Jake Thornton is one the co-writers (along with Ben Lustig) of the Disney+ Original film, The Princess, which is one of the titles set to exit the streamer on May 26th.
The film centers around a beautiful, strong-willed princess (Joey King) who is kidnapped and locked up after refusing to marry the psychopath to whom she's been promised. When her rejected suitor vows to take her father's throne, she must figure out how to save her family and the kingdom. It's smartly-written, really entertaining and you should definitely try and watch it before it leaves this week.
As you might imagine, news that the film is exiting the streamer was a bit difficult for Thornton to hear and in response, he wrote the following post describing his emotions about the decision.
This piece was originally posted on Jake's blog, JakeThorntonWrites.com.
Greetings. It has been quite some time since my last blog post. Admittedly, maintaining this writing habit has proven to be more challenging than expected. However, I am determined to improve and provide you with the content you deserve. Thankfully, I now have a moment of respite to delve into the multitude of thoughts and ideas for future posts that have been brewing in my mind.
Now, as you may have already gathered from the title of this post, I have some rather disheartening news to share. The movie that my dear friend Ben and I co-wrote, The Princess, is being removed from popular streaming platforms such as Hulu and Disney+. A decision made in the pursuit of cost-saving measures.
To be completely honest, Ben and I are both profoundly saddened by this turn of events. As Ben aptly expressed in his recent tweet, "After 25 years in LA, I finally had a movie that I'm proud of. Now, it could vanish forever..."
And indeed, that is the harsh reality we are faced with. Ben and I have dedicated countless hours to this industry, tirelessly honing our skills as writers. For 15 years, we have toiled together, overcoming numerous obstacles in the pursuit of our dreams. Finally, in 2014, our hard work paid off, and we broke into the industry. Yet, it took an additional seven long years before one of our projects was brought to life. The Princess was that project. Finally! We had achieved something remarkable—an offering for the world to experience. A piece of work that I could proudly share with my future grandchildren. Something to present to those who ever questioned my abilities as a screenwriter, proving that I had indeed left a mark on the world.
However, in an effort to cut costs, Disney has chosen to withdraw The Princess, along with several other films and shows, from their streaming services. This is reminiscent of a similar situation last year when David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, removed a multitude of shows from HBO Max and even decided against releasing Batgirl to reduce expenses.
Now, both the creative team behind The Princess and ourselves find ourselves among the victims of such decisions.
Adding to the disappointment, we learned about the removal through the press, not through direct communication like the director, Le Van Kiet, who received a call from the studio head himself. But alas, I can't say I'm entirely surprised. The ongoing strike we find ourselves in serves as a confirmation of how this industry undervalues writers. We are often seen as mere cogs in a machine, easily replaceable and seldom acknowledged as the driving force that keeps the machine running, and allows it to exist in the first place.
Just this week, as the John Wick franchise crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Chair, Joe Drake, commended Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves, Basil Iwanyk, and Erica Lee for their incredible work, making it their mission to surpass themselves with each successive film in the franchise. However, there was no mention of DEREK KOLSTAD, the genius behind the creation of John Wick from scratch, using his own remarkable imagination. Frankly, it's disheartening. (ARTICLE)
But I digress…
In my opinion, the notion of streaming libraries existing indefinitely is an unsustainable model. The truth of the matter is that these companies are obligated to pay residual fees to the creators and actors of shows and movies, regardless of whether they are being actively watched or not, every single year. Take Netflix, for instance, which continues to pay for Lilihammer, its first scripted show, to remain on its platform. Have I watched it? No, and I assume many others haven't either (though I'm sure it's good, but you get my point).
Recently, when I received my first residual payment for The Princess, I realized that these checks are not substantial. But with the removal of the movie from streaming services, it means no more residual payments for Ben and I, or any of the creative team involved. This wasn't life-changing money, but keeps the wolves from the door, or goes into a college fund for my kids...
The crux of the matter is that the current streaming model is flawed. Movies and shows will continue to be taken off platforms, leaving no way to retrieve them. The fate of The Princess remains uncertain. It may find a new home on another site or be licensed to a different platform. But truthfully, I don't know. It might never be seen again.
So, what is the solution?
Wouldn't it be more sensible to reward movies and shows based on viewership, rather than simply compensating for their presence on the service? Unfortunately, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) has made it clear in their response to our contract demands that they are reluctant to share viewership data (except when it comes to shareholder meetings).
The reality is that movies require theatrical releases to generate viewership on streaming platforms. They can leverage the initial marketing investment in the film to drive subscriptions. It follows the model of "Oh, I missed that in theatres, I'll check it out here," or "I saw that in the theatre, and now I want to watch it again without spending extra money."
Overall, I believe the entertainment industry is broken. It will continue to be flawed as long as shows and movies are considered mere "content" rather than true forms of "entertainment" or "art."
If you're interested in watching The Princess (at least for now), you can find it on Hulu in the US and Disney+ internationally until May 26th. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
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