Taking Back Tinseltown: How the Money Works -- Part 4

“Farenheight 9/11” is a frustrating film due to bad reporting, suggestive editing and the messaging goals of its director, the infinitely leftist Michael Moore. But he knows how to work the system, and how to play politics.

Edward Jay Epstein reports in “The Hollywood Economist” that in 2004, Moore didn’t have a distributor lined up for his film. He signed a contract with Miramax to receive funding to film, but Disney (which owns Miramax) wouldn’t back the movie by distributing it to theaters. This left him hanging in limbo. So what did Moore do? He turned to the press.

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A New York Times front-page article, which used Moore’s agent as a source, claimed that Disney didn’t want to distribute the film because the company was afraid of losing tax breaks. Moore himself claimed online that Disney had decided not to distribute the film in 2004, which gave the decision a timely element, though the decision had been made in 2003.

The publicity launched his film at Cannes, where he received the Palme d’Or because of Disney’s supposed efforts to censor him. And Disney, which realized the potential to make significant earnings from the film, decided to back it through a trail of paperwork that kept their name out of it. The film made millions, as did Moore.

In Hollywood as well as in D.C., “politics” means way more than simply whether you are conservative or liberal. It’s about playing games and knowing how to use every available resource to its maximum potential. The above story about Michael Moore illustrates just a few of the weapons in a Hollywood type’s arsenal.

Of course, the politics in a film influence the politics surrounding a film, but knowing how to play the system is most important. Take “Fireproof,” a very low-budget film, produced by a church with a vision, that was able to bring in over $30 million in box-office sales. The creators embraced the message of their film, and a grassroots campaign made it a huge success. Or “The Passion of the Christ,” which brought in over $370 million. Controversy launched this film to success (and Jesus as the main character certainly didn’t hurt its popularity). Here are two examples of Christian movies, one with staunchly social conservative values, which made money, and a lot of it.

Let’s look at “Fireproof” for a second. Samuel Goldwyn Films, not a faith-based organization by any means, distributed this film. Why? Because the company saw the potential to make money.

Sometimes a company will focus on an extreme. Take Walden Media and Disney’s “Prince Caspian,” which took the element of faith contained in C.S. Lewis’ book and increased it (they also turned the Norse-like Telmarines into Spanish conquistadors, but that’s a point to discuss some other time). Not a move I would have taken, but it’s a decision they made based on the audience, and the “politics” surrounding the film because of that audience.

Michael Moore has made millions through a capitalistic system he despises by playing Hollywood politics really well. Why can’t conservatives do the same?

The final entry in this series will cover the changing Hollywood, and how conservatives can be at the forefront of the new Hollywood revolution.

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