Wednesday 12 November 2014

Embrace The New Entertainment Landscape or Die

I grew up wanting to write and direct films. I'd hide away in my bedroom night after night watching every film I could find. Hollywood films, European films, anything and everything. I found what I loved and I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and it's informed everything I've done since.

But if that sounds like an inspiring sentence, it isn't, because I did the wrong thing. I fell in love with a concept; with the two hour movie being king.

But it's nearly 2015. People like YouTube. They like interactivity. They like games. They like multi-tasking. They like short bursts of six second Vines and they like thirteen hour Netflix seasons.

It's not that nobody likes movies anymore, it's just that they don't shape or inform our society like they used to. The marketers pretend that 'Gone Girl' is a cultural phenomenon, but it doesn't even make a dent.

The generation that came before me gets to continue making movies. Spielberg doesn't need to change. Tom Hanks can keep being Tom Hanks.

"You got here just in time for the death rattle, last gasp, last grope."
-Lester Bangs in 'Almost Famous' 

And the teenagers coming up now, they have an instinct me and my peers just don't have. They're plugged right into the social media paradigm and they have millions of subscribers. They know what they're doing.

And the ones in the middle only make it when they admit to themselves that the game has changed! There's new rules now. You can't be static. You can't just make a lump of a project and expect eyes to land on it.

But technology is only half the battle.

"You're coming along at a very dangerous time for rock n' roll. The war is over, they won."
-Lester Bangs in 'Almost Famous'. 

Hollywood became an industry that champions the dollar. Sure, it was always a business, but somehow art still crept through. But now you find that even an upcoming independent director in LA is more than likely to want to make a film by committee, to give 'notes' and to try to develop something 'marketable'.

And when everyone is chasing marketable, art dies.

Reminds me of a blog I wrote about Ben Stiller's 'The Watch' back in 2012. It was called 'Most Movies Are Made Just To Give People Something To Do'.

And this is what Hollywood does. Makes broadly generic films to appeal to pre-determined demographics. If Star A guarantees pre-sales in India and Star B guarantees huge press in China, then Star A and Star B get cast. And if the entire continent of Europe keeps going to see action movies, then that same action movie will keep getting made, and it'll star A and B.

The best writers bled to TV. And the next Spielberg is probably making Christmas adverts for Honda and McDonalds because that's where the work is.

And for those who stood their ground and stayed with the two hour movies, they're beginning to wake up and realise, there's no-one here. The audiences upped and left and so did most of the creative talent. There is more innovation in some kid from Detroit's 6 second Vine than there is on our movie screens.

My domain was always feature films. But in recent years, I've felt my passion dwindling. Not my passion to create, it's always been there and I hope always will be. But instead of looking around and embracing the great opportunities that technology bring, I've been clinging on to that me that hid away as a kid, watching movie after movie in my room.

Well that kid needs to go outside and learn how to Vine, otherwise I'll be forever left behind.

Care to share?


  1. When you said "They like multi-tasking." it made me think of the apps out there that are brought about solely so while watching a film or TV show, you can "interact" and get information or chat to other fans. Whatever happened to just enjoying or paying attention to what you're watching. It seems there are droves of people out there who simply can't do something while doing another. You're right. The generations have moved on. Attention spans are cut shorter.

    I don't mind being "left behind" on this front. We're living in an age of instant - whether it's instant fame via Social Media, or instant success/cash/etc. The thing with instant, is that it's instantly gone too.

  2. You are right. The art has been betrayed to a big dollar. But that's the time we live and nothing can be done. Hollywood films are no longer the product of art.

  3. I haven't been reading blogs in a while. To come 'home' to your blog and read this made me genuinely sad. I hope you don't give up entirely on the idea of feature films. But I do think you are right about having to diversify. I'm having this exact conversation (ongoing) with my film friends here in Wellington. I don't believe it's, 'Give up on movies or you'll die.' It's that idea of not putting all your eggs in one basket and also to get together we people who are in the exact same boat as you. Here is what we're up to for exactly the above reasons:
    I hope you enjoy exploring new territories AND still dreaming of and working on your two hour films. xx

  4. get out there and learn how to vine? Your blogging by the way, maybe you don't realise it but you're very much in touch with the new entertainment landscape. I still watch feature films, so does my little cousin, so does my mum. Just these days we have a netflix and mubi account. Cinema attendance has only dropped by 4% since the internet. There is no reason why in this century filmmaking won't be more lucrative than the last. I disagree with you kid, these days the way we distribute will be different, it wont be a matter of send your film to sundance, we will have to find our own ways. I also dream of making feature films, I am feeling optimistic today.

    1. Hey - where did you get the 4% stat?

      I am excited by your dream of making feature films and I look forward to seeing them some day soon!