Hollywood is DEAD!
Break out the chalk lines and body bags we got another creative industry biting the dust. Oh sure, you can still find it walking around, talking and doing business just like it always has but that’s because, like a punch drunk stumble bum who’s just taken the last one of too many shots to the cranium and lurches blindly towards his corner not realizing that the tingly feeling in his head and the triple vision is from bursting blood vessels that will soon rend him from non compos mentis to the big sleep, it just doesn’t know it yet. I’m not talking about the recent labor troubles here, although they could be construed as the first of an alarming increase in bloody phlegm on the handkerchief for what one had believed to be just a cold, but now is giving worrisome signs of being something a tad bit more insidious. Don’t get me wrong, I love Hollywood, always have. It has been the dream factory world champ for a hundred years give or take. No one could touch it and for good reason. It had two formidable weapons that secured its place in the pantheon and guaranteed that if you wanted to make a movie you had to do it in or through Hollywood. Don't worry I'm not going to use the old left right combo metaphor here.
If we define Hollywood by these two aspects we come up with something like:
Hol ly wood (hal e wood ) [HOLLY + WOOD]
1. A manufacturing industry with a closed esoteric
Talent pool. 2. A business enterprise structured
with a monolithic distribution system.
Now this talent pool would include just about everybody involved in the making of a movie except actors and writers. As their respective crafts are almost completely internalized they do not require arcane knowledge or obscure technology to practice their arts. Just a pen and paper or a feather boa will suffice. This in no way is meant to diminish their singular and collective contributions to this art form, which, at the very least, is monumental. No, I'm talking about the others. The ones with job names as mystical and magical as their practice, Grips, Gaffers, Directors, Cinematographers, Sound Designers, Editors, Special Effects, and lets not forget the Best Boy all contribute to this closed cycle. Yes, I include Directors here, as they have to have at least a functioning knowledge of the crafts under their stewardship. Like the guilds and unions of some medieval Saxony village, these modern day societies protected and, in a sense, ran this town. I could also make reference here to them being harder to penetrate than a, insert your own ethnic and/or religious label for a person of high moral caliber, but I won't.
As to the distribution system, it's fairly self-explanatory. Even if you were to master the crafts of film making and create a reasonably good motion picture you still had to get someone to distribute it and that wasn't going to happen if all of the distributors were, at first, owned by and then in collusion with the studios. Every once in a while you might find a distributor who would do a "Kid, kid, come here, kid. I like you, so I'm gonna do you a favor, kid. You got talent so I'm gonna distribute your little movie here. And because of my good nature, I'm gonna promise you the sun, the moon, and the stars." Of course you would sign over your film, all the while visions of dollar bills danced in your head as you thought to pay back all those aunts and uncles and dentists for their faith and dollars in you. Of course you'd never see a dime. There was an old adage in Hollywood that stated: unless you had other films in the pipeline, distributors were loath to pay you the proceeds from the first.
There's a New Sheriff in Town
Then the corporations showed up, like sharks on the scent of blood, smelling the potential for vast profits. As far as they were concerned, what they found here was nothing more than a bunch of mom and pop operations without quantifiable business practices. What they wanted was a way to make movies on a spreadsheet. To do that they had to first gain control over and diminish the power of the temple. They had to take the 'closed' and the 'esoteric' out of the talent pool and make it more of a science. And where better to study science than school. So, like Emeril spicing a gumbo, Bam, there were film schools cranking out the Gen Next of filmmakers. Next on the list of things to do was modernize the film making process. Money was poured into R&D. New technologies were developed. All aimed at streamlining the process of film making and replacing one arcane method with another that wasn't controlled or even understood by the high priests. The dinosaurs of the business grumbled and rumbled and fell to the ground as the film schoolers took up the new technologies with abandon and ran off to make movies. The seeds had been planted. All the corporations had to do was trim the bushes and harvest the crops.
Now that filmmaking was on the path to being quantified, the corporations next turned their collective gaze on the distribution process. They didn't want to deconstruct the system. They loved the setup. It's one of the main reasons they came to town in the first place. The Soda Pop King was no dummy; it knew the value of a close, if not incestuous, symbiosis between manufacturer and distributor. Like the guy in the movie said, "Keep your friends close, and your distributors closer". Anyway, what they wanted was more. And the Corporations said, "Let there be Cable" and lo there was three hundred channels of 'stuff' on the TV to choose from. "And while we're at it, let there be Home Video." And all was good. At least for a while...
Reap What You Sow ;(
The Corps were fat and sassy and getting fatter. Technology was allowing amazing things to be done in the filmic arts.
Special Effects became all the rage. The event film was born. Then High Definition Video came along and the corporations were all a twitter. Could this finally be the salvation they had sought after for so long? Would Hi-Def finally replace the one last holdout from the days when magicians ruled the realm. I speak, of course, of celluloid. Film. The thing that started it all in the first place. It was the last, not withstanding humans, of the not completely quantifiable and it bugged the heck out of them. It hasn't happened as yet, but the jackals are circling. Still, all in all, things were good. There were more film schools cranking out more filmmakers than ever before. I think my pet fish even went to film school. And there were so many more outlets in which to shovel the ‘product’ that even an independent film could find distribution.
And then something happened. The monster outgrew his shackles and escaped from Frankenstein's lab, the genie got out of the bottle, and Pandora opened that damned box. Actually it had been happening for quite some time, but that doesn't make for good story telling. Technology grew up and threw down. And Athena, goddess of technology, ran rampant through the streets of the city giving everyone a handheld Hi-Def video camera and said "Go forth and make movies." And, since everyone had gone to film school, that's just what they did. And the people were happy. And then, as people tend to do, they were sad. For they had no way to show off their brand new shiny movies. So Athena, rampantly running again, comes to them and says, "Don't be sad. For I have created a thing I like to call 'The Internet' that you can use to show your little movies." And they did just that and there was joy throughout the land. Everywhere that is, except in the high up offices of the corporations. Seeing what they had wrought upon themselves they sat and brooded and schemed and tried to think of ways to make a profit out of even this.
Moral of the Story?
There is no moral. Come on, this is Hollywood, baby. A burg famous for not having any morals. But as the 'New Media' frontier outs the 'Old Media' empire and packs of feral paparazzi chase half starved, drug addled celebutant wannabes down the tumbleweed strewn blocks of crumbling "Loft" apartments you can rest assured that somewhere, somehow, by God's good grace, there will be entertainment. There will be entertainment.
Yes? You have a question? What is 'New Media'? I really have no idea what 'New Media' is other than that it comes from an open talent pool, a democratized distribution system and a short attention span.
I'm sorry, what were we talking about?