Netflix is diving head first into big-budget Hollywood-style filmmaking with their sci-fi action film Bright starring bona fide mega-star Will Smith. According to Bright director David Ayer, though Netflix is willing to put up a studio-sized budget, there are big differences between working with the streaming service and working with a traditional Hollywood outfit.
Ayer and Smith previously teamed up for Warner Bros’ DCEU movie Suicide Squad, a project that went through a lot of studio-mandated reshooting and recutting, resulting in a film that in many people’s eyes was deeply compromised and very disappointing (though it still made over $700 million worldwide at the box office). Without taking a direct shot, Ayer seemed to offer up a criticism of the traditional studio approach to filmmaking exemplified by Warner Bros. while singing the praises of Netflix.
Speaking during the Bright panel Thursday at SDCC, Ayer talked about Hollywood’s “spreadsheet” approach to moviemaking and how at Netflix filmmakers are given money to work with but without the meddling:
“It is a credit to Netflix and how they do business. They ask where and how to shoot it and they let me do it. It almost felt like a super, high-budget independent film. That may not land with you guys, but you have to understand that other side. It is the opposite for many filmmakers. Netflix is going to pull a lot of talented people to their side.”
Bright actor Will Smith backed up Ayer’s assessment of the creative freedom afforded by Netflix, but seemed skeptical that their model will be sustainable in the long run:
“There is really no difference in shooting except that Netflix will just give you the money and let you go make the movie you want to make. So that may end soon, but it was fantastic. The difference is also that it will be different in the experience of seeing it in the theater versus at your home. It is also a little different in the first days when theater came to film, so it is like that.”
Perhaps in the future Netflix’s commitment to spending money on big-budget studio-style projects will necessarily lead them to pull in the reins on filmmakers, but for now they are willing to put up the dough and let the creators use it to create. Though that sounds like a great deal for moviemakers, not everyone is so certain that Netflix has the right idea when it comes to production and distribution. Director Christopher Nolan recently attacked Netflix and their “pointless” distribution model, suggesting that the streaming service should try harder to get their movies into theaters so that audiences can have the big screen experience before the streaming window opens.
Such criticisms notwithstanding, there is clearly a lot of excitement about the Netflix way of doing things, and a lot of people will be watching with eagerness to see if Bright truly delivers the goods as a studio-level action movie. The film has a lot going for it with Smith in the lead role, a proven director like Ayer at the helm and an imaginative-sounding script by Max Landis that combines fantasy, sci-fi and cop movie elements in an interesting way. If this big-budget genre mash-up succeeds, perhaps more filmmakers will flock to Netflix to partake of the creative freedom they are willing to allow along with the cash they are willing to put up.
Next: Bright Official Trailer
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