I appear to have upset a number of readers yesterday by suggesting that I had mixed feelings about the news that Marvel is talking to “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed” director Ryan Coogler about directing the company’s forthcoming “Black Panther” movie. If Coogler wants to direct a “Black Panther” movie, that’s awesome; I hope it happens for him, and I will be extremely excited to see the result.
But my years covering the entertainment industry have convinced me that many of the assumptions we make about the way directing a big studio movie affects a director’s career and the artistic freedom directors get when they take those jobs are mistaken or overblown. As a result, I’ve become much more skeptical about how much up-and-coming directors actually benefit from making a Marvel, “Star Wars,” “Fast & Furious” or DC movie. And I’ve weighed the prospect of them slightly pepping up and diversifying some of my favorite franchises against the more idiosyncratic movies or TV shows they might be making in the time they spend in Franchise Land.
That may not be the calculation you’re making: it’s perfectly reasonable to think that directors can make more impact on culture by moving big franchises incrementally than they can with smaller, more personal movies. But it’s the one that went into yesterday’s post: I love seeing the world through Coogler’s eyes so much that I hate the prospect of a big corporation slapping heavy shades over his vision. And because it seemed like my pessimism about the benefits of franchise work didn’t come through clearly yesterday, I wanted to walk through a few of them:
1. Directors don’t necessarily achieve financial independence from big franchise movies: I think one of the big assumptions behind the idea that up-and-coming directors like Coogler, or established-but-cult directors like Joss Whedon, should take on a big, restrictive piece of studio business is the idea that they’ll get paid so well to do so that they’ll walk away with the ability to self-fund future projects or turn down future artistic compromises. But Whedon has said that he actually made more money from “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long-Blog,” a super-villain musical first released online that Whedon funded himself than he did for directing “The Avengers.” A big job isn’t a guarantee of the kind of payday that would make a director completely artistically independent…
Check out the rest of this article from the Washington Post.