Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz

Marc Evans (Former Paramount Chief & Producer) on the Triumphs and Mistakes of Making Some of Hollywood's Biggest Blockbusters

December 20, 2023 Kevin Goetz / Marc Evans Season 2023 Episode 33
Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Marc Evans (Former Paramount Chief & Producer) on the Triumphs and Mistakes of Making Some of Hollywood's Biggest Blockbusters
Show Notes Transcript

Kevin is joined by producer and former head of Paramount Pictures, Marc Evans

Marc Evans is a highly respected studio executive with over 25 years of experience in the film industry. Evans worked his way up in Hollywood, becoming President of Production at Paramount Pictures. In this role, Evans oversaw the creative development and production of major blockbuster films like Mission: Impossible, Transformers, and Star Trek franchises. He has worked closely with top directors including J.J. Abrams, Michael Bay, David Fincher, and Martin Scorsese. Evans provides unique insights into greenlighting films and shares some behind-the-scenes stories of mistakes and triumphs during his studio tenure. After leaving Paramount, Evans founded his own production company Marc Evans Productions which has already scored hits with Netflix's The Mother starring Jennifer Lopez, and action movie The Old Guard.

The value of chaos (3:08)
Kevin and Marc recall what could have been a disastrous experience of his audience being canceled for a test screening of a major studio film.

Early days at Paramount Pictures (5:43)
Marc talks about his early days at Paramount working as an assistant for producer Julia Chasman and executive Nick Wexler, and working with legendary producer Laura Ziskin on the first Spider-Man films.

Giving blockbusters heart (12:52)
Marc shares what screenwriter Alvin Sargent told him about "the pleasure of making something big good" in regards to blockbuster franchise films.

Reshooting World War Z (22:59)
Marc and Kevin discuss what went wrong with the original cut of World War Z and why they had to redo 40 minutes of the film, and how the resulting film resonated better with audiences.

Baywatch and Monster Trucks (25:25)
Marc shares why the Baywatch movie failed to connect with audiences. The pair then discuss how Monster Trucks might have worked better as a smaller family film rather than pushing it as a major tentpole release.

Marc Evans Productions (31:54)
Marc discusses his recent production successes including The Mother starring Jennifer Lopez, The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron, and Instant Family starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne. He shares that the common theme in these movies is a strong emotional core.

Marc Evans has worked on some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of the last 20 years. His candid perspectives on succeeding - and occasionally stumbling - reveal thoughtful lessons for creating films that truly resonate with audiences. Evans believes in always staying connected to the emotional core in every project. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review or connect on social media. We look forward to bringing you more revelations from behind the scenes next time on Don't Kill the Messenger!

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Marc Evans
Producer: Kari Campano
Writers: Kevin Goetz, Darlene Hayman, and Kari Campano

For more information about Marc Evans:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/marc-evans-productions/about/
IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0263010/

For more information about Kevin Goetz:
Website: www.KevinGoetz360.com
Audienceology Book: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Audience-ology/Kevin-Goetz/9781982186678
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @KevinGoetz360
Linked In @Kevin Goetz
Screen Engine/ASI Website: www.ScreenEngineASI.com

 

 

Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz 
Guest:  Veteran Film Executive and Producer Marc Evans
Interview Transcript:

Announcer (00:02):

There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz. 

Kevin Goetz (00:24):

One of the worst experiences of my career occurred in 2015 during a screening of a major tentpole movie. I landed in New Jersey on the day of the screening. I grabbed dinner near the theater and I was ready to greet the clients before the movie. In addition to the star flying in from London, in addition to the entire studio flying in on a private jet from California, the audience was fully recruited, 400 people. And I made a call and I said, how are we doing? And my supervisor who was working said, we have 40 people in line. And I said, 40 people? This was an hour before the screening. Suffice to say someone inadvertently in my office canceled the entire audience. What I remember from that experience is not a lot, except seeing the head of the studio, Marc Evans, outside smoking and saying to him, I've got to share something with you. And, and I told him, and he didn't even sort of flinch. He kind of like looked quizzically. But I have to say that the composure, the graciousness, and the aplomb that he exhibited to the situation, more importantly to me, because I was freaked out, was something I'll never forget. Marc Evans is a very well-respected creative executive. He ran Paramount Pictures at the time since 2015, I think it was 14 or 15, and I've known him for many years prior to that. And he's here today. Marc, welcome.

Marc Evans (02:04):

Thank you. Thank you for having me today.

Kevin Goetz (02:05):

Do you remember that night?

Marc Evans (02:06):

I do. I remember that night with such fondness. It is so rare seeing you with any worry. And when you walked up to me, I remember catching your eye 30 or 40 yards away and thinking something's off tonight. Something happened. And then you came up and said the thing to me about the audience and then it ended up great. Right?

