Trend: Movie theatres specifically for adults
(USA Today)

It's a sad time to be a indie producer. They are making great films that no one is seeing.
Indie Films Could Use a Little Sunshine (LA Times)

Alison Eastwood's film Rails & Ties opens tomorrow.
Alison Eastwood is Feelin' Lucky (LA Times)
See Women & Hollywood's interview with Eastwood
Women & Hollywood Interviews Alison Eastwood

Do We Keep Seeing Elizabeth Reinvented Because of the Lack of Strong Roles for Women?
Elizabeth Fatigue (BBC)

I gave up on Prison Break two years ago. Fox is looking to expand on the brand by spinning off a women's prison drama.
Fox Eyes Break for Women's Prison (Hollywood Reporter)

The Judith Miller movie is shooting now with Kate Beckinsale playing a much younger Miller type character.
Hollywood Plugs Its Tale of a Leak (Washington Post)

Penelope Wilton is a fantastic actress appearing now in the HBO drama Five Days about the search for a missing woman and the devastating effects on her family.
Unspoken Worlds (The Guardian)

Dakota and Elle Fanning have been cast to co-star with Cameron Diaz in New Line's adaptation of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. (Variety)

Mercedes Reuhl will star next spring in Edward Albee's The Occupant about the sculptor Louise Nevelson at New York's Signature Theatre Company. (Variety)

Tube Tonight
Carrie Fisher guest stars on 30 Rock (8:30pm, NBC)
Elizabeth Reaser returns to Grey's Anatomy a former amnesiac Rebecca (9pm, ABC) Also check out Reaser in Sweet Land now out on DVD about a mail order bride from Germany who comes to the mid-west after World War One and is not welcome to the town with open arms. Very nice, quiet movie. (Add it to your netflix cue)
Terms of Endearment (12pm Lifetime)