It’s intriguing to pick apart a generic promotion- announcement article and the ultra-generic softball quote that is always supplied by someone about the appointee, and how this can sometimes convey what some may regard as the “wrong thing.” I’m speaking of Tatiana Siegel‘s Variety piece announcing Amy Baer‘s appointment as president and CEO of CBS Films, and a quote by a former colleague, Columbia Pictures production prexy Matt Tolmach, that labels Baer as a “romantic comedy maven” with “uncanny commercial sensibilities.”
Tolmach’s observations were almost certainly meant to be supportive, but they sound at the very least like double-edged damnation with faint praise…like they came from the mouth of Niccolo Machiavelli. The “romantic comedy maven” quote suggests Baer specializes in formulaic girlie movies that aren’t that deep or soulful or probing. And the “uncanny commercial sensibilities” one seems to imply Baer wouldn’t know what to do with anything too thoughtful or art-housey or Alfonso Cuaron-ish. Girl movie ghetto!
Baer has an above-average track record. She went from being an assistant to the late CAA agent Jay Moloney (a bright, affable, mild-mannered guy who totally hid everything — he was the Hollywood-cocaine personification of “Richard Cory“) to a development gig with Guber-Peters where she “helped” develop Jumanji and Single White Female, two very respectable mainstream efforts.
She then became a Sony production executive in ’97, which led to an exec vp position the following year. The Variety story says she oversaw production on My Best Friend’s Wedding (a very smart and engaging female-market film), The Mask of Zorro (shallow shit), SWAT (awful), Something’s Gotta Give (agreeable, tolerable) and The Pursuit of Happyness (not great but okay).
Nonetheless, the message of Siegel’s piece is, “If you have a nice, tidy, well- written project that will remind almost everyone of something they’ve seen before but with a slight difference, and particularly one that will appeal to somewhat older women, take it to Baer.”