Forget It, Claude, It's Hollywood

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I'm Matt Holzman with The Business Brief, a guide to what's happening in and around the business this week.

I want to tell you a little story about what it's like to do my job as the producer of a show about the business of show business, not because I'm looking for sympathy but because I think it says a lot about how Hollywood works.

As the producer of The Business -- heard Mondays at 2:30 on this very station -- I get pitched stories all the time.

A typical example was an e-mail i got from a PR woman who was flacking a young director. It read a lot like the film trailers we all make so much fun of:

"Every so often, the major studios introduce a remarkable new filmmaker. This year, 29 year-old Texan Bryan Bertino stands out."

We'd had Bryan Bertino on the show a few years before when he'd just sold the script for his movie The Strangers. It was a great story. Bryan comes to LA with big dreams but was, like so many others before him, just scraping by working by day and writing at night. One day, he lands a gaffer's job that would have led to a union card and decent pay when someone shows interest in his script -- so he dumps the job, goes to a meeting and sells the script for six figures. And unbeknownst to me, since we'd talk to him on the show, he'd also been hired to direct as well -- a grand-slam homer for the kid from the Lone Star state.

I told the flack that we'd love to book Bryan. We set a date for the interview and made arrangements to see The Strangers. But the next day, I got a call: there would be no interview with Bryan Bertino.

I was really confused. I asked why? I was told that they were uncomfortable with a piece the host of The Business, Claude Brodesser-Akner, had written about the movie for his day job at Ad Age.

Claude's piece picked up on The Strangers claim to "inspired by true events." His conclusion -- hold on to your hats -- was that many Hollywood movies that claim to be true or inspired by real events are, in fact, complete fabrications. It was an interesting, but hardly offensive 400-word piece.

The flack said they didn't want to put a new director in the position of having to defend marketing decisions. Now a first-time director wouldn't even be involved in the marketing of their movie, so there was no reason we would've even gone there, but I assured her we wouldn't bring up the topic. But that didn't seem to assuage her and after a few more exchanges -- and a few new reasons why Bryan couldn't be on the show, I received an e-mail that said, "Unfortunately this is officially dead."

Though no one would say it, the bottom line was that someone, somewhere for some reason was throwing a tantrum about Claude's little piece. Now remember, we'd had Bryan on the show before and interviewed him at length. We were clearly friend not foe. And Claude's piece quoted the director himself in press materials from the movie -- they had brought it up, not Claude. Nevertheless, The Business had been declared programa non grata.

We worked all the back channels and could not resurrect the interview. Bryan, we were told by those who would know, had been instructed by the studio not to appear on The Business. As a new filmmaker, there was no upside for him to disobey.

So what is the moral of the story? There really isn't any. Not appearing on our little public radio show certainly didn't hurt the movie -- it was a $9 million production that's made $41 million domestically so far. And we'd still love to have Bryan Bertino back on the show. As I said to my host as he kicked his chair and hurled epithets around the room, "Forget it, Claude, it's Hollywood."

For KCRW, I'm Matt Holzman and that's The Business Brief.



Matt Holzman