Own Your Suck
This weekend Fantastic Four (a reboot) was released in theaters and almost immediately was getting bad to terrible reviews. As of this writing it is at 9% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes which it has held at since Thursday night, not good in the WOM (word of mouth) universe that movies live or die by in that first weekend.
But terrible movies get released all the time and if that is what I used this blog for I would have written a tome about Pixels…because, come on.
Instead, I share this story with you because of the tweet at the top of the blog post. It was a tweet (since deleted) written on Thursday night by the director of the Fantastic Four, Josh Trank.
In industry speak the tweet essentially says the movie you are about to pay to go see does in fact suck, but isn’t his fault — it is the fault of executives at 20th Century Fox. What is very powerful about this story is that Josh only has 9,565 followers on twitter but insiders estimate that tweet cost Fantastic Four nearly $10 million dollars. To put that another way, Josh’s network is worth, in this case, just over $1000, that worth can either go towards the net, or the deficit. The later was the case earning a disappointing $26 million on its opening weekend which will plummet to around $9 million by next weekend because of the aforementioned word of mouth.
His tweet was irresponsible on so many reasons it is hard to know where to start, but let’s start with the cast and crew. These are people that worked very hard to put out a piece of art into the world (regardless of your thoughts of said art) and deserve to have the market decide if it is worth seeing. This is certainly true when “the CEO” of the movie (in this case that is the part Josh plays) tells everyone to stay out of the movie theaters. What is more egregious is Josh’s claim that the quality of the movie rests only at the feet of studio executives and if only he could have edited it differently, you would have loved it.
John Stewart on Thursday night gave his final performance to camera #3 and explained that there are three types of bullshit in the world, Josh’s explanation of why his project is terrible lands comfortably in #3 “If only I had the opportunity to produce the version of the film I had in mind…” except, you did. You see, the director is like any manager of a project and part of your job is to protect the project and the staff attached like they are your kids. If studio pressure gets too much and damages you and the cast’s vision then you need to fight them on it or walk if necessary.
I am a pragmatists so I understand that quitting your job or walking from a project like Fantastic Four isn’t something everyone can do. But if you stay on and finish this project — IT IS YOUR PROJECT. So own your own suck.
This movie is your problem, not 20th Century Fox and blaming everyone but yourself and along the way costing the project $10 million dollars is childish, irresponsible, and irrevocably damaging to both the franchise and actors attached to it. Let’s remember Miles Teller was in Whiplash, but is currently remembered as “terrible Reed Richards.”
You owe it to your staff to protect them with fire and own your collective suck and if you are too much of a coward to do that, management is not the place for you and that self-awareness could save a lot of money and a lot of heartache. It is important to fail forward and learn from it, it is equally important to know when that failing is happening and why.