Kevin Goetz (02:33):

Well, in fairness, okay, so when I screw up, I own it always. I don't try to push it on anyone else. And Karen Hermelin, another dear friend and colleague, was very also very gracious, as was the star. And all of your colleagues, I have to say, were amazing in what could have been an f’ing disaster. What happened was I rallied my crew, my troops, and they recruited in the mall. Remember it was 400 seats. We ended up getting almost 300 people.

Marc Evans (03:07):

You had 40 minutes.

Kevin Goetz (03:07):

I had 40 minutes. Yeah.

Marc Evans (03:08):

Well, this whole thing we do is complete chaos and sometimes we forget the value of that chaos in things. And, and we depend on the same stories we've told all the time. We depend on the same way we make movies all the time, and every once in a while throwing a little chaos into things helps. And the truth is, and you know, it was a great movie we were testing and I think we all knew we were okay at the end of the day, but there was something about that audience that was different because of the pressure under with they were recruited into the theater.

Kevin Goetz (03:57):

But it was so interesting that the responses we got were so consistent to a previous screening we had and only showed the improvements that were made. Yeah. So it was a whew.

Marc Evans (04:08):

I remember sitting around with everybody afterwards and there was this shock that anything had gone wrong and sort of complete acceptance of it because nobody had ever confronted a situation like that before. And I remember I was up all night reading the cards and you just sat down and you're like, oh, okay, we got it. We're fine. And we've talked about it so much since it never even came up. I understand. Nobody even talked about it.

Kevin Goetz (04:38):

It's amazing.

Marc Evans (04:38):

As a mistake or an issue. But that is right. That is the amount of time we spend hopefully being the best versions of ourselves, doing all of these things with the best intentions, hopefully most of the time, so that people know when things like this happen, things happen.

Kevin Goetz (05:01):

Yeah. And it's like the actor's nightmare where they come out and, and you know, you're either naked or you forget your lines completely. Totally. That was my version of it. <laugh>, I want to say that your composure is very exemplary of why I think you were so successful as an executive. You always have a command about you, Marc, and I just like you so much. Yeah. And no, no truly, and talent in the town really agrees with that. Like, you're so well liked by people. Yeah. I want to ask you something, you started ironically in sort of documentaries where your first foray into movies and I think your programming director at Chicago Film Festival or something, right? So, you went to University of Chicago, and then you go into docs.

Marc Evans (05:43):

Yeah. The whole process was an amazing thing. And you talk to assistants in the business and they say things to you and it happens over everybody's career. Hey, how do I do this? How can I end up getting your job? How can I do that? And the truth is, there's no single answer to how anybody gets it. I wish I could write a book about how to be successful in the movie business. And I think people have done good jobs of it. For me, it's always been an anecdotal story. I was a kid who loved movies. My mother loved the movies. I can tell you.

Kevin Goetz (06:23):

Were you from the Midwest?

Marc Evans (06:24):

Kansas City, Missouri, heart of the heartland, public school kid, first-generation college, all of that stuff that my poor kids have to suffer the story now of uphill both ways in the snow to school, walking for an hour kind of conversations with me, <laugh>. But yeah, I went to the University of Chicago. I was certain I was going to have to be a lawyer or something like that. Get a degree to have a career sort of thing.

Kevin Goetz (06:54):

What did you want to do?

Marc Evans (06:56):

I guess I had this dream funnily enough that I would do something thoughtful in go to law school, but could that get me into like the foreign service? Could I be all over the world in embassies? There was that wanderlust to see the world of a Midwestern boy who wanted to be out there.

Kevin Goetz (07:20):

Well, that speaks to why documentaries probably touch you so much.

Marc Evans (07:23):

It was a really interesting outlet to see the rest of the world and to do it. So there was this beautiful movie theater at the University of Chicago that they let the students run. In many ways, it was the best job I've ever had. And we showed a lot of documentaries and other movies too. But it's really where I learned about movies. You know?

Kevin Goetz (07:45):

How'd you get out to California?

Marc Evans (07:46):

It was an amazing thing. I very luckily, after leaving school, ended up programming the Chicago Film Festival for five years, traveling around the world. I then had a friend who was moving out to California to go to the Peter Stark producing program at USC. Yeah. And he said to me, why don't you just come move with me? And I thought to myself, oh my God, Los Angeles, who would ever work in the traditional studio movie business? I had once written one of those introductory letters at the beginning of the film festival program to crying Hollywood studios for the amount of screens…

Kevin Goetz (08:33):

So you turned into a snob and then you now had to sort of eat your hat.

Marc Evans (08:37):

It's framed behind my desk at home to remind me of the whole process of it.

Kevin Goetz (08:42):

What job did you land? Or did you go to school?

Marc Evans (08:44):

No.

Kevin Goetz (08:44):

You didn't go to Stark?

