Memo From a Hollywood Producer

A Satirical Follow Up To A Screenwriter’s Guide to Female Characters


Dear Fellow Producers,

In our post Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo, #TimesUp world, women are starting to speak up about the harassment and abuse they face, apparently on a semi-regular basis. They say they’ve been talking about it for a while, but everyone knows something isn’t real until it is acknowledged by a man and given a catchy hashtag.

It looks like this thing is not coming to an end any time soon, so now it’s time to move forward, similar to how we did before, but with minor changes so SJWs won’t be angry at us.

As a well-established Hollywood producer, I have had the opportunity to greenlight many projects. My main criteria for choosing what to greenlight are basically these:

  1. Will it make money?
    1. With this, consider: what is the ethnicity of the main characters? Gender breakdown? Sexual orientation? How many stereotypes will not be broken in this film? Does it have Dwayne Johnson in it?
  2. Is it as low risk as possible?
  3. Does it fit my specific worldview and bubble, while also having the ability to be marketed as “exciting” and “progressive” based on the extremely low standards we have?

Going back to #1a, consider the new dilemma with this whole female empowerment thing. Women now want to be in movies, and not only do they want to be in movies, they want to be a part of movies, in a big way. Big is very hard to define. They want “complex roles” and “equal pay” and to “not be assaulted on set.” Those are clearly not clear expectations.

So I have discovered a solution, and it is this: don’t have women in your movie.

But wait! You may say. I have a woman in my life. I have a woman- wife, a woman-daughter, a woman-mother. I may even have a woman-friend. Last time I checked, women make up, like, at least 30% of the population.

I understand that, dear associates. But think about it this way. If that said woman-person saw your movie, and wasn’t pleased with how women were portrayed in it, then they’ll nag you about it. Wouldn’t it just be better to make a movie without women? That way, nothing bad could possibly happen, and everyone wins.

Suggestions for what movies to make so you don’t have to include women in them:

  1. Historical dramas. We here in Hollywood have never been shy about ignoring, white-washing, warping, and outright lying about history. It’s not like women have done much in history anyways. So just make movies that take place in a vague, historical period. If you do want female characters, they can be wives, maids, waitresses, nameless peasants, or whatever, because that’s all women were in most of history. Obviously everyone will understand and accept that. It’s tragic, but true.
  2. Superhero movies. Women are just not inherently heroic. Have you ever seen a mother protecting her child or defending her thoughts?  No? I thought not. Also- they don’t have an inward thirst for justice. The normal superhero story, of going from a marginalized, unheard, tread-upon person to an empowered figure is only a male story. How is #MeToo going to object to that?
  3. Political dramas. There are no women in politics, and if there are, they lose the electoral college after winning the popular vote.
  4. Horror. Either you have no women, or you kill them off in the first few scenes. Then, to keep people from critiquing it, you have a character say in a super meta-way, “oh man, the black guy and the girl always get killed first!” That way, no one will be mad because you are so totally hilarious and making a political point.

I call these movies with primarily or exclusively male casts ‘malevies.’ They represent an important tradition in Hollywood that is our duty to carry on.

Another important thing to consider is that if there are no women in your movie, there isn’t any possibility for pay disparity! Win-win!

As men who were birthed by women, we are all very clearly concerned about the finer points of this feminist movement. We are doing our best to listen to these women, or at least, listen to other men, who in turn heard a news report that reported what another news report said what a woman said, and make the necessary changes.

But it also must be acknowledged that this is a scary time for us. Because of all of these accusations, it is clear we cannot even say “hello” to a woman without her claiming it as assault. We can’t lock the door to our hotel room with the underage intern assistant inside anymore. We can’t even work without our pants off anymore. When will this craziness end? Who knows, but we must move forward.

Throughout all of this, we also have a responsibility as businessmen to keep the status quo strictly as it is. So remember, you can’t be sexist if you don’t acknowledge that women exist in the first place.

Go forth, and make great malevies!

I Would Probably Invest in a Ponzi Scheme If Jack Black Sang To Me: The Polka King


Netflix’s new movie The Polka King is a biopic of the real life Polka King of Pennsylvania, Jan Lewan. In 2004 he was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme to finance his various polka enterprises. The film is based off the documentary The Man Who Would be Polka King and notes the real Jan Lewan wrote about his life while in jail.

