Baz Luhrmann is no stranger to flashy film projects with a musical focus, so it makes sense that his first television outing, Netflix’s promising-looking The Get Down, would also have a music bent. But according to a new look at the making of the series, it seems that Luhrmann was in over his head on the project, and his inexperience running a TV show forced the production to stop and start so many times — and incur continually ballooning costs that made it one of the most expensive series ever made — that some feared the show would never actually make it onto the air.
A lengthy report from Variety explores just how Luhrmann’s over-involvement in all aspects of the series bogged down production. Over the course of more than two years, production moved from Los Angeles to New York, stopped to accommodate lengthy dance- and DJ-training sessions (which needed to be completed before scripts could even be written), and shed co-showrunner Shawn Ryan (The Shield) after he clashed too many times with Luhrmann, who was unhappy with the show’s direction under his co-captain. A second showrunner was also subsequently hired and quickly departed the series, and exorbitant music licensing fees fed the ever-rising production costs.
“Because the troubled production had started, stopped, and stalled so many times as scripts were written, tossed, and rewritten, some writers had taken to calling the show The Shut Down,” Variety writes. ” … Production of the 12-episode season … went well over the original budget of about $7.5 million per episode and wound up costing at least $120 million overall, with New York state tax incentives factored in, according to sources. That makes The Get Down, Luhrmann’s first TV series, among the most expensive in history.”
It’s also easily the most expensive in Netflix’s existence, outpacing fellow bloated budget project Marco Polo, whose first season cost a then-whopping $90 million. Luhrmann spoke to Variety for its story (a rarity for such a critical piece), and admitted that he was initially a bit overwhelmed by the demands of the production.
“At that stage, I didn’t really understand how it all worked,” the director told the trade. “…I would never have believed two years ago that my days and nights, seven days a week, would have been absorbed in this gigantic collaboration. I’ve never worked with so many people, and I’ve done a lot of things.”
As Variety notes, Luhrmann’s signature creative vision (and penchant for going over budget) has resulted in some big-screen disasters (like the 2008 bomb Australia) before, and that doesn’t exactly bode well for The Get Down. But Luhrmann has assembled a great behind-the-scenes team for the project, and hopefully they helped rein in the director’s less successful ideas. As Luhrmann himself put it to Variety, “People will be passionate about it one way or another.” We’ll find out in a few weeks whether that passion is a good thing or a bad thing.