Marc Evans (08:46):

I did not. I came out after traveling around the world for five years at all the best film festivals in the world. And I was broke. And on the same day, I was offered a job to be this wonderful woman's assistant who you'll remember, Julia Chasman, who was a producer, very, very talented producer. And I walked into her office and I think it's probably the greatest height difference between executive and assistant in the history of the business, because Julia is this, you know, amazing five-foot woman, and I'm six-six and she reminds me that I walked in as much older than people starting out as an assistant. I think I was already 27 or 28 years old, and said that I'd be in first, I'd leave last, and I really wanted to be in the business.

Kevin Goetz (09:38):

And, and what happened after Julia?

Marc Evans (09:39):

After Julia, I went and worked for Nick Wexler. 

Kevin Goetz (09:43):

Oh.

Marc Evans (09:44):

And then Nick promoted me. Great man. Nick's amazing, and around some of the greatest movies ever. Sex, Lies, and Videotape and things like that. And then the amazing thing happened, which one of my mentors, Rosalie Swedlin, introduced me to Laura Ziskin. And I went and worked for, I think, the best producer in the history of the movie business for Laura.

Kevin Goetz (10:02):

I would agree with you. I really would. Yeah. And certainly one of the best. Yeah. I will say that first Rosalie's fantastic. Amazing. Amazing. And I'm good buddies with Bob Court. Yeah. Robert Court. And I've known him for 30-plus years. Tell me about Laura and what she taught you. One of the great memories I have of Laura is when she went from producer to studio executive. And I said, how is it? And basically her answer is, it's not that different because I'm still selling. Yeah. And I was like, thought that was so interesting. I said, what do you mean you're still selling? She goes, well, I don't just get to just green light something I have to sell to my bosses. And I thought that was just a really interesting fact.

Marc Evans (10:44):

Super interesting. Right. And the great thing about Laura is I had a really rough first couple weeks with her. I'm like, read this, read this. Oh, we're going to sell this. We can definitely sell this to the studio. And I gave her two scripts to take home maybe the first weekend. And she came back and she said, oh God, I hate both of these. Right. And she's like, I don't know if you're going to make it. And she's like, I don't really have time to be your mentor. She was in the middle of Spider-Man.

Kevin Goetz (11:14):

That had to be a devastating conversation.

Marc Evans (11:16):

Well, and you just think to yourself and, and she said…

Kevin Goetz (11:18):

Spider-Man?

Marc Evans (11:19):

When she did Spider-Man at Sony with Sam Raimi and Amy.

Kevin Goetz (11:24):

Wait, you were with her after Paramount

Marc Evans (11:26):

Before the first two Spider-Mans. She did those with Toby and Sam.

Kevin Goetz (11:30):

Before Amy took the franchise over. Correct?

Marc Evans (11:33):

Correct. When Amy was running the studio, she hired Laura to come on and produce those movies, which ended up in one of the most important conversations of my career with Alvin Sargent, who was Laura's longtime partner.

Kevin Goetz (11:47):

Two-time Academy Award-winning.

Marc Evans (11:48):

One of the greatest men on the face of the earth, who was then writing Spider-Man movies.

Kevin Goetz (11:48):

So talented

Marc Evans (11:48):

For Laura, and I said to Alvin at one point, and he wouldn't even remember, but it was so impactful of me and sort of defined what became of me as an executive at Paramount. And it really was in respect to everybody's work, kind of the beginning of the Marvel world. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and those movies. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> And by the way, Kevin was there the entire time working on the movie, and you just saw that an empire could be built by him. Kevin, Kevin Feige, who runs Marvel, was around for those very early Marvel movies. And I remember one time, and it was such a simple little thing with Alvin. I'm like, why are you doing this? Why are you writing a Spider-Man movie? And he said, Marc, for the pleasure of making something big good.

Kevin Goetz (12:52):

Ooh.

Marc Evans (12:53):

And it really became a thing that I think about all the time.

Kevin Goetz (12:58):

Wow. You know, I thought Ordinary People was the perfect script.

Marc Evans (13:02):

It's a perfect script.

Kevin Goetz (13:04):

It may be my favorite script ever. Can I say there's one moment in that script that I have to just bring up and it's scripted and it's when Mary Tyler Moore's character goes up the stairs, turns the corner of the stairs, and as she goes up, she sees a picture askew, and she fixes the picture. Yeah. And it tells you everything about her character.

Marc Evans (13:26):

Everything about her, trying to put her life back together that had fallen apart, and who she was. Listen, it's one of the greatest movies of all time, funnily enough aside, my daughter is reading the book in her ninth-grade English class this year. Oh, really? So I get to go back and watch it with her during…

Kevin Goetz (13:46):

Do you remember Lillian Gish announcing the winner? And the winner is Ordinary Places People.

Marc Evans (13:49):

Just amazing. Right. But this idea that Alvin said to me about trying to make big things good. Yeah. Really incredible. And we were really entering, entering the big tentpole era now with the beginning of Spider-Man and X-Men and Bay starting in on the Transformers movies and all those things.

Kevin Goetz (14:14):

So we're in like 2000, right?

Marc Evans (14:16):

This is 2002, 3.

Kevin Goetz (14:18):

Right. Because you went to Paramount in like three or four.

