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Director Pierre Bagley Talks To S&A About “From The Rough” Release Problems + Reply From The Opposition

Director Pierre Bagley Talks To S&A About "From The Rough" Release Problems + Reply From The Opposition

Following up with my post last week Friday on director Pierre Bagley’s interview with Roland Martin, revealing the reasons for the delays in his film’s release (that film being From The Rough, which stars Taraji P. Henson)…

As I said in that post, I was scheduled to chat with Mr Bagley this week on that very same matter, and I did just that on Monday afternoon.

First a recap on last week’s post.

In short, the film’s producer/financier, Mr Michael Critelli, has been the primary roadblock. As you’ll recall from Bagley’s interview with Roland Martin, he stated that Critelli believes that the film could be a wide-reaching, commercial hit, and he intends to act on some revisions that will “broaden” its appeal.

I should note that the film’s release date has already been pushed back once (from last October to February of this year, although; as already noted, its February release never happened).

From my Monday afternoon conversation with Bagley, it’s clear to me that he believes the film, as is, already has some broad appeal, given the international cast, which also includes Tom Felton – “Draco Malfoy” of Harry Potter fame – who, as I’m told, has quite a large following given the global success of that film’s franchise. Although Bagley did say that the target audience for the film is the “urban female market,” and it tested very well with that group in preview screenings of the film, scoring quite high marks.

It’s also clear to me that Bagley wants to get the film released and in theaters without any further tinkering, and is doing what’s within his power to see that objective eventually met, and hopefully sooner.

As I learned, while Bagley and Critelli equally own the production company created to produce the film (Gyre Entertainment), unfortunately Mr Bagley isn’t in any position to override Critelli’s plans, and has thus chosen to utilize whatever means are available to him, like reaching out to the press to tell his side of the story, where the matter might then be handled in the court of public opinion.

This is a battle that began last summer, around June; up until then, Bagley says that he and Critelli were clicking on all fronts; there weren’t any problems; Critelli’s desire to “broaden” the film’s reach wasn’t even part of the conversation then.

But something obviously happened along the way to influence Critelli’s solo decision-change; and that something, Bagley told me, was Critelli’s family – the wealthy family who coughed up the $6 million to fund the flick.

Overtime, Bagley says Critelli’s position hardened; he couldn’t quite articulate his position and intent, other than he wanted to “broaden” the movie, and he said he’d find someone to assist him on that, eventually bringing in Michael Uslan, who served as producer or exec producer on almost every Batman movie that’s been made since Tim Burton’s 1989 film. Although it’s not entirely clear what Uslan’s influence will be here.

The last cummunication between Bagley and Critelli was a few weeks ago, when the two were to meet an African American investor who was interested in financing the P&A costs for the release of the film (Bagley says they decided to handle P&A costs on their own so as to control that particular process). However, Critelli didn’t show for the meeting, obviously because he didn’t care for the current version of the film, as already established, and planned on revising it – a revision that includes recutting it.

Bagley of course wants final cut; it’s his vision, and he believes that, unlike the business-minded Critelli, he, Bagley, has the necessary creative sensibilites, and is more in touch with the film’s target audience. And so, as Bagley sees it, this has become very much a matter of that age-old industry question we ask from time to time: who gets to tell, or who has creative control over “our” (as in black) stories? Critelli is Caucasian; Bagley is Black, if it’s not already clear by now.

I asked Pierre where it all stands currently, and he said Critelli has likely already begun work on making the changes he thinks will “broaden” the film’s reach, possibly with Michael Uslan’s assistance, as well as Critelli’s family’s influence (his son co-wrote the screenplay along with Bagley).

And what does Critelli have to say in response to all this? Read on below:

I am extremely passionate about the film and the story and want it released broadly, because of how Coach Starks indirectly made a profoundly positive difference in my younger son’s life. My son’s white, Swedish chess coach, who made him believe that anything was possible and inspired him to become a national chess champion, learned a great deal about how to coach young people from being one of Coach Starks’ golfers. I found this story in 2004, and, over the next 5 1/2 years spent several hundred thousand dollars acquiring the right to film it, developing the story, and getting multiple drafts of a screenplay produced. My older son ultimately produced the screenplay on which the film is based. It is a project that has engaged every member of my family, including my daughter, whose harp playing appears on the soundtrack. All of the $7.5 million provided to produce, edit, and promote the film has come from me. Because of how much I admire Coach Starks, I want her story to be presented on thousands of movie screens and to be seen by as many people as possible. I want the film to be as timeless as a Hoosiers is for basketball or a Remember the Titans is for football. I want it to honor her work as much as possible. Getting the movie to be as good as it can be is financially and creatively challenging. It is not a science, but an art, which is why more than 8 of every 10 films lose money for people like me who pay to get the film produced. One reason films lose money is that people in my position only begin to get paid after the theaters or other direct retailers to consumers get their money, after the distributors take their share, after the performers get box office bonuses, and, in the case of non-theatrical revenues, after performers and production crew members receive pension and residual contributions. Most of my investment also comes behind those who would propose to provide funding to get the film into broad-based theatrical release, which, in this case, is well over $10 million, and which we do not yet have. Given the exceptionally high risk of any film investment, I want to be as confident as possible that we have the best and most commercially viable film we can have before we release it. No external investor has made an offer to me to provide the millions of dollars needed for broad advertising, distribution, and screening in over 1,000 theaters. Although I have received extensive feedback about potential changes to the film to make it more commercially attractive, whether changes will be made, and what changes might be made, should not be discussed in a public forum. These subjects are better addressed privately between business and creative partners. What will always guide me is my sense of duty to those who gave their best efforts to the film as production and creative people, investors, Coach Starks, those whose lives she transformed, and those who will pay to see the film when it is released. I am highly confident that this film will get released and be successful when it is as good as it can be.

So there ya have it.

It boils down to money and control, as is almost often the case, and, unfortunately for Bagley, Critelli as the film’s sole financier, has the upperhand here. 

I also asked Mr Bagley about Taraji P Henson’s involvement in this, since she is the star of the film, and has a rather large following. He said that Taraji, who gets a substantial piece of the back-end, is aware of the situation, but he hasn’t asked her to get involved yet. I’m not sure how much she could really do even if she did get involved; again, money and control favor Critelli.

So despite the fact that, as Bagley said, many have embraced the film from across all groups (not just its target audience) – including the PGA (Pro Golfer’s Association), and other notable organizations and people – and it has a distributor ready to release it by the way, Critelli isn’t satisfied with it, and intends to work even further on the film, hoping to produce a work that’s commercially viable and wide-reaching. Essentially, “mainstream it,” we could say.

I emailed Critelli for more information on his stance (although I think it’s pretty clear here what he intends and why), and to learn what changes exactly he plans to implement. When I have that info, I’ll share here.

In the meantime… it appears Bagley is in a difficult, even helpless position here, with the outcome of all this certainly not in his favor. And I’m not really sure what really could be done here to spoil Critelli’s plans.

Stay tuned…

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Comments

Ed West

Bagley is a con man. He has never made anything work on film. Look at his last project (The fatmanwalkin). He made seven or eight versions, talked crap about his crew and then walked away leaving the rest of his team with nothing.And one of them was his own kid who even changed he name. The worse part, this guy had an affair with the dudes wife while he was making a movie about him. That woman then worked on the rough film with him. I bet she got a nice paycheck and what was her experience? Adultry? Cheating? This guy is a louse and after the coverage dies down you are never going to hear of him again.

David Newton

Ah, the plot thickens: March 7, 2012 – Critelli sues Bagley in Louisiana Eastern District Court. Are any of you old enough to remember the days when the business side of the arts were sometimes facilitated by people who were actually passionate about the arts? Now artists get micromanaged and tied up in the courts by accountants, lawyers and marketing types who only see the product of artists as a commodity. Even a titan like George Lucas with a track record for hugely successful films in not immune. Just another sad aspect of the greed-driven world we now live in. Good luck Pierre.

COREYLA

Lots of dialogue on this. Seems like Bagley has his people working this forum now..Sad to see him kill this film and his career all at once. I agree with Nadine, who is ever gonna want to work with this guy after this? No studio will get anywhere near this guy. Pretty sad all around.

alwaysforreal

The more you talk Angiew the more I see your agenda, by the way …there were no tickets for the show it was first come first serve! …Got ya! …Let's keep it real people! …Honest dialog only!

