19 May 2010

Hollywood - The Wall Street of Ideas

by Tyler Weaver.  Follow me on Twitter.

Hollywood is bankrupt.

Out of ideas.  Kaput.  Nothing new, exciting, or interesting.  They waste money, handing millions out to "stars" and the latest super-duper thingamabob.  They don't throw creativity at problem solving - they throw money.  And then they expect us to offer them a bail out to keep doing the same thing they've always done - waste money.

It's ridiculous that enough money to feed a small country (or large one) is thrown at the same cookie-cutter crap year after year.  And that the industry is dependent on us shelling out our money to produce any sort of return.

As the saying goes, the quickest way to become a millionaire in Hollywood is to start out a billionaire.

But we as the small fries, the independent voices in the film world have to exploit our strengths - and not waste time complaining about the state of our industry (in fact, this will be my final post on the matter).  That's counterproductive.  So is discussing the same thing over and over again.

How do we do this?


Both the "Hollywood" film industry and the "Hollywood" film medium are stagnant.  Their business structures and storytelling techniques have remained largely unchanged since the 60s/70s.  I have not seen a film that truly inspired or excited me in nearly ten years.

There is absolutely no excuse for this to be the case.  For being one of the most "new" mediums, film is ridiculously behind the times in terms of technology.  Sure, there's 3D, CG, THX, DVD, Blu-Ray, HD, DSLR, Mini-DV, 35mm, color, sound - but what has changed in terms of storytelling?  A few new structures here, a few structures there.  Nothing thrilling or exciting.

In a previous post, The Lost Art of Surprise, I put forth the argument that filmmakers today should not emulate the filmmakers of today.  We should emulate restaurant owners and chefs.  The food world is experiencing a rebirth and opening up their audience's taste buds to new experiences - there is no reason that we should not do the same for our audience's eyes, ears, and emotions.

I recently finished Daniel Pink's wonderful book, A Whole New Mind, and he brought up toilet plungers.  Look at your local Target.  Gone are the wooden-handled, red tipped toilet plungers.  In their place are pretty, well-designed pieces that both do their job (unclog a toilet) and look good doing it.

Film should do the same thing.  At the moment, both the independent film worlds (a term I loathe) and the studio worlds are wooden-handled, red-tipped toilet plungers.

We must blend utilitarian purpose - to entertain - with design - to stimulate. 

We must be chefs - taking what people are used to (entertainment) and giving them something they didn't even know they wanted (our unique spin - POV and storytelling).  Through word of mouth, and effective outreach and marketing - we'll succeed.

But it's only through embracing - and mastering -  the technology at our fingertips that we can do this.  It's what will set us apart in the always-connected, YouTube generation of new new new now now now.


Story is paramount.  And it's only through using the new technologies at our fingertips not as a platform for distribution and marketing, but as an opportunity to further the conventions and structures of storytelling.  Who says "movies (which has now become a useless term to me - I prefer "visual storytelling") have to be two hours?  Who says theater is the only way to go?

When people can download anything they want at anytime on any device - why do we stick to storytelling structures that are not custom-tailored to the platform through which our audiences are viewing?

It's up to us to innovate - not curate.

Imagine if mysteries were stuck in the Agatha Christie mold.  Or if video game storytelling never got further than Super Mario Bros.  Those industries would be dead and buried.

So why has film stayed the same?


In an industry that spends billions a year to fulfill a single purpose - to entertain (and of course, rake in ticket sales) - there is an unbelievable aversion to risk.  The mentality is: "I know this will make money because it's what people have wanted for years.  I'm going to keep doing it."

Eventually people will get tired of - and ARE getting tired of  - the "same shit different day mentality" of 95% of all the stuff that's recycled and regurgitated like a mother bird to her babies on the big screen.

In an age of conceptualization, in an age of utmost opportunity, and direct contact with the audience, why is the film industry digging its own grave?


We as "filmmakers," or as I now prefer, "visual storytellers" (the term "filmmaker" is now as useful as the term "classical music" to describe every piece of music written by dead white guys for centuries), have a choice to make:

To be the change we know needs to happen or to get out.

We will never compete with the amusement park rides that are now part and parcel of the entertainment world.  That is what the "movies" are now.  Iron Man 2 was like waiting in a line for six hours on a hot summer day for a ride that lasted thirty seconds and offered no thrills after the first drop.

