When Studios Take Control: Creativity Vs. Money

When Studios Take Control: Creativity Vs. Money

Oftentimes we hear about a producer or studio executives changing a product to fit their view - is that always a bad thing?
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Sometimes we go and see a movie, watch a TV show, or read a book and think “so where did that come from?” Like some plot point from out of nowhere, or a character all of a sudden changes without any real buildup. This happens because of either lazy writing or mandates by the people behind the scenes, and it affects most media we consume. From the record label asking for more breakup songs on the next album to studios recutting movies without working with directors, the people with the money really like to get involved and control the production, often leading to a bad product in the end.

Music wise, we often see the same song several times a year. In 1965, every record label was looking for their own Beatles, hoping the happy love songs would outsell the competition, and in 2015, it was all about trying to capture the same success people like Taylor Swift were having in the pop genre. Even the Beatles themselves had issues with this, where oftentimes a certain song would be a hit, so they were requested to write a few more like it – until of course they formed Apple Records in 1967, and produced their own music how they wanted it, considering they were running the show. More an issue with boy bands and pop stars, the label makes the decisions about albums and songs, oftentimes causing the actual artist to be near barred from working on their own music. If a sound works, they'll want that sound across all their musicians – whether it's a specific style or even more cute love songs. Or the label will partner with a movie studio and basically tell an artist to do a song for the movie, and make it catchy – regardless of whether or not they want to do the song for Fifty Shades Freed or not.

Studio meddling also comes into play with the film industry, though sometimes it works out in everybody's favor. For example, the writers behind Rogue One wrote a script in which the lead heroes survived because they felt Disney would not approve of killing off every new character. Rather, they loved that idea, and even called in for reshoots to change the ending to be darker. Meanwhile, we have the DCEU, which three of the five movies were mandated by Warner Bros. - Batman v Superman had to be under two and half hours and set up a Justice League movie, Suicide Squad had to be toned down and the Joker/Harley Quinn scenes cut so that they could sell an abusive relationship to teenagers, and Justice League had to be under two hours and be a lighter tone to compete with Avengers. This negatively effects each film, to a point where a director's cut is needed to actually see where the story was supposed to be. Avengers: Age of Ultron was recut and reshot to tie more into the overall arc of the MCU than be a sequel to the first film, which actually caused Joss Whedon to leave Marvel Studios altogether. Universal became very involved in the production of The Mummy, leading to a forced cinematic universe and now, it seems that project will be abandoned. The Cars sequels happened because Disney demanded they be made to sell more toys. Sometimes yeah, a film studio will have a better idea, such as replacing the directors and hiring Ron Howard to fix Solo, but the track record isn't all that good.

Of course, we have to talk about the literature side of things. The Lord of the Rings was basically ordered by the publisher, as they wanted a sequel to The Hobbit. Tolkien spent almost two decades writing the book, and even then, the publisher requested it be split in three installments to “save paper.” Or when a producer wants to get a sequel to a Broadway show, and it usually fails or is nowhere near as good as the original – namely, Love Never Dies. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child began life as a prequel about a young Harry living with the Dursleys, but J.K. Rowling decided to make it a sequel instead, telling Jack Thorne and John Tiffanny to re-write their script into a sequel to Deathly Hallows. The original American version of A Clockwork Orange is missing the final chapter because the publisher felt the audience wouldn't want to see a full redemption, whereas the British one did feature this chapter – the film was adapted from the American print. However, the publishers are usually not too involved as record labels and movie studios. Of course sometimes they'll demand a sequel or request that some things are changed in order to sell better, but eventually they come around to restoring missing chapters or their reasoning is justified, like changing the description of the Oompa Loompas (yeah, look that up if you want a real product of the times).

Should the studios get involved? Yeah, sometimes they should – but only in a manner in which they just suggest ideas, and the filmmakers don't have to take them. Wonder Woman could have been a very different film if the crew did what the studio demanded before test screenings. Solo would be an “Ace Ventura type comedy” if Lucasfilm and Disney didn't fire Phil Lord and Chris Miller. They need to step back and let the artists and writers and musicians do their own work without being mandated, only getting involved when they absolutely have to in order to make sure their product is going to be the hit they want it to be. Let the singers make the experimental album they want to, let the director keep their vision, allow the author to say “nope, this is how the book is” when they want to change it. If people like the artist, they'll go and get the new media they put out, especially if they know this is truly what they intended for us to see or hear – and usually, that is the best option.

Cover Image Credit: Warner Brothers/DC Comics

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