Director Joe Carnahan Talks Creative Control and Why Too Much Money Can Be Problematic

You can always expect Joe Carnahan (Narc, The Grey) to tell it like it is, and he's always very forthcoming about his life and his career. We've been lucky enough to see a sizzle reel for his Daredevil project that never got off the ground, as well as another for a film called Gemini Man. Carnahan sat down with Cinefix and Director Jack Perez (Some Guy Who Kills PeopleThe Big Empty) to talk candidly about the role a director plays and some of his personal experiences in a new web series called "Hollywood Trenches." Check out the first two episodes below.

His comments about Carl Erik Rinsch and 47 Ronin are really interesting, and they can really apply to people on any budget level making a leap. Here is an excerpt from IndieWire:

"Carl's a lovely guy and an extraordinarily talented guy -- he never should've been given $200 million to make a samurai film. He should've been given $3 million and you figure it out," Carnahan said. His larger point is that a bottomless budget stifles creativity and problem solving that you're forced to contend with when your resources are smaller, and it also keeps too many cooks from getting in the kitchen. That kind of mega budget, he says, put "an ungodly amount of pressure on someone" to deliver, since the movie has to be a major hit...and nothing less. And not only does he lay blame at the studios, but also at filmmakers whom he says should push back, if it'll mean a bit more freedom when it comes to crafting your film.

I know personally at this point in my career I would have no idea what to do with $3 million, let alone $200 million. As an artist I think it's important to feel comfortable with the expectations that come with specific amounts of money. A first time director will probably have a few more people looking over their shoulder if they working in the millions, whereas a movie thrown together for $10,000 can probably be made without any interference. It's also not just about wanting to be a control freak. Putting a movie together is a miracle in and of itself, so the more people talking in your ear, the more you may second guess yourself, and potentially lose sight of the finish line.

The Carnahan interview will be 7 parts in total, so we'll post them when they are available.

Do you have any experience moving up from a little budget to a monstrous one? If so, what was that like and how did you make it work?

Link: Joe Carnahan Comments On '47 Ronin,' Says $200 Million Budget Put Unfair Pressure On Carl Rinsch -- IndieWire

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I think I referred to this the other day. Cannot overrate owning your own picture. Works for Soderberg as much as it did Lucas and Mel Gibson. Works for microbudgets too.
Don't ever lose control of your film, particularly if you're writer/director. Best way to stay in control - own 51% of it. My ten cents of advice.
And the current training model is broken - you used to be able to get directors who'd done 6 figure music videos & commercials to take on low 7 figure genre films, then move up.
Now its feature guys doing the expensive commercials, there are very few music videos being shot for even decent 5 figures, and the base studio budget is north of $30M.
TV guys are (mostly) happy to stay in TV. :-)
So the studios THROW money at people like poor Carl, or Joe Kosinski.

February 6, 2013 at 11:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


As a filmmaker I'd probably tell someone offering me $60 million that I'd rather make a movie for-- oh who am I kidding?

As much pressure as it would be I'd feel like not taking it would mean I'd likely never have the chance again. I just hope that if/when I'm offered real money that I'm ready to handle the it. I know I'm ready to make good use of the cash, but that studio pressure Carnahan talks about is what I'm not sure I'm ready for yet...

February 6, 2013 at 12:07PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


What happened to Fede Alvarez, he was in the audiovisual industry here, but it's tiny. He made that Panick Attack shortfilm and was called in by HOllywood, got a million dollar deal and now he directed Evil Dead. When asked about what did he think when Raimi asked him to direct Evil Dead he said "you just don't say no to those opportunities, you say FUCK YEAH! And then deal with it."

February 6, 2013 at 5:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Joe Carnahan is straight outta Sacto. My high school media teacher worked on his first feature, Blood Guts Bullets and Octane.

February 6, 2013 at 12:14PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I had forgotten why I like Joe Carnahan. When I saw Narc and watched the behind-the-scenes, he seemed genuine. I loved the movie but afterwards he fell off of my map. I have a renewed respect for him as a director because of these videos. Thank you for posting.

February 7, 2013 at 6:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


hi I am an amateur filmmaker from Morocco I d like to share my work with if you are interested to watch my latest short movie on youtube contact me at : cheers

February 9, 2013 at 10:07AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM