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Hillcoat's film cancelled, blames Internet and economy

JohnHillcoat.jpgJohn Hillcoat's latest film, The Promised Land, has been cancelled and he's none too pleased about it. In fact he says that Hollywood is falling apart, and that it's down to three things, the global economy, Internet downloads (presumably the legal ones) and the old perennial favourite, piracy.

Apparently Hillcoat says that there are few films in development, and those that are fall into one of two categories, very low budget or huge 3-D franchise films.

Well I think it's a very simplistic view, probably spurred on by the terrible news of his own film, The Promised Land, failing to get made.

That was a film based on the novel by Matt Bondurant called The Wettest Country In The World (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) which was a crime thriller set in the American depression. It was written by Nick Cave and was set to star Shia Labeouf, Ryan Gosling, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Dano, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon. Not a huge line-up, but a promising one.

However it was not to be and the news through The Telegraph via The Playlist is that the film is dead. John Hillcoat is none too pleased either, here's what he has to say about it:

"The joke on set and in the edit suite was that we had to get this movie out before it became a reality. Ironically, the movie industry itself now faces its own apocalypse. The perfect storm has arrived in Hollywood: a global economic downturn combined with piracy and the increase of downloading on the internet - what happened to the record companies years ago but with much higher stakes. The reactionary first phase has kicked in - few films in development, many films put on hold or shut down.

My own new project - with a much-loved script by Nick Cave and a dream all-star cast - has fallen apart. The finance company that we began The Road with has also fallen apart, having to radically downsize to one remaining staff member. The great divide has begun, with only very low-budget films being made or huge 3-D franchise films - the birth of brand films such as Barbie, Monopoly: The Movie - who knows what's next, Coca-Cola: The Movie?

I end the year appropriately - gazing into the apocalypse of my own industry."

That is the epilogue of the diary he's been keeping on The Telegraph site about the production of The Road, which is well worth a read.

I have to say it sounds rather angry and reactionary. Now I'm not on the production but there is something to be said for the other side. The Playlist point out that The Road was a bleak film (and in my eyes a pretty boring novel) and The Promised Land was set to go that way too, so when the returns weren't great for The Road there's a good chance that the studio began rethinking things.

There could be many other factors too, but Hillcoat turns on three things that are easy to blame for most things these days.

First up, the global economy. While not always an excuse, it is proving to be a great one for organisations at the moment - reorganisations, redundancies, restructures and I don't have a word for projects being cancelled that starts with "re", however that's what's happening in mainstream businesses, and it really isn't always directly because of the economy, that's often a handy enabler.

Then there's the rise in internet downloading, the official and legal kind, now why is that affecting the industry? That's just affecting cinemas and traditional distribution companies, surely it could mean more sales for the studio and at a cheaper cost to make and distribute too.

Finally there's that usual favourite, piracy. Frankly I'm bored responding to this one. I don't know anyone downloading and watching films instead of going to the cinema, watching them on television be it cable; satellite; freeview; postal rental, or some download on demand service. I won't even bring up the report that states those who download music illegally spend more on legal music than those who don't, I'm not sure if that's relevant to film, but it might suggest so.

Taking a step back, there is clearly a problem with the industry, I think there's no doubt about that, it is hell-bent on remakes, sequels and franchises, but then there's a lot of good films being made too.

I was surprised that in the last two years we've all been complaining about the amount of remakes and sequels and yet when I've been revisiting the years in The Best of the Decade features, I was surprised just how many good films have been made and released in 2008 and 2009, have they all suddenly stopped?

I've also been surprised, outside the US anyway, just how many smaller budget films are being made that are really good, and I don't mean very low budget, just not blockbuster size.

As an audience member I'm sad that this film isn't getting made, and I'm sad that John Hillcoat may not come back to film-making for a while, and I do think Hollywood is in a terrible state right now. Yet there are still plenty of good films being made and on the slate to be made, I'm getting quite surprised at my look forward to 2010 and the amount coming up for us.



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