I knew this movie was about this scheme before I went in. The trailers and film summary tell you the movie is going to be about the scheme. Yet it wasn’t until halfway through the film I realized, with a start, Hold on, Lewan is scheming people out of their money!

Why did it take me so long to realize the film was portraying Lewan’s Ponzi scheme, when I knew that was what the film was about? How was I so surprised by what I knew before I pushed play?

What I saw while watching was a kind, hard-working family man who was just so… so genuine. Sure, part of it was that he was played by Jack Black, but his dreams and unabashed hope for America and love for his family and unyielding work ethic made me forget that what he was doing was technically illegal. People were giving him the money willingly! He was giving people generous interest on their money (at least for a while). What’s so wrong with that?

So in a way, Jan Lewan, and The Polka King, schemed me. I was duped in a film about people being duped. So what you should take away from this is that if Lewan asked me to invest with him, I probably would. I would be a tremendous sucker. Please don’t call me up for (my little bit of babysitting) money. But that also means, at least to this particular viewer, that the film not only pulled me in and made me sympathetic for the criminal protagonist, but also made me into one of the characters. It put me in the place of the investor who fell for his charm and earnestness.  

Now the film doesn’t get high marks exactly for how they make Lewan likeable. Patriotism, love for family, hard working, lovable goofiness, and an accent is the easiest and most black and white way to make a protagonist likeable. But the film does get high marks for using this as a way to make the morality of the situation grey. How can such a good man get punished so harshly? Should he even be imprisoned- did he really understand what he was doing? But he did, and now I’m angry that I’m defending him.

Ultimately, the film is able to stay pretty unbiased towards the material. It presents Lewan as a well-intentioned man who did wrong, which is how he was described in real life. The audience is the one that is left frustrated on how to respond.

Jack Black grounds the film with his Lewan being a wily, whimsical man with dreams and a dark ambition. He does most of the heavy lifting as his supporting cast get to ramble free with their own kooky stories. Jenny Slate and Jason Schwartzman are fun to watch, but are really there just to give stakes to the greater story. Their individual side plots do not have any thematic resonance on their own. Most of their contributions are true though, and the entire film is fairly accurate, which just goes to show how finding the right story is all you need for a compelling real-life movie. This movie is the true The Greatest Showman.

However, it’s the job of a film, a piece of art, to take a real-life story and find the thematic, universal message within it, and the failure of The Polka King to tie everything together and make each thread of the movie count, not just let it be filler distraction, makes it a weaker film.

This is director Maya Forbes’ second feature film, her directorial debut being 2015’s incredible Infinitely Polar Bear, a tender semi-autobiographical story about her own childhood. The Polka King is a less precise film, maybe because it is more of a comedy and doesn’t have Forbe’s own life and personal stakes in it. With a little more care, every scene and storyline in Polka King could have hit home perfectly. With a little more thought, the film could have relied less on Jack Black to pull the storylines of the other characters into his own.

That being said, The Polka King is a satisfying, whimsical real-life fable and cautionary tale that tells a story too crazy to be true. Just be warned- you might find yourself sympathizing with someone who would try to take all your money. Bleeding hearts (and get-rich-quick suckers) be warned.

-Madeleine D

Madeleine’s Official Top Seventeen List™

Coinciding with the release of the 2018 Oscar nominations, I thought I would weigh in with my favorite 17 movies of 2017. With my top films of the year, I chose them based on three things:

  1. How much I enjoyed them and/or how much they stuck with me.
  2. How “good” of a film they were, in terms of their craft.
  3. Cultural significance and relevance.

2018 oscars

17. Beauty and the Beast

16. Dunkirk

15. Lego Batman

14. Spider-Man: Homecoming

13. To the Bone

12. Wonder Woman

11. All the Money in the World

10. Battle of the Sexes

9. It

8. Okja

7. Get Out

6. The Big Sick

5. Lady Bird

4. Logan

3. War for the Planet of the Apes

2. Baby Driver

1. The Unknown Girl

the unknown girl

I have not yet seen Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri, Molly’s Game, The Florida Project, Phantom Thread, or I, Tonya.

My favorite scenes of the year:

“We’re all to blame” – Wonder Woman

Mall Chase Scene- Baby Driver

“Gaston” Musical Number- Beauty and the Beast

Kumail’s Comedy Show with Beth and Roy- The Big Sick

“The Sunken Place” – Get Out

Worst Film of the Year: The Emoji Movie

-Madeleine D

Drama In Front Of and Behind the Camera: All the Money in the World


“That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.” George Carlin

J. Paul Getty was not just the richest man who walked the earth in 1973, he was one of the richest man who had ever walked it. He found oil in Saudi Arabia and was an infamous penny pincher. He achieved the success we all dream of in one way or another.

But Getty, no matter how smart or savvy or wary he was, lacked the humanity we all hope we have. On July 10th of 1973, Getty’s grandson, Paul Getty Jr., was kidnapped in Rome by Italian gangsters. They asked for $17 million as ransom. Getty refused, and in the end, only paid $2 million, because that was what he could get as a tax credit.

It makes you wonder, was it the money that turned Getty Sr. into stone? Or was it in him all along? Or do you have to stay asleep to some things to keep the American dream? To believe it’s worth it?

With Getty Sr.  as an immovable force, it’s up to Getty Jr.’s mother Gail (Michelle Williams) to fight for her son’s life, and Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to help negotiate Getty Jr.’s release. As they suffer loss after loss, with Getty Jr. slipping from their grip, they’ll wake up to some realities of their own.

To me, All the Money in the World  is as intense as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. While Dunkirk relies on the cold hand of time, All the Money in the World relies on the anticipation that something is going to happen, I was just not sure what. This might be because I didn’t know anything about the Getty story going in. I’m sure it will be different for everyone, but for me, watching a boy my age being kidnapped, tortured, with my own mother sitting beside me, watching the mother on screen do everything in her power, well, it got to me. I even nearly threw up during one scene (you’ll know it when you see it), and I had my eyes closed. The film leaves every scene with a cliffhanger, keeping the audience as frustrated as the characters, pulling us along and then making us lose hope over and over again, until the final scene where we can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s the kind of engrossing experience that only film can provide.

Christopher Plummer has been getting all the publicity for replacing Kevin Spacey mere weeks before the film’s release date, but this truly is an ensemble film. Plummer, though, does deserve all the credit he is getting. He makes nuance out of a role that would have just been stitched together with thematic lines. His and director Ridley Scott’s professionalism and talent are the real takeaway from the reshoots.

Michelle Williams gives a nomination-worthy performance as Abigail Getty Harris. She infuses grit and determination into the character, and she rejects every normal “hysterical mother” trope given to her, holding the screen in a fierce grip that puts her among the best female performances of the year.

Mark Wahlberg makes no impression here. I suppose his character is necessary, but… you know. Meh Wahlberg. Not a performance that, I dare say, is worth eight times more than Michelle Williams’. (

On the other side of the story, Romain Duris as Cinquanta, aka, “the nice kidnapper,” is incredibly charismatic and gives a tender performance. He and Charlie Plummer have the chemistry it takes to make the scenes of Paul’s imprisonment more compelling than they are written to be, and it’s a shame he is being overlooked in coverage of the film.

I like to say that a movie needs to justify its existence. Why is it a film I should spend money and time on? Particularly for live-action dramas.For example, I didn’t think last year’s Loving or this year’s Darkest Hour elevated their respective material to a cinematic level. Both of those films were high quality, but I didn’t gain something from watching them I couldn’t have gained from reading a Wikipedia article about their subjects.

All the Money in the World gives the audience multiple reasons for why it is a movie. The film is thrilling, and the adrenaline from watching it is not something you’ll get from a detached experience of reading it. And the film, no matter how bluntly, tries to say something about wealth, and create themes out of the historical events. Most of the time, it succeeds. And it’s an exciting ride nevertheless. It kept me engaged and left me with things to think about.

Ironically enough, a film that explores the selfishness and corruption of Paul Getty Sr., and his refusal to awaken to his family’s needs, has been a film that through behind-the-scenes drama has been a part of Hollywood’s own awakening to its corruption. Kevin Spacey’s sexual assault allegations were punished, and the revelations about the pay disparity between Williams and Wahlberg have pushed home the persistent gender pay gap. Let’s just hope Hollywood, unlike Getty, doesn’t try to fix things cheaply.

-Madeleine D

Take a Cue From Your Own Movie: Downsizing


*Spoiler Alert

Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Nebraska) is a director who is known for “small” (small being basically synonymous with independent) movies with big stars (Jack Nicholson, Reese Witherspoon, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bruce Dern). His latest film, Downsizing, continues in that same vein, but with more studio marketing than for any of his previous films. Unfortunately, the best thing about an Alexander Payne film, a consistently quirky tone, gets abandoned this time around.

Downsizing explores a differen genres in each of its major acts. While in better movies, this might be rightly labeled “quirky” or “original” and might work for the premise, in Downsizing it does not.

The first act is a pretty by-the-numbers dramedy about the premise. Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) learn about downsizing, a new process that shrinks you down to five inches tall. Once downsized, they get to live in a tiny community built for luxury and wealth. It’s supposed to be more sustainable and help the rapidly dying earth, not to mention increase your buying power exponentially, but it’s not without its problems. Here, the film is presented as a smart social commentary.

Then it takes a nosedive into a meandering second act where a newly downsized Paul wanders around, feels sorry for himself in his lonely new land, goes to his neighbor Dusan’s (Christoph Waltz playing Christoph Waltz, so I’m just going to call him that from here on out) European party, and meets Ngoc Lan, a former political activist whose government downsized her against her will and shipped her to America in a TV box. Ngoc Lan and Paul, through a series of adorable circumstances, find themselves working together to care for the people of the slum Ngoc Lan lives in. A commentary on immigration and poverty in the United States? Maybe?

In the third act, Ngoc Lan, Christoph Waltz, and Paul are invited to come to Norway to meet the original inventor of downsizing. Once there, they learn that the world is actually dying and that a group of small people are going into a vault to repopulate and continue the human race as the outside world dies. Life must find a way, and Paul can’t think of a better use of his life than to join them. But he loves Ngoc Lan and at the last minute joins her instead of going with the others. The end.

If that defied all of your expectations for the film, then you’re not alone. But is this the genius kind of crazy, or crazy kind of crazy?

Downsizing could be seen as a cautionary fable, and some critics, like Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter who named the film the best of the year, interpreted it as such. But unlike movies that are clear fables, like say, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Raising Arizona, Downsizing does not present itself as one. It plays as an SNL skit that goes on too long, feels like it needs a political message, and invents an ending that is just an excuse to go hang out in the fjords of Norway. It begins to give a social critique, or make an interesting statement, but can’t complete a single thought. It’s a rollercoaster of different stories crammed into one.

Ultimately, I think Downsizing would work much better as a short film. The main parts of the film- man learns about downsizing, downsizes, is unhappy, meets woman, finds purpose in helping others- would be more coherent without hours of filler in between. It’s the filler in Downsizing that bogs down the film and makes it unclear. The second and third act don’t even need to be in a downsized world!

Another problem is with the character development. Paul is a nice guy the whole movie. He doesn’t have a character arc, so there is no real change in his character that reflects the change to “downsize” his life decision.

If I were to find a message in Downsizing, I think the end says something whole. Paul has the opportunity to go with the group of small people to keep the human race alive. Paul finds it all important and sacrificial, but Ngoc Lan wants him to stay with her, primarily for love. He is about to go into the vault when he decides to go back to Ngoc Lan and spend the rest of his days helping her in the slums of LeisureLand.

It seems that director Payne is saying Paul needs to think smaller. He doesn’t need to join some humanity-saving experiment. That big picture thinking is what made him small and unhappy in the first place. He needs to think small like Ngoc Lan, and care for the people around him. He needs to “downsize” his vision and purpose. This is actually a compelling message, except the film doesn’t quite set it up to be that. The film treats the small people going into the vault as doing a necessary and important thing, so why isn’t Paul supposed to be a part of it? And he goes back to Ngoc Lan for love- that’s why she wants him to stay, too.

This problem is representative of the whole film: it has a handful of messages it wants to say, but either doesn’t complete a thought or say something seemingly unintentionally. And because I crave meaning, I have had to dissect it from a film that might not have meant to say that at all. To see such a great premise, with a prolific team behind the scenes, is disappointing.

So if you do see Downsizing, which I can’t recommend, please-

keep your expectations small.

-Madeleine D