There is no doubt that over the course of the 20th Century, Hollywood has influenced the national political landscape of the United States of America. Films have touched on the issues of the times, influenced generations to adopt and change their behaviors and have been responsible for a paradigm shift in social behavior. World War II used the silver screen as not only a tool, but blunt force weapon in the political arena and there have been instances of using Hollywood celebrities as spies and couriers of sensitive information into hostile situations.
With all that being said, I find myself dumbstruck by the current political landscape in the United States. Even as we continue to move forward and progress into, what I assume will be, a bright new future for our nation, we are still held back by the same lies, bigotry and hatred that have been ever-present in our country. With all of the cries for justice and equality in the United States, we still see one of our most influential institutions, Hollywood, resorting to the same archaic guidelines and funding patterns that it has for so long.
On paper, we are a nation that accepts all colors, sexes and creeds. On paper, we accept any gender or religion or sexual preference. However, in practice we are still controlled by the oligarchical billionaires who shape our lives and our entertainment to their ancient and outdated views. I believe that we have the opportunity to bring the power back to the people, to put control of the things we love back into the hands of the many and remove it from the few. The future is approaching us at a steady, but blinding, pace and it is often hard for us to keep up with it on all fronts but the one area we are making huge strides in is the crowd-sourced, crowdfunded business models.
It is through crowdfunding and the internet that I believe we have the ultimate power to swing the political agenda back into favor of the people. Consider this, there have been 18,999 films funded through Kickstarter that have raised anywhere between less than $1,000 to over $1,000,000 and yes while some of the larger ones have had huge names and a lot of press behind them, the premise is the same. People, like you and I, have funded these projects and given our money to see them come to life. We have supported, shared, blogged, tweeted and raised awareness for the projects we want to see and that, in my opinion, is where our salvation lies.
With our current state of technology, there are literally millions of people in the United States who do not watch traditional television anymore. We watch on our computers, our phones or our tablets but sitting in front of a TV set with it hooked to a cable or satellite connection is something that more and more people are moving away from. With sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Netflix, we have all of the video we could ever want, right at our fingertips. So my question is why do we continue to allow these ancient and outdated systems, like Hollywood, to dictate the way we do things?
Independent film is booming. Audio and video equipment is becoming lighter, cheaper and easier to use, eliminating the need for gargantuan budgets and massive crews to simply capture picture and sound. Video sides exist where we can publish our own films and promote our own work, outside of the theatrical release environment. We have the ability to tell stories with micro-budgets, rather than spending $400,000,000 on a film that may or may not even be popular.
So, while the Hollywood mentality is to spend more, change less and stick with what you know, the internet mentality is “go for it, see what happens”.
I can understand how this thought process is terrifying for those who have invested billions into the industry, but when 96% of the Screen Actors Guild are unemployed, because of politics and how those unions control the flow of entertainment, I believe that it is time for a change.
Where is the bold and brave Hollywood who paved the way for freedom of speech and sexual revolution? Where is the strong and proud Hollywood that was a leader in social-political change? I believe that the institution of Hollywood still has a place in this new world of entertainment and technology, without it I doubt we would even have half of the things I’ve spoken about already, but there needs to be some changes made to the foundation of the industry and the way that the shot callers think about it.
We need to see more films directed and written by women, people of color, different background with different histories and experiences. We need to let more voices be heard and give the freedom to succeed, or fail, back to the people who have the courage to take those steps and tell a story. Fear is what is holding this industry back, fear of the very politics that it once held sway over.
Profit is what drives industry. I get that. I understand that you need to make back your money on a film in order to stay in business and make more, it’s simple economics. However, I don’t understand the need to spend $300,000,000 (three hundred million dollars) on a project and to squeeze every last dime out of a production in order to make a film. Yes, it is a collaborative effort and yes there is a lot that goes into a film, but honestly, what ever happened to the $1,000,000 film? There is no reason why this bracket can not, not only exist, but thrive in the current Video On Demand marketplace.
In order for the Hollywood institution to continue on, there needs to be changes made in how the industry handles things. From the Unions that control talent to the way the studios fund and produce films, we need to see a more consumer influenced behavior that allows the people to have more power over our entertainment.
Essentially, what we need is Hollywood to be strong, brave and courageous like it was in the past. What we need are heroes.