Brow Beat

A-List Directors From Christopher Nolan to Rian Johnson Wrote a Letter Begging Toby Emmerich to Save FilmStruck

Christopher Nolan in a tuxedo.
When Christopher Nolan speaks up for a service that lets people watch movies over the internet instead of on celluloid, it’s probably a good service! Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Whether you’re making desperate phone calls to your senator to try to convince him or her not to pass awful policies no one wants, or signing desperate petitions to AT&T to try to convince them to at least pretend their company gives a shit about the vast cultural legacy they just purchased, it’s the season for begging the rich and powerful not to do horrible things to the rest of us just because they can. And everybody’s getting in on the game—even the rich and powerful! Deadline reports that a group of 19 directors have just published an open letter to Toby Emmerich, the chairman of the Warner Bros. Picture Group, begging him to save FilmStruck from the store-brand consultants who thought this was a good way to tell the world they were no longer going to be streaming old movies:

We plan to take key learnings from FilmStruck to help shape future business decisions in the direct-to-consumer space and redirect this investment back into our collective portfolios.

The current generation of film directors, of course, took “key learnings” for their own careers from the wider availability of studio back libraries during the home video gold rush, and they know the loss of a lovingly-curated service built around quality in favor of whatever Netflix-ripoff AT&T is betting on is not something to take lightly. According to the letter, both Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese already reached out to Warner to ask them what the hell they were thinking, and now Paul Thomas Anderson, Ana Lily Amirpour, James Brolin, Damien Chazelle, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo Del Toro, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Gray, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Bill Hader, Karyn Kusama, Barry Jenkins, Rian Johnson, Christopher McQuarrie, Reed Morano, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Barbra Streisand, and Edgar Wright have joined in.

That is a not-insignificant percentage of A-list directors, including the people behind three Best Picture nominees from 2017 and two more from 2016. And although Nolan is probably the biggest name with a strong current Warner Bros. association—Zack Snyder, where are you?—it will be interesting to see if Emmerich has the power (or desire) to protect FilmStruck from his new bosses. (The people who signed the letter have the power to withhold their labor from Warner Bros., and if they’re serious about holding the company responsible, that’s what they should do—but Fox doesn’t seem to have had a problem hiring talent even though their parent company is destroying the entire planet, so don’t bet on much follow-through.) FilmStruck is scheduled to shutter permanently on Nov. 29. Here’s the full letter, suitable for framing, ideally as part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Here’s Why We Had to Build All Those Guillotines:

Dear Toby,

We know that Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese have been in touch with you and Warners Media Group about the demise of FilmStruck and have urged you guys to keep it going.

While it was not your decision, we would like to loudly echo their sentiments. The FilmStruck service was (IS) the best streaming service for fans of cinema of all kinds: classic studio movies, independent cinema, international treasures. Without it, the landscape for film fans and students of cinema is especially bleak. There’s a reason there was a huge outpouring from artists and fans over it being shuttered, they were doing the Movie God’s work.

We know one of the reasons that it has been shut down is because of an upcoming Warners streaming service, but really FilmStruck shouldn’t be a conflict of interest. In this day and age where there are dozens of platforms, curation of content is really important and FilmStruck was providing a service to both satisfy older fans of cinema and a younger generation of cineastes that will be making amazing movies long after we’re dead.

In an era of huge corporate acquisitions of cinema by communication companies- in a business that may render billions of dollars off a medium like cinema, we believe this is a gesture that is needed- a minuscule show of goodwill towards the preservation and accesibility of a tradition and a rich history that would benefit the public.

So we want to add our names to the petition started by Marty and Steven and want you (and Warners) to know that we feel equally strongly and would do anything to support the service being saved.


Paul Thomas Anderson

Ana Lily Amirpour

James Brolin

Damien Chazelle

Alfonso Cuarón

Guillermo Del Toro

Leonardo DiCaprio

James Gray

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Bill Hader

Karyn Kusama

Barry Jenkins

Rian Johnson

Christopher McQuarrie

Reed Morano

Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas

Gina Prince-Bythewood

Barbra Streisand

Edgar Wright