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Creative Destruction-Hollywood Division
October 19, 2009 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Will the future of cinema be live or remixed? "There is a level of panic in Hollywood I haven’t seen for a while." So begins USC Professor Jon Taplin, also a producer of films by Martin Scorsese. Taplin speaks about Francis Ford Coppola's recent interview where the director states that "I think the cinema is going to live off into something more related to a live performance in which the filmmaker is there, like the conductor of an opera used to be." Taplin bemoans "the dearth of imagination in Hollywood", while the comments section lights up with various prognostications.
posted by joetrip (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Probably two or three will go out of business and the others will just make certain kind of films like ‘Harry Potter’ — basically trying to make ‘Star Wars’ over and over again, because it’s a business.

This (the "others making certain kinds of films" part) is already happening -- no "will" about it. When was the last time a major blockbuster Hollywood film was not a remake, a sequel, a or a product tie-in opportunity? The screenwriters of one of the biggest hit movies of the year, "Up," evidently cite at least seven earlier films as "parallels" to or "inspiration" for their storyline.
posted by blucevalo at 6:16 AM on October 19, 2009


As I understand it, there was one time, in the 1970's, when cinema could aspire to be art and real money would be sunk into the speculative dreams of someone taking a risk.

During the rest of the history of cinema people have used the language and the justifications of art and risk taking to justify the formulaic and conservative production assembly line that is the world of the major studios. But other than the 1970's (and the very first years of cinema, when everything was being invented for the first time), that image of artistry is just a bunch of hot air, and the producers only fund art by accident or coincidence.
posted by idiopath at 6:56 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hollywood film output likely to fall by a third

Burn Hollywood, Burn!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:59 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Totally true, film is dead since there are no new stories, and we're so close to having the technology to modify it ourselves anyway.

In related news, songwriting and music is over, as every listener will soon use GarageBand and Autotune to remix the same three chords at home instead, while paintings and sculpture will be replaced by coloring books that come with (get this!) all eight crayon colors included.

It's even possible that literature is near the end, since I'm told that literally thousands* of people can write their own books now using newfangled typewriter technology. There are no reasons left to purchase or enjoy art made by professional artists anymore.

(*Maybe more. Citation needed.)
posted by rokusan at 7:03 AM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


The screenwriters of one of the biggest hit movies of the year, "Up," evidently cite at least seven earlier films as "parallels" to or "inspiration" for their storyline.

Not that there is a not poverty of imagination in Hollywood, but some of these connections are pretty tenuous indeed:

There is a scene where Carl and Russell haul the floating house through the jungle. A Pixar employee compared the scene to Fitzcarraldo.

The interview which is the ultimate source for link in the article leads to this telling exchange between interviewer and director:

[Interviewer] Beaks: The South American milieu looks spectacular, but it also comes with its own cinematic history. I loved the scene with Carl and Russell hauling the house through the jungle FITZCARRALDO-style.

[Director] Pete: Yeah, exactly!

Beaks: Was that a reference?

Pete: Well, as we developed it, someone asked, "Hey, have you seen FITZCARRALDO?" So we watched it, and... yeah, there are some similar things.


Sounds like an interviewer trying to shoehorn something he saw in his Film History class into his theory and the director shrugging and saying, "Yeah, I guess."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:05 AM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Totally true, film is dead since there are no new stories, and we're so close to having the technology to modify it ourselves anyway.
In related news, songwriting and music is over


Not dead yet, The Anvil Experience (see tourdates marked "Anvil Experience)
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 7:24 AM on October 19, 2009


It's a simple matter of scarcity and value. Any idiot can come up with an original idea for themselves. Just look around. They're so common as to have no value at all.

But owning an established property with existing mindshare - now that's unusual and only a select few can do it. That has value because those who can't do it will have to pay someone who can to do it for them.
posted by Naberius at 7:32 AM on October 19, 2009


From "Hollywood film output likely to fall by a third":

Mark Gill, head of the Film Department, an independent film finance firm, predicted that last year's peak of 606 films to emerge from Hollywood would fall to fewer than 400 next year "and it may go lower than that in future".

What will people do with their time now that they won't be able to watch two Hollywood films a day anymore? If there's not a new film for every possible demographic every weekend, will people be forced to watch other films that have already been out for weeks, months, or even years?◘

Paradoxically, while the world's movie capital is in turmoil, the appetite for its products remains buoyant. Ticket revenue has continued to climb by about 2% this year, a modest figure, but a striking achievement in the midst of a recession.

