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Jordan Peele on how to make original movies that are commercially viable

“We were owned by GE—who makes fridges, not movies—so we were driven to go for franchises,” she said. “What we learned the hard way was that a movie that doesn’t really have a reason for being, that doesn’t really have a story or characters people are interested in, it’s not connecting. And so we had an opportunity to redefine our slate and the movies we wanted to make, the people we wanted to collaborate with, and the audiences we wanted to reach. We knew there were pockets of people being underserved.”

Langley began looking for films aimed at women, and soon Universal had projects like the Pitch Perfect and the Fifty Shades series on its roster. She also drew on her experience at New Line Cinema in the mid-’90s—making low-budget hits like Love Jones and Friday that were primarily aimed at black audiences—and started green-lighting projects like Straight Outta Compton and Girls Trip.

The idea, however, was to find projects so fresh and promising that they would transcend any category and appeal all across the demographic map. “I would love to see more original material in the theater, and this is part of the reason I partnered with Donna and Universal, is because this is their mission statement: to give story a chance,” Peele said. “I feel probably overconfident that we’re going to be able to prove that ‘new story’ will be the most enduring type of story to be created. Obviously, that’s not the case right now. But when I see something fresh that surprises me, there’s nothing like that.”

Trust is a two-way street

Movie studios need to trust that their creative talent can deliver the goods, and creators have to feel confident that they’re supported as well. Sometimes both sides have to take a leap of faith.

“With one movie, [Peele] had cemented himself as a

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