Sunday, September 16, 2007

Youth Without Youth

I ran across this NY Times article on Coppola's new film and it stirred up some of my long held thoughts on the subject.
It amazes me how complacent people are in accepting the ingrained age discrimination that goes on. When you look at the industry infrastructure that exists to supposedly help filmmakers start out on a career, it's almost always assumed that an upcoming filmmaker is also a young filmmaker. When Spielberg introduced On the Lot, his words were that it was to help these young filmmakers get their start. So right there he excludes anyone who's not young, whatever that means. We all know that On the Lot contest entrants ranged all over the age spectrum. Yet the oldest one chosen was in their 30s. Of course, it didn't take long to see him eliminated. I think it's safe to say the remaining entrants were in their 20s and very early 30s at most. Fox has to maintain this image of giving young filmmakers a start. Oh the horror of giving an old filmmaker a start.

Now it's a little tougher when it comes to screenwriting contests. There you don't have to provide a bio or filmed intro of yourself to see how well you look on the screen. Still if your age becomes known and you're over 40, it's likely to be a liability. The Nicholl is one I think that makes an effort to not do this.

But even if I'm wrong about other contests, there's no arguing the fact that generally the business world expects people to live a certain life pattern. They expect you to be something by the time you're in your 30s. When you go to a college graduation ceremony accolades are given to those students who not only exceeded in their studies, but also started out on their own business or became successful in the working world. We cheer when someone really young make a great accomplishment, like write or direct a Hollywood film. What’s so great about the fact that the person is young? Is it not also great for an older person to do these things? And then look at the people who do these great things at an early age. What happens when they’re older? Like child stars. It ain’t too pretty. And then what kind of young people pull off these feats? They have to be on speed, have no other problems in their lives, and come from independently wealthy families; or at least some of that.

The point is, what's so bad about starting out on a career, later in life; or what's so bad about turning the clock back and reinventing yourself. Cher has certainly proved it can work. Why should people have just one career that starts at 20 something and ends at fifty or sixty something. When you're fifty you still think and have the same, if not much better talent than you did at twenty. The one difference may be physical stamina. But that too is questionable. Then there’s that element of risk that young people take, having nothing to lose

But when it comes to writing and directing films we are usually dealing with profound subject matter about love and life. This is the stuff that having decades of living experience is almost a requirement for, unless of course you intend to make a career of writing fart jokes or teen horrors, which may account for the lowly state of the current industry.

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