Marc Evans (14:21):

Three, I think. I can't remember exactly if it was 2003.

Kevin Goetz (14:24):

Right, you come in not as a junior executive. You come in as a middle…

Marc Evans (14:27):

Mid-level executive.

Kevin Goetz (14:28):

Mid-level executive, and you end up running the movie group, which is an extraordinary trajectory. What was that like when you got that job?

Marc Evans (14:36):

When I got the job as a VP at the studio, it seemed like a dream. It felt like a movie. It felt like I walk onto that lot the first day, my office is Alfred Hitchcock's old office when he made the movies at Paramount. Very first incoming call at the studio was from Bob Evans at 8:30 in the morning. Hey kid. Hey kid, literally I gotta tell you, Hey kid, I want you to come sit down with me. A friendship, which was really important to me over the time there. And then look, you spend the years, you go through it, you go up a little third level every time. And then I ended up running creative at the studio and.

Kevin Goetz (15:26):

And all those other divisions, animation and all. But Marc, who called you to tell you, you got the job.

Marc Evans (15:33):

John Goldman. Right. Which of course had its own…

Kevin Goetz (15:38):

John, why would John have?

Marc Evans (15:39):

John hired me as a VP? Oh, you mean the big job.

Kevin Goetz (15:42):

No, I meant the big job.

Marc Evans (15:43):

That was Brad Grey. That, that was a conversation at his house.

Kevin Goetz (15:50):

He called you up to his home?

Marc Evans (15:51):

He called me up to his house.

Kevin Goetz (15:53):

And you kind of knew?

Marc Evans (15:53):

No, I really didn't know. In fact, word on the street was I wasn't going to get the job? He walked me into his beautiful wood-paneled office and sat me down and said, I'm still going back and forth on this, but if you can convince me now, maybe I'll give you the job. And we sat and talked for an hour about stuff.

Kevin Goetz (16:15):

And by the time you left, he said, you got it?

Marc Evans (16:17):

He offered me the, he offered me the job before I left. Yeah.

Kevin Goetz (16:19):

And who was the first phone call? 

Marc Evans (16:22):

God, I assume I called my wife first. It was a really exciting thing.

Kevin Goetz (16:26):

I can't imagine anything more exciting for somebody coming in from the sort of mid-ranks to make that leap to the, to the big position there. That's incredible. 

Marc Evans (16:36):

Well, and you know what the place was like. And frankly, the whole business has turned into, which is massive turnover all of the time. Right. In my time at Paramount, there were probably five significant transitions of executives.

Kevin Goetz (16:52):

What was your, what was your relationship like with Brad?

Marc Evans (16:55):

I have to say it was fantastic. And he was phenomenal to me in difficult times. I mean, he was already sick.

Kevin Goetz (17:07):

Did you know that?

Marc Evans (17:08):

I did not. I did not.

Kevin Goetz (17:10):

I heard he kept it really quiet.

Marc Evans (17:11):

He kept it, he kept it really quiet. And look, the brilliance of Brad Grey was that he really cared about filmmakers and his very close relationship, maybe the closest of them with Scorsese and Brad would have Marty give him lists of movies to watch.

Kevin Goetz (17:33):

Well, he started in management.

Marc Evans (17:35):

Yeah. So clearly and music booking before that. Oh, I didn't even know that. Yeah. I think he booked concerts in New York.

Kevin Goetz (17:43):

So he had a reverence for talent is my point.

Marc Evans (17:45):

He really, really loved talent.

Kevin Goetz (17:47):

Remember what movies Marty suggested? Did he ever share that with you?

Marc Evans (17:51):

No, I never saw the list. But you know Marty has a list. Right? Like, you can go on and find the list. It's a very, very good list.

Kevin Goetz (17:59):

What's your favorite movie?

Marc Evans (18:01):

You know, I go back and forth. The Godfather is a perfect movie. Yeah. And I love the second one as much as I love the first. I don't think there can be better written movies than Casablanca. It's just everything about the movie is perfect. Archetypal. And, yeah. And complex. Yeah. You know, and then I'll give you two last ones that we don't have to sit through, but one of the greatest movies ever made, and I think the first time I saw it in college was because I had read about Scorsese talking about it, is Michael Powell's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Which was, so it was made in 42 or 43 in Britain. It was released in 45. It's about the friendship between a British soldier and a German soldier from the Bore War through World War I, through World War II written and directed by Michael Powell and Emmeric Pressburger. And then I think my film festival part of my career, I love a lot of international cinema. And I think Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love is a perfect movie. 

Kevin Goetz (19:18):

Wow. Yeah. What a good choice. Mine is Cinema Paradiso.

Marc Evans (19:22):

Well, it's impossible not to love.

Kevin Goetz (19:23):

You know, I watched it again. Yeah. And I have to confess, it didn't hit me as powerfully the second time because I had put it on such a pedestal. Yeah. And so, not that it didn't hold up, it of course did. Yeah. But what touched me at the time was the relationship between the father and the son. Yeah. Which was to me the quintessential sort of leitmotif of that movie. And I just didn't get it the same because my relationship, my dad is different now.

