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Anything Goes : Is the Hollywood System Dead/dying? by Robert A. Yarbrough

Robert A. Yarbrough

Is the Hollywood System Dead/dying?

I saw James Cameron in person today... NOW, before any misleading hype begins to ensue, a little back story. I work on commission in a small post-production house that mainly handles ADR within Manhattan Beach Studios (A sister studio to Raleigh Studios). James Cameron's company Lightstorm Entertainment Inc. has bought a building and a studio where they plan to film the next Avatar film. I am in no way connected to their studio or company; I basically work in a separate office right below theirs. I was going to the café next door, and, just by random coincidence, there he was; talking it up with his crew. About what exactly, I have no idea. I. Was. Excited. At first. That soon turned to subtle anxiety and finally towards an accepting depression. All because I so desperately wanted to talk to him and tell him about a script I wrote. But I didn't. Because what most likely would have happened is Cameron scowling at me, shooing me away, seeing me as nothing more than a pathetic amateur who thinks he's all hot-stuff. And he'd be right..............to a certain degree... Basically this kind of ties into that blog written by Josh Olsen, "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script "(https://www.stage32.com/blog/I-Will-Not-Read-Your-Fucking-Script). I mean chances of just bumping into Cameron, J.J. Abrams, Spielberg, or Olsen for that matter, are slim to none, even if you're working in the same lot as them, because they are so damn private. And I don't mean that in a disrespectful way. With Cameron, he's got his own shit going on; the next Avatar movie, getting through a plethora of scripts his agents and colleagues send him, managing a business, not to mention being a dad (I hear he sometimes brings his kids onto the lot). So it boils down to two questions: Did I want to show him my script because I want him to be the one to produce/direct it? Or did I want vindication that I was decent writer? And the answer, I came to for both was "No" and "Why should his opinion be a deciding factor?" And this is where an interesting discussion comes up. James Cameron, as well as a lot of the big name directors/producers currently in Hollywood are part of the old system of movie making in an age where the internet has completely revolutionized entertainment as we know it. Because of iTunes' online download purchases, as well as illegal/pirated downloads, the growth of youtube, blip, and other online media-sharing sites, and Original Shows being produced by Netflix and Hulu, what are we striving for? What should we be striving for? Everyone here wants to be a flim-maker in some form or another. Everyone here has a calling to create or contribute to something that's new or nostalgic and something that will entertain audiences and, hopefully, get enough notoriety. I guess the big questions are "Is the Film Industry Dead/Dying?" and are we at that point where the big names no longer matter and we've entered the age of crowd-funding projects, diverging away from the Hollywood system into a more populace-governed way of film-making?

Simon © Simon

Entertainment is here to stay. It may take on different venues, but it is here to stay. In the first great depression entertainment was the highest money maker, next to print advertising. Do you think you could handle the truth if Cameron gave you 5 minutes? Before you say yes. Can your best friend tell you the truth and you take it? (Right) So the only person to prove is yourself. Avatar inspired me. I saw that movie and said "Yeah, I am going to do that" I learned CS6 After Effects, learning Blender a 3D app to create, Maya, etc. Would I run up to Cameron and show him my stuff and want to hear what I already know. If I was good enough I would already be working on A2. So in the meantime. Put your best foot forward and take it one day at a time. When there is an open casting call and or job opening (Where you will be well received) that is the time to show it. In the meantime, maybe take a snapshot of him say hi, let him know you are a fan and post the pic where he can see it. So if you do get in front of him on an application level you have an ice breaker. What do I know... I am on here trying to make movies.

Robert A. Yarbrough

Spot on, Simon. "Brick by brick" as they say.

Patrina Reddick - Pimosh Publishing

Entertainment is still the most lucrative business - it's media in the RAW! it can't die in America ... the entertainment capitol of the world.

Robert A. Yarbrough

Of course entertainment is here to stay in a variety of forms. But the question I'm posing is whether or not the "Hollywood" system - both for film and television - is still effected in this age of the internet.

Alexandra Cruz

Of course it's effected. Self-production such as crowdfunding is doing what self-publishing did to the publishing business. It's making an impact but it's definitely not going to send the film industry into oblivion. I like that this is what you thought of when you saw James Cameron. I wonder if he realizes how much of an impact he has on a persons state of mind just by being present!

