TriStar President Talks SC

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TriStar President Talks SC

Postby Impending Doom » Jun 26, 2017 1:26 pm

TriStar President Hannah Minghella recently sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss TriStar's creative approach to film-making and their upcoming slate of films. I'll post the highlights here but the whole interview definitely worth a read!

Mighella was asked whether the mandate for TriStar had changed since she took the reigns two years ago.
Hannah Minghella wrote:I've slightly expanded the mandate. We're genre agnostic and budget agnostic at TriStar. The common denominators for all TriStar films are they are original or elevated or filmmaker-driven in some way.

Hannah Minghella wrote:TriStar has always been a division where everybody's going to be a little bit more hands off, right? Because this whole idea of TriStar is to bring in filmmakers and advocate for them and create a space for them to really be the creative leaders of their movies. So, yes, Tom is a little hands off with TriStar.


The interview went on and eventually turned to Narnia. The question was about the reason behind acquiring the series and why they're beginning with The Silver Chair.
Hannah Minghella wrote:Disney made the first one, which was a wonderful movie. I don't think the world is necessarily ready for or asking for a remake of that film. Silver Chair is a perfect moment to rejoin the franchise because it introduces a new character, a young girl named Jill, going into Narnia for the first time. Thematically, the story of a young girl who is being bullied but who has to find the courage to stand up not just for herself but ultimately all Narnians has such strong positive messaging.


All of this sounds very encouraging to me. One of the biggest drawbacks to the Walden trilogy is they all (to varying degrees) come across as 'studio films'. The filmmakers weren't able to take risks due to the environment they were created in. I'm totally on board with the direction they're taking thematically and it's a positive that the adaptation will focus on Jill's journey. With what Hannah is saying paired with Gresham has said, I think this could be a truly great film.

What are your thoughts on the interview?
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby Rogin » Jun 26, 2017 2:14 pm

Reading this interview and looking back on where we've been, I'm so glad the series landed at TriStar. It sounds like a great working environment to be involved in. Hannah sounds delightful!

I'm in full support of the approach they're taking with the theme. It will hopefully flesh out Jill's character/backstory and build upon a theme that is in the book. Not sure if that was the main theme Lewis intended but it's definitely prevalent throughout. It's also very marketable!
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby narnia fan 7 » Jun 26, 2017 3:52 pm

Ever since TriStar was announced, I've been a little uneasy about them because of Sony Pictures reputation of micromanaging their projects in recent years. But I'm glad that TriStar seems to be different and committed to letting filmmakers make their film without the studio constantly looking for their shoulder. And if you look at the film's they've produced in the past couple years that defiantly seems to be true.

It's not surprisingly that they seem to be playing up the bullying aspect of the story. Though I'm not sure how I feel about her saying SC is about Jill finding the courage to stand up for herself. I guess that is in the book to some extent, but I wouldn't call it a main theme. I see Jill's arc as her learning to trust in Aslan, and to do the right thing no matter what. That said I don't think that I would have huge problem with it, as long as its handled with some subtlety.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby DiGoRyKiRkE » Jun 26, 2017 7:08 pm

I'm not at all surprised to hear that they're going to push the "bullying" aspect. If they do it correctly, I think that the movie will be fine. If they take a page out of "Voyage's Temptation Book" then they'll beat us over the head with it, and it will turn out to be a very liberal, feminist film that will be very very tiresome.

Which is sad because they're ignoring what I think is the best "overarching" theme that Silver Chair has (and I say that because I don't think that there is a single theme to that book as much as there are several minor themes that weave together beautifully.) A story where Jill fails again, and again, and again, and again. . . but keeps on persevering, and ultimately succeeds. They could ride that "Never give up" mantra for a long time, and it would fit much better with the overarching theme of the book.

Off to a concerning start, for sure. . . . there's definitely not enough here to make a really informed decision about the thrust of the film, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby fantasia_kitty » Jun 26, 2017 8:31 pm

The good news is, bullying is in the book so it's not coming from left field (like the green mist). The bad news is, it's a side-note and not a prominent theme.