Marc Evans (19:50):

Isn't it interesting? I also think, Kevin, it's like the series of clips at the end of that movie and the first time you see them, right, of all the kisses that were cut out or it is like an extraordinary twist. It's almost a sixth sense. And the impact of that, the first time you see it is so extraordinary that it can never be exactly the same the second time.

Kevin Goetz (20:18):

You know who says that? Ed Zwick told me that. Yeah. In my book he said that these moments are like having sex, with in his case a woman, for the first time. Yeah. You can never replicate that. 

Marc Evans (20:33):

It can never be exactly the same, right?

Kevin Goetz (20:33):

And it's, there's a beauty and a discovery and you're almost nervous and right and excited all at once. 

Marc Evans (20:41):

And it's just a special thing. Right? Like think about Slumdog Millionaire and the dance sequence at the end of that movie has nothing to do with the plot. Has nothing to do with the movie. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> One of the most important valuable things in the movie that you can't see for a first time again.

Kevin Goetz (20:58):

Wow. When we come back, we are going to talk about, well finishing up with Paramount, and then I want to talk about what happened post-Paramount. We'll be back in a moment.

Announcer (21:12):

Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book Audienceology by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never-before-revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of audienceology into focus. Audienceology, How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love, from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster. Available now.

Kevin Goetz (21:44):

We're back with Marc Evans and Marc, we were talking about Paramount right before the break. I want to just say that you've had really some massive successes in Mission Impossible, GI Joe, that series.

Marc Evans (21:58):

I was super lucky. Right?

Kevin Goetz (22:00):

What are some of the other big hits you had? 

Marc Evans (22:03):

Well, you know, sitting talking about hits, right? They all depend on the filmmakers.

Kevin Goetz (22:06):

Under your watch?

Marc Evans (22:06):

J.J. rebooted the Star Trek franchise while I was there. But things I'm massively proud of, like Fincher doing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Zodiac while I was there, which we partnered with Warner Brothers on both of those. We had Arrival, which is one of my favorite movies.

Kevin Goetz (22:28):

I love that movie. It was, what a surprise, what a talented filmmaker.

Marc Evans (22:32):

It was a brilliant movie. Denis Villeneuve. Just extraordinary.

Kevin Goetz (22:36):

Did you see the new Blade Runner? It was a work of art.

Marc Evans (22:39):

I loved it. And I think Dune, which is a movie that people tried to crack for a generation or generations, he's done such an extraordinary job with. But I think sort of the grace to be around and watch all of those filmmakers and some of the producers and go through those things, that's where I felt so lucky.

Kevin Goetz (22:59):

One of the movies I want to talk about at Paramount was World War Z. What made you realize it was so not working that, how much of the movie did you reshoot? I heard it was like a quarter of it.

Marc Evans (23:14):

Maybe even more at the end of the day.

Kevin Goetz (23:15):

Maybe a third.

Marc Evans (23:16):

We all collectively made a big mistake with the third act in that movie. And when we all saw it, we knew that. And the producers, Dede and Jeremy knew it and Marc Forster, the director knew it. And again, I think it's under this pressure that certainly at Paramount, and I think all around the business, make movies big. You gotta make movies big to compete.

Kevin Goetz (23:44):

But you never had audience feedback on that?

Marc Evans (23:46):

There was just no need. We had just all made a big mistake.

Kevin Goetz (23:53):

So by the time you did test it, it tested extremely well?

Marc Evans (23:56):

It did. But that was after a lot of money in reshoots and about 40 minutes.

Kevin Goetz (24:04):

That's incredible. Wow.

Marc Evans (24:05):

Yeah. In a funny way, even the difficulty of it, it had some of the smartest people in the business around it. And it turned out to be one of the greatest learning processes. Right. I mean, there's a ridiculous notion at the end of the movie of Brad Pitt surrounded by a group of old people who are immune to the zombies because they're sick. And a crazy massive fight at the end, which delivered no emotional payoff, I think. And then with incredibly smart people including Damon Lindelof helping us out on it, Chris McQuarrie helping us out on it. The end of the movie is Brad Pitt walking down a hallway and after having been in the proximity of one zombie. There's a real lesson in that movie that it doesn't have to be massively big to be successful.

Kevin Goetz (25:22):

Didn't you see that on paper though before you actually agreed to shoot?

Marc Evans (25:25):

I don't think so, Kevin. I really don't think we saw it because you're like, oh, it's the third act of a movie. Look what Marvel's doing. Look what Michael Bay did in Transformers. Of course, being big was wrong. It needed to be small, it needed to be personal. Oh. And that is really what, honestly, very smart creative people, plus the limitations of going back to shoot something taught us -- that you don't always have to be big. And listen, I will give you the very best example of it that you and I both know extremely well. God, I hope I don't mess up which movie it is. At the end of Ghost Protocol, Ethan is running in the street and Ilsa gets in that knife fight with one of the bad guys. The culmination of that movie is Ethan falling into a hole, ending up in the closed box. Mm-Hmm.

