At least 170,000 lose jobs as film industry grinds to a halt due to coronavirus

Around 120,000 people are out of work in Hollywood, while in the UK it is estimated that 50,000 freelancers will lose their jobs

About 120,000 film industry workers have already lost their jobs in Hollywood as a result of the coronavirus shutdown, according to the US entertainment industry union IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).

The estimate emerged in a newsletter sent out by the ICG (International Cinematographers Guild) to its members, which said: The IATSE reports that the pandemic shutdown has resulted in the loss of 120,000 jobs held by its 150,000 members. It is critical that our industry be included in pending federal relief package.

The film and TV industry worldwide has experienced a near-total cessation of activity, with thousands of largely freelance crew laid off at short notice with little or no financial compensation. Scores of productions, ranging from studio shoots such as the Avatar sequels and Fantastic Beasts 3 to independent films such as Paul Schraders The Card Counter, have been halted.

The ICG, which has nearly 9,000 members, added: Although some of our members are being paid for up to two weeks after their shows shut down, based upon the reality of the healthcare crisis we now face, it is highly unlikely that productions will resume after so short a period of time This problem is likely to continue for months, not weeks.

In the UK, the situation for below the line crew appears equally catastrophic. Bectu (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union) estimates around 50,000 industry freelancers will have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. The unions head, Philippa Childs, said: Nearly all film and TV production has ground to a halt in the UK The [countrys] world-class film and TV sector is at risk of a whole generation of talent being financially ruined by this crisis. A survey conducted by the union suggested that 71% of freelancers about 35,000 people in the industry will struggle to survive financially as a result of the shutdown.

Directors UK, the trade guild representing British screen directors, sent a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for further measures to support freelance and self-employed film industry personnel. Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns wrote: There is now a critical need for similar emergency support measures to be introduced for self-employed workers who are worried, not just about losing their current work, but at the prospect of facing months without income as productions are suspended longer term and, for some smaller productions, indefinitely. Chowns called for the introduction of proportional income support and sick pay to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The Guardians callout for insight into how the shutdown has affected film industry workers has revealed scores of anecdotes about the impact of coronavirus. A selection will be published in the near future.

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Buffing up Bond: when it’s time to send for the script doctor

As Phoebe Waller-Bridge puts a spring in Bond 25s step, we salute the craft of Hollywoods rewrite maestros, from Carrie Fisher to Quentin Tarantino

Script doctors are the well-remunerated but mostly unsung heroes of the film world, usually brought in to pep up lacklustre dialogue, help nail that difficult third act and generally give the movie an extra touch of class. Recruited from the ranks of established/hot writers, the gig can be seen as a lucrative payday, with little opprobrium attached if the picture is a flop and high praise if it is seen as having benefited from their input.

In the words of rewrite king Tom Mankiewicz (The Spy Who Loved Me, The Deep, The Eagle has Landed, Goonies, Gremlins etc): Its one of the few times when the writer has a certain control over a film, because youre coming in when the people on the film are at their most insecure, after all, if youre there, theyve had to admit that they needed someone there to help them out … Youre coming in like Jack Palance in Shane. Youre the hired gun. Everyone is waiting for a revelation. Youre supposed to bring better parts for the actors, better scenes for the director. And sometimes, everyone likes it, not because its necessarily better, but just because its different.

Bond
Bond fixtures writers Robert Wade, left, and Neal Purvis. Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

In the case of Bond 25, the addition of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the scriptwriters room should be accounted a blessing, especially if the pedestrian team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade remain on board. The duo have been a fixture of Bond movies since 1999s The World Is Not Enough, usually with a co-writer such as Paul Haggis to brush up the dialogue and plotting. Left to their own devices they almost managed to sink the franchise with the uninspiring CGI-fest that was Die Another Day (2002).

But to be fair, writing Bond scripts, although a nice earner, didnt really bring out the best of either Roald Dahl (You Only Live Twice, 1967) or Flashman writer George MacDonald Fraser (Octopussy, 1983).

Other writers have managed to stamp some of their personality on the mainstream fare on which they were asked to sprinkle their particular brands of fairy dust. Quentin Tarantino punched up a couple of scenes in Tony Scotts submarine actioner Crimson Tide (1995) with Silver Surfer and Star Trek pop culture references, although to some viewers they appeared somewhat jarring in context.

