Burnett: Hollywood's Gates Aren't Closed -- They've Merely Moved

By Erin Griffith , written on July 26, 2012

From The News Desk

There's a saying in Hollywood that "the gates are closed." Too many studios get too many scripts, and all that gets made is the summer blockbuster stuff. The days of taking risks on quirky films are over.

Rob Burnett, CEO of Worldwide Pants and our PandoMonthly NYC guest, believed in his movie idea -- which became :We Made This Movie" -- enough to bust through that conventional wisdom.

"It's not so much that the gates have come down, but it's that the gates have moved. Anyone can make a movie," he said. Moviemaking is starting to become a meritocracy, he added.

For example: "Paranormal Activity" cost $15,000 dollars, and it is the single most profitable movie ever, in terms of return on investment.

But there are costs. "We Made This Movie" cost $1 million to make. Burnett ran into costs related to the Screen Actors Guild, as well as the Directors Guild.

And it's also not easy to lure in well-known actors. "We Made This Movie" uses no big name actors. "Hollywood is a very quote driven business all around," Burnett said. "Even when I was doing my TV shows, the first thing always is ‘What did this guy make on the last job?’"

But with promotions and distribution, Hollywood still holds the reigns. For "We Made This Movie" to have full distribution and promotion, it would cost three times as much as the entire movie cost to make. And the movie won't be in 3,500 theatres, he said. It'll be a very limited release.

Sometimes independent movies break through. "Sideways," for example, directed by Alexander Payne, was a breakthrough hit, and Payne's next movie, "The Descendants" was also small. But because of the success of "Sideways," Payne was able to recruit a big name like George Clooney to star in "The Descendants."

“I think there is a way that you can do small things and have them turn big," he says. "I guess that’s kind of the goal.”

Here's Burnett discussing the way the Web is and isn't democratizing Hollywood:

Watch the Livestream here.