Something interests me about the Coen Brothers who appear to make movies for their mutual enjoyment and if other people like them that’s okay too making a movie set in the “Studio System”, a workplace where the “Creatives” were notoriously subservient to the people in charge. I wondered what it be like if those diametrical entities came head-to-head.
(Note: This may turn out to be terrible. But what can I tell you? It’s what I wanted to do today. The distinguishing difference, in case you are sniffing out parallels, is that no one is bankrolling this enterprise.)
THE WANING ERA OF THE STUDIO SYSTEM: HOW DO THEY DEAL WITH THEIR RENEGADE FILMMAKERS? (A FALSE PREMISE, AS DURING THE STUDIO SYSTEM, THERE WERE NO RENEGADE FILMMAKERS. OH WELL. NEVER LET FACTS TO INTERFERE WITH A PROMISING IDEA.)
INT. HEAD OF PRODUCTION’S OFFICE – DAY
The studio’s Head of Production holds the “Hail, Caesar!” script (with lot of page corners turned over) in his hand as the iconoclastic Coen Brothers whose movies make money – which is why they are tolerated – are ushered in to confer about it.
HEAD OF PRODUCTION: Come on in, boys. Astrid, hold my calls.
Astrid exits. The Coen Brothers sit.
HEAD OF PRODUCTION: You got everything you need? Water? Coffee?
The Coen Brothers exchange looks, shrugging “We’re fine.”
Okay. (GESTURING TO THE “HAIL, CAESAR!” SCRIPT) Great job. As usual. Looks like you had a lot of fun doing this.
The Coen Brothers remain comfortably silent.
Because it shows. Great spirit. Lotta laughs. You gave away a few of our secrets here. A little dirty laundry. But we’re big boys. We can weather the storm.
More comfortable silence emanating from the Coen Brothers.
I love this idea. It’s flamboyant. It’s original. It’s fresh. The guy’s confession: “I hit a movie star in anger!” Hilarious.
A COEN BROTHER: “Struck.”
THE OTHER COEN BROTHER: “I struck a movie star in anger.”
Hey, you’re the writers. Anyway, I love the script. Could be your best yet. But if you’ll indulge me, I have a few…
Looking back at him are two pair of affectless eyes, menacing though not detectably, which may even be more menacing.
I know. You guys are artists. You do things your way. I accept that… because your movies make money. I’m kidding. We love you. But you know how this works. You are not obligated to change anything. But you do have to listen.
The Coen Brothers sit silently. They are – as contractually mandated – listening.
Okay. A few things. Not many. Because it’s great. Just a couple of ideas. You know, I am actually pretty good at this. I mean, the original version of… I won’t mention any names. Needed a lotta work. I’m not saying this does. Not at all. The point is, I was helpful.
Polite disinterest from the Coen Brothers.
THE STUDIO HEAD TURNS TO A TURNED-OVER PAGE CORNER AT RANDOM.
The dance sequence. A little too long?
TURNING TO ANOTHER TURNED-OVER PAGE CORNER.
The kidnappers are Pinko screenwriters. “Too smart for the room”, maybe?
We like that.
BUYING TIME, THE STUDIO HEAD FLIPS TO NUMEROUS TURNED-OVER PAGE CORNERS.
The various subplots. They seem to just peter out. The “Pregnant Actress” problem – it takes care of itself. They find the kidnapped movie star – he’s sitting alone in the house. And that “cowboy” kid – he falls right out of the picture. Every situation we’re invested in – no resolution, no climax.
That’s exactly how we…
Anyone can tell stories.
We’re going for…
Well you definitely got that.
THE STUDIO HEAD SIGHS.
Lemme ask you something – general question. Is there anything I could mention that you might actually… think about?
I am talking about the process. Filmmaking is a collaborative business.
We are in this together, trying to make the best pictures we know how. Everyone contributing. Everyone doing their part. You know what I mean?
A division of labor.
We make the movies.
Pay for them.
It works beautifully, don’t you think?
The Studio Head’s secretary bursts in.
Did I hear the phone ring?
Yes. And I think you should take it.
Sorry, boys. Big call. Thanks for coming by.
They shake hands. The Coen Brothers exit.
Was there really a call?
That Vice President from Lockheed. He needs an answer about the job offer.
Tell him I’ll take it. This business is getting too democratic. Crazy filmmakers. What will they want next? A piece of the profits?
EXT. STUDIO EXECUTIVE OFFICES – MOMENTS LATER.
The Coen brothers traverse the walkway back to their offices.
That wasn’t too bad.
Did you notice his mustache?
That was all I was looking at.
Our next movie: Mustaches.
I like it.
THE BROTHERS RETURN CONTENTEDLY TO THEIR OFFICES, WAITING OUT THE STUDIO SYSTEM SO THEY CAN REALLY DO WHAT THEY WANT.