Hollywood’s Changing As Fast As It Ever Has
May 29, 2019 11:27 PM   Subscribe

Can Industry Lifers Change Too? David Bloom writes a short-medium read for IndieWire about the seismic events taking place in Hollywood right now, like right now! "Let’s take a step back and reflect on just how much has already changed, because the first quarter of 2019 hit like a virtual Big One, shaking up just about everything."
posted by hippybear (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
more hypercapitalist precarious employment! hooray!
posted by Fraxas at 3:10 AM on May 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


You know what struck me hardest in this article? The picture of the Netflix Headquarters sign. It looks like a discarded gas-station sign propped up on some corrugated tin roofing at a roadside dump. I am sooo out of touch with today's trends in branding graphics.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:46 AM on May 30, 2019 [8 favorites]


It looks like a discarded gas-station sign propped up on some corrugated tin roofing at a roadside dump. I am sooo out of touch with today's trends in branding graphics.

This is not the fault of a graphic designer. This is the fault of an "environmental designer", who are responsible for such things as putting designed graphics in front of bits of corrugated tin roofing.
posted by Fleebnork at 5:18 AM on May 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


After reading three Hollywood-based accounts about studio heads (DisneyWar, The Men Who Would Be King, and a Sherry Lansing biography), I'm sure that Hollywood is changing very rapidly, but it's not something new that it's changing so rapidly. The studio system to more indy filmmakers to the blockbuster to co-productions to mergers with non-creative companies...it's always in flux, and the idea that Hollywood was ever stable for most of its workers isn't something that I really believe was ever the status quo.
posted by xingcat at 5:20 AM on May 30, 2019 [6 favorites]


"Digital Thespians" is my generative dramedy cover band.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:27 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


putting designed graphics in front of bits of corrugated tin roofing.

I zoomed in and looks like it’s stamped metal that resembles streaming spools of film?
posted by nikaspark at 5:31 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


Am I alone in not gleaning a point from this article? Other than the AT&T buyout of Time Warner, I’m not sure what changed drastically so far this year.
posted by rock swoon has no past at 5:34 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


In 2004 there were 182 scripted TV shows produced. Last year there were 487. But that rise has been stready over those years, just like the steady rise in streaming over cable, CG over practical effects, etc. I'm not really seeing 2019 as some sort of annus mirabilis, more of just a continuing of trends that have really been going on for more than a decade...
posted by gwint at 5:42 AM on May 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


I assume that Peak Television will actually peak at some point and the number of scripted shows will crash or at least start to decline? I can't imagine that the market can sustain almost 500 shows.
posted by octothorpe at 6:18 AM on May 30, 2019


Although a 2019 streaming television show (8-13 tightly budgeted episodes) is not a 2004 Big-4 network scripted show (22-24 lavishly budgeted episodes), sheer demand has made overall things are pretty good for writers, directors, actors and crew -- and none of those people ever had tenured employment, even in any day that might have been described as a good ole' day.

Things are very different for people on the business side. Working for Netflix, or the scripted production side of Amazon or Apple, is not like working for a conventional studio or network at all. (Because Hulu is, for want a better expression, a native Hollywood product, it's a little less alien.) The business models for agencies and management companies (cf. the WGA - agencies standoff) is under a lot of pressure. Disney's acquisition of Fox and AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner have been and will continue to be job market game changers across a number of dimensions.
posted by MattD at 6:31 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


I assume that Peak Television will actually peak at some point and the number of scripted shows will crash or at least start to decline? I can't imagine that the market can sustain almost 500 shows.

Distribution is cheaper than ever. 20-30 years ago, a low-budget TV show that might have 10,000 viewers was a non-starter. Even if it were free to the network, the opportunity cost of losing viewers was too high. Now with streaming, it can be picked up by Netflix or Hulu for a song as a gamble that it might go viral. Those 10,000 can be spread out across the world, too.

Yeah, there's a limit to how many high-budget, prime-time shows can be sustained, but success these days is measured in a different way. Not every show wants or needs to be Game of Thrones or Big Bang Theory.
posted by explosion at 6:37 AM on May 30, 2019 [4 favorites]


Am I alone in not gleaning a point from this article? Other than the AT&T buyout of Time Warner, I’m not sure what changed drastically so far this year.

The Disney buyout of Fox, Netflix's moving into the MPAA, and the WGA-ATA fight are all big deals.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:40 AM on May 30, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm not really seeing 2019 as some sort of annus mirabilis, more of just a continuing of trends that have really been going on for more than a decade...

Yeah, nothing comes from nowhere of course, but it seems more that 2019 sort of represents the moment where the balance was recognized as having decidedly tipped away from an old model to a newer one with no going back. After watching Netlfix take the initial risks and reap rewards for it the industry is now embracing the streaming, global marketing, and serial storytelling as their path forward and accepting the old methods of production aren't going to work anymore. There is reason to worry for how hard some of this glut will be to sustain, some will fail, which makes the rush to not be the ones left out more pressing.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:04 AM on May 30, 2019 [2 favorites]


So - the Netflix Headquarters sign bugged me too - but, the problem with the photo in the article is that it seems to have been taken with "potato quality", a better photo from a stock image company does show that those are indeed supposed to be filmstrips.
posted by jkaczor at 8:14 AM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


EXIF data reveals relatively professional equipment taking the bad Netflix photo. Either the filmstrip part is translucent or the obvious overexposure to emphasize the "Netflix" part renders everything else (to use a technical term) puke.
posted by Chitownfats at 10:56 AM on May 30, 2019 [1 favorite]


...a better photo from a stock image company does show that those are indeed supposed to be filmstrips.