Warp
Warp factor Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide, with added Star Trek dialogue by Quentin Tarantino. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

Hunter (Denzel Washington): Star Trek! The USS Enterprise? All right, now you remember when the Klingons were gonna blow up the Enterprise and Captain Kirk calls down to Scotty, he says: Scotty, I gotta have more power-

Vossler (Lillo Brancato Jr): He needs more, more warp speed, yeah.

Hunter: Warp speed, exactly. Now Im Captain Kirk, youre Scotty, I need more power. Im telling you if you do not get this radio up, a billion people are gonna die; now its all up to you, I know its a shitty deal but you got it, can you handle it?

Stellan
Black humour Stellan Skarsgrd, Jean Reno, Robert De Niro and Natascha McElhone in Ronin. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features

Under the pseudonym Richard Weisz, playwright David Mamets major contributions to 1998s Ronin elevated the movie with some trademark jet black humour. An example:

Spence (Sean Bean): You ever kill anybody?
Sam (Robert De Niro): Hurt somebodys feelings once.

And:

Sam: So, howd you get started in this business?
Deirdre (Natascha McElhone): A wealthy scoundrel seduced and betrayed me.
Sam: Same with me. How about that?

And:

Spence: You worried about saving your own skin?
Sam: Yeah, I am. It covers my body.

Nice
Nice work Carrie Fisher. Photograph: Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

The late Carrie Fisher was said to be the most sought-after script doctor in Hollywood, chalking up an extensive list of well-paid rewrite gigs, including Hook (1991), Sister Act (1992), Lethal Weapon III (1992) and The Wedding Singer (1998). Hardly arthouse classics, but again, nice work if you can get it.

Some writers have found the role of script doctor a way of filling in time when they suffer from writers block or cant get their own projects off the ground. Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, The Social Network) said: I did it because I was just going through a period where I was having a very difficult time coming up with my own ideas. I was climbing the walls. So I did what is called the production polish, where you are brought into the last two weeks on something that you are not emotionally invested in. Basically, they just wanted some snappy dialogue for Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage [in 1996s The Rock].

Snappy
Snappy dialogue Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When talking to Mark Lawson in 2010, the playwright Tom Stoppard was upfront in his motivations for indulging in his furtive-sounding once-a-year script polishes: The second reason for doing it is that you get to work with people you admire. The first reason, of course, is that its overpaid.

But others have found the role of script doctor dispiriting, despite the financial rewards, with Joss Whedon (Serenity, The Avengers) commenting: I refer to myself as the worlds highest-paid stenographer. This is a situation Ive been in a bunch of times.

The saddest case may possibly that of the scriptwriting legend Robert Towne (The Last Detail, Chinatown, Shampoo) whose post-70s career mainly consists of script polishes (sometimes uncredited) and the first two Mission: Impossible movies.

So, Phoebe what price Hollywood?

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Avengers: Endgame breaks global box-office record in opening weekend

Disneys film is on track to overtake Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time

Disneys latest Avengers film has smashed box-office records on its opening weekend taking $1.2bn (1bn) and is on track to overtake Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time.

Avengers: Endgame took a record $350m in the worlds biggest movie market, North America, smashed records for a foreign film in China, and grossed more than any other film on its opening weekend globally.

The star-studded film is the first to take more than $1bn on its debut. Avatar, released in 2009, currently holds the record for highest-grossing film with $2.79bn worldwide. At the very least, Avengers: Endgame will almost certainly surpass Titanic, the 1997 blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, which ranks as the second biggest film of all time, taking $2.19bn globally.

The success of the film is a timely reminder that Disneys upcoming streaming service, Disney+, has the content firepower to challenge global market leader Netflix despite its late entry. Avengers: Endgame is one of many golden properties that will debut exclusively on the service, which launches later this year, before being released elsewhere. Disney has already pulled all of its content from Netflix in the US, ahead of a likely global pullout, costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars in licensing revenue in order to make its service a must-buy. In the US, subscriptions to Disney+ will be priced at $6.99 a month, just over half the monthly cost of Netflix, with a global rollout beginning next year.

The success of Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of 21 films in the Marvel superhero universe that started with Robert Downey Jrs Iron Man in 2008. Disney acquired Marvel in 2009 for $4bn, an acquisition criticised at the time as too highly priced, given that Marvel had licensed off a number of its then-major franchises, such as Spider-Man and X-Men, when the company was cash-strapped in the 1990s.

The success of the film is a reminder that movie-going remains hugely important, even in the much-hyped on-demand era, with the UK last year enjoying its best cinema attendance since 1971.

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