So, like every other industry, Hollywood predicted that revenue would always go up forever, and is hurting now that people have less money to spend on movies and more things to do with their leisure time. That sounds less like the death of film and more like a few companies flooding the market with more product than the public wants to buy.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:38 AM on October 19, 2009


Marketing people kill everything they touch.
posted by autodidact at 7:52 AM on October 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


Any industry that comes up with the impending horror-of-uncanny-valley that is Disney's A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey surely deserves whatever death can befall it.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:08 AM on October 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


For those who forget Lit 101, the seven plots of "all" stories...

1. Hero with a fatal flaw meets tragic end. (the inner monster)
2. Hero endures comedic failures, finds romantic fulfilment.
3. The Monster is discovered and overcome (the outer monster)
4. There and Back Again: Hero gains personal development through a journey.
5. The Quest: Unlikely hero embarks on journey of import, saves world.
6. Rags to Riches: downtrodden hero becomes success, tables turned on nemesis.
7. Rebirth: perspective change gives hero new reason for living.

98% of all films and books "rehash" one of these.

Point being: so what?
posted by rokusan at 8:25 AM on October 19, 2009 [10 favorites]


I'm struggling to see how this is substantially different than the economic climate shifts that came with broadcast tv, cable tv, and video. The market may change, but there will still be jobs for actors, screenwriters, and directors for the foreseeable future.

Coppola's idea of a live cinematic performance strike me as terribly elitist, and not all that workable given current licensing structures. Outside of bar gigs, live performances start at $15 a pop for semi-pro material and shoots through the ceiling. I'll liberally argue that opera and classical music has been much more popular as mass-market sheet music, piano rolls, and audio recordings compared to live performance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:27 AM on October 19, 2009


> But owning an established property with existing mindshare - now that's unusual and only a select few can do it.

Thanks to the public domain land-grab of perpetual copyrights, true. It used to be that one could build on the culture one lived through.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:33 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, I really wish people would just drop the stupidity of "only 3/5/7/11 stories ever written." It's a simplistic and one-dimensional view of storytelling, and not even the people who study stories in massive quantities of variations take that seriously.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:35 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you read the article, KirkJobSluder? It takes exactly that same narrow-minded view to conclude that no new stories are/can-be made. If you call those "rehashes", then of course everything is. It's all a circle jerk of creative whining.
posted by rokusan at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


rokusan: Yes, and re-reading the articles again, I don't see that. When Taplin and Coppola discuss the dearth of creativity in Hollywood, they are pointing the finger at continuations of existing franchises rather than "new" variants of the "hero's journey."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2009


If I recall correctly, Joseph Campbell has already summed this up.

I mean, the dominant cultural force in America (Christianity, whether I like it or not) is itself based on an uncountable string of remakes all the way back to ancient Egypt's story of Horus. This is just what humans do.
posted by cmoj at 9:19 AM on October 19, 2009


I mean, the dominant cultural force in America (Christianity, whether I like it or not) is itself based on an uncountable string of remakes all the way back to ancient Egypt's story of Horus. This is just what humans do.


Or used to do before Disney realized that, were it allowed to continue, Mickey Mouse would someday enter the public domain.
posted by Naberius at 9:26 AM on October 19, 2009


I think people may be misreading this blog post. He's not saying there are no new ideas, and Hollywood is dying. He's not saying anything even remotely like that.

He's saying a lot of people are being fired, because no one is watching these shitty fucking movies, any more.

they're two different things, and hollywood has gone through the second type of thing a bunch of times in the past. There was the death of the studio system, and the rise of auteur directors in the 70s, where Coppola and Kubrick and others like them really came to prominence.

Then there was Heaven's Gate, and the power grab by the studios to rip all authorial power from the directors. We're still living under the system that came about from that.

Now, at this point I'm no longer trying to decode Mr. Taplin, and am speaking entirely for myself, but what's probably happening is people are realizing that there are too many talentless executives making "creative" decisions in hollywood. What I mean is that too many hacks with 7 figure paychecks are being routed as the frauds they are. Producers and executives whose sole reason for being was simply to cut checks for established IP from other media. Development hellraisers who mired scripts in product tie-ins and franchising opportunities such as the monumentally wasteful and unnecessary Van Wilder and American Pie series.

Basically, people who have no business being in the movie business are losing their jobs, and good riddance. Necessarily there will be some collateral damage among creatives and opportunities for fledgling talent may dwindle a bit. That sucks. On the other hand, what we're really seeing here is the death of the rehashed IP franchise. Joy! No more bestseller list insta-treatments! No more crappy comic book movies! (though hopefully Favreau will still be able to make a new iron man movie, I'll happily watch Raimi move on to other material.) No more vampire bandwagoning! In its place will be people trying to find the new thing. And inevitably, once that new thing is found it will be bled dry and discarded. But until then, a lot of new material may find its way on screen, and new people may find their way into hollywood's shriveled heart. and why?

because a lot of hacks are being shitcanned right now, and good riddance.

at least, that's my take.
posted by shmegegge at 9:53 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


He's saying a lot of people are being fired, because no one is watching these shitty fucking movies, any more.

