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Read this: How to Run a Movie Studio (and take Tom Cruise to space)

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How to Run a Movie Studio (and take Tom …

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 hello, we're bringing today's Media show to you from the heat of La I've come through the gates of Universal Studios a huge surprise hits like Mamma Mia and Straight Outta Compton is like Fast and Furious Despicable Me and Jurassic World

Google bold move that transformed our industry and competitor scrambling to respond she allowed audiences to stream brand new movies at home, so let's meet her yeah.

Yeah welcome to the media.

Show we met earlier this year when you very kindly hosted a letter John Lewis at lovely swanky London hotel on a day and you then left that party and went off for a dinner which you hosting a pavers at the next day that you had hosted amongst other people Tom mean in a sense that sums up your pulling power Tom Cruise was happy that hot food across London to meet you happy reports that universal and Tom Cruise are going to collaborate together on a 200 million Space Adventure shot on the International Space Station are you taking Tom Cruise to space?

Taking ASDA spaces in the world to space yeah, that's the plan.

We have a great projects in development with Tom that does contemplate him to in just that you are taking a rocket space station in shooting and hopefully being the first avillion to do a spacewalk outside of the space station now.

I don't know the film is going to cost $200.

We haven't got that far yet, but a bit more navigate to space.

How did that conversation go he comes to yours people come to install want to do this and he is very closely with the director called Doug liman and during the week.

He has for zoom call with Hassan got onto the call and said guys.

I've got this great project and here.

It is so the majority of the story actually takes place on Earth and the Carter needs to go up to space to Save the Day wow.

I mean.

I think that is just a big I mean it is worth reflecting Tom Cruise is just one of the big names that you work.

You have weird the likes of Steven Spielberg Christopher Nolan it both got films underwear universal.

How do you attract those big names what you saying to those directors well at Steven has a long history with universal obviously and he didn't go and make them as for other studios in as a director.

He works all over all over town but his spiritual home is at Universal first movie Jaws of course and so you know when Steven wants to make a movie with us.

We are just the rules and ecstatic that that's the case and dizzy and do you do you have to say maybe three-and-a-half hours is a bit long card out of here or did you just say whatever you want even know he knows what the audience wants and he'll give it to them also known for risk-taking whether that is in a back in a new upcoming director like Jordan Peele to make get out all being the first major Steel to make it which is coming out in the UK soon.

Fantastic early on in your career you also persuaded universal to back Mamma Mia and many didn't see the hit was going to be anatomical make hundreds of millions of dollars.

What gives you the self belief to think in the fighting for something.

Do you think you'll be a bit of an outsider to to push films that others don't see the power of it is a lot of you know what we do.

You know we can rationalise something for a business model when's but really it is about feeling the story on a very human level and universal level part in The Pine and case of Mamma Mia I grow up listening to Abba I loved her.

They were my they will my favourite band actually but we on that and beyond this my own my own likes and just

It really is about asking always why is it so enduring? Why is that music so enjoying? What does it happen to in terms of the human psyche and experience? I can then the chances are that's going to be something that's appealing to a lot of people so people didn't see that others didn't say that but I think in the case of some of these films were there.

It was Mama Mia or a Straight Outta Compton what is that? We could talk about their films that I did not see as inherently risky, and I know that's easy for me to sit here with you today and say that when the proof is in the pudding but again check the boxes in terms of that releasability and universality fair enough.

I mean let's go back to the beginning right now.

You know you were born in the UK which is very exciting to ask of course because you're now.

British woman to run a studio but you were born in the UK your birth father was of Egyptian heritage, you're adopted drop on the Isle of Wight how did that influence your sense of self and I wonder the 1970s the Isle of Wight probably won't seeing you know yourself reflect back in many of the people on my Island and so you know yeah, I mean I gave me a great sense of independence and you know I was bullied a little bit in school as well and so I had a really tough it out in stick up for myself.

I found in comedy as a great Buffer and a grade Antidote is some of those tough moments you know if you could make something love or somebody laugh.

It would generally defuse a situation.

I think that probably is set an alarm for comedies that you know we make here universal but yeah, I think I was so you know just growing up in a small place like that where you know we can universe kids we can be kids.

One of the beaches in over the hills and the Downs and my imagination we're just run wild with the history of the place whether it was Smugglers are aristocracy and he was just thought it was just a free place to grow up and when you into cinema.

Do you remember going to the movies do you remember the first film use or was it more about storytelling about storytelling? I think you know I think we all know if britt's week.

Love of literature in English literature in particular, but no, I think my first film experience in the in the movie.

Theatre was Fantasia which was terrifying.

Let's go back one of my favourite early experiences watching a movie with my sister took me to see the film that lasts a whole stream directed called ABBA arrival, and it was a it was a concert film and it was however long it was but it was 19 minutes of Heaven I was so happy and excited but I bet you never thought back then.

I'm going to be making movies absolutely your mother.

I think was an activist.

Did that make you want to change the world if I activism in fuse you do you think you know now? Are you get to look back on it and I do think so I mean when she had me shaking a can of Greenpeace or C&D up in the local high street was deeply embarrassing you know at 12 years of age of bed looking back on.

I do actually give her a tenant credit.

You know she she was a vegetarian before it was popular to be so she was into all kinds of things that are really made the world a better place.

She was thinking about the environment and environmental issues.

She was involved with international help for children with foster children growing up so I think the things that were on her mind and the things that she instilled in US children were think outside of yourself understand that the world is it you know it's a bigger than your own experience and whatever one can do to make that about places is a good thing to do.

Ok, so cut forward you arrive in La with the letter of introduction.

I think to a literary agency you end up with a job in the movie business.

Did you tell you needed to leave the UK to make a success of yourself yes, why was that? I don't know I mean honestly.

I mean I knew I needed to leave the Isle of Wight but then I was I found myself in London and I don't know I don't know if it was the time you know I when I left College Margaret Thatcher was on her way out.

It was it was before Tony Blair before the era.

You know if some prosperity and I just did see I didn't see you a future for myself.

I didn't know what to do when I did have friends who were in the media business at that time and I thought was very intriguing but I had absolutely no idea how to make an Andre into that place in when I had the opportunity to come to the Settlers and I saw that it's a very different culture.

You know it's totally about you.

Do you know but it's also about how hard are you willing to work in and if you have that strong work out then you can really for depart for yourself and that's that's what I was really attracted to me.

I think earlier on when you were made a dame in 2020 if I said get the time your parents told the Isle of Wight County Press to us.

She is and always has been just I love and girl who's made the big Time by personal honesty and and m in a world dominated by powerful male entities when as a beer a woman a person of colour, how did people treat you at the very beginning when you came here? Well, I think because my English accent people thought that you know they had to actually treat me with more respect than I probably deserved back then as a young whippersnapper, but but no I mean like this is a very competitive industry and environment and so you know you kids not for the faint of heart rate.

So you know I learnt early on he had to have you had to have some Hotspur to

Haven't ate all about powerful male entertainers killing very different time you know so much.

I come out since not least about Harvey Weinstein who's about to go on trial here and LA and how bad was it back then for you in the movie business, you know I'm fortunate to have never experienced that kind of behaviour first-hand, but you know I think a lot of the revelations that have come in the last 45 years have shown as just how bad it was you know that we were in an environment that tended to turn a blind eye to certain toxic behaviours, so I think it's great that now that there is a very bright light showing on then.

I do think that the culture has shifted and will continue to serve.

Did you ever come across him and he must have done in your job.

I suppose we never aware of anything that was going on no absolutely I mean when that New York Times article broke.

It was a shock to most of us film she said exactly that.

Deciem women walked into what they all had reason to believe the business meetings and ask him to leave me alone.

I think even tried to suggest that was going to prejudices trial and the judges through that out and said now you can still go and roll here and I feel like I know you obviously because you've written it, but but did that does that feel like a really appropriate moment to make this film and kind of let people have a final say about what happened.

I do the film incredibly powerful.

I mean you know that the article is powerful that book with powerful and the film.

I think is a really nice.

You know Edition and a way for people to interact with this.

It is like it's about heroin across-the-board both from a journalistic standpoint and also you know about half of the survivors who came forward and you mentioned another film that you've backed early to Compton which was held as a surprise here.

I'm sure you've won surprised by that but you have you always been driven by the desire to improve representation whether that's round with a man or a background.

You know I did it and I was to find stories and make films that were aimed at a specific audience primarily so we know who to market to say when we was pending as marketing dollars.

We know who to target their own back.

Then is that appealing to particularly underserved audiences whether it be women or people of colour? It's good business.

You could you know you could really sort of exciting.

By telling stories like that and making films like that, but the movie she does want doing it.

They won't look back to those early days at new wine as a training ground for me and gain an understanding in a perspective that films like that can really work.

They might not be the big Blockbusters that travel all around the world and get everybody to go to show up and see if they still good business.

You know if they're price appropriately you know that the amount of money.

They make is relative to what they cost right so they're usually profitable and we've done very well with them and you clearly have had huge success a load of hits.

What about mistakes.

What's your worst mistake? What's your biggest flop? And how do you learn from those experiences open a few movies and cats?

We can use that one as an example certainly cancel is a risky movie and we knew going in that was risky, but you know we believed in the directors double leaving the director Tom Hooper we haven't had a huge hit him with Les Mis and the musical of course it is I was definitely a Marmite kind of musical.

It wasn't for everybody was polarising but I think that one was a kid have a movie that doesn't work.

It is inevitably going to happen.

You know this is an industry that most corporate people think is not really a business because there are just so many variables and it's a miracle that any movie ends up being successful really because you just all of the myriad of things that go into into making it and making it at 6s when it's not it's $102 to £10 and millions.

You get sacked so still here so that's alright, then you're wrong, but really it is about the analysis after you have to be honest with yourself about why something didn't work in you have to go all the way along the decision-making tree and find and interrogate.

Where did we take them a step there and you know when I think that's very healthy for an organisation to do that.

I think often times you know it was easy to celebrate the wins and a lot harder to have reflected as a culture and as an organisation is a how we got there and is the leader there's always a really important.

I think to be accountable.

You know when and I think that and just lead by example.

You know that starting back stops at the solute Lee I mean if we turn to the Future Cinema it is so uncertain at the moment.

Yeah, there's the Fallout from the pandemic shutdown.

Large the cost of living crisis going on and of course the strimmer still continuing to have a dramatic impact on how we can see movies how worried are you that Cinemas will close people don't use them my existential threat is not that Cinemas will close 100% and no one will ever go through movie theatre ever again.

How's the business ultimately declines with all the head Wednesday you just described is really the central question at the moment.

We're the industry is about 30% down.

This is 2019 and a significant amount and also what we're saying is in this was a trend before the pandemic, but it's even more exaggerated now.

I've got used to streaming the kinds of movies that are working in movie theatres are more and more specifically that we know that the domain is the movie that is all the domain of the Big Fish off.

Movies like Jurassic World all the superheroes movies in a from Marvel and DC but what else what else can we entice audiences to come and see at the movie theatre, and so you know 100 billion dollar question but I guess you have a sort of use it or lose It message for people this note to this.

I do I do I think we all have to remember the reactivity or the you know the joy of going to a movie theatre and seeing a movie in a movie theatre with an Audience with your popcorn and its immense and it's something that's really baked into a DNA I think you know storytelling is an all of us and Dad and what better way to engage with a story and I also don't like it.

You know it has to be binary.

We can enjoy things at home on streaming of course.

I would love to you know sit down and put my feet up with a glass of wine and watch a great TV show or even a great movie.

How to make movies matter and to make them connect with the cultural Zeitgeist and to create movie stars in to create directors in careers it does need that it needs that that the actual experience really in order to do that or at least that's what we seen so far and yet, it is incredibly expensive expensive for families in a family of four in the UK starting off and don't get changed out £60 to go to cinema.

I mean that's just on a Ford for you know the kids.

It's certainly it is an expensive pastime as is going to work Sports Arena or alive alive West End show was something like that, but it is a special experience but we found you know in other economic distress is movie did is actually you're going to the movies as expensive as it is actually becomes a fairly affordable part-time people do like to get out the house.

You know if them if you've got children you'll have to go to a movie with your children.

Just to get them to you know hopefully be quiet for an hour and a half it's fun to go to the movies with your friends and go afterwards for a pint of beer in sit around and talk about it is so again notwithstanding.

You know how difficult things are economically at the moment it you know where we're hopeful that it's it's position at the movies are good if the movies are good and of course.

I mentioned streaming now.

You took this bold decision back in 2020 when the cinemas are closed during the pandemic tax that traditional long films being released in cinemas and coming into the home and you allowed audiences to stream immediately kicking off the new trolls movie obvious moving hindsight, but did it feel obvious at the time? I mean it was obvious that it needed to happen as as the pandemic.

Was you know about the tsunami was about to hit us.

We're all going home and we knew that film.

Either way, we're going to be a dad.

I said if we didn't do something with it, but it was of course you it was it was a watershed moment between the studio and and exhibition but presumably it's over this is over now because once you accept that window once people can just watch at home.

Are they ever going to go back to the cinema and it seems like a lot of the moment? I think we're beginning to see a little bit of a settling of are some of those more extreme trends.

You know certainly doing covered.

It was very easy to say streaming is up movie there's are going down because all the movie theatres were closed and you know next year we're going to see more movies in the movie theatres then we did this year so I think as we sort of Edge along the Continuum of the recovery.

We're going to continue to see the story of cinema of all but the very fact of you deciding.

I'm going to put things on our streaming platform quicker.

It is heralding at Devizes cinema.

And I think the bar is getting higher for films that I'm going to the movie pictures you know it's easy to say where are you going to put the good ones in there? Are the ones that the audience wants to see but we have to say very close to the market trends.

Very close to the audience to understand.

You know what is the thing going to be that's going to get them into the movie theatres and is it somebody like Christopher Nolan for example who you know he's left one of my other for you.

That was a great wee on your part to get him over after all those decades that he spent with Warner Brothers he definitely isn't going to accept that you put his movie on a streaming platform anytime soon.

Are there some directors streaming is never going to be the answer absolutely the audience credit for being you know pretty.

You know very savvy about where to find their contents and how to consume in and as is the case with with Christopher Nolan in particular.

I think he is already in snow.

They're going to get to see his movie on the big screen in IMAX preferably with the great surround sound and that's why he makes his movies you know I think it's slightly different let me know we saw it this year were from paramount with Top Gun that film wasn't available anywhere until after 120 Days of you know I've released the audience just kept going and going and going and that is we are beginning to see that a little bit that the audience kind of know the difference between something that is very much intend to be at the actual experience of something.

That's not be able to talk about of Shakedown that's going to happen in the streaming platform soon as the big one that likes on Netflix Disney Plus Amazon and then peacock we're just the one you use as obviously much much smaller than that.

How do you say I mean do you think that the small ones will just not exist in a few years time he is going through.

That I have never seen before in my career and so how the industry the industry looks very different today than it did 5 years ago and I think in 5-years time it's going to look very different again.

I think streaming is here to stay.

I think the article is here to stay.

I think the audience consumption of content is high.

If not higher than it's ever been b.

Yahoo is doing what my night shift around a little bit and just as we come to the end.

You know it's always good to talk to people who are in the know like you about future of in a clearly you have driven a lot of change through your career whether that's for people of colour other underserved audiences.

What are your predictions now about?

What needs to change next does it feel like you're on the we're on the right path?

I think culturally we are on the right path as it as an industry for certainly.

I think a lot of the changes that have that have transpired and I can speak you know really specifically about my own company first of all a younger workforce.

Are you know holding us accountable We're holding ourselves accountable and we've seen you know when you put change into action and you become very intentional about about what workplace culture.

It makes a positive difference.

You know the level of loyalty to the company you are you no enjoyment working at the company really goes up so that's 11 area of change.

I see we just talked about I think in terms of how people are getting their content have a consuming it.

That's going to continue to evolve and shift and change as well.

And that you know I think at the end of the day movies a movies and they're made in all different shapes and sizes and you know we make movies for a global audience and will continue to do that and what about for you.

Is there a film that you don't love to make a pattern pattern project you haven't done yet an actor that you would love to work with the director that you haven't yet? What are your plans Woody plotting? I'm really I mean honestly you know I couldn't be happier about the directors that we're in business with at the moment.

So you know I think you have been able to attract the best and the brightest you know when I think of what kind of look around the studio and I think about being in business and you know with directors who really are all about audience and and that the actual experience aware that Christopher Nolan the the Daniels who directed everything everywhere all at once Jordan Peele M Night Shyamalan

Being in business with producers like Jason Blum you are making grape in a horror fair that audiences enjoy you know all the time everywhere.

I honestly I actually don't feel like we want for anything just to let you know always looking out for you know.

What's the next thing in and who is the next person coming along and you predict last question from me your predictions for the future.

What will the movie business look like in 1520 years time? Will you still be running universal no definitely not at that point that talk about the next generation that will be there will be time for them to tell their stories, but no with again.

I think we might see more consolidation and the studio you know some of the 100-year old business and it would be nice to think that it could continue another 100 years, but I think again with technology-enabled distribution mechanisms.

That's what we going to change.

But now I mean I think that yeah.

Hollywood's will still be here though.

I really believe that Hollywood will still be here.


I look forward to that don't like me.

Thank you so much, pleasure.

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