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Eric B. Fleischman

Filmmaker, Founder of Diablo Entertainment

FILMMAKER ERIC B. FLEISCHMAN is sick of superheroes. Seriously, how many franchise films do we need? Infinity? Between the X-Men, and the Bat-men and the Captain America: Civil War-men, it’s all getting a bit repetitive.

“Hollywood studios only want to make comic book films,” says the 26-year-old producer. “Celebrity-driven franchises that check every commercial box. They’re almost guaranteed successes, but are so expensive that there’s no room left for anything else.”

It’s true: at $300MM a pop, one project obliterates a studio’s budget. So, someone who used to make eight, nine, ten movies per year can now make only two. But before you write off Hollywood entirely, take Fleischman: he doesn’t believe a film’s budget needs to rival an Enron expense account to succeed. In fact, he’s part of a counter culture that won’t make a film for more than a million.

The film industry is imploding.

Eric Fleischman Sleight Disruption

HOLLYWOOD IS DROWNING, with studios leaning on Wall Street for financing and Viacom even selling its stock in Paramount Pictures. But why?

“The industry is in crisis,” Fleischman explains. “Because studios that used to be run by creatives are now run by Boards of Trustees… by finance guys who bankroll films without having a background in filmmaking.”

The good news? This 30–year–old trend means deep pockets for some films. (Commercially viable ones.) The bad news? Nothing else gets made.

“Potential projects are examined numerically,” he continues. “Analytics that say it isn’t too dark for women 18-30, or that there aren’t too many swear words. But people forget that filmmaking is an art. Sometimes you run all the numbers — determine exactly which female lead attracts which demographic — and it still fails.”

And, sure, one expects flops from time to time. (Ex: we’re all very happy Blake & Ryan met on Green Lantern, but the film otherwise sucked.) But when a film costs $100, $200, $300MM to make in the first place, there’s no margin for error.

“With such large numbers, it only takes a few films before the whole company’s in the red.”

One mistake and a studio is begging on Wall Street. Or, like Relativity Media (Limitless, Safe Haven and The Fighter), they end up filing for bankruptcy five years after taking home an Oscar.

“Like anything, your creative muscles can atrophy,” Fleischman explains. “I worry the Hollywood establishment doesn’t even remember how to make a film for less than $100MM… how to make ten movies a year. That’s why so many studios are either dying or downsizing.”

Hollywood Is Driven By Numbers, Not Art

But films are about more than numbers — they're about art.”
“Sometimes you run all the numbers — determine exactly which female lead attracts which demographic — and [your movie] still fails.”

TO FILL THE CONTENT GAP, a new generation of filmmakers, like Fleischman, are rising to the occasion. They’re producing studio-quality movies for less than $1MM and becoming incredibly prolific. (Think: Unfriended, which was filmed entirely via webcam.)

“We’re hungrier, faster and leaner than the studios,” Fleischman asks. “They keep saying ‘No, no, no.’ And we keeping saying, ‘Yes, yes, yes.'”

Yes to films that don’t appeal to every audience. Yes to filming eight script pages per day instead of the studio-approved one. Yes to high-quality films made without studios.

“If I could disprove one theory, it would be that indie films can’t look like studio ones. With the advent of digital cameras, we have access to the same equipment — I can literally walk down the street and rent the camera they used to film Skyfall. Barriers to entry are evaporating.”

But Fleischman doesn’t work outside the studio system. He works beside it.

“Some indie filmmakers will leave out the system entirely — make the weirdest, darkest movie they can find — but I want to bring my films back to the studios,” he explains. “If they only made one movie last year, I can help pad their offerings… and that benefits everyone: my movie gets a wider release. The studio gets additional content. And you, the audience, get to see something where no one wears a spandex onesie.”

Vigilante Filmmakers Are Bucking The System

Eric Fleischman Sleight Disruption

LOOK, NO ONE is going to judge you for renting Ant-Man. (Paul Rudd’s abs alone are worth the $5 investment.) But if you ever want to see a drama again, you should support independent filmmakers.

“You can adopt a mentality that isn’t necessarily anti-establishment,” Fleischman concludes. “But that recognizes the establishment is crumbling. Every time you watch a micro-budget film, you’re disrupting the way Hollywood works.”

Fleischman’s Sundance hit, Sleight, stars Jacob Latimore and Dule Hill and opens in theaters this summer. You can also visit his production company, Diablo Entertainment, to learn more about his films.

What Can You Do?

Every time you watch a micro-budget film, you're disrupting the way Hollywood works.”


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