Kevin Goetz (26:35):

<affirmative>. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>

Marc Evans (26:37):

And trapping the bad guy.

Kevin Goetz (26:39):

Right. Which was so cool.

Marc Evans (26:41):

Tom Cruise was so smart to go, it's going to be completely satisfying if I just jump down a hole at the end of the action sequence. They don't all have to be big, they don't all have to go on for 45 minutes. They have to be right for the character. They have to be right for the movie. That

Kevin Goetz (27:00):

That was a great scene.

Marc Evans (27:01):

And they have to be right for the audience.

Kevin Goetz (27:03):

It’s like that glass box or something. Yeah. Yeah.

Marc Evans (27:05):

He jumps down a hole right at the end of the ultimate action sequence in Mission Impossible. Wow. And that's as important to that movie as him climbing the Burj Khalifa.

Kevin Goetz (27:18):

Now you had some misses, of course everyone does. Baywatch. What would you have done differently now?

Marc Evans (27:24):

It's such an interesting question because we committed something to something on the movie, which I still feel was exactly the right thing, which was evening out the gaze of the movie. Right. The Baywatch as a television show was all about the male gaze and you know, Pamela Anderson or whoever else going up and down the beach in their swimsuits, their bikinis. And there was a fair amount of that in Baywatch. But we committed to two things. We committed to evening that out by having Dwayne Johnson in the movie and having Zac Efron in the movie. And we committed to an R-rated tone to it.

Kevin Goetz (28:14):

So you changed the DNA in a way that didn't help you.

Marc Evans (28:19):

Probably the audience didn't want the DNA change. But I will tell you, and I am so happy to treat them all as my children and the successes and the failures of it. And there are things in Baywatch that I love and ideas in Baywatchthat I think were spot on and really fun. But you might be talking to the wrong person because I love Ishtar. I think Ishtar is…

Kevin Goetz (28:45):

No, it's not about loving it or not loving it. It just didn't work at the box office. So, my question from an audience perspective is what went wrong and in, and I know you guys came back to us to say, help us to figure it out. First of all, the recruit ratio to start was really challenging. Meaning just people, it took x number of invitations to get a person to come to see the movie.

Marc Evans (29:06):

Yeah. They weren't interested.

Kevin Goetz (29:07):

Exactly. So yeah. So that was interesting. I'm wondering, did you do any audience testing prior to, to find out if there was buy-in to the concept? Or would you have now in retrospect?

Marc Evans (29:17):

Oh, for sure now in retrospect I would, and listen, I also think as an era as studios, certainly…

Kevin Goetz (29:25):

because I want to say the movie tested extremely well.

Marc Evans (29:28):

Unbelievably well. I mean like incredibly well. But I do think looking back now, and I don't even know what it is, 10 or 12 years ago, it must have been, we were all in this arms race for tentpole movies that could play for everybody and trying to find those titles or properties that could become franchises. Indeed. And it's interesting because I think in a certain way, we're going to come out of that era a little bit now.

Kevin Goetz (30:06):

What movie would you not have made in retrospect? Is there one that you're willing to share? <laugh>?

Marc Evans (30:12):

Well, I'm totally willing to share if I think…

Kevin Goetz (30:14):

Monster Truck?

Marc Evans (30:16):

Monster Trucks. Yeah. Monster Trucks was a difficult situation and ended up being a little bit of a feathered fish. I think the concept of it I totally believed in as a basic idea. And it was generated as a bedtime story Adam Goodman told to his son and him talking about those things and there was a core to it that was really, really lovely. I think again, it ended up suffering having to be a tentpole movie that maybe could have worked if it didn't have to be. Mm-Hmm. But to compete in that world, when Marvel had started to grow into what it would be. The Fast and the Furious franchise had matured. We were doing great.

Kevin Goetz (31:07):

So, you relegated it to a kid’s movie, essentially.

Marc Evans (31:09):

And I think that the one thing I would really, really think about in retrospect of the opportunity is, and this is something you say and I learned from you to be fair, right, and you say it often, so correct me if I say it wrong, right. Movies can be for everybody or somebody, but they can't be for nobody. Oh yeah. Right. Oh yeah. And, and I think it's a really important thing.

Kevin Goetz (31:35):

And that movie might've been for somebody, but the somebody would've been too small for Paramount's resources to get behind. In other words, it was probably for young boys and maybe their dads. But that's not something that can pay Paramount's overhead. You know, you're not in the business…

Marc Evans (31:52):

And maybe we should've made it for half the amount of money.