But, to reach that point of realization, to strike out on our own, we must banish the mentality of "Indie Film is a Charity Case."  We must forever get rid of saying "we're the alternative to mainstream material."  If people don't want to watch, so what?  It's a big world out there.

Gone are the days of "French Cinema" and "American Cinema."  Of German.  Of Czech.  Of Russian.  It's now a GLOBAL cinema.

And now, we have to take that opportunity and turn it into something bigger - to use the methods of filmmaking, of cinematic storytelling, to take all of those varied influences, meld them with our own sensibilities, explore new forms of visual storytelling, and embrace the opportunity to titillate taste buds of content consumers like never before.

And if we follow the example of designers, chefs, and other creatives - there's money to be made by being simultaneously adept at business, and mastering the craft.

Otherwise, we're nothing but cogs in the same perpetual motion machine.  Rinse.  Wash.  Repeat.

Not interested.

Tyler Weaver is a filmmaker, writer, contributor to the pulptone.com website, and is the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate... which you're reading right now.  He's currently making new things and yaks about that and more on Twitter under the creative guise of @tylerweaver.


@davidpbaker said...

GREAT post again Tyler,

We know Hollywood has always been a cash register, but now it really is going into a different level. It really is mass producing theme park rides.

I think they should just place the theatres inside theme parks and be done with any notion that Hollywood movies have anything to do with story telling at all.

Now a few years ago that would have got me down, but now, with the tools we have, and the distribution capability, and the markeitng possibilities, I have NOTHING to moan about. I couldnt really care if I worked with them at all.

Ok, that might mean I can only make small films. I am cool with that. But as filmmakers, if we become good at what what we do, and look at 5-7 year plans, it doable that we could have tens of thousands of supporters, so we could be totally self substaining

But like you said, the indies seem to have the same problems in a different way, and there is no excuse for it. Again, it all turns to shit when we dont spend enough time coming up with fresh stories.

I think I can come up with fresh amgles on genres. And I have many scripts, but only after mny many years where I was just focussed on writing. I never even touched the tools or the web for years.

We are all trying to find how to "market". Ok, sure, we need to think in these ways now. But If we make brilliant content, then that will naturally be passed, talked about, and shared across the world if its good.

The less we focus on the content, and more on the marketing solely, we will be no different from Hollywood. The difference is they have the money hose to solve their problems. We dont.

We all need a plan to get our work out there. I have a plan for my latest film. But to be honest, taking it on the road is partly to make marketing fun.

Making viral video seeming shorts to support it are not really marketing strategies. It just excities me so much that we can tell stories on multiple platforms at once! And if they are good, the bonus is that they will be passed too.

I think we all need to focus 1000% more on great work, and that will naturally be the spark to greater things. Instead of trying to get a gallon of gasoline, but we dont have any matches!

Look at the video with that kid playing the piano and singing his heart out last week. Was he tweeting everybody to get 8 million views? Nope. He was playing and singing his little heart out, and he got noticed.

I think it really is that simple. So many filmmakers dont beleive that notiion. "Ohhh no, you could make great work, and nobody sees it.

Well, I agree to a certain extent. But lets be honest, 99% of the work I see out there, including mine at the minute, is not extroidnary enough to motivate you to want to buy it or tell everybody about it, and thats what most filmmakers are not accepting.

Great post mate


Tyler Weaver said...

Thanks for commenting, David!

I definitely take a transmedia approach to everything I do - not just for the marketing possibilities and "viral"ness of it, but for the simple fact that it makes me a better writer.

I can take characters from the feature, and make a short film using that character, exploring them in a way I don't get to in a feature... and at the end of the day - it's all "the feature." Just spread out across different platforms.

That's where the excitement lies for me - but I like taking it further by saying "why is there a feature? Could I make a series of shorts? Could I make a 10-hour web series instead?

The possibilities are endless, and I keep pushing myself to explore those further.

Thanks again for commenting David!


davidpbaker said...

Totally agree Tyler. I was slow with grasping the transmedia possibilties for MX. Just woke up to it in the last year because learning from online.

Once I woke up, I then thought less about "Virals", and more about the cross platform possibilities, it was like "Holy shit!" This really is an new world!

I'm so excited about playing around with multiple story lines away from the bigger film in many ways, and possible mini web serials from it too.

The "feature" will not even be my main focus in the future.Exciting times, more of us just have to realize it.



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