On a Feb. 21 episode of The Ben Shapiro Show, Gina Carano and Shapiro discussed their upcoming collaboration, an untitled film the ousted Mandalorian actress will star in and produce. Carano, whom Disney fired over what it called an “abhorrent” social media post that likened the plight of America’s politically conservative in 2021 to that of Jews before the Holocaust, shed light on the mystery project she’s developing for the Shapiro-founded Daily Wire digital platform.
“I’m a big fan of the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling,” the actress said when asked what she’s looking to make. “I’ve been a little underutilized in Hollywood.”
The uber-violent Drive might seem an odd template for the right-wing distributor, which plans to make films that espouse conservative values. But after acquiring the school-shooter thriller Run Hide Fight, which bowed at the Venice Film Festival in September, The Daily Wire is proving to have eclectic taste as it taps into the anti-woke crowd. Still, is there money to be made?
Daily Wire isn’t alone in chasing the politically right-leaning movie audience, which is distinct from but can overlap with the lucrative faith-based film market. More than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in the November election. And, at the moment, there’s little Hollywood content that directly appeals to them. That leaves a big opening for those willing to risk ostracization from the rest of the industry.
Director Amanda Milius, who hails from Hollywood royalty as the daughter of Apocalypse Now screenwriter John Milius and actress Celia Kaye, scored one of the most successful documentaries of 2020 with The Plot Against the President, which purportedly exposes a Democratic operation to take down then-President Trump by proving Russian interference in his election. Based on Lee Smith’s 2019 best-seller, the $700,000 film shot to No. 1 on Amazon after its Oct. 9 release. Milius says the Russiagate critique was profitable even before it hit iTunes and some 30 cable providers as a VOD title in February.
“If Hollywood is going to make an ideological business decision to not produce content that the majority of America wants to see, I don’t have any problem with that,” Milius tells THR. “Because they’re leaving a giant pile of money on the table, and my company has no problem taking that.” She has been pleasantly surprised by what she dubs “huge” DVD presales and an unexpected appetite for the film in Japan.
“I was like, ‘Oh, it’s 2020. Who cares about DVDs?’ But apparently this audience likes to have the physical movie because they don’t trust it will be available online,” says the USC film alum. “Japan is obsessed with Trump, and it’s a huge audience for us because they’re really pissed off about China.” (Sino-Japanese relations historically have been tense.)
Milius’ Washington-based production company, 1AMDC, is planning five to eight films over the next three years, starting with a doc on China and censorship.
Meanwhile, Nick Loeb’s Roe v. Wade, which premieres April 2 on Amazon, iTunes and PVOD and takes a critical look at reproductive rights advocate Margaret Sanger, depicting her speaking at a KKK meeting, is poised to appeal to the politically conservative given a cast that includes such outspoken right-wing talent as Jon Voight and Stacey Dash.
Loeb, who is the nephew of Edgar Bronfman Jr., says it took three years to come up with the $6 million-plus budget. Some was raised through crowdfunding, but most of it came from investors who each put in between $10,000 and $750,000. Ironically, the film’s largest investor, Octavius Prince, considers himself a supporter of abortion rights.
“When Nick sent me the script, the first draft was probably 70/30 pro-life/pro-choice,” says Prince, who invested in the 2015 IFC Films drama The Preppie Connection. “Obviously, I want to make money. So I pushed him to balance this out a little bit more. I decided to sign on when I read the second draft. I kind of like that it’s controversial, to be honest.”
Loeb, who famously battled with ex Sofía Vergara over the fate of their frozen embryos, says he is prepared for some degree of Hollywood backlash. “You can be a conservative in Hollywood, and you can be a Republican, and people don’t have a problem. There’s only two things you cannot be in Hollywood: pro-Trump and pro-life,” says Loeb, who is both.
Nonetheless, a niche business is popping up on the edges of the industry and gaining traction on VOD amid the pandemic. The Daily Wire says Run Hide Fight notched 300,000 views during its livestreamed premiere. But Milius expects the tech giants — namely Amazon — will push back against right-leaning content. In February, Amazon inexplicably decided to stop hosting all docs and shorts on its Prime Video Direct Service. One top agent says the move is bad for everyone and a sign Amazon will likely implement a more curated strategy.
“We broke their algorithms and showed up on everybody’s front page as number one,” says Milius. “Amazon would rather kill the entire independent documentary industry than let that happen again.”
This story first appeared in the March 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.