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David Lynch and ‘Snootworld’: How Auteurs Struggle with Funding in 2024

David Lynch has revealed his new project Snootworld was rejected by Netflix. Why is it so hard being an auteur filmmaker in 2024?

David Lynch at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Shutterstock/Jaguar PS

In an era of IP (intellectual property) driven, focus-group-tested films, the age of the “auteur” is slowly becoming a thing of the past. An auteur is defined as a director with complete control over their projects. Their visions are often uncompromised, with influences that are deeply personal, original, and unique to them.

Perhaps no living director embodies the hefty weight of the word auteur quite like David Lynch. He is an artist of unique sensibilities whose films are strange, dreamy, and often left up to interpretation. Lynch is a polarizing and beloved figure in the film world. That’s what makes the recent news of his potential upcoming project Snootworld that much more disheartening.

What is Snootworld?

Lynch collaborated with the screenwriter of The Nightmare Before Christmas to write Snootworld.
Lynch collaborated with the screenwriter of The Nightmare Before Christmas to write Snootworld. Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Back in April of this year, news broke that Lynch was shopping a new film around. The film in question would be an animated adventure entitled Snootworld. Lynch penned the script with famed Tim Burton collaborator Caroline Thompson. Her notable works include the screenplays for The Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands.

By all accounts, the script is wonderfully weird and would have a wider appeal than Lynch’s normal projects. Thompson herself described the script as “wackadoo.” Lynch has shown a clear optimism for it when speaking about the project.

“It’s something that children and adults can both appreciate,” Lynch has said of Snootworld. Lynch has not stepped into the role of director yet, should the film get made. It is confirmed that he would be producing the film.

Unfortunately, this is where the disheartening part comes in. According to Lynch, Snootworld was pitched to Netflix, who then rejected it. Lynch believes the film was too wacky and experimental for them to take a chance on. However, Lynch and Thompson have not given up hope and are still shopping the idea around to other studios. This story provokes a larger conversation, though. It is indicative of a growing problem among auteur filmmakers.

Studios Hardly Take Risks on Auteurs Anymore

David Lynch in Kiev, Ukraine.
David Lynch in Kiev, Ukraine. Credit: Shutterstock/Drop of Light

Lynch being shut out by Netflix on his Snootworld pitch is not an isolated incident. He joins the growing list of auteur filmmakers who struggle to secure funding on their projects in 2024. Like so many industries, money is a massive factor when it comes to film production. The major studios are more likely to green light a film attached to a notable IP, one with recognizable stars, and/or one that can be made on a tight budget. Low risk, high reward is the name of the game.

Unfortunately, most auteurs’ projects do not fall into that category. Often times their films are experimental, ambitious, too niche, and aren’t always guaranteed to make their money back at the box office.

While plenty of arthouse films have managed to turn a profit, there are many that don’t. These are huge financial decisions for the studios. While it is easy to shame these studios for not giving art a chance, it is understandable why these tough decisions have to be made sometimes. These are businesses, after all.

What Other Times Has This Happened?

As mentioned, this is a common occurrence in the film industry as of late. Snootworld is not the only exciting project to be deemed too risky to invest in. Let’s take a look at some other famous auteur filmmakers who have similarly had their projects rejected for financial reasons.

David Fincher

David Fincher at the London BFI Film Festival in 2023.
David Fincher at the London BFI Film Festival in 2023. Credit: Shutterstock/Loredana Sangiuliano

David Fincher, the acclaimed director responsible for films like Fight Club and The Social Network, has recently opened up about his own struggles with the streaming juggernaut Netflix. While most of these instances regard film productions, this case actually has to do with the Netflix Original Series Mindhunter, which Fincher served as the chief mastermind behind.

The crime drama followed two FBI agents who interviewed incarcerated serial killers to further understand how they operate in an effort to put more of them behind bars. Critical acclaim and a fierce fanbase made the series a beloved gem in the Netflix library. However, Fincher has since revealed that the streaming numbers were too low for Netflix to hand over the money needed for a third season and beyond.

“…It’s a very expensive show and, in the eyes of Netflix, we didn’t attract enough of an audience to justify such an investment,” Fincher said when reflecting on Mindhunter in 2023. Despite all the accolades and the rabid desire by its fans for more, the potential profit loss of future seasons put the final nail in the coffin for Mindhunter.

Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman (left) and Jack Black (right) at the Variety Creative Impact Awards in 2016.
Charlie Kaufman (left) and Jack Black (right) at the Variety Creative Impact Awards in 2016. Credit: Shutterstock/Kathy Hutchins

Charlie Kaufman has had his fair share of challenges with major studios. The celebrated screenwriter behind Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has struggled to get many of his modern projects funded.

Despite the acclaim of his earlier works, Kaufman has had numerous films fall through due to studio fears that they would be unable to make a profit. Most notably, Frank or Francis, a supposed musical comedy that would’ve been a commentary on internet outrage culture with a stacked cast including Jack Black, Nicolas Cage, Steve Carell, among others.

Other failed projects include an FX pilot starring John Hawkes called How and Why, which Kaufman directed, as well as various writing projects.

Kaufman’s 2012 film Anomalisa was partially the product of crowdfunding, as Kaufman did not want to deal with studio interference on the project. He finally had some luck when Netflix distributed his 2020 psychological thriller I’m Thinking of Ending Things. The film did not receive much promotion from Netflix, however, and Kaufman continues to struggle with funding as of today.

Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola in Milan, Italy in 2015.
Francis Ford Coppola in Milan, Italy in 2015. Credit: Shutterstock/eldar nurkovic

Francis Ford Coppola is living proof that even having some of the most acclaimed films under your belt is not always enough to secure funding for projects. Coppola’s work in the 1970s is nothing short of legendary. Directing The first two Godfather films, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation, all in the span of a decade, Coppola was on fire. However, a passion project of his has repeatedly run into development issues for decades, and it is only now slated to see the light of day later this year.

Megalopolis – Over 40 Years in the Making

Adam Driver in Megalopolis.
Adam Driver in Megalopolis. Credit: Lionsgate Films

Megalopolis has been long in development for Coppola. It is said to be an ambitious film about a visionary architect attempting to rebuild the utopian city of New Rome following a disaster. He had the initial idea way back in 1977, began taking notes for a script in 1983, and had the first script completed in 1989.

Production began on numerous occasions but fell through for different reasons each time. It was abandoned in 1989 when Coppola decided to prioritize other projects following a string of box office bombs. Production started and was again halted in 2001 when the September 11th attacks forced the project into limbo due to similarities to the attacks within the script.

Coppola revived Megalopolis once again in 2019, this time the result of self-financing. Coppola has reportedly put in $120 million of his own money to produce the project. Following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and unorthodox directing methods from Coppola that led to some tension on the set, the film finally wrapped production in early 2024.

Megalopolis premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2024 and is set for a wide release in September. The world will know soon enough if the gamble paid off for Coppola. What we do know for certain is that the end result will be his unique, uncompromised vision, and that is certainly worth celebrating.

A New Age of Auteur-Led Cinema

A filmmaker overseeing his project come to life.
A filmmaker overseeing his project come to life. Credit: Shutterstock/gnepphoto

Despite the struggles of Lynch, Fincher, Kaufman, Coppola, and many others, a silver lining may be in sight. We may be entering a new era of cinema, one where risks are taken once again, and auteurs can thrive.

2023 saw an astonishing amount of box office bombs. Films like Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Flash cost major studios hundreds of millions of dollars. Gone are the days where a popular IP is enough to make a profit. Times are changing, and perhaps the mindset of the studios needs to change too.

Alongside this trend of expensive bombs, we have seen a growing hunger for original films from audiences. Hits like Oppenheimer and Everything Everywhere All at Once proves that great filmmaking is enough to get butts in seats. Theatergoers don’t need cinematic universes and remakes anymore. They need fresh, original stories told by auteurs who aren’t afraid to try something new.

So, to every aspiring auteur trying to get their own Snootworld or Megalopolis made, hold out hope just a little bit longer. Your time may be coming sooner than you know it.

Written By

24 years old, Metro State University graduate with a Technical Communications and Professional Writing BA. Lover of films, writer of words, builder of Legos, walker of beagles. Constantly adding films to my watchlist.

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