What is a low budget, independent movie anymore anyway? Randy Quaid may
find out for all of us in a court of law – he’s suing the producers of
usual fee for Brokeback because he had been assured it was "a low-budget,
art-house film, with no prospect of making any money."
"Yet from day one, defendants fully intended that the
film would not be made on a low budget, would be given a worldwide release, and
would be supported as the studio picture it always was secretly intended to
be," the lawsuit says.
It’s the “studio picture” bit that makes it interesting to
me. James Schamus was one of the producers of Brokeback. He also runs Focus
Features, which is Universal’s “Let’s pretend it’s indie” or “classics”
division. You have to wonder how Quaid thought the movie wasn’t going to get a
decent release with that pedigree, but whatever – the basic question still
remains: are the studio “classics” divisions (and they all have them) really
nothing more than phony indie cred grabbers? The lawsuit claims that Brokeback’s
budget – between 13 and 15 million dollars – is double the cap of many guilds’
definitions of “low budget.” Does the fact that it comes out through Focus make
it a “low budget” picture? Whatever happened to the days when studios would
sometimes just make some affordable movies, which is what Brokeback really was.
When it all shakes out, I think Quaid is sort of being a
dick and sort of right. I don’t know if Focus thought Brokeback would go on to
make $80+ million – but once they did, they should have kicked back some money
to people who took cut paychecks to make the film happen.