Revenge Report: “DC Turning Up The Heat On Leaks, And Why That’s So Important”
By Mario-Francisco Robles
“When we talk about things or we’re making deals for people to develop scripts or whatever, sometimes, things leak; sometimes, things are misreported, and it’s frustrating. Because we do wanna go out there and talk about what our strategy is, and this stuff just muddies the water. There’s a lot of internal conversations going on about, ‘How do we help kind of clean that up a bit?‘”
The above quote comes from DC Entertainment Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and it’s from a report by Vulture that was published on September 29. He was addressing the rampant speculation and rumors that seem to surround every decision the studio makes with regard to its film slate and creative direction.
Yes, it seems that anything and everything DC Entertainment even considers becomes a headline. The problem is, these things they’re considering aren’t always meant to be publicly shared. They have a very unique development process over at WB/DC, and it’s one that opens the studio up to unfair scrutiny when people within the company leak ideas before they’re ready to be shared. Johns knows this, and yet very little has been done about it in recent years.
It’s true. Depending on who you ask, there are roughly 21 DC movies “in development.” Up until a couple of months ago, their slate supposedly included:
- Suicide Squad 2
- The Batman
- Justice League Dark
- Green Lantern Corps
- Wonder Woman 2
- Man of Steel 2
- Black Adam
- Booster Gold
- Untitled Todd Philips Joker Movie
- Untitled Joker/Harley Quinn Movie
- Gotham City Sirens
- Birds of Prey
Some of these were officially announced; Some of them came out as part of leaked reports, complete with information on who was hired to write them and whether or not they’ll be a part of DCU Shared Canon; And some haven’t been spoken about in a long, long time.
But there’s a huge issue with this list: Even if only half of them are really being developed, only a handful of them are ever going to get made anyway. And that’s not because any of them were cut, scrapped, or because there’s any kind of “behind the scenes turmoil.” No, only a handful are getting made because that was the plan all along.
See, Warner Bros. has a process where they hire different teams to, essentially, compete for a green-light. In the case of Wonder Woman, for example, the studio reportedly hired five different writers to work on separate scripts for it back in 2015. From those five, things got narrowed down to two, and then- eventually- one movie survived the development process and got the go-ahead to enter production. Similarly, they hired multiple writers back when they were developing Aquaman. “Aquaman is being developed on dual tracks, where studios and producers hire two separate writers to work on the same project in the hopes of getting the best version,” THR wrote back in 2014.
It’s a Survival Of The Fittest approach, where only the best of the best actually gets produced.
This approach also applies to all of the different projects they’re considering. They’ll get an idea, whether it be organically or from a pitch, then they’ll give the go-ahead for someone to develop it. The intention here isn’t, “Oh, okay. We’re going to make this.” The intention is, “Go. Develop it. Make it as great as you can and, if we like the end result, we’ll make it.” It’s a fine process.
The controversy comes when people hear that so-and-so is writing a movie, then they run and leak it to a member of the press. It becomes a headline like “GREG BERLANTI IS DEVELOPING A BOOSTER GOLD MOVIE,” and- just like that- everyone expects the movie to be on the way. And yet, to stick with that example, it’s been nearly two years since Mr. Berlanti has spoken about Booster Gold, and all indications are that it’s no longer in the cards. Either he lost interest, or the studio did. No harm, no foul. But the fact that it got leaked and confirmed and stirred up headlines about whether or not it would be set in DCU means that it’s become just another distraction that fans and the powers-that-be have to deal with.
What about that Todd Philips Joker movie? Remember all the headlines and rumors that came out of that? All the talk of Martin Scorsese producing it, Leonardo DiCaprio being on the wish list to star in it, and yet when I asked my WB insider about it, they said “That’s not a set thing.” And that’s totally cool. It sounds like they’ve kicked the idea around, but it’s ultimate fate is still very much up in the air, despite the countless articles that have already been written about it.
