Home > Film & stuff > Megan Ellison is Good for Movies, I Promise

Megan Ellison is Good for Movies, I Promise

It’s well-known by this point how difficult it is to produce an original story with major movie studios. If it isn’t a sequel, a comic book, or part of a long standing franchise, they want no part. So why when a rich, ambitious, creative young producer with balls to spare comes along would someone criticize him/her for financing original, thought-provoking movies?

Sharon Waxman of the entertainment news site The Wrap wrote a very direct and rather outrageous piece entitled “Why Well-Meaning Billionaires Like Megan Ellison May Ruin The Movie Business.” Jesus. For any of you who don’t know, Megan Ellison, daughter of Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, is a film producer and financier who has been making a serious splash on the Hollywood scene as of late. Her company, Annapurna Pictures, is still in its infancy, but it’s been putting out interesting fare thus far and has many new and exciting projects on the horizon from top-notch directors and writers.

Waxman seems to think, however, that Ellison’s funding of films like The Master  is bad idea. With a budget of $35 million, she writes that The Master will not make money and is therefore a failure. She similarly criticizes the approximately $45 million budget of the upcoming Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty, a portrayal of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. “Spending so much on these arthouse films almost guarantees they will be money losers, and that is bad for the movie business altogether […] Certainly no established movie studio is going to choose to make movies with these filmmakers at those prices, which also is not a healthy outcome for quality film,” Waxman writes.

Not a healthy outcome for the quality of film? I don’t understand. Megan Ellison’s willingness to invest serious money in films made by talented people like Paul Thomas Anderson, John Hillcoat, David O. Russell and Kathryn Bigelow on their “arthouse” projects is precisely what’s makes Annapurna Pictures an asset in Hollywood. Waxman is right about one thing: no studio would front the cash for the films at Ellison’s price tag. The unwillingness of the studios to properly back serious and original work is the problem with the state of the movie business. Serious movies are increasingly becoming a rare commodity as comic book films and young adult novel adaptations rake in billions at the box office. Ellison is taking a financial risk, of course, and it’s her cash to do with as she pleases. I’m sure she wants to make a profit (The Master might not, but Lawless has, and I’m sure Zero Dark ThirtyKilling Them Softly and Foxcatcher will), but I’m also sure that she wants to put out mature, quality films. Good quality tends to cost money, which Ellison undoubtedly understands– I have a feeling that the daughter of a billionaire knows how much the finer things set you back…

Waxman contends that if Ellison’s films don’t turn a large profit it “[…] kills another great movie in its infancy.” Nonsense. What’s more fair to say is that if Ellison wasn’t around to fund The Master then it never would have been made at all. Could PTA have made his film for less? Certainly, but why would he if Megan Ellison and her team at Annapurna put their confidence behind him with a sack full of cash? She’s providing opportunities to create stories that would otherwise languish in a writer’s desk or that would take years to scrape together meager financing. Waxman’s attitude is snooty and archaic, completely in sync with bottom-line number crunching and shortsighted focus groups.

Ellison is quite young, which I’m sure makes a lot of people jealous uncomfortable. She’s intelligent, brazen (with her checkbook), wealthy, and eager to help create interesting films. I don’t know if every film she makes will be a financial hit or even a critical one. An important thing to remember is that Annapurna Pictures has only released two films, Lawless and The Master, so far. Without even a track record to point to, why would Waxman be so quick to condemn Ellison as someone who’s ruining the film business? It’s a childish and poorly thought out argument that leaves Waxman looking like a curmudgeonly naysayer and a paranoid Chicken Little.

The sky is not falling, Sharon. Whether Ellison’s films make a single dollar or not, the movie business will not crumble. At the very least, we’ll probably end up with some memorable cinema.

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  1. November 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Nice work. I write for DavidORussell.net

    • November 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      Thanks for coming by! I love David O. Russell. Talented cat.

  1. February 13, 2013 at 7:47 am

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