This week John Wells makes his feature filmmaking debut with The Company Men, a passionate, tragic — and ultimately uplifting — story about the painful unemployed limbo that has sadly befallen so many during the current recession.
Surprisingly, the writing veteran of TV series like E.R. and The West Wing, started work on the film a decade ago, even though it now hits a little closer to home.
“I started writing the screenplay during the dot com bust after my sister’s husband and about 5,000 other people suddenly lost their jobs on a Tuesday,” Wells said.
“I went online and asked if anyone had any stories or anecdotes to share as research for my screenplay and got a couple thousand responses within a weekend. But by the time I turned the screenplay into the studio that recession was over and they said, ‘Nobody is going to want to see a movie about that.’”
Wells’ film follows a variety of characters at all levels of the economic spectrum, from CEOs making cost-cutting decisions, to engineers who find themselves working construction. The timely script attracted an impressive cast. including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper, but despite the considerable talent involved, Wells made his movie independently.
“Seven to 10 years ago, I think somebody would have made this film in the studio system, but these kinds of films are being made very rarely in Hollywood today,” he said. “The studios want to ensure that they can do foreign business and that leads them to easily translatable projects like action movies, animation, and science fiction. I certainly go to see those movies, but there needs to be a place for films like The Company Men.”