retail news in context, analysis with attitude


This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

I have a business lesson yet again this week … but this time, it is a business lesson from the business of the movies, not a film plot or character.

Here’s the background. Director Ridley Scott made this film called All The Money In The World, about the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III. It starred Michelle Williams as Getty’s mother, Mark Wahlberg as a former CIA agent who gets involved in the case, and Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world, who refuses to pay the ransom.

As most people know, it all became problematic when Spacey faced multiple allegations of sexual assault just months before the movie was scheduled to be released. Scott made the decision to recast the role, hired Christopher Plummer, and reshot all the scenes in which Spacey had appeared - at the cost of millions of dollars, all the while racing the clock so the film could hit its Christmas release date. Which it did, garnering generally favorable reviews, including very good reviews for Plummer.

But that’s actually where the part of the story in which I’m interested begins. Michelle Williams, who approved of the decision to reshoot, said she’d do it for virtually nothing because she wanted the film to find an audience. Scott didn’t make any extra money for the reshoots, either. But Wahlberg … well, his agents knew when they had leverage, and so they negotiated a $1.5 million fee for just a couple of weeks of work.

The problem was that this was all happening at a time when there was a lot of debate in the film industry about women being undervalued and underpaid compared to men … and suddenly it became a story about a woman being paid less than one-tenth of one percent of her male co-star. And while Wahlberg eventually announced that he would donate his entire reshoot payment of $1.5 million to the Time’s Up legal defense fund that has been set up to help women in every business sector victimized by sexual harassment or discrimination, it took a week of public shaming for him to do so.

Now, let’s face it. These are high class problems concerning people who make millions of dollars for what they do. Nobody should feel too sorry for anybody.

There are several lessons to be taken from this. One is that at the time of all these negotiations, Williams and Wahlberg had the same agents. If I’m Williams, I start to look for new representation. (The agency probably was worried about this, because it added $500,000 to Wahlberg’s donation to Times Up. But again, it took a week to make that decision.)

But here’s the big lesson that I actually think is applicable other businesses.

To me, this was a really obvious potential problem that all the producers should’ve seen coming. If you know you have an inequity that is going to make the business look bad, you fix it. You write a check, you do whatever you have to do to make sure the thing doesn’t come back to bite you in the rear end.

The one thing you don’t do is hold your breath, cross your fingers, and hope nobody is going to notice.

That kind of approach is inevitably not going to be good for business.

Any business.

But that’s what a lot of businesses do, even when they can see a problem coming from a mile away. Addressing it may mean getting outside of their comfort zone, and so they hope it’ll go away.

Not gonna happen. Almost nobody gets that kind of Hollywood ending.

That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: