June 22, 2009
The Coen Brothers on Studio Contracts
I recently watched Barton Fink for the first time in more than a decade and the following scene reminded me of casebook staple Locke v. Warner Brothers, Inc., 66 Cal. Rptr. 2d 921 (Cal. Ct. App. 1997), in which the plaintiff alleged that the studio resolved not to develop any movie idea she pitched and not to hire her to direct any movie during the term of their three-year "non-exclusive first look" development and "play or pay" directorial agreement.
Lipnik: ... I had Lou read your script for me. I gotta tell you, Fink. It won't wash.
Fink: With all due respect, sir, I think it's the best work I've done.
Lipnik: Don't gas me, Fink. If you're opinion mattered, then I guess I'd resign and let you run the studio. It doesn't and you won't, and the lunatics are not going to run this particular asylum....
Fink: Yes, sir.
Lipnik: Hell, I could take you through it step by step, explain why your story stinks, but I won't insult your intelligence. Well, all right. First of all, this is a wrestling picture; the audience wants to see action, drama, wrestling, and plenty of it. They don't wanna see a guy wrestling with his soul -- well, all right, a little bit, for the critics -- but you make it the carrot that wags the dog. Too much of it and they head for exits and I don't blame 'em. There's plenty of poetry right inside that ring, Fink. Look at Hell Ten Feet Square.... Look at Blood, Sweat, and Canvas. These are big movies, Fink, about big men, in tights -- both physically and mentally -- but especially physically....
Fink: I'm sorry if I let you down.
Lipnik: You didn't let me down.... You let Ben Geisler down. He liked you. Trusted you. And that's why he's gone. Fired. That guy had a heart as big as the outdoors, and you f*cked him. He tried to convince me to fire you too, but that would be too easy. No, you're under contract and you're gonna stay that way. Anything you write will be the property of Capitol Pictures; and Capitol Pictures will not produce anything you write....
[Keith A. Rowley]
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