Mekisha Hale

I do remember hearing about this interview with Roland Martin Director Pierre Bagley situation with the difficult position on this film getting distributed to get out for everyone to see this movie. The story sounds very insightful and inspiring and it's a shame that others want to take away the core of the story with a not so important movie. With the way it's explained in this story which by way does exactly gives the right points as it was explained by this very determine Director Pierre Bagley. Michael Critelli who is the producer/financier of the film "From the Rough". Decided to add on Michael Uslan who is producer or exec producer of "Batman" since director "Tim Burton" did "Batman" back in 1989. Which leaves director Pierre Bagley without any hope how this is going to turn out. But without the disturbing of the movie and it's done very good with urban audiences and with up most surprise 'PGA (Pro Golfer's Association' approved the movie with high marks. That proved to show that any audience all audiences could enjoy this movie. Then why is this hold up of the film. Power and Control. And that disappointing to hear about that,without the determine to get the film out to everyone to see. What's even disturbing to hear also the lack of respect it sounds to me for what was a project that was originally going to tell the story could be deluded and scenes deleted for no apparent reason by the control of Michael Critelli and his added producer Michael Uslan on the film project. Even with all audiences loved the movie,but it wasn't enough. Instead a film that had a great idea behind it now could be lost by the simply fact,the lack of respect for Director Pierre Bagley. Who loses out on this great story is the audience that so much was important for the process of this film and what it's all about. But with that now it's only the hope that something could be savage of this horrible and experience that has trumped this film for ever be truly respected in the way it should have been in the first place. Very good written story but reading it really disappointing in the idea how the old Hollywood machine just won't go away. Power and Control have taken over this film and that in which itself is a shame. Hopefully in the near future Director Pierre Bagley could get some sort resolving of this issue.

Movielover

I just think that it is unfortunate for any of this to happen I mean it makes sense that they want to make sure the movie reaches a wide range of people which i believe advertisements would help a lot. Critelli and Bagley need to drop this Ulsen dude and together make it work with the rest of the cast and crew help to promote on a grassroots levels. What i see is that the producer (Critelli) wants to make hugh funds back which i think is kinda redundant given its an indie project and those type of films need to build up momentum in order to gain true audience attention which i bleieve with the cast alone four of the actors(Taraji, Michael Clarke Duncan, Tom Felton, Letoya Luckett) have somewhat a substantial amount of fans that they together can get to help get the movement started. In the end you have to work for success and doing all this extra shit when the movie seems likes it came out like it was intented and i kinda feel Critelli is more out for money trying to take shorcuts to financial success more so than getting the story out there and he wants to see all avenues b4 releasing because like anyone putting money on something is gonna want an investment back but he seems like he's reaching. Or maybe Bagley didn't do a good enough job but I want to atleast see it.

Roy

I've been involved with all aspects of marketing this film since before shooting started. I received this letter today and will be posting it on the FTR Facebook page and I also wanted to share it with you.
"Subject: Thoughts on From the Rough from:
"Premiere Radio Networks home of the Steve Harvey Show"
Hi Roy,
 This has been late in coming, but I wanted to give you my thoughts on “From the Rough”.
 Your website states that the Gyre Entertainment philosophy is to “cross all gender, racial, and cultural boundaries”. Without question – I think this film does that. As a white male, I was interested in the juxtaposition of the international students that are thrust into an environment in which they need to adapt to not only a new country, but also an environment in which they are the minority. Further- their coach and leader is an African/American woman – in a sport that is primarily coached by white men.
 The film works on many levels – it is inspirational, insightful and even funny. I think the film will be embraced by all audiences – white, black, men and women. It is all too rare you find a movie that unite multi cultural audiences.
 I look forward to the release of “From the Rough” so I can take my family and recommend to my friends.
John Buckley
National Accounts Manager
Premiere Networks / Clear Channel Media & Entertainment"

alwaysforreal

Dont't know who Angiew is, but I suspect he is someone hired by the Critelli's, first of all, myself and a group of friends (who are all African American females) attended the "Hoodie Awards" not "Hoodyfest" as Angiew called it. Hey Angiew, anyone who attended knows the name of the event they attended and every African American that attended certainly knows what it is called, which makes me suspect about you. anyway, we were at the screening and everyone in the audience raved! when we left there was a line going down the hall for the next showing. The next day, Steve Harvey announced what a success the film at the event,… everyone lets keep this real, we all know what this is really about

ANGIEW

This is what I read about Michael Critelli who happened to be the former Chairman of The National Urban League!! Sounds like he really has an axe to grind with the us..It also gives us some insight into who actually spearheaded this project..

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-j-critelli/my-highly-improbable-jour_b_815201.html

ChristineB

Wow, Nadine. I don't think we're going to get any real responses here as Critelli's hired guns (or he himself) are obviously going to sit here and continue to plea their case. I'm done responding, although "angiew" and "coreyla" really have it coming. I think we know who we're talking to. I wish we could have open and faithful responses from real people. I will use my other resources to help get this movie out, because I hate to see anyone bullied.