The good news is that it's very relevant in today's world and has the possibility to be profound. The bad news is that I find such topics to become far too preachy and it ruins the movie for me. (ie. Zootopia 8-| )

I'm a touch concerned that they're reading TOO much into the characters in an attempt to enhance the story when it really doesn't need it. The gut feeling that this is also going to play into Puddleglum's backstory as well is getting stronger... and I'm quite certain that if they go that direction with him as well, I really won't like it.

On a different note...
We're genre agnostic and budget agnostic at TriStar.
Someone care to interpret for me? What does this even mean? LOL
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Jun 26, 2017 8:38 pm

"The story of a young girl who is being bullied but who has to find the courage to stand up not just for herself but ultimately all Narnians" ... uh, when does Jill do that? Puddleglum is the one who stands up for Narnia, not Jill. The active choices that Jill makes during the climax of the film are agreeing to free Rilian and speaking Aslan's name during the Witch's attempted enchantment. I guess the latter example could count, but I find the narrative here puzzling. I've never thought of "standing up for yourself" as being a message in The Silver Chair. I always knew that they were going to embrace the bullying at Experiment House because it's an easy, safe sell to modern audiences, but I'll be flabbergasted if the whole story is swallowed up into some sort of anti-bullying metaphor. [-(

I'm hoping that statements like these, as well as Joe Johnston's "embracing who you are" comments, aren't as bad as they sound and that NarniaWeb and Hollywood are just suffering from something of a language barrier... I see these stories through a lens of faith and that affects how I talk about them and interpret them, while a secular group is undoubtedly going to describe them (and sell them) differently to a mainstream audience, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we're on completely different pages, either. Keeping my fingers crossed, anyway.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby Reepi » Jun 26, 2017 9:03 pm

I really don't like these comments. To me it sounds like a big misunderstanding of the source material. Of course it's hard to say one way or another at this point, especially since we're so early and the president is probably not going to be very involved creatively, but for me these comments are a huge red flag.

Anyone remember Aslan's line from the PC movie? "Every year you grow, so will I." Talk about a line from the book being totally misunderstood. Not very optimistic here, but hey, at least a movie is happening.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby coracle » Jun 27, 2017 4:19 am

I am just reminding myself that this is the distribution company. They are not making the movie.
Just like Disney did NOT make any of the previous movies!!! (They were the distributing company for the first two, which Walden Media made.)
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby narnia fan 7 » Jun 27, 2017 5:01 am

fantasia_kitty wrote:On a different note...
We're genre agnostic and budget agnostic at TriStar.
Someone care to interpret for me? What does this even mean? LOL

Yeah, that is an odd turn of phrase. I think she meant TriStar picks their projects without any preference for a specific genre or budget size. That's the only thing I can't think of anyway.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby Impending Doom » Jun 27, 2017 9:11 am

Honestly, I'm a little shocked at the negative response to this piece of news. I guess I should have expected it though. Before sounding the alarms, I think we need to take this quote in context of who she is and what we've already heard about the project.

1. First thing we should take notice of is what Douglas Gresham has had to say since he's the biggest advocate of the book, Lewis' wishes and he's one of the more important people involved with the production.

Douglas Gresham wrote:"Best Narnia script we've ever had"

Douglas Gresham wrote: "It'll be a corker of a movie"

Hannah Minghella is "the one who has helped him get the script the way he wanted" and Gresham is "very pleased that she is on board with him and his wishes." It appears Gresham is not having to fight the studio over every aspect of the film. As we've learned from Dawn Treader, Gresham won't go out of his way to promote a film he doesn't support.

2. Another source we should pay attention to is David Magee. This following quote is coming straight from the screenwriter. Someone who's developed this story and it's characters for 3 years. He was asked what the main theme of The Silver Chair was...
David Magee wrote:"Look at Puddleglum's speech to the Lady in the Green Kirtle after he stamps out the fire."

3. Hannah is a studio executive. She is not involved in the creation of the film. She's there to oversee and market the movie. I have no doubt that there will be several themes throughout the film just like the book but her focus will be and should be on the most marketable one. "Trusting Aslan" isn't an easy sell and that is something we need to realize.

4. Exploring Jill's backstory (playing up the bullying aspect) is a creative decision that occurred before Sony and TriStar became involved and not just a studio enforced mandate. As long as it builds upon and honor the book, I really think it will benefit the film.