These situations turn things that are really “Business As Usual” into “What The Heck Is Going On Over There?”-drama, and you end up with things like that incongruous “slate” I listed above, and the perception that DC is just throwing a bunch of things at a wall to see what sticks. They come off as directionless, reactionary, and- frankly- lost.
DC Entertainment doesn’t do itself any favors, though, because they rarely publicly address these kinds of reports. They don’t get out in front of these stories and say things like, “We haven’t committed to making this movie. All we’ve done is hired someone to develop it. You’re basing your entire report on something that’s really only the crumb of an idea that may or may not lead to anything. Chill.”
In fact, they barely respond to rumors at all. Even when they’re deafening rumors, from reliable sources. Even when they’re the hottest trends online. An official statement about how much of Justice League was directed by Whedon? Nope. A statement on the rumored Zack Snyder Cut of the film? Nope. A statement about any of the supposed four movies featuring Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn? Nope. Or how about a clear statement about Ben Affleck’s future with the DCU? Nope!
They just sit there, turn the other cheek, and allow fans, reporters, and bloggers to control the narrative. It’s the recipe for a public relations disaster.
Back in September, when Johns said those aforementioned words about the constant rumors, it was one of the first times anyone from DC addressed the problem. And yet their inaction continued. All throughout the release period for Justice League, straight through to these last couple of weeks, the leaks and rumors persisted.
But it looks like all of that is about to change…
See, there are new sheriffs in town. There have been several high-profile changes at the top of the WB/DC machine in recent weeks, and it looks like controlling the narrative is a major priority for the powers-that-be. I saw something last week that I hadn’t seen before: Fear.
A week after I pointed out that something has to be done about their messaging problem- with insiders leaking ideas before they’re fully formed- I’m told the studio is cracking the whip.
More on Monday.
— Mario-F. Robles (@I_Am_MFR) January 12, 2018
I had reached out to one of my WB sources and, for the first time, they were uncertain about whether or not they should share anything and there was a palpable sense that they were looking over their shoulders. They said, “There’s a lot of heat on leaks right now,” and said that they have to be extra careful about what they share because the “route back [to them] is very narrow” and, with all of the changes, the risks are starting to become too great.
And yes, I know there’s some delicious irony here. Someone leaking to me that it’s becoming harder to leak things. I get it, and it’s just as funny to me as it is to you.
While DC cracking the whip isn’t great news for me, because it means I’m going to have to work even harder to keep getting you those scoops you love so much, I think it’s fantastic news for the DCU as a whole. If they’re finally going to start addressing, correcting, and controlling what’s being reported about them, it’s a win for all involved.
Chief among the benefits here is that it’ll allow for their creative process to work itself out without so much scrutiny. There’s nothing inherently wrong about having several irons in the fire and deciding which one of them is actually going to get put to use. When it’s prematurely reported on, it reeks of “Throwing Things At The Wall To See What Sticks” when, in actually, it’s allowing for only the best ideas to survive.
Great ideas mean great movies. Just look at Wonder Woman. It was the big winner of that Five Writer Creative Battle Royale, and it ended up being the crown jewel of the DCU in the eyes of many.
Of those four Harley Quinn movies, we’ll get Suicide Squad 2 and- I would say- one of the other three. Essentially, Birds of Prey, Gotham City Sirens, and Joker/Harley will fight it out until the one most deserving of Robbie’s enormous talents moves forward.
As for the rest of the slate? Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this report for information I was able to piece together prior to the new restrictions about what the slate actually looks like in this post-Justice League landscape we currently find ourselves in.
For now, just relish the fact that DC Entertainment is no longer going to allow itself to be a punching bag. It looks like they’re finally going to start cracking down on leaks and debunking false reports. It’s about time.
The future of the DCU could be a really beautiful thing, and they’re at an important pivot point. It’s time for them to put the online peanut gallery in its place while it focuses on making its future as bright as it deserves to be.
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