ANGIEW

I have to agree with COREYLA on this one. How are all you people playing the race card on this? Why? It seems really narrow minded to say the least. I saw this film at Hoodyfest. Honestly, it was okay. I think the best thing for this film would be some more work (too long, superficial inter racial relationship, other things) and I think it is well within the rights of the Producer, Financier, and basically Creator of this project to see his film reach the largest audience possible. I mean what would be better, a great film about a very inspiring black woman reaching ALL audiences or a narrowly marketed mediocre film for "target" (read black) audience that fails to enlighten EVERYONE to the remarkable story of Catana Starks. I am not in the film business but I can tell you that the film I saw at Hoody had a VERY limited appeal. I'm sure that this film will be released as this guy has $8 million of his money invested in it!! I just think that crying racism every time you don't get something is like crying fire in a crowded theater and that is damaging to all of us. This is BUSINESS not RACISM!! I think Mr. Bagley should take the high road because he has taken this film and EVERYTHING it represents into the GUTTER!

coreyla

It is sad to see you all inject race into this issue. This has nothing to do with black and white. As anyone who actually works in the film business understands, a director is a hired position. He is hired to direct the film and deliver his cut but almost never does he have final cut. Not even the biggest directors in hollywood have this and Bagley who never directed anything would never get this right. If you read Critelli's response, it was he who found the story, developed the story, hired writers to create the screenplay, and put up $7.5 million of his own money to see this story told. Anyone who thinks a white man who invests all of this time and money to tell the story of a black woman could be racially insensitive in the least is really ignorant. This man has done a lot of work for our community with the urban league and gave a black director with no resume a shot at shooting his film (he still owns full rights to her story, not Bagley.) I have a friend who worked on this and was told Bagley refused any feedback on the edit eventually firing the editor and cutting it himself!! He needs to respect the person who gave him this chance and who only wants this story to influence and inspire as many people (of all races) as it potentially can. Stop all the race baiting people…it is below us and this film.

christineB

I don't know how Batman is remotely like this film. I saw it at the Hoodie Awards last summer. Batman was a studio picture and this is an Indie film. We laughed, cried, and "Damn right"-ed a couple of times. I was looking forward to taking my family to this film, because I don't want them to see any of Tyler's or Eddie Murphy's dumb-ass fodder. Where does that leave us? We need to speak out and boycott a whitened, I mean "broadened" version of this movie. Hoosiers? Remember the Titans? This isn't a golf film like those were basketball and football films! A team of very different people that all struggled to find their own way came together through the leadership of a STRONG BLACK WOMAN, not the typical eye-catcher, or man-in-drag. Mike Critelli's BS is a mile thick.

chi guy

This is the kind of news that you guys should be posting. It gives insight in to the true nature of the film business. Creativity always takes a backseat to the business component. I feel for Bagley. His passion and effort are clearly evident, but he is fighting a battle he will not win. He is not even fighting, he is watching. He said that they were on the same page up until one point. It was probably when Uslan came in to the picture with his extensive background in global distribution. Irregardless of the caliber of the Batman movies prior to the recent two, Batman made a lot of money on a global level.

So if you put up over 10 million dollars on a film it makes sense that you would want to create a situation that would allow you to recoup as much money as possible. This story reminds me of Redtails. What we saw in theaters and what was intended to be made are two different films. Like Sergio said, he who has the Gold rules. This is a tough pill to swallow when you pour your soul, passion, and energy in to a project only to discover that it does not coincide with the bottom line.

Sergio

Bagley forgot the "Golden Rule". He who owns the gold makes the rules. He's gotten a rude awakening about the ways of Hollywood, but almost every first time untested director goes through the same thing with a few exceptions (Tarantino and Dees Rees come to mind) . Happens all the time even to those with more experience. The director of the upcoming Judge Dredd remake, Pete Travis, was reported to have been kicked out of the editing room and the producers taking over the editing of the film. (And Travis has a few pictures and TV shows under his belt already) Still I would like to know exactly what he means by the producers wanting to "broaden" the movie. Why be vague about it? All I can guess is that the producers want to re-edit the film to make lessen Henson's involvement in the film to make it more acceptable to white audiences. On his next film Bagley will be a sadder but wiser person and learn how to protect himself better

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