Is Our Film Culture Designed To Create Corporate Hucksters?

Sometimes it serves us to let our dark paranoia run rampant.  I have always had a love affair with conspiracy theories, but it is one of longing more than indulgence.  If only governments and people in general cared enough about other people to actually strategize to the extent needed to control things to the level most conspiracy theories fantasize.  But maybe instead of politics and community being the focus, the conspiracies exist in the pursuit of profit.  Sometimes looking at the result of business structures as their intent instead of their coincidental effect sheds further light on a complicated situation. We all know that there is a substantial flaw to our film infrastructure: artists and their supporters are not rewarded for the work they generate.  I speak of this as a problem.  If the industry actually tried to make sure that the people who made the work benefited from the work, we'd have more money in the system, and it would probably be smarter money (that knew enough to let the filmmakers have creative control -- or at least more of it) at that.  But all evidence points to the fact that the film industry wants to prevent creators from financially benefiting from their work.  We can change that (and I am going to try), but that's for another post about why I have chosen to work for a not-for-profit.

Let's let our dark side work for us for a moment:  if the model is not broken, but actually works, what is it trying to do?  Why would the film business not want creators to benefit?  Is it to give more people the opportunity to become filmmakers and investors since the current system virtually drives out all the experienced filmmakers and investors?  Ah, alas, much evidence exists to show that access and opportunity is not of interest to film business leaders (like the disproportional representation of white males -- such as myself).  So what could it be?

What happens to those that survive in the film business?  If filmmakers can't survive by making feature films, how do they survive?  There's been one business strand that long has been there with a helping hand  to the creative class and it seems like even our greats have long had to indulge in their offerings.  Is the whole of film culture designed to create cinematic masters who then must be slaves to Madison Avenue and their international equivalents?

Fellini:

Evidently these bank commercials were the last films Fellini ever made, and they aired after he died.

I don't think commercials kill directors, but I do think everything we do changes us.  It may be wonderful to have funding to play, but I always struggle with what my labor is in service to.  How we use our is not only a political (or apolitical) act, but a declaration of what we feel matters, what we dream our world to be able to come, our willingness to fight for the culture we want.  Survival is a tough game to play.  It changes us the longer we engage.  How do we maintain our mission when trinkets shine so bright?

And the film infrastructure seems to willingly grant the commercial powers not just the opportunity, but the determined outcome, to seduce our top seducers.  Can a support structure ever be built to let artists do what they truly do best and most want to do?

Roman & Francis Ford Coppola:

Ingmar Bergman:

Jean Luc Godard:

Wes Anderson:

More Fellini:

Woody Allen:

This is particularly ironic: evidently Woody's note translates as "delicious lifestyle".  Do we want a world where it is absolutely impossible for a filmmaker to remain true to their form?  If someone only wanted to direct feature films, would that even be financially possible?

What Is The Great Hope For The Future Of Cinema?

Or for that matter, what do you think can really change and move things forward in both the near and distant future? If we could ask five key people what they saw on our various horizons, what would they show us? Who should we ask?  One of the great things about being pointed in a direction, is that it is almost a path. Could we have walked down that road when Francis Ford Coppola predicted YouTube in 1991:

It is not easy to just boil down to one specific all the various change that is swarming over us at this point.  I see major shifts coming in so many different aspects of cinema: discovery, consideration, value/return, participation, collaboration, transitioning, immersion, and many others. The fact that this far down the road of a connected culture we have not wed social and content together may speak of the resistance to change, but also of the tidal wave that will one day hit us. That all said, I think that all of us -- creators, appreciators, entrepreneurs, & passive audiences members, are going to truly be best served by another aspect all together.

If you ask me, one of the big next changes and TGHFTFOC (see title) is the end of the dominance of the feature film form. Now don't get me wrong: I love feature films more than any other manufactured entity. I have devoted my labor to the creation, enhancement, and appreciation of the form. I just see many trends leading to feature-length linear-narrative passive-engagement work's decreasing relevance, along with many indications that it won't be a bad thing when all participants in both the film industry and culture look at a far widening realm of creation, participation, and consumption.

Perhaps though it is that the end of dominance of the feature film form is a symptom of something even greater. Or maybe it is just another chicken vs. egg paradox. Regardless, the industry and culture are both waking to and adopting a move from a one-off paradigm where each new creative work requires reinventing the wheel and instead embracing both a business model and community focus on an ongoing conversation between the story world initiators and those that engage with it. This abandonment of requiring each new tale to be able to not just stand but forever sprint on its own two feet is not only logical and practical but offers many new opportunities.

I eventually will go in to far greater detail on this (particularly when I can find the time to do so), but want to get this conversation moving forward. I wonder why it is still only the outliers who are in this discussion.

Still for now, we can surely see the benefit of expanding our scripts to include a series of narrative & character extensions. We recognize that each work represents an opportunity for collaborations that we have yet to dream of. We can empower those without traditional access to work with us on building previously neglected connections and launch pads. Our stories and fantasies do not need to begin or end with our renderings but can foster new works and continual creation. We can combat the challenges of living in an era of super-abundance and non-filters by championing greater value in community focus.

