Friday, December 16, 2005

Proposal: Rethinking Hollywood

Two things
I like: movies and social progress. Why not combine them?

There are few things that anger me more than the hundreds of millions of dollars squandered annually on Hollywood movies, many of which bring no financial return to the companies behind them and far less to the general public. Is there any telling what the budget of The Dukes of Hazzard (or Aeon Flux or Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo or scores of other forgotten titles) could have done if applied elsewhere in the world? Probably not, but what if there was a way to prevent these extravagant losses and spare viewers the dross? I would like to elaborate here on an idea Sarah and I had in the car the other night: The United Nations of Film. Feel free to jump in.

Perhaps "The United Nations" is not exactly the right model here, since lately they have not been the greatest example of progress or careful spending. Not to mention their global aspect, which I think might have a flattening (i.e. US dominated) effect if applied to world cinema. So consider, instead, an elected and enlightened review board comprised of thinkers, artists, economists, marketers, and movie people that functions democratically within each film producing nation. A council that could weigh the public value of upcoming films against other worthy causes. This council would have the authority (through secure public Internet voting) to freeze and eventually seize the budget of any slated film project deemed "unworthy" and move to apply it toward causes of unquestionable good. I think Canada has tried to do something like this - or at least they chose to get the government involved in the content of movie making. This gets tricky since you can lose a lot of edge and experimentation when you start having to put a government seal of approval on every film. I think it might be better to have an independent organization presiding, something like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but with less pomp and more "pre-emptive" action (thanks for the idea George).

More radically, what if such a council had an even greater role in Hollywood mega-budget film production? What if in the spirit of capitalism the film industry became a sort of stock exchange/auction of fact and fiction? Here, filmmakers might present trailers, scripts, and a budget for their proposed films to the marketplace. Next, the public would invest in a project using a sliding scale of ticket prices: I might pay $20 a ticket for Kong, and $0 to see Rocky VI. You might pay $7 for Kong and $70 for Stalone. If, after the ticket auction, a project failed to make its posted budget, than those invested dollars would instead go to a cause voted to have some social or humanitarian value. Ideally, we would get less, better movies and a sense of active participation in both the creation of culture and the heeling of society.

This kind of initiative might also reactivate the struggling independent filmmaking scene. If big budget movies were forced to confront their excesses, then more people might be encouraged to make their films on micro-budgets and use alternative means of distributing and marketing them. Movies have always been made independently because their creators believed in them. Restrictive budgets and unknown talent can be the best facilitators of visionary filmmaking. This weeds out a certain level of bad movie making, but in my scenario it might also attract schlocky projects looking to avoid scrutiny. So OK, say you are a producer with a burning desire to add one more chapter to the "Weekend at Bernie's" franchise, well, if you can do it for less than five million dollars and you can find a way to connect with your audience, I say go for it.

Of course this proposal raises many issues... Censorship for one. And the notion of regulating the spending habits of private industry rankles many to the core. How do you determine "worthiness"? Who gets the money? What about corruption? What about other industries? Surely entertainment across the board could benefit from some thoughtful spending and public input. All issues to be discussed.

The time to address these issues is definitely now. How can we sleep at night knowing about the glaring and publicly vaunted waste that the movie industry generates in the face of global disasters, poverty, ignorance, and de-evolution? We may despise the oil giants for their record profits but at least we can put their product to some good use in our daily life. How do you explain to a starving child that there is no cure for her disease but there will be an X-Men 3 next summer? Perhaps there is no direct connection here, but isn't it exactly this "silo effect" that creates so much disparity in the world? If we continue to quarantine economies and communities and problems, to view and treat them as isolated entities, don't we effectively disown them and leave them for others to tend?


Blogger CherryOh said...

I've always loved the idea of garnishing movie execs salaries- the ones who profit regardless if the movie does or not, and yet had no creative input, or really any input at all- make them pay for the senseless violence that occurs at the place where the heart should be.. I also felt that any Bruckheimer project before it got green lit would have to dole out at least 2 mil, just because- to aids research, or ending famine....

And you don't have to censor anything, fucking go ahead brother Bruck, make that senseless warped piece of doo doo... but remember, the studio has to greenlight ten fiteen movies that directly deal with the plights of our world before the year is up, bozo, and they can't bury them with underwhelming marketing strategies or butcher them with ludicrous hatchet style cuts... it's regulation rather than censorship that serves to inspire rather than restrict... Remember the movie James Cameron made about the titanic, after the blockbuster, where he and Bill Paxton went down in submarines and looked at the wreckage? Well why not make a movie about what's happening to the sea in which they were submerged, what about the sea life that's being diminshed of the coast of Nova Scotia etc.. etc.. etc...

Why shouldn't Hollywood be taken to task like big business has, like Ted Turner and Bill Gates challenging other C.E.O.'s with competitive philanthropy... why do we immediately think, well christ, Hollywood'll never go for that. Well why not? A-list actors make such a big stink about their charitable actions, Charlton Heston milked it for every inch that connection to the NRA of his... why isn't Joe Roth legally bound to make at the very least 10 % of all the movies he releases each year directly address the major issues affecting our world- famine aids, poverty, global warming- and not in the sense of a bloated Roland Emmerich or whatever that idiot is called who made the day after tomorrow.... Peter Jackson has to line his pockets with seal blubber until he personally helps discover a solution for the economic disarray his homeland finds itself in, and not solely by his bringing movie prodcutions to the nation every four years....

Hollywood could really make this a badge, and spin the fuck out of it, and in so doing put the industries it competes with to shame, much as it likes to do... computer manufacturers, appliance makers, cell phone companies, all having to tithe a certain amount to make the world work better.... and Hollywood could be at the forefront, because no one knows how much work you can get out of a headline than Hollywood...

Man, you're a smart cookie, but alas I ate too many cookies tonight, and so am not thinking as clearly as you were when you wrote that piece.

kill kill kill kill the poor.

10:23 PM  
Blogger speed_demon said...

Wow, what a thought.

Hypothetically, if we were to go ahead as you said, I think the movie producers will all be out of business in no time.

First of all, movie is made for a reason. It it to entertain the "majority" of the public. Whether it has true value or deeper meaning would all be a bonus. Most of the public don't think that deep when watching a movie. They're only there for the sole joy of watching it.

Second of all, if it has a good script and the producer deem worthy of a shot, it is to be shot and produced ASAP. If your system comes in, it'll definitely slow down the from stage to production to publication chain. This slow down could be detremetal and deadly for a movie industry constantly boosting its bottom line.

Finally, in a sense, we already have what you mentioned. It's called documentary. Where the resulting films are more thoughtful, a deeper meaning and enjoyable. Sometimes, if it is done right (i.e. documentary on Katrina, Southeast Asian Tsunami and the Pakistani Earthquake) the audience may feel what the unfortunate inhabitants actually had to go through. From this, a outcry of help may result.

Documentary shows you all of that but itself is not necessary filtered.

Again, if we were to form a committee of good movies like you, every single movie producers, every major movie execs would be out of business.

Happy blogging!

12:31 AM  

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