Kevin Goetz (31:54):

Exactly. Right. But even so, you have to weigh the resources expended from all your folks. Totally. So those are hard decisions. You ended up having so many more successes than any misses. And I can't say that about every studio chief, so that's a really amazing accomplishment, I just want to say. And then you leave Paramount and you start Marc Evans Productions and <laugh>, I gotta just circle back to a huge success in The Mother with Jennifer Lopez. Yeah. On Netflix. And I believe it was either the first or second most viewed movie last year on Netflix. Is that correct?

Marc Evans (32:30):

I'm certain it's the top-viewed movie of the year on Netflix. I felt very lucky to be invited into it. It was something that came from Kevin Huvane to Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who's Jennifer's partner, incredible producer.

Kevin Goetz (32:48):

Call out to Elaine.

Marc Evans (32:50):

Oh just, I mean, extraordinary woman. And they had been developing it. They brought Niki Caro onto the movie.

Kevin Goetz (33:01):

What a job she did.

Marc Evans (33:01):

Oh she did an extraordinary job.

Kevin Goetz (33:03):

I'm crazy about her. Did you ever see Mulan

Marc Evans (33:05):

Yeah, I loved it. 

Kevin Goetz (33:06):

And she did an exceptional job.

Marc Evans (33:08):

The first movie that got murdered by Covid. Right. It was the very, very first one. Yeah. They were red carpeting the week before everything got shut down. And extraordinary director got invited in. I got to make it with them. I think it's a really special movie.

Kevin Goetz (33:23):

First of all, Jennifer Lopez, I just have to say is to me, she's underrated, first of all as a terrific actress, but the way she holds the screen. and is so badass. Yeah. I mean, I loved the movie. If you remember, it was sometimes I have to, when I'm doing my job and have to do the focus group afterwards, I have to sort of temper it back <laugh> and say, don't put your own opinion. But you did a great job, Marc. I have to say.

Marc Evans (33:51):

Thank you for saying that. Listen, I think it is emblematic of things for us to necessarily be thinking about in going forward in the movie business. Right. That is a movie starring an over 50-year-old movie star. It's called The Mother. It's primarily about a relationship between a mother and her estranged daughter.

Kevin Goetz (34:15):

But it is an action movie.

Marc Evans (34:18):

It is. But it all does have this extraordinary female perspective to it. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That Elaine and Jennifer…

Kevin Goetz (34:25):

With no apologies.

Marc Evans (34:26):

With no apologies.

Kevin Goetz (34:28):

That Elaine and Jen…

Marc Evans (34:30):

And Niki really cared about. And I would venture to guess, and I haven't seen the data of it, but that's a movie that played so deeply with the female audience on Netflix.

Kevin Goetz (34:43):

What do you mean you haven't seen the data?

Marc Evans (34:44):

No, I mean afterwards.

Kevin Goetz (34:45):

Oh, the Netflix thing.

Marc Evans (34:47):

We've talked about it a little bit, right?

Kevin Goetz (34:49):

Well, I have a product, little plug, <laugh> called PostVod. And so we do do sort of the exit polls and it was extraordinary. No, it was really loved.

Marc Evans (35:01):

And, I have to say, and I know it's not Working Girl, but I think anthemic to those mothers and the idea of being a mother, right, I think the relationship in that movie and the scenes where the mother and daughter are just sitting around talking are every bit as important as the big action scenes in the movie. So, I feel very, very lucky to have been invited into that and to get to work on it. And I hope we get to do a second one, because there are more stories to tell.

Kevin Goetz (35:37):

Another really successful movie was The Old Guard. Yeah. With Gina Prince-Bythewood. Prince-Blythewood directed. Yeah. Starring our mutual friend, Charlize Theron. And you are working on the second one now? Yeah. Directed by…

Marc Evans (35:54):

Victoria Mahoney.

Kevin Goetz (35:56):

And you are in the process of, right now, editing and doing final touches on that. Yeah. And I have no reason to believe it won't be as successful as the first one.

Marc Evans (36:06):

Thank you for saying it Kevin. I think it's a special franchise.

Kevin Goetz (36:10):

The audiences are so devoted, and invested in that franchise. Yeah. Franchise. It's only one movie, so it's hard to say yet it's a franchise, but they certainly want it to be a franchise. There's no question in my mind. 

Marc Evans (36:25):

Yeah. I think it all goes back to these extraordinary characters that Greg Rucka created in the graphic novel. 

Kevin Goetz (36:33):

Oh, is that, is that the, I was going to say, is that the genesis of it?

Marc Evans (36:34):

Yeah. And I think it's again, a really special thing. Okay, we've made movies about immortals before, Highlander. We've made movies about vampires who are immortal and what they face in their dealing with eternity. But I think it's a really special movie that is a little different and a little deeper. I love so much how much the audience cares about the characters.

Kevin Goetz (37:06):

Isn't that something? I know, I agree. It's really, it's really cool to see. Yeah.

Marc Evans (37:10):

And the only, the only other time I've really seen it, and this goes to the brilliance of Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie. Right. Well, I shouldn't say, the only other time I've been associated with is people love all of the characters in Mission. Oh my God. And they love Simon being back. They love Van.

