Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Writer's Strike: Age Old Issues come to Light

The writer's strike has brought to light some very interesting issues. Though these issues have been plaguing filmmakers since the start of the industry. You can boil this down to the age old debate about whether film is a business or film is an art. Producers generally treat it as a business, while writers and other creative contributors treat is as an art. They have to. Otherwise what you get is crappy films, which may account for the other age old debate about how so many films are trash. Even the producers will tell you that 98% of the stuff produced doesn't turn a profit. But then there are those corrupt accounting practices that make every expense imaginable part of a film budget, probably including the studio execs' nooners.

The ultimate idiocracy is the perpetual sequels and parodies, obviously based on a simple retarded business logic that if a certain film production was successful all you need to do is make the thing over again with new packaging. Duh.

Don't work too hard there, studio execs. We don't want you to break a sweat or anything over having to take a risk on something too original.

But hey, isn't art supposed to be original? Isn't that pretty much necessary? I think it's something like this, to put into simple studio-exec-ease. When you make cars they have to have wheels and roll down the road. When you make art it has to be original. O-RIG-IN-AL. Sound it out. Lots of syllables there. I know it's a big word with lots of implications. But look it up. Add it to your vocabulary. It can make you money! $$$$$

Historically we had Chaplin splinter off from studio control to form United Artists. Now Cruise is rejuvenating that entity. Coppola and Lucas formed American Zoetrope, and along with numerous other great filmmakers, went to northern California's bay area to escape the Hollywood rat race. They all have the same complaint. Studio execs get into creative control over the art they know nothing about.

Now we see some WGA writers and colleagues, out of work over the strike, forming up their own new media companies based on the United Artists model. Way to go WGA.

There's no argument that great artists are great because of their unique talent. So then why must studio execs take creative control or impose upon artists to bend to their business logic based on marketing concerns? They're not the ones with the talent. Why do this, especially when we see that the results are this 98% failure rate in the industry. Even if it's not 98%, it's not better than 50%. Just look at For 2007 you see 200 to 300 films making over one million USD, out of a total of over 700 films. Making a broad assumption that a film needs to make at least one million to be profitable, you can see that much less than 50% are successful.

So clearly, the business people don't know what they're doing. But most of us have known that, since, like forever.

You can't sell art by having business people control it based on marketing strategy. You have to first allow artists to do what they do, on their own, with full creative control. Then when they have a product, you sell it. If you go with the conventional business model that business people apply across the board to any industry you end up with cheap crappy films that amount to what MacDonald's does in the food industry. Coppola, Lucas, Chaplin and most any artist won't be happy in that world, no more than Wolfgang Puck would be content running a MacDonald's chain. It's just good business sense.

Why is this so hard to fathom?

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