I write all this to say that I understand the concern and I get the protective instincts over the series but we need to take a step back before overreacting to news.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby Glumpuddle » Jun 27, 2017 9:19 am

I'd probably shrug this off if Director Joe Johnston hadn't said something very similar: "It’s about standing up to tyranny; whether you call it a bully, or however you like to phrase it. But it’s about standing up and not running from tyranny."

Gut reaction: Sounds generic and uninspired. I feel like there are at least five other directions to go with SC that would be much more interesting.

The good news is that it sounds like there is unity here. If the president of the studio and the director are saying exactly the same thing about the central theme of the movie at this early stage, that indicates everyone is on the same page. Unlike VDT, where there were so many cooks in the kitchen and no one could decide if they were making breakfast or dessert. I remember a VDT review that said "Prince Caspian may have been a step in the wrong direction, but at least it took that step confidently."

This reinforces the reaction I had when Johnston was announced: More confident that SC will be good, but losing hope that it will be great. Sounds like they are playing it really safe again.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby The Rose-Tree Dryad » Jun 27, 2017 9:41 am

^I agree, Gp; I would not be nearly as concerned by Minghella's comments if I hadn't already been unenthusiastic about Joe's description of SC's themes.

Impending Doom wrote:2. Another source we should pay attention to is David Magee. This following quote is coming straight from the screenwriter. Someone who's developed this story and it's characters for 3 years. He was asked what the main theme of The Silver Chair was...

David Magee wrote:"Look at Puddleglum's speech to the Lady in the Green Kirtle after he stamps out the fire."


I'm not going to assume what Magee's interpretation of the scene is—we've had some differing opinions here on NarniaWeb, after all—but even if Puddleglum's speech is lifted from the book verbatim, it's entirely possible for an executive to look at that scene and think, "Oh, living like a Narnian even if there isn't any Narnia is about standing up for yourself and being true to yourself and not letting bullies control your world or tell you how to live your life. This is about teaching Jill how to deal with bullies."

And while I do believe that Gresham is keen on making sure that SC doesn't end up like VDT... the meaning of a film hinges on how the script is interpreted, not just the strength of the script itself. (Gp and Dot had a great conversation about this in a recent podcast.) If you're just focused on making sure that Puddleglum's speech is in the film, you may be losing sight of the importance of how that speech is interpreted on screen. (And, as I've said, the "correct" interpretation is somewhat up for debate.)

I do agree with you that Minghella is trying to put the film in marketable terms at this stage, but... why not a fearful, bullied girl learning to be brave, to trust and do the right thing even when she's scared? Why put the focus on standing up for herself?
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby daughter of the King » Jun 27, 2017 10:28 am

Honestly, I always expected the bullying to be played up a bit during the marketing phase even if it's not an overt part of the movie. Of course the distributing company is going to talk about one of the more marketable aspects of the film. Learning to be brave even when afraid is certainly something to aspire to, but it's not necessarily something everyone can relate to. So far everything we've heard from everyone involved is at least present in the book even if it's not what some fans think the main focus is.

fantasia_kitty wrote:The good news is, bullying is in the book so it's not coming from left field (like the green mist). The bad news is, it's a side-note and not a prominent theme.

I think it actually is fairly prominent. Scenes with the bullies may only be at the beginning and the end, but Jill's experience with the bullies influences almost every single thing she does. Her insecurities and fears and difficulty trusting all come back to being bullied and unable to trust authority figures to help her. And, as you said, at least it's in the book unlike everything Peter did in PC.
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby fantasia_kitty » Jun 27, 2017 10:36 am

Impending Doom wrote:Honestly, I'm a little shocked at the negative response to this piece of news.
I see you joined the forum in 2013. ...which means you missed out on all the emotional overreactions (some deserved, many undeserved) from the previous three movies. ;)) ;)

I will be the first to admit that I am very guilty of counting the chickens before they hatch, judging the book by its cover, or in this case, making a judgement on news before I see the final movie ;) But that's, you know, kind of the point of the forum. Overreact and vent with all the other fans to make us feel better. :))

coracle wrote:I am just reminding myself that this is the distribution company. They are not making the movie.
That just means they're absolved from creating the movie, but not from knowing what's in it. She's read the script, I'm sure, and that's how she interpreted it. Unless based on her agnostic comment, it means that she believes a script is out there but has no knowledge of anything about it. :P :))

