Hollywood screenwriter and producer James Gunn has described Microsoft as the most “dreadful, non-talent-friendly” company he’s ever worked for folllowing his experience creating original content for Xbox Live.
Gunn, whose credits include Dawn of the Dead, Slither and the Scooby Doo movies, was one of several “horror directors,” along with James Wan, David Slade, Adam Green and Lucky McKee, who were hired by Microsoft to create original videos for Xbox Live. He said the directors were promised “complete creative freedom” on the projects, adding that was “the whole reason we agreed to do it for, essentially, no money,” but when he presented Microsoft with Humanzee!, his first effort, he says the company “freaked out” and refused it. Given the opportunity to try again (as well as the rights to Humanzee!), Gunn came up with the presumably-less-outrageous Sparky & Mikaela.
“As long as it was PG-13, with no sex, they said it would be all right,” Gunn wrote on his blog. “So that’s what I shot. But they saw it and, again, freaked out. Obviously they had no f**king idea what PG-13 was, as they wanted me to cut the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina.’ They made me cut a piece of very fake poop and a bunch of other stuff.” Making matters even worse, he said, after forcing him to make numerous cuts Microsoft took the final product and edited it even further before airing it.
“To sum things up, Warner Bros was a bastion of creative freedom on Scooby Doo 2 in comparison,” he continued. “I’m not exaggerating or being facetious. Microsoft/XBox was by far the most dreadful, non-talent friendly company I’ve ever worked for. And if you think I had it bad, some of the other directors (most specifically, Saw director James Wan, who just happens to be one of my favorite people in the world) had it even worse.”
Gunn is still a fan of gaming on Xbox but says the original content plans are DOA because Microsoft won’t let the creators even approach the “extremity” of popular Xbox Live material like Grand Theft Auto 4 and South Park. He claims that people didn’t want to bother watching the shows they created because they were “barely a half-step removed from something you’d see on the Disney Channel.” As a result, Gunn believes much of the potential of Xbox Live has been squandered. “Because of the small-mindedness of the Microsoft executives, who preemptively censored a lot of our scenes for fear of freaking out stockholders, they crushed the potential for something that would have kept them relevant for a long time to come,” he said.