“You’re not sure you like him in the beginning,” he said of a character who is aghast at the thought of giving up his golf-club perks. “You’re hoping for some comeuppance. But you begin to feel sympathy for him.”
Mr. Wells doesn’t appear obsessed with making the transition from television to film work, which is less surprising than once it might have been. In today’s media world some of the most critically acclaimed content is found on television, not the big screen, and such brand-name film directors as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch and such stars as Al Pacino, Matt Damon and Helen Mirren regularly work on TV projects.
He traces the change to corporate-minded studios trying to appease their shareholders.
“[Studios have] moved away from doing the kind of writing they did for many, many years,” he said. “A lot of talented writers have gone to television. They can tell their stories there.”
The way consumers watch — and demand — content has helped television close the quality gap between it and the standard feature film.
“The audience is fragmented. You can do TV shows that appeal to a relatively small audience and still have them be very successful,” he said.
Mr. Wells thinks one of the supporting players in “The Company Men” will resonate with more than a few demographic groups. Kevin Costner plays a blue-collar construction worker who rides out the recession with a little sweat equity.
“He’s the American we have always thought of ourselves as, but increasingly don’t get a chance to be,” he said.
Not all victims of downsizing get a Hollywood-style happy ending. But Mr. Wells said he’s learned a great deal about his fellow Americans while making “Men.” The people he interviewed for research on the film described being laid off as both the best and worst thing that ever happened to them. Many were able to resurrect their careers on their own terms. They rarely did so alone.
“It’s the community that rallies around you that makes the difference and what carries you through,” he said.