Rose wrote: Puddleglum is the one who stands up for Narnia, not Jill.
As Impending Doom pointed out, we know that Puddleglum's speech is in the film...HOPEFULLY spoken by Puddleglum himself. :P

Gp wrote:This reinforces the reaction I had when Johnston was announced: More confident that SC will be good, but losing hope that it will be great. Sounds like they are playing it really safe again.
At this point in time, I'm expecting a movie I like better than PC and VDT, but not as much as LWW. Agree with sounding like they're playing it safe. Safe but not good... where have I heard something like that before? ;)
ETA: I want to be very clear my last comment was ONLY a play on words. I'm still excited to see this movie. And I do expect it to be quite good. :) Just maybe not perfect, but what beloped book to movie adaptation is?
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby narnia fan 7 » Jun 27, 2017 10:54 am

Impending Doom wrote: It appears Gresham is not having to fight the studio over every aspect of the film. As we've learned from Dawn Treader, Gresham won't go out of his way to promote a film he doesn't support.
Yes, regardless of how I feel about what they appear to be doing thematically that is defiantly a positive.

My gut reaction when I first read Minghella's comments was "Oh no, is this going to be Dawn Treader all over again?" Not because I'm afraid of there being too many cooks in the kitchen, so far everyone seems to be on the same page, which is great. But because it looks like, once again they seem to be takeing a relatively minor element of the story and making it the main point of the film.

But, after thinking things over, I don't think it's really that bad. Making Silver Chair about Jill learning to stand up herself is, I think, much truer to the book then making Dawn Treader about temptation. And as I said in my earlier post, I could be ok with it, as long as they don't get peachy like Dawn Treader was. And seeing as Joe Johnston directed the first Captian America film which also had a theme of standing up to bullies, which I thank was handle pretty well and wasn't heavy handled, I feel more confident that it won't be.

fantasia_kitty wrote:we know that Puddleglum's speech is in the film...HOPEFULLY spoken by Puddleglum himself. :P
Ugh, don't even say that! ;))
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Re: TriStar President Talks SC

Postby Impending Doom » Jun 27, 2017 11:09 am

The Rose Tree Dryad wrote:I'm not going to assume what Magee's interpretation of the scene is—we've had some differing opinions here on NarniaWeb, after all—but even if Puddleglum's speech is lifted from the book verbatim, it's entirely possible for an executive to look at that scene and think, "Oh, living like a Narnian even if there isn't any Narnia is about standing up for yourself and being true to yourself and not letting bullies control your world or tell you how to live your life. This is about teaching Jill how to deal with bullies. If you're just focused on making sure that Puddleglum's speech is in the film, you may be losing sight of the importance of how that speech is interpreted on screen. (And, as I've said, the "correct" interpretation is somewhat up for debate.) "

And while I do believe that Gresham is keen on making sure that SC doesn't end up like VDT... the meaning of a film hinges on how the script is interpreted, not just the strength of the script itself.


I'm not understanding the concern. The exact same scene can have several different interpretations like you've pointed out. Why is being brave and standing up for oneself inherently the wrong one? A film can effectively balance different themes. Standing up for ones self against tyranny/bullies (LOTGK) and trusting Aslan by learning to follow the signs even in the face of danger are not opposites and can be tied together. Films don't have to be so black and white.

I'm sure if you ask Douglas Gresham what he thinks the main thrust of the film is, it will be different than what Johnston and Minghella say to general audiences. It's marketing.

Daughter of the King wrote:I think it actually is fairly prominent. Scenes with the bullies may only be at the beginning and the end, but Jill's experience with the bullies influences almost every single thing she does. Her insecurities and fears and difficulty trusting all come back to being bullied and unable to trust authority figures to help her.

Bang on. This is what I'm referring to when weaving themes together. Everything about Jill's character boils down to this. What Minghella says seems very based in C.S Lewis' Silver Chair. It just comes down to how it's presented on screen.
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