On First-time Directors in Hollywood

Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh (@RaminSetoodeh) and Scott Foundas (@foundasonfilm) cite Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) as precedents for Universal hiring first-timer Carl Rinsch to helm 47 Ronin in an interesting piece about the film’s failure. The Black Listed script has been turned into a disastrous flop by all accounts.

I don’t suppose any of these three will provide much encouragement for studios trusting first-timers in future, and perhaps that’s a good thing. To have to deal with the rigours of what is usually at least a two-year process, spending hundreds of millions of dollars and commanding a thousand people to make a product you have no experience of making? I can’t think of a path that makes that transition easy, short of working up to it with smaller (read: lower-budget) features.

And that’s to say nothing of the studio politics involved in the big leagues. I’ve seen that aspect crush the spirits of much more experienced directors on its own. We’re never given the full picture about which decisions were whose when a film is delivered, and I’m always surprised when I hear about ultimatums that had been handed down to some of the biggest helmers in Hollywood.

That said, it’s the very nature of film production when it involves so many voices, and there’s no other way to make Hollywood movies at the >$100m budget level. Don’t get me wrong – the big leagues are as fertile a breeding ground for ideas as anywhere else. But I’m increasingly convinced it’s something one must work up to.

All of this to say: Carl Rinsch had much to overcome, so we shouldn’t be too hard on him. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what he made of the challenge when I can get to the cinema in the next week or two – contrary to received wisdom, box office failure does not equal substantive disappointment. There are a few too many critics that seem to confuse the two.

I’m not really surprised the movie bombed – the writing had been on the wall for some time. But there are plenty of interesting ideas in that script, and I’d like to see how Rinsch realised them. Whatever the result, Universal will live to make another movie. I hope Rinsch does too.