But more people are watching films now than they ever have in the history of film. In the US, total tickets sold in the theaters have stagnated since around 2004, but there are still over a billion sold every year. And enough people went to see the latest Transformers movie (which was universally panned by the critics) that it's one of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time (adjusting for inflation, it's still in the top 100) after only a few months. Add in DVD, cable TV licensing, merchandising tie-ins, etc. and Hollywood only has themselves to blame for poor management if they can't manage to turn a profit.

On the other hand, what we're really seeing here is the death of the rehashed IP franchise. Joy!

That seems like the exact opposite of what Coppola is predicting. The rehashes are the safe bets, whereas launching an expensive new IP franchise is a risk, so the people on the business side of the movie business are going to push for rehashes. As long as the people who finance films only care about money, those people are always going to pressure the actual artists to compromise their work to make it more commercial.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2009


What's with the constant bashing of Hollywood? It produces big, fun, exciting, silly movies. Millions of people go and see them. At the local multiplex I also have off-beat films like DISTRICT 9. In my moderate-sized European city, I also have an arty-farty cinema with the latest Iranian hits. There are two film societies in town. Amazon will deliver anything I want from anywhere and anywhen, and prices of home cinema equipment fall every year. What's the beef?

Different products, different markets, and after a busy week with lots of high culture I'm delighted to watch things being blown up for two hours, thank-you very much.
posted by alasdair at 11:07 AM on October 19, 2009


burnmp3s: "Add in DVD, cable TV licensing, merchandising tie-ins, etc. and Hollywood only has themselves to blame for poor management if they can't manage to turn a profit."

I completely agree.

burnmp3s: "That seems like the exact opposite of what Coppola is predicting."

In truth, I'm not sure WHAT coppola is predicting, and I'm not sure anyone else is either. The nearest I can figure is that he's talking about how editing and capturing technology has rocketed so quickly into high speed that even film will some day soon be directed live in front of an audience with a suite of editors in the orchestra pit responded to his waved baton. which... i don't know what the take-away is.

but where he talks about rehashed franchises, etc... it's worth it to note that he's talking about capital C Cinema, as in theatrical screenings. and he's ultimately trying to precict where the movie theater will be in 10, 20 or however many years. I don't think he's necessarily saying that hollywood will only make harry potter movies. I think he's saying that's what will get theater releases, and the budget necessary to justify a theater release.

I'm not hugely won over by the prediction, to be honest.
posted by shmegegge at 11:09 AM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


burnmp3s: The rehashes are the safe bets, whereas launching an expensive new IP franchise is a risk, so the people on the business side of the movie business are going to push for rehashes.

I'd argue on the contrary, that some of the most insanely profitable films of the last decade were largely independent productions made with a much smaller budget. If anything, continuing franchises in this market takes more money for less gain. The Mummy 3 had almost double the production costs and failed to break even at the American box office. The current horror franchises seem to be doing alright by keeping costs down and playing to a cult audience.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:29 AM on October 19, 2009


Why does it seem so fitting to me that your 'interview' link the headline
"Francis Ford Coppola Sees Cinema World Falling Apart" is juxtaposed with a picture of him raising a glass of wine?

People were saying this in 1990. Hell, people were saying this in 1980. Wim Wenders made a great little film about whether TV would kill film in 1982.

Hollywood is dying. Good. It's amazing to me that they've soldiered on these past thirty years, all the while being not only intellectually and morally bankrupt (that's to be expected, it is entertainment) but totally lacking in any creativity or ambition. People like Francis Ford Copolla and Martin Scorsese can very well bemoan the death of this industry; they're amongst the set of maybe four people in Hollywood who've actually made mildly interesting films in the last three decades, and of course they think that there's an artistic center there that still funds artists. But how many really great directors have tried that route and found it got them nowhere? Hollywood is doing nothing for anybody.

The thing is that we Americans tend to think of Hollywood as such a closed system. Think about it this way:

In my own opinion the two greatest working directors in the world today are Mike Leigh and Wim Wenders made a great little film about it in 1982">Takashi Miike. They're vastly different, but in both cases their work is thriving.

Mike Leigh soldiered through making publicly-funded TV dramas even during the Thatcherite 80s. It's not as though the UK was a socialist paradise providing artistic funding to everybody back then. He didn't need a Hollywood machine to keep working with his actors. All he ever needed was a bunch of people and a camera; his films are fantastic, but they're not particularly expensive to make.