The easy way is a path to irrelevance. Temporally manipulative, crowd-based consumptive,  audio-visually focused content stopped long ago as being both the art form and entertainment outlet most indicative of our time. The new form is all of that and more. It won't only reflect our era, but lead us into a better world. And it starts with saying good bye to the cultural & economic dominance of antiquated concept.  

Francis Ford Coppola Is Here To Teach Us All

FilmSchoolRejects tipped me to this great interview The99percent did with Francis Ford Coppola.  As we started out with Good Machine, only two established players ever reached out to us, David Picker and Francis.  His generosity of spirit and love of cinema is evident in this piece.  The entire interview is a treat and a wealth of knowledge and good advice.  Among it:

When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

The reason it’s important to have this is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair? Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme is always helps you.

AMERICA'S LEADING FILMMAKERS CALL FOR RELEASE OF IMPRISONED IRANIAN DIRECTOR JAFAR PANAHI

I am so heartened by this action. These filmmakers are all real leaders. I love that they have spoken up for artists' right of freedom of expression on a worldwide basis. We enjoy tremendous freedom here in the USA, but until that is shared by everyone, none of us can truly be free. We must be united in preserving this right for all. Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Francis Ford Coppola, Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh, the Coen Bros., Jim Jarmusch, Michael Moore, Ang Lee, Robert De Niro, and Oliver Stone, among other leading film industry figures, have condemned the detention of Jafar Panahi, the acclaimed director of "The White Balloon" and "Offside," and are urging the Iranian government to release him

New York, NY (April 30, 2010) – Jafar Panahi, an internationally acclaimed Iranian director of such award-winning films as The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, was arrested at his home on March 1st and has been held since in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. A number of filmmaking luminaries have come to Mr. Panahi's defense and "condemn his detention and strongly urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Panahi immediately," according to a new petition. (Petition text and full list of signatories is available below.)

Islamic Republic officials initially charged Mr. Panahi with “unspecified crimes.” They have since reversed themselves, and the charges now allege that he was making a film against the regime, a very serious accusation in Iran.

Mr. Panahi’s films have been banned from screening in Iran for the past ten years and he has been kept from working for the past four years, but he continues to stay in Iran.

"Mr. Panahi deeply loves his country," says Jamsheed Akrami, an Iranian-American film scholar and filmmaker, who helped organize the petition. "Even though he knows he could have opportunities to work freely outside of his homeland, he has repeatedly refused to leave. He would never do anything against the national interests of his country and his people."

Mr. Panahi is one of the most heralded directors in the world. He has won such top prizes as the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for Offside (2006), the Un Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Crimson Gold (2003), the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for The Circle (2000), the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival for The Mirror (1997) and the Cannes Camera d'Or for The White Balloon (1995).

PETITION: Free Jafar Panahi

Jafar Panahi, the internationally acclaimed Iranian director of such award-winning films as The White Balloon, The Circle, Crimson Gold and Offside, was arrested at his home on March 1st in a raid by plain-clothed security forces. He has been held since then in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

A recent letter from Mr. Panahi’s wife expressed her deep concerns about her husband's heart condition, and about his having been moved to a smaller cell. Mr. Panahi’s films have been banned from screening in Iran for the past ten years and he has effectively been kept from working for the past four years. Last October, his passport was confiscated and he was banned from leaving the country. Upon his arrest, Islamic Republic officials initially charged Mr. Panahi with “unspecified crimes.” They have since reversed themselves, and the charges are now specifically related to his work as a filmmaker.

We (the undersigned) stand in solidarity with a fellow filmmaker, condemn this detention, and strongly urge the Iranian government to release Mr. Panahi immediately.

Iran’s contributions to international cinema have been rightfully heralded, and encouraged those of us outside the country to respect and cherish its people and their stories. Like artists everywhere, Iran’s filmmakers should be celebrated, not censored, repressed, and imprisoned.

Signed:

Paul Thomas Anderson Joel & Ethan Coen Francis Ford Coppola Jonathan Demme Robert De Niro Curtis Hanson Jim Jarmusch Ang Lee Richard Linklater Terrence Malick Michael Moore Robert Redford Martin Scorsese James Schamus Paul Schrader Steven Soderbergh Steven Spielberg Oliver Stone Frederick Wiseman

Petition Organizing Committee: Jamsheed Akrami, Godfrey Cheshire, Jem Cohen, Kent Jones, Anthony Kaufman

I am delighted that I was able to help in securing some of the directors' participation that the Organizing Committee had selected.  The prompt response and eagerness to help that I encountered from both the individual directors and their companies was truly inspiring.

What's The Future Of Film Look Like?

I don't have that answer and I will leave it to the others (at least for today) as so many are offering options:

Each day I have been experiencing and encountering new ideas and new practices; All of it is pretty damn thrilling. So what if we are racing forward even if we don't know where we are going. I am loving it.
Like I said, I don't know, but I do believe that some of these tools will change some things significantly.

You-Centric: The Future of Browsing from Carsonified on Vimeo.

That's Aza Raskin from Mozilla. And this is an attempt to explain Google Wave:

What are the other five tools that will make sure tomorrow does not look like today that I should be posting about?