Re: JAMES BATES:The LA Times article

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Posted by Dave Brewster on April 29, 2000 at 12:40:42:

In Reply to: Re: JAMES BATES:The LA Times article posted by A fly on the wall on April 29, 2000 at 02:16:27:

: : This was co-written by James Bates the author of the previous article that a year and a half ago slammed DWs by taking quotes from DWs animators out of context

: Agreed that the article was terribly slanted.

: : The money problems on El Dorado came from having a entire staff sit around while rewrites were happening and the cost was carried by DWs because they tried with all their might to not lay anyone off.
: : This was a lesson they had to learn the hard way and the letting go of staff while gearing up for Spirit was basically just the inbetweeners , some clean up people and people who were on loan out from Warners to help finish ELD. People down the chain of production. Crew is due to come back soon when there is work for them. The company had to become leaner and could not afford the production collision that happened on the last film. It was the smartest move they could make. They chose to correct the mistakes they made rather than sacrifice the studio out of trying to be kind.

: I know what you're saying, Dave, but I see this very differently. You correctly state that the money problems came from paying a crew while story problems were worked out (and by the way, since the whole crew on El Dorado was on "end of picture" contracts, they couldn't have done then what they did now on Spirit).

Even on an end of picture deal there would have been chaos because many of us had time limits on those contracts. Mine being three years so adding to the guessing at how much time it would have taken to rewrite would have been the chance of huge contract rewrites. POE had already taken up some of ELDs production time so clock was already ticking. I had discussed with POE's producers the reasons for the back to back set up long before and it was always to keep the crew on. Always. Could they have laid everyone off ? Sure but this wasn't the moral path of the company. Perfection is hard, isn't it.

: BUT, the solution to the problem is NOT to cut the crew loose when you find you're into a production without having solved your story/plot/theme/character issues. THAT is NOT correcting the mistakes. That is merely cutting your loses. The real solution is to get your act together before the greenlight is given.

That was already an agreed problem but schedule in itself and had been compromised before hand. POE was held the companies attention completely so when they finally turned to ELD the ball was already in motion. Animated films carry incredible inertia so sudden stops are incredibly jarring. No one who was involved ever disputed the screw up in committing a final version but you must remember that DWs is not the first to have this problem. Another has a mouse for a symbol and pockets so deep you would never know there was chaos (Sweating Bullets was in developement for 5 years from what I'm told, imagine if you had a crew sitting waiting, or the 200 million Dinosaurs, want to talk about the chaos on that, or the 170 million dollar Tarzan).

Carrying a crew or heavy debt IS a problem when you haven't resolved story issues and have already begun production. It changes the entire direction of everything . I've seen many companies dragged down with that issue chained to them. Story is always a problem.

: Unfortunately, I see some of the same problems happening again on the next picture in preproduction right now. Having everyone on week-to-week contracts will again allow DW to keep from running up a huge deficit, but it won't make the film better, it won't build company loyalty, it won't turn DW into the studio it so much wants to be.

You cannot build company loyalty if the company is gone. Week to week contracts put the advantage on the animators side and make DWs the one having to live up to expectation. If an animator is worth it then the opportunity to move with short notice is golden. Myself I think it is the more desirable of all contracts. Be sure also that it is a sign of the companies insecurity and not a value judgement on the artist. To me, the companies survival is no different than mine so depite the line drawn see no difference and buy no politics. There are only problems to be solved.

: The real solution, one which I'm not sure the powers that be can admit, is that real creative and artistic leadership needs to be nurtured, demanded, expected, and allowed to flourish. Filmmaking by committee, with the producer making the final decision on everything, is a recipe for trouble.

That depends on the producer. A producer is responsible to that film and takes just as many hits as the director so they have as much to lose. There are no books on what a producer does but I have seen some fine examples. Don Hahn or Harve Bennet. Both are story contributers but seem to be the objectiviy and will to push directors to execute. To set limits and close gaps. All this is wonderful but the one element these people seem to share is a degree of trust in the directors vision. A willingness to let that director fail a bit on their own terms. Who could blame anyone for being too controlling on any film that costs 100 million dollars. Staggering amounts of money. Staggering. The people who have that trust share the stage with saints and miracle workers. As artists we have a very myopic view of the production so things tend to be obvious and simple. The choices under pressure are not made in the blissful musings of fellowship. People will make mistakes so how we judge them should not be based on the mistakes they made but how they correct them.

: : I've also seen the work on Spirit and I have to say that it is nothing short of stunning. Totally different . Incredibly beautiful. The studio is gaining it's legs through the only real way to build a studio , experience. It takes no real genius to see they are acting responsably by doing things that allow the proper development process and trimming down to keep costs reasonable. James Bates may try to make it look like it's failure driven while those of us who know the company see it as absolutely intelligent foresight (and well learned).

: I don't doubt the intelligence and the quality of the work, but I do doubt the foresight. I think Spirit will be a very hard film to sell, and I think the picture after that will be, too. There can't be just one person making all these decisions. There was only one Walt Disney, and even his instincts failed him on a regular basis.

I really don't care if they can sell the film. That isn't my job at all. That is the marketing dept. As an artist all I can ask is if I really would enjoy watching it myself because if I don't, I know the audience wont. That is what film is about. Sharing that enjoyment. Failing is far more common than succeeding in this business so one should not expect to be left virginal in that sense. And so your lack of faith is the safer bet. It took 15 years for WBs cartoon unit to really evolve to it's legendary unit and Disney had years in shorts long before Snow White. I wonder whether people had lack of faith in the future then ? Hmm , I'll bet you they did.

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