Weinstein, Back in His 'Groove', Wants to Cut Up 'Submarine', Too?

February 16, 2011
Source: Vanity Fair

Submarine / Harvey Weinstein

There's a great new profile on the infamous Harvey Weinstein over on Vanity Fair's site (via The Playlist) called How Harvey Got His Groove Back that's definitely worth reading, just because it's an intriguing look at the man behind the curtain and how he got The King's Speech on its Oscar march. First things first, I do believe The Weinstein Company may be making a comeback and Harvey may be back "in a groove" again, but there's another issue at hand. In their article, Harvey talks about editing Richard Ayoade's Submarine, the charming indie flick we fell in love with in Toronto, just because it didn't play well with a test audience.

The profile starts with a story about how they met up with Harvey at a test screening for Submarine in New York. The Weinstein Company picked up the film up in Toronto last year, but hasn't set a release date yet, as they just finished a run at Sundance and this hits in March in the UK. However, it didn't connect with that audience as much as at the festivals. "The New York audience's reception is a disappointment, subdued at best, sullen at worst, and when Harvey stalks out into the lobby, he barely makes eye contact with the film's director, a young Londoner named Richard Ayoade." Ouch. So what is his response? What is he going to do instead? Well, this is Harvey Scissorhands Weinstein, and it's not the first time in the last year we've written about how he wants to cut a film so it'll play better - he's also considering the same with The King's Speech.

"It's amazing, the humor just doesn't translate," Weinstein fumes to a circle of aides. "In Toronto they were on helium they were laughing so hard. These people, they don't get it. They don't get it. I just don’t get it. It's like they need permission to laugh." Weinstein riffs through changes he can make to the film, which will be released sometime this year. Maybe a "place card" to establish the Welsh setting. Maybe toning down some of the heavy British accents. "We'll take down some of the dialogue, like we did in My Left Foot. Anyway, there's a problem with the film. This is the process. I'll fix it."

Come on, really? I've personally never understood why studios screen movies in some random theater and proceed to make changes that affect the entire thing, which will be seen by millions of people, just because some nobody audience member does or doesn't think a particular scene is funny. It especially doesn't make sense when the film is already adored by many, having shown at the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals, where no one I know that saw this thinks it needs to be edited at all. Plus if the issues are about confusion of setting or not understanding accents - that is the audience's concern, not the filmmaker's or distributor's. Museums don't repaint/remake their artwork just because viewers can't understand it, so why would a film studio do the complete opposite to their own piece of art? It doesn't make any sense at all. Don't ruin it!

I've heard some say that all these quotes are actually just sly schemes to gain even more buzz for films like The King's Speech and Submarine, and changes won't actually be made, or if they are, we won't hear much about them. I hope that's not the case, as it really does upset me to hear that someone is taking the film out of the hands of the filmmaker, an art house indie nonetheless, and adjusting it in hopes that it'll make more money. I'm sure Harvey is being more of a producer and talking with the director, Richard Ayoade, in order to have him make the updates, but it's still unnecessary. I doubt my plea will make a difference, but oh well.

I understand that films don't always play well with every audience, but there's no need to make adjustments just to appeal to everyone's tastes. Especially an indie like this, that has a very unique style and quirk that fans of Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach will appreciate more than the typical moviegoer, it's a hard sell and could be a hit, but they're not going to get there by slicing 'n dicing. The King's Speech may win the Oscar and I'm happy to support it and Blue Valentine and Submarine, all Weinstein acquisitions, but I won't support editing/cutting the film unless the director truly believes it's necessary. So again, Harvey, if you're really back in a groove and these audience members "don't get it", I think the smarter thing to do is find the audience that does get it and to market to them - not cut and edit the film to appease the audience you want. That's my $0.02 at least, for what little it's worth. I'll be happy to support it, as long as they don't butcher it.

Besides that mention of Submarine, a film which I totally love and will passionately defend/promote all the way through its release, the rest of Harvey's profile is actually pretty damn good. I suggest reading the entire thing, especially if you work in this industry. Apparently Harvey lost interest in moviemaking over the last few years, but is finally getting back into it and making quite a comeback. "After all the bad movies and bad decisions and bad, well, everything of the last five years, Harvey Weinstein is finally back." Let's hope!

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I don't even know where to start with this. I run the video department for an advertising agency and I've learned a few thing along the way. 1. Focus groups can be useful, but they can also destroy a good idea. You have to understand your audience, and you can't use just one focus group. You must utilize many in order to get accurate data. 2. The more creative control you give the client, the more the project will suffer. This greatly effects the editing process. I've seen so many projects be half of what they should have been because the client thought they had more creative insight than the professionals that they hired. So, I am a firm believer that you leave the overall vision to the creative minds that built the project. Even if it's a flop, at least it's a a true representation of what the story teller wanted to show us.

Jace on Feb 16, 2011


Exactly! Totally agree.

Alex Billington on Feb 16, 2011


When will they learn Alex!? When!?

Jace on Feb 16, 2011


with you. had to turn to one side to hit something other than my laptop. 'Anyway, there's a problem with the film.' no, Harvey - there's a problem with you. what's next? maybe we should overdub the heavy West Texas accents in No Country For Old Men, as some guys in Sydney don't get it. perhaps we should subtitle all of Jean Reno's English language films as he's got a heavy French accent that won't play well in Buttf***, Idaho. maybe we should... aaargh, bate, fume.

Anonymous on Feb 16, 2011


i agree too

A5J4DX on Feb 16, 2011


"...when Harvey stalks out into the lobby, he barely makes eye contact with the film's director, a young Londoner named Richard Ayoade." That is a real bummer. I hope a genius like Ayoade isn't permanently turned off from all this Hollywood bullshit. We need more humor like his in the States, Darkplace and Dean Learner are golden, and the trailer for Submarine seems promising. Weinstein can cut up any piece of crap he wants and make money, why can't he keep Welsh accents in the movie that takes place in Wales?

Pauldnaylor on Feb 16, 2011


power drunk?

Anonymous on Feb 17, 2011


He's always been like this. He chopped up many Tarantino material for both a rating and appeal to the audiences. And he is gonna keep on doing it. Focus groups and test screenings may be good (they did save Sunset Boulevard and that movie is glorious) but they should never be above the artistic view.

MJB on Feb 17, 2011


No other comments on the image I made for this article? Dang... I spent a while whipping up that Photoshop of Harvey going all Jack Torrance on lil' Oliver Tate. Thought it looked good!

Alex Billington on Feb 17, 2011


sorry, Alex - i did really like it and i did immediately think of The Shining! it's just that i got all Jack Torrance myself over Weinstein's statement, and it proved too great a distraction. blame Harvey!

Anonymous on Feb 17, 2011

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