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The Fast Five: ‘Joker’ Leads Oscar® Nominations, While Robots Take Charge at Warner Bros.

January 13, 2020
4 min read time

While it can feel like awards’ season goes on forever, this morning’s announcement of the 2019 Academy Award® nominations takes us one step closer to the finish line. Technology also takes a front seat in this week’s film and TV news, as Samsung releases a rotating TV and robots take control of the Warner Bros. movie slate.


It was a good day for white dudes contemplating their mortality. Joker picked up 11 Oscar nominations, followed closely by 1917, The Irishman, and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood with 10 apiece. Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, and Marriage Story all garnered six nominations, with Scarlett Johansson picking up acting nominations for both Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. That latter nomination seems to have knocked Jennifer Lopez off her heavily-anticipated perch. Within a couple of months, she went from the top contender for her role in Hustlers to not being nominated at all. The biggest snubs came in the packed Best Actor category, where notable exclusions include Adam Sandler for Uncut Gems, Golden Globe® winner Taron Egerton for Rocketman, Eddie Murphy for Dolemite is My Name, and Robert De Niro for The Irishman (although De Niro did nab a Best Picture nomination as a producer). Bradley Cooper also rode that producing wave to his eighth nomination as a member of Joker’s producing team. And a friendly reminder when you get mad that your favorite movie wasn’t nominated: Awards are like politics. It costs millions of dollars in campaigning to get an Oscar nomination, which is why Netflix has the most nominations with 24. A lot of distributors don’t have that kind of money; their movies forgotten by the voters amongst the intense amount of competition.


Warner Bros. is the latest studio to sign with Cinelytic, a company that offers artificial intelligence-driven project management to help in the decision-making process about whether or not a film will be a financial success. While the idea of watching a full slate of movies greenlit by HAL 9000 would probably be the most exciting thing to happen to the film industry since The Rock joined the Fast & Furious franchise, don’t be expecting any crazy decisions to be made using this technology. The program uses mostly large data sets about performance to predict how much money a movie will make in different territories, with different performers attached. It’s basically what an entire department of people do right now, only it will spit out a result in seconds. STX recently signed with Cinelytic after the poor performances of PLAYMOBIL and UglyDolls, even though Hustlers and The Upside both made over $100 million for the mini-studio this year. 

It will be interesting to see how this affects the types of stories studios are willing to tell. Will the AI make demands in order for a greenlight? Maybe a romance subplot is needed in order for it to play in Europe, or a chase scene will be required to make it more exciting. If a movie with a twist ending bombs, will Cinelytic demand all twist endings be removed from future films? Writers already get these kinds of notes, but how will they feel when they’re handed out by a robot?


John Landgraf, Chairman of FX Networks (who will probably be acquiring Hulu under that umbrella in the coming year), is known for providing a State of the Union address each year at the TCA’s on the current state of television. 2019 hit a new high for the total number of scripted series airing on American television with 532, up 7% from the prior year, and more than doubling the number at the beginning of the decade when 216 shows aired on television. So, what does this mean for writers? There’s a world of opportunity with new buyers looking for their own House of Cards or Cobra Kai to put them on the map the way those shows helped Netflix and YouTube Premium. It also means that creativity is key. With such a crowded marketplace, not to mention audiences with instant access to almost every show in history, a new series has to stand out by presenting a completely unique world. You should be able to clearly state what your project offers that no other show has, and why you are the only person to tell that story. Nailing those two questions is the first step in adding your show to Landgraf’s number.


Are you ready for the future of television? The same week that Quibi unveiled proprietary technology that switches camera angles on shows as the user rotates his or her phone, Samsung unveiled a new television that can automatically rotate from landscape to portrait mode, so users can watch vertical video on their TVs. Is this coincidence? Of course. Quibi’s main selling point is that it doesn’t want you watching its content on anything other than your phone. The bigger question is whether or not there’s a crossover-market between people who want to watch social media videos on a 4K television, and people who have a couple thousand dollars to drop on a new TV. Manufacturers have been desperate for years to get people to replace their HD TVs, many of whom are still on their first one. Curved screens and 3D displays were two of the gimmicks used to get people to upgrade, but to no avail. HD TVs rarely break, so consumers didn’t need to upgrade the way they do with phones, tablets and laptops. Samsung’s hope is to break that trend. Another new feature it offers on its new television is if you mirror a Samsung Galaxy phone to it, the TV will rotate automatically as you rotate your phone. I don’t know how that’s useful, but it should impress people at parties. 


The consolidation of media properties to create mega-streamers has begun as AT&T announced it would shut down its subscriber-exclusive cable channel Audience Network. After purchasing Time Warner, AT&T turned its attention to creating a streaming service to rival Netflix, much like Disney and NBCUniversal are doing with Disney+ and Peacock. AT&T named its upcoming service HBO Max, and has been closing down other media properties in preparation for its launch. FilmStruck, the Turner-owned service that offered Turner Classic Movies and Criterion films, was shut down in 2018 with speculation that those movies would be rolled into HBO Max. Some shows from the DC Universe, another Time Warner-owned streaming service, are moving to HBO Max, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Audience originals like Condor, Loudermilk and Mr. Mercedes rebranded as HBO Max “originals” in the future.


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