Sorry, but I'm not seeing it. In that photo, it looks like rusty corrugated tin roofing. The site won't let me enlarge the image much, so I can't get the rusty tin to magically turn into filmstrips.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:19 PM on May 30, 2019


It looks like etched metal sheets. So yeah, it might have some rust. Does not look at all like corrugated tin.
posted by signal at 1:31 PM on May 30, 2019


Another angle.
posted by signal at 1:32 PM on May 30, 2019


Well, I've handled tape jams frequently enough to think the WITH the rusty patina, that sure looks like video cassette tape.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:55 PM on May 30, 2019


I've been by their Las Gatos HQ a few times and it's a pretty unassuming office park. The rusted filmstrip isn't too surprising. It's nothing like Google, Apple or FB campuses which are all there to say "we own you, the economy and have infinity dollars."
posted by MillMan at 3:03 PM on May 30, 2019


Other than the AT&T buyout of Time Warner, I’m not sure what changed drastically so far this year.

The Disney buyout of Fox, Netflix's moving into the MPAA, and the WGA-ATA fight are all big deals.


And Prince-a-humperdink-a-marry-buttercup-a-little-less-a-half-a-hour.
posted by nikaspark at 5:07 PM on May 30, 2019


Well, okay. When Disney finalized their buyout of Fox, they shuttered the division of Fox that made mid-budget movies, the 30-50mil budget range, which have traditionally been movies that make a good return on investment, aren't special effects heavy, and employ(ed) a certain level of actor, artist, creative, producer, etc which don't cross-over all that heavy with the people making the giant blockbuster mega-budget films. This is a major shift in how Hollywood will work moving forward.

The WGA-ATA fight is more interesting. Hollywood had moved into agents putting together entire packages for a movie -- director, actors, writers, other people, and pitching those to producers for a single agent price. This was leading to writers (WGA, after all) not having actual representation by their agent for their skills on a per-project basis, but they were instead a sub-ingredient of a larger package, much of the purchase price of which was not passed on to the various parts of the package but instead being absorbed by agents and their companies. WGA decided this was a violation of the terms of the union's deal with agents and they got most of their membership to fire their package-deal-making agents en masse. This is also a pretty major shift moving forward.
posted by hippybear at 6:08 PM on May 30, 2019 [3 favorites]


How will all these changes to Hollywood affect the plots of the BoJack Horseman show?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:34 PM on May 30, 2019


Although a 2019 streaming television show (8-13 tightly budgeted episodes) is not a 2004 Big-4 network scripted show (22-24 lavishly budgeted episodes), sheer demand has made overall things are pretty good for writers, directors, actors and crew -- and none of those people ever had tenured employment, even in any day that might have been described as a good ole' day.

on television, writers and directors are paid residuals when episodes they worked on air again. streaming services generally do not pay out residuals (from what i understand Netflix certainly doesn't), and keep their viewership numbers under lock and key, eliminating a serious source of long term income for television creatives. these are people who were always going to hop from gig to gig, but someone who worked on even a moderately successful show could rely on that income to cover the gaps, or to save for the long term, and this is not really true anymore.

(the screen actor's guild has reportedly worked out a residual deal with the big streaming services, but it's still worse than traditional TV, and there's no real way to prove the streaming services are accurately reporting their viewership numbers).
posted by JimBennett at 11:41 PM on May 30, 2019


I just realized that the idea of 2019 being a year of major change for Hollywood fits right in to my, admittedly, ad hoc idea of thinking of Hollywood history in 15 year waves.

Up to 1914 movies were primarily novelties, enjoyed for the pleasure of simply seeing people moving on screen and some small gags or action.

!914-1929 Was the silent era where movies became a storytelling medium and an art form. The era was one that allowed some significant global marketing as movies could simply be shown anywhere just by switching title cards.

1929-1944 Was the birth of sound and an era of experimentation in film and story telling technique where "the rules" of movie stories and genres were being developed. Plays still were seen as the more important art form and that often showed in the movies. Movies became more national in focus as the language barriers decreased access. The production code was introduced as movies showed sex, violence and moral values "middle America" found objectionable.

1945-1959 Was the height of the Hollywood studio era and US cinema gained dominance world wide as much of the world was dealing with the aftermath of WWII and couldn't compete with Hollywood entertainment. Genres and movie storytelling formulas became more standardized and less experimental as Hollywood was a full industry with all that implies. The production code acted in full force to help that standardization. TV makes some initial impact but is fought.

