Fast Five: Star Wars Uses Books to Sell Movies and SAG Gets Metaphysical
October 21, 2019
This week, Disney made some major choices about the narrative future of its two biggest franchises, disabled writers and SAG Presidents are in the spotlight for different reasons, and MIPCOM proves once again that every idea has already been thought of. And sometimes, one of those crazy ideas slips through the cracks and onto our TVs.
MIPCOM DOESN’T DISAPPOINT WITH THE CRAZY
MIPCOM, the annual television marketplace in France where exhibitors from all over the world come to hawk their wares, recently wrapped up. Some vendors went home with a slew of deals, some left empty-handed, but the best part of MIPCOM isn’t reading about which prestige period drama will air on PBS Masterpiece, it’s discovering those crazy shows you never imagined existed. This year’s winner is the UK’s Channel 4 Meat the Family, a new reality show in which families have to raise an animal as a pet before being given a choice: Either kill and eat it or commit to a life of vegetarianism. Yup, sometimes you gotta go big or go home if you want to make a splash. The first episode features families raising a pig, a chicken, and a calf before making the fateful choice between loving them or cooking them. Reading about shows like this is a helpful reminder that every idea has already been thought of, so don’t worry if a show similar to yours has been announced, because it’s all in the execution. Sometimes literally.
DISNEY TAKES A UNIQUE APPROACH TO UP THEIR STAR WARS GAME IN CHINA
Every studio is desperate to get their movies into China, sometimes altering content or writing in original characters to make it play better with Chinese audiences. Disney’s been facing an uphill battle in the country with the Star Wars franchise because the original trilogy was never released there, making it one of the few countries without multiple generations of Star Wars fans waiting for the next release. To put it into perspective, Star Wars: The Last Jedi made $42 million in China; less than The Maze Runner: The Death Cure and over $300 million less than Avengers: Infinity War. We’re talking serious money that can predict a movie’s fortune. If Solo: A Star Wars Story had made as much money in China as Rampage or The Meg, then Disney wouldn’t have canceled the rest of the franchise’s spin-off films. So how do you get 1.3 billion people interested in a galaxy far, far away when the movies themselves aren’t cutting it?
Going back to basics: books. You know, those things we used to read before the internet. Disney partnered with China Literature to create an original story by a Chinese writer for its online reading platform, followed by the translation of forty existing novels. Disney’s goal is to leverage the platform’s 200 million monthly readers to build a new fanbase for the franchise it paid $4 billion for in 2012. It’s a really interesting tactic. Online story databases have become increasingly popular with younger generations and Disney is hoping the strong narratives and world-building that writers have spent decades creating in the Star Wars universe will be enough to entice new fans to give the movies a shot.
A NEW GUIDE HELPS STUDIOS EMPLOY DISABLED WRITERS https://deadline.com/2019/10/media-access-awards-best-practices-guide-for-hiring-writers-with-disabilities-1202761127/
Diverse viewpoints are important for a show if it strives to accurately represent the world as it exists today, not just how it’s imagined by somebody who hasn’t lived it. Too many similar perspectives can hinder the authenticity of a narrative or limit the representation we see on screen. To that end, two members of the WGA Writers with Disabilities Committee have created guidelines to get one underrepresented group into the writers room: people with disabilities. The Best Practices Guide shines a
light on the benefits of disabled representation as it relates to storytelling, but also helps employers learn what questions they should and should not ask during the interview process, as well as how to make the workplace more accessible. The guide is part of the Media Access Awards for disability inclusion, which, along with the Ruderman Foundation, is one of the groups that are stepping up the battle for disabled writers and performers in the industry.
REAL SAG PRESIDENT GETS INVESTIGATED FOR PLAYING FAKE SAG PRESIDENT ON TV
Now here’s a really interesting one for you. Former Beverly Hills, 90210 actress and current SAG-AFTRA President, Gabrielle Carteris is being investigated by the federal government for potential campaign violations after she played the role of “Gabrielle, President of Actors Guild of America” on BH90210. The gist of the complaint is that her two appearances on Fox in the weeks leading up to this year’s election acted as national television commercials for her candidacy. And since her main competitor Matthew Modine wasn’t invited onto BH90210 to play “Matthew, Sexy Actor-Man,” it apparently wasn’t a level playing field. It’s an interesting attempt tactic to overturn an election, but it really comes down to whether or not the US Department of Labor believes enough voting actors spent their summer watching BH90210 to be swayed by Carteris’s performance as the fictional Carteris.
KEVIN FEIGE’S MAGIC TOUCH WILL EXTEND TO ALL OF MARVEL
In 2008, producer Kevin Feige took one of Marvel’s second-tier heroes and launched a cinematic universe when Iron Man grossed half a billion dollars worldwide. Since then, Feige’s string of unbroken hits culminated in the highest grossing movie of all-time: Avengers: Endgame. Now, Disney is rewarding Feige’s success by putting all of Marvel under his oversight. Marvel Television and Marvel Family Entertainment will become a part of the Marvel Studios umbrella, with Feige also overseeing the publishing aspect of the business. This puts complete creative control of the entire Marvel universe, from the comics and cartoons, to the TV shows and movies, on Feige’s shoulders. There is nothing to indicate that Feige will upend the existing creative process in the comics, where Marvel Entertainment President Dan Buckley will remain in control, but the implications of Buckley now reporting to the person responsible for the MCU is impossible to ignore. The films have taken a lot of cues from the comics, even using the titles of major crossovers like Age of Ultron and Civil War for event films that really had no relation to the content of the books. Will the comic storylines now be written with existing film characters in mind? When actors move on from their roles will their comic counterparts also take a backseat to new characters who can be incorporated into the movies? The narrative choices are interesting and it shows the level of importance Disney puts on the different aspects of Marvel’s operations, with the feature films clearly at the top of the pyramid.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.