But Takashi Miike is probably the best example of what "THE FUTURE OF FILMMAKING" is. Look at the guy: he's made something like forty movies in the past decade! He's running an average of four films per year! At least half of those never see theatrical release – they go straight to DVD, and in Asia, where bootlegs are rampant and anything is available, straight-to-DVD releases are more common. They're cheap productions, but the man is a genius with a flair for improvisation, and plenty of his films end up being quite good. And of course he finishes a project, makes whatever money there is in it, and moves on.

I've been thinking for a while now that Takashi Miike's working method seems oddly remniscient of the early MGM process from the 30s and 40s: churning out picture after picture in stock genres, making a production, marketing it, and then moving on. (Of course, Miike's films are usually better than old MGM things.) If that's where we find ourselves because of the state of technology today, I say we're all better off. But it's clear that there's room in the new system for interesting, thought-provoking films; and, in fact, I don't think Hollywood has been taking part in such films for at least a generation.
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on October 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


I really need to update my link-adding script. Blargh.
posted by koeselitz at 11:41 AM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


alasdair: What's with the constant bashing of Hollywood? It produces big, fun, exciting, silly movies. Millions of people go and see them. At the local multiplex I also have off-beat films like DISTRICT 9. In my moderate-sized European city, I also have an arty-farty cinema with the latest Iranian hits. There are two film societies in town. Amazon will deliver anything I want from anywhere and anywhen, and prices of home cinema equipment fall every year. What's the beef?

Different products, different markets, and after a busy week with lots of high culture I'm delighted to watch things being blown up for two hours, thank-you very much.


I think that's fine – but that has nothing to do with Hollywood. Francis Ford Coppola and a few others (I've heard this complaint elsewhere, too) can worry because the huge amounts of money aren't in it anymore, but the fact is that now it's pretty much possible for anybody anywhere to make a fun movie and sell it to other people. District 9, for example, is by no stretch of the imagination a Hollywood film (I don't imagine that you were claiming it was) even if Hollywood firms have seen fit to procure the marketing rights.

I guess the point is that at least a dozen countries are now churning out the same sort of fun, actiony fare that the US once thought it was the sole purveyor of. That's a good thing, not a bad thing. Those of us who live in America are sort of used to people acting as though our monopoly was to be expected, that it was because of some sacred glow that surrounded Hollywood as some kind of archetype. That's blatantly not true now – there is nothing particularly different about Hollywood compared to, say, Hong Kong now, at least in terms of the production of films – and I find that somewhat refreshing. The only thing left, it seems, is the fact that huge, huge amounts of money are still in the hands of a few aristocrats in California who'd like to imagine that they're part of some cultural elite.
posted by koeselitz at 11:50 AM on October 19, 2009


For those who forget Lit 101, the seven plots of "all" stories...

No, no, there are only 2.

* Stranger comes to town
* Someone goes on a journey
posted by mrgrimm at 12:39 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, no, there are only 2.

Nope... 1

Man falls in hole, man has rocks thrown at him, man gets out of hole (or not)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:09 PM on October 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let us not forget Man vs. Cyborg.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:56 PM on October 19, 2009


* boy goes on journey via balloon.
* or not.
posted by ovvl at 7:35 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the future of Hollywood is essentially the future of whether "branding" as a concept cools off or solidifies itself as the future basis of advertising. I mean, when it all comes down to it that's the reason Hollywood is doing nothing but remaking existing franchises... they're trading to trade off the brand name. Of all the remakes in the pipeline I've heard they're remaking "The Wild Bunch" except setting it in modern times about a bunch of drug smugglers along the US/Mexico border.

What does that have to do with the original? Not a damn thing, that's the point. They're getting to the point where even the concept of the movie or remaking it just to improve upon the special effects is irrelevant, they're just brazenly trying to bank a couple bucks on the name recognition alone.

Why is this shortsighted? Well, how much money is there in this age for 80s nostalgia? A lot. But who is going to be nostalgic for anything 20 years from now, when everything is just a remake of something pre-existent? How can you be nostalgic for a cash in? So yes, definitely a case of diminishing returns, but I can't really take a doomsday approach to it all; the artistic/indie film renaissance of the 70s was largely a result of the studio system going to shit in the 60s. The best art is always a reaction... the worse it is today the better it's liable to be tomorrow.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:02 PM on October 19, 2009


squeakyfromme: "the artistic/indie film renaissance of the 70s was largely a result of the studio system going to shit in the 60s"

So the best way to ensure we get quality films to watch five years from now is buy whole bunches of tickets to see G.I. Joe II and Transformers III when they come out?
posted by idiopath at 6:17 AM on October 20, 2009


The 70s and 80s were liberally plundering earlier generations of media for their own ends. The 80s are neatly bookended by Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Trek: The Next Generation, both rather self-consciously derivative works. There probably wouldn't be a cinema if filmmakers didn't decide to make their own version of whatever dramatic and literary works they could grab.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:31 AM on October 20, 2009


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