Kevin Goetz (37:28):

And if you remember in the last Mission, which I actually think might be the best of all of them, they were very vocal about and enjoyed seeing Ethan get older and grow. Totally. They love watching that process. And he's still badass.

Marc Evans (37:47):

He's still badass. And listen, you and I could both talk for hours of everything we've learned by being tangentially around Tom Cruise for any point in his career. But The Old Guard, I think is again, a great action movie, but has a really interesting core to it.

Kevin Goetz (38:07):

No, no question. And I contend that a comedy that doesn't have heart to it can't be really successful. And the same is true of a great action movie. Yeah. A great whatever genre it is, if it doesn't have a core of emotional resonance and then deliver on that, it's just a thing. It's just sort of like a journey men or journey woman's piece. It's not deeper. And so people don't talk about it and gravitate towards it because they're not emotionally invested. Yeah. And you have to agree with that because most of your movies have that signature.

Marc Evans (38:44):

Listen, it is the thing I care the most about, and being around the very first movie after I left the studio that I produced was what I think is one of my favorite movies and maybe the one we go back to as a family and watch the most, which is Instant Family.

Kevin Goetz (39:04):

So how could I forget that?

Marc Evans (39:06):

With Rose and Mark. You know that Sean Anders directed and it's just a special movie. Right. And it is that comedy with heart to it. I don't know. Look, we all like…

Kevin Goetz (39:18):

Another really successful movie.

Marc Evans (39:19):

Yeah. And we all like…

Kevin Goetz (39:20):

Won even a couple of awards.

Marc Evans (39:21):

Yeah. And people care about, and you can be somewhere around no movie business people and they're like, be on a plane, oh, what movies did you work on? Those dreaded conversations that you don't want to have. But if you mention a movie like Instant Family, they're like, oh my God, I love that. You know who loved that movie? My mom loved that movie. Or, and look, we can all, we all have to choose how we spend our time. And I want to spend my time on things that I know people will love and recommend to other people. You can remember those conversations that you got into because oh, whatever, this looks like somebody I could have a conversation with. And then you actually are talking to the audience. I mean, you talk to the audience all the time. You are one of the luckiest men on the planet because you are connected to them in your primary pursuit in the research of it. So, I don't know if you're, you know, three, four nights a week you are having a conversation with real people who are going to movies. It's something we all have to remember.

Kevin Goetz (40:34):

And if you're not authentic in that process, people will call you out. Yeah. I mean, they just know. They're not going to open up and sort of bare their souls within 30 minutes if you don't show the fact that you are really an advocate for them. I'm here to really represent your voice. Yeah. You know, what's the best piece of advice someone ever gave Marc Evans?

Marc Evans (40:55):

Boy, it's such a good question because there've been so many people with good pieces of advice. I'll tell you the most recently, and this one is hard. I had a dear friend and partner on one of my projects say to me, Marc, just when people are talking, just let them finish talking. You don't have to finish their sentence for them. You don't have to jump through something. Just let everybody finish what they're saying. And it's easy to forget and it's never from the, oh, I'm right, I know exactly what you're going to say. It's usually from the excitement of picking something up and going, oh my God, that's great. Then we blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But I think it, and I have a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old now who often you're like, oh, let me get you through this so we can move on. But it has both professionally and certainly with my kids, let me hear them more and and be closer to them. So, I'd say that's a really key and present one, Kevin. And then I think secondly, and I could count maybe on one hand the people have said to me, make sure you like what you're working on. And both as an executive and as a producer, liking what you're working on is really important. And there are a lot of opportunities to work on things which seem valuable for your career, but you don't really like enough. Liking what you're working on is really valuable.

Kevin Goetz (42:41):

Brian Grazer said to me at lunch not too long ago, within the year, he said they're working on this movie, this Christmas movie, and they weren't excited about it. And he finally went to his executive and said, why are we doing this? And the executive didn't have a great answer. Yeah. And they abandoned the project. Yeah. They said, this is not something we want to spend our time doing. And I thought that was really eye-opening. I want to comment on your first one because I purposely didn't interrupt you. I have got to take that lesson. I tend to get so excited and I often step on my guests. And so, I'm going to use that advice myself. Marc, thank you so much for being here, for being such a good advocate, a friend, and keep doing what you're doing because you're so good at it.

Marc Evans (43:25):

Thank you very much, Kevin. Nice to have been here.

Kevin Goetz (43:28):

To our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our interview today. For other stories like this one, please check out my book, Audienceology, at Amazon or through my website at KevinGoetz360.com. You can also follow me on my social media @KevinGoetz360. Next time on Don't Kill the Messenger, I welcome the President of Sony's TriStar Pictures, Nicole Brown. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the movie-making process. Your opinions matter.

 

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Marc Evans
Producer: Kari Campano
Writers: Kevin Goetz, Darlene Hayman, and Kari Campano