Ben Affleck is not a fan of how Netflix is making movies. During a recent Q&A at the New York Times’ DealBook Summit, Affleck was talking about his new studio venture with buddy Matt Damon, Artists Equity. As the company name implies, Affleck and Damon are making a push for creative quality over economic-focused production of content, in the bet that a superior quality of finished product will actually sell better to the masses. That approach is something that Affleck sees as the antithesis of Netflix and “assembly line process” of content production – and he’s not afraid to say so.
During the Q&A, Affleck directly referenced Netflix co-founder/CEO Reed Hastings and co-CEO Scott Stuber as having a mindset that sees their streaming platform’s success being dependent on new content being constantly churned out – no matter if it’s of good quality or not, since it’s all product. Affleck seems vehemently against that outlook, refusing to belife that commercial success in selling content has to come at the expense of quality:
“I see no difference between commercial and quality,” Affleck said at the event. “If you ask Reed Hastings … I’m sure there’s some risk in that, and I’m sure they had a great strategy, but I would have said, ‘How are we going to make 50 great movies?! How is that possible? There’s no committee big enough. There aren’t enough – you just can’t do it. It’s a thing that requires attention and dedication and work and resists the assembly line process. Scott Stuber is a really talented, smart guy who I really like… but it’s an impossible job,” Affleck said, referring to the giant streamer’s founder and co-CEO and to its head of original films.”
“There’s bigger audience for action movies than there is for small dramas – I get that. Certain genres play more broadly and you can’t not be mindful of that,” Affleck added. “But let’s do a good one, let’s surprise the audience, let’s make them care about it.”
Affleck and Damon announced the launch of Artists Equity earlier in November, with Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital Partners also joining in for this “artist-led studio.”
“Artists Equity was conceived from Matt’s and my longtime passion for the art of storytelling and our shared desire to help creators deliver on their vision, as we have been fortunate to do throughout our careers,” said CEO Ben Affleck when the studio was announced. “The entertainment industry is defined by great partnerships – writers, directors, producers, crew, actors – and throughout my career I have learned that collaboration is what drives success. Our goal with Artists Equity is to build a creatorfocused studio that can optimize the production process with shared participation in the commercial success of projects. We are thrilled to partner with Gerry Cardinale and the RedBird team, who have a long track record of building notable scaled platform businesses around unique IP. Matt and I are looking forward to working together to empower the current and future creative minds in the entertainment industry.”
“Historically, the success of a film was based on its box office performance. Now, with the rise of streaming, the business behind filmmaking has intrinsically changed. However, Ben and I know that the power will continue to be in the hands of the creators, no matter which direction the industry evolves,” added Chief Content Officer Matt Damon. “Artists Equity enables these visionaries to take ownership of their creative power, providing a platform for both established and emerging filmmakers to streamline the development of their content. Ben and I are lucky to have worked with some of the best in the business, and our partnership with Gerry Cardinale and the team at RedBird continues us on that trajectory as we look to innovate and empower through the Artists Equity platform.”