1960-1974 The decline of Hollywood dominance, the production code, and the studio system, the return of other national film centers, a new youth movement and the demand for new stories as the old system fades. TV methods find their way to movies and become a strong source of secondary income for studios. Movies return to sex, violence and ambiguous morality, and often flout the story telling and values rules established during the studio era. Movies were more "adult" in their content and often featured darker themes and endings. "Foreign" movies found new audiences in the US and strongly influenced Hollywood style and methods.

1975-1989 The conservative backlash. Hollywood turned towards blockbusters and revitalized genres aimed at families and children. It returned to dominance by out spending competing film industries on movies by focusing on special effects and broad comedy and action. Movies returned to being more formula and genre driven, VCRs provided a worry then a new source of income. Foreign films were again ignored and people of color once again marginalized after some brief attention during the previous era. Action movies dominates and sequels become mandatory.

1990-2005 Reflexivity dominates. Audience awareness of media and ability and time spent in consuming it is so great that movies become increasingly self referential, they refer to their own rules and previous histories more insistently than outside reality. Directors and stars from the era are those who could go to film schools and had access to a history of movies from TV and VCRs. New quasi-indie film studios arise or gain strength both for prestige pictures and straight to video cheapies. Major films become more complex and more adult oriented in subject matter again while animation also makes a comeback and grab the family audience and more. CGI drives the new aesthetic and maintains spectacle at the heart of Hollywood interests. Tentpoles replace sequels.

2005-2019 The internet era. Tentpoles give way to universes as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter provide a new example of long term storytelling and profit. More competition through greater access to movie making equipment and knowledge spread, but the big studios still dominate even as who those big studios are changes as time moves on and the streaming services take off. Money still dominates, but as CGI becomes more widespread the rest of the world starts to catch up to Hollywood spectacle. TV finally moves to long arc storytelling and movies start to want in on that game as audiences decline and videogames steal more of their old market. Movie theaters continually update their systems, 3D IMax etc in face of audience decline in favor of cable and streaming.

2019- Hollywood goes all in on streaming, Netflix is one of the major studios as Disney spreads their substantial power to online services to combat Netflix. CGI, animation, and streaming services make it potentially possible for other national cinemas to compete on US soil as the competition for audiences is now global. Spectacle, English language and whiteness were long the mainstays of Hollywood dominance, but that dominance could face new threats as demand for more and better representation increases and dissatisfaction with old models grows. Criticism is almost entirely internet driven and that increases the profile of past and current failings and changes the model of interaction between studios and audience. Investment in "universes" faces potential threat would audiences start to tire of the spectacle and demand something more "real" or substantive in terms of storytelling arcs as "TV" faces glut and criticism for failing to provide a meaningful whole to many of their stories. Videogames remain strong and there is a huge array of media forces competing for smaller numbers of audiences outside the few blockbusters that still draw people in.

Of course those waves aren't meant to be hard boundaries, within each there are smaller waves that continue the trends of the past larger movement and signal the initiation the next one as well as the usual oddities and indies that follow their own rules.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:24 AM on May 31, 2019 [5 favorites]


The summary paragraph like good theater leaves off the punchline

The town’s gypsy workforce of consultants and part-timers and hustlers will only increase, and have to rely more than ever on flexibility, constant reinvention, and personal relationships. Welcome to the New Hollywood.

"Same as the old boss Hollywood"

And like the top theater near Broadway (or West End) there's a concentration of specialized workers that's not going to move unless there's an unimaginable reason to move the community ('the big one' would probably do it) But like gusottertrout observes it's world that lives in constant change since the origins of the tech. Folks that can tell a great story whether in script form or as a wheeler dealer to a money guy will find a niche in that world.
posted by sammyo at 8:07 AM on May 31, 2019


Am I alone in not gleaning a point from this article? Other than the AT&T buyout of Time Warner, I’m not sure what changed drastically so far this year.

My takeaway from the article is that the old powers in Hollywood are being made irrelevant. Disney buying Fox, at the very least, feels a bit like keeping things in the Hollywood family insofar as you consider Disney to be Hollywood (I honestly don't know, as Disney has fingers in so many entertainment pies that I don't know if they qualify as a Hollywood power). But the likes of Netflix and Amazon are clearly upstarts, with different business models and methods.

The WGA-ATA fight seems to be separate from all this, or maybe at best the rise of streaming is a catalyst for long-simmering tensions between the WGA and the ATA coming to a boil. IndieWire also has an explainer on the labour conflict. Basically, the big four agencies in the ATA have been making money off TV pitches for years via "packaging," a practice where an agency will present a pitch and a number of principals, including top-tier acting/directing talent, as a package to make it easier/more lucrative to sell. Writer salaries have remained stagnant as packaging fees have increased, leading many in the WGA to believe that agencies are making money off their backs and their IP. As WGA members abandon the big four talent agencies in droves, another traditional locus of power in Hollywood disintegrates.

So essentially the article seems to be about how power is rapidly shifting to new players, even though all of this has been driven by trends that have been around for years. It seems like 2019 is less the beginning of a major shift and more like a significant inflection point.
posted by chrominance at 5:26 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


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