Special Features a Thing of the Past?
by Jon Waterman
About a month ago, Variety reported that big name stars are beginning
to ask for monetary compensation in exchange for their participation in
special features produced for DVD. The biggest name that has popped
up is Arnold Schwarzenegger. People like Arnold are refusing to
take part if they dont get paid.
What does this mean to the consumer? Well, most likely it will mean
that the consumer is going to miss out on any insight that particular
star would contribute. The studios do not want to shell out any
more dough than necessary to get that disc made and released. However
they did pay Arnold a whole 75 grand for his commentary work on Total
Recall. If everyone involved starts asking for money at this scale,
the studios will dismiss special features. Bottom line here is this:
dont expect Arnold commentary on Collateral Damage, or at least,
lets hope not.
Because of this somewhat recent development, the future of DVD special
features is in a little bit of jeopardy. If more and more stars
and directors follow this trend, we will most likely see movie-only DVDs.
I dont know about you, but I started buying DVDs for the special
features. I know that the movie is the main attraction, but it never
hurts to put some toppings on the sundae.
Unfortunately, this isnt exactly a new thing. Dont expect
to see many screenplays amongst the special features anymore. The
Writers Guild has put a clause in their contract stating that they
get paid every time their script is used in such fashion. Sure the
studios will pay Arnold once, but they certainly arent going to
pay the writers. The studios dont really seem to care about
the writers in the first place.
Also, documentaries have become featurettes. If the bonus feature
exceeds thirty minutes, any star, writer, or director must be paid royalties,
because it is then considered promotional material. When you see
a listing on the back of a DVD stating 6 bonus featurettes,
or something along those lines, what they really mean is 1 bonus
documentary segmented to save us money.
So, Arnold isnt completely at fault. However, he has brought
this situation into the public eye. I for one am disgusted that
he, or anyone else, would ask for money. You can tell by their demands
that they really love the art. Arnold especially doesnt need
the money. After all, he just got $30 million for T3.
It is possible though, that the sparseness of special features amongst
studio films would increase the sales of independent titles. The
directors and actors on smaller budget films, who actually care about
what theyre doing, could contribute commentaries and sketches and
featurettes and more for free. Independent films could be the only
ones with special features. Doing this would definitely increase
sales, because DVD gained its popularity, in part through the potential
for extra stuff.
Of course, the studios could pay the stars the money if they wanted to.
Its not like theyre strapped for cash. DVDs are huge
moneymakers for them. Shrek made more for Dreamworks from its DVD
sales than it did from its box office receipts. Thats becoming
more and more common as the American masses buy players. Each week
we have a new record-breaking title in terms of sales, and the studios
The customers love it, too. We love seeing our movies in a better
format. But, we also love seeing stuff relating to the movie.
We love hearing the people who made the movie talk about the movie.
We love seeing the people who made the movie making the movie. We
love the potential for the future. Well, we used to love the potential
for the future. Now, who knows?
The future is not set,