Economic meltdown a hot topic in Hollywood

Tue Jan 13, 2009 2:49am EST
 
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By Steven Zeitchik

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Global banks sit in crisis. Mortgage-holders sit in default. Bernie Madoff sits in his apartment. And Hollywood wonders whether it might be sitting on a storytelling goldmine.

A host of film projects in the indie and studio worlds are gaining momentum just as the biggest economic crisis in decades boils over. From giant studios to startups you've never heard of, from name-brand directors to up-and-comers, there's something swimming in development waters, and it's a story of economic woe.

"I wouldn't say it's a feeding frenzy just yet," one agent said. "But some development people I've talked to have let it be known that, if you do have these ideas, they will rise to the top of the pile."

Unlike the television world, where plot elements can go from conception to the screen in a matter of months -- shows including "Ugly Betty" and "Desperate Housewives" have added recession story lines in recent episodes -- the film world takes much longer to see stories through.

But that hasn't stopped companies from pushing forward.

Fox has restarted long-rumored talk of a "Wall Street" sequel, more than two decades after the era-defining original, though Oliver Stone's picture was set in and released into a world still in a bubble of economic prosperity. The studio has hired Allan Loeb to write a new draft and sees the picture as a social comment of sorts: Gordon Gekko entering a world too cutthroat even for him.

"Australia" director Baz Luhrmann, meanwhile, is moving ahead with a "Gatsby" story he feels will be a parable of our times. And Participant Prods., always up for a socially relevant tale, is developing "Minimum Wage," about a corrupt executive sentenced to live on the low wages of the people his greed exploited.

Many of the projects are in development partly as an insurance policy; when a story is so culturally dominant, executives feel a related project or two on the slate doesn't hurt, even if they don't intend to greenlight it anytime soon.   Continued...