Simon © Simon

[Of course entertainment is here to stay in a variety of forms. But the question I'm posing is whether or not the "Hollywood" system - both for film and television ] It will fully change once there is a clean, systematic platform "like Youtube" but organized. Where a producer will be able to upload and stream movies. I do not see why an artist would want to deal with a large company previewing scripts of 30,000 movies a year and budgeted for 12-20. I feel the other 29,980 artists would look for an alternative. As I did years ago, when I had a $100 cable bill a month 3 crappy shows to pick from (all month long) I learned how to hook my Laptop to my TV so I could enjoy the comfort of my L.R and viewing pleasure better. Now I only use Antenna for some sitcoms, IE L&O, The Dome, Hostage, James Spader's series, PBS,NHK news. The rest is Hulu or the likes of. Netflix is almost there, as Amazon is trying to get there. I am sure when the cost can be reduced to the ridiculous, and stream video can have some form of piracy protection. IE: Silver-light, etc, where an artist can be paid a lump, or residual for download. We will see more and more willing to take a gamble on the stream. As will the Big Blockbuster be there after they have recouped their money at the box offices. Hence verizon TRYING TO install a governor or censor URL's who wants Verizon's line up when say comcast or TimeWarner has what you want to see? So yes the internet will change the landscape for Indy and Big studio will have to conform to pick up residual, like DVD. IS redbox here to stay? I don't think so. The last time I got a RB movie Not you Rob, it was all scratched up and skipped and could not see it. IF I could just stream it, use my CC for a 1.09 to watch it, I am sure I would have caught a few more fliks myself. The reduction to the ridiculous I mentioned above... Hollywood will feel it, as more and more of us look for indy for 'our nich of desire' as I do now, for real news (Not FOX or the like) Nothing beats a big screen of a theater, Except a 60 inch at home in my barcolounger. Think NFL or sporting event,. 50 -500 for a ticket, 50 for a couple beers and snack, 20 to park the risk of being molested by the PD on the way home.... OR 60 inch, delivery or home-cooking, and my lounger...Things they are a changin'. Especially with the kids of today being so plugged in via game stations streaming. IMO

Brenton BT Lee

It's not dead yet but it's dying. It's the collapse of the studio system back in the 50s and 60s over again. I don't believe to the same degree of that collapse but TV is absolutely on the rise again, Video Games are coming into their own, and Hollywood for the most part is reacting exactly how they did last time. To be quite honest I think this is for the better. diversity and competition will be key to spurring new artistic creativity and giving a diverse group of artists opportunity to shine. At least in my opinion.

Matt Kassimo

I think Hollywood film industry is moving to another era as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted, and era where movie budgects will cost more and more money(remember Avengers, Lone Ranger,...) with less and less creativity until the system would collapse for good. Like you said, the true revolution is coming from internet where anyone can make his film and even get produced thanks to crowdfunding.

J.D. Coburn

Dead, No. Dying, No. Vulnerable, You Betcha! As Matt said, Spielberg and Lucas held a Q&A recently where they observed that it would take but a few mega-budget flops to bring down the whole system. They know the business pretty well, I think you'd agree. The bottom line is (there's always a bottom line in the movie business), can you tell a compelling story with moving pictures? Can you compose and shoot well, light professionally, get good audio (audiences will forgive bad video but NOT bad audio), and can you finish within a narrow time budget? If you can do those things, for little or no money, people with astronomically deep pockets will come to you with wheelbarrows full of resources to see what else you can do. In other words, prove that you belong in the game and they'll give you a number, a really big number. You will also have proven that you don't need them. Join the internet, already in progress.

Robert A. Yarbrough

Going off of what you're saying Derlis A. González, it definitely leads into the question of Art vs. Business. As for me, I've always been a "Why not both?" kind of person. Because Film is an art in and of itself, but like you said it requires multiple people to produce a film in most cases. As for the crowd-funding, there's one person I've been following who's managed to increase his business simply by a combination of crowd-funding and internet advertisements: Doug Walker aka "The Nostalgia Critic." Here's a guy who started a film-review web series while still living out of his parent's house and grew to produce 3 films (albeit cheap but entertaining nonetheless) because of how big of a following he's acquired. Is he nationally known? Probably not, but is most recent indigo campaign was able to raise a little over $80,000 for set-props, equipment, and studio space in order to continue making videos. Doug Walker is the second reason I brought up this discussion because, in a way, I will argue that he is ahead of the curb in terms of a film-making business model but perhaps remains an esoteric appeal because his following isn't as big as Zach Braff's for example (remember his kickstarter?).

Matt Kassimo

Making a movie cost a lot of money, that's a fact. Crowd-funding at the moment is not a way to pay people that's for sure.But we're talking about Hollywood system right? And there are many ways to create and make movie out of hollywood.Have a look on the situation in my country, France. Here, we don't have big sudios planning to produce films. Here, only TV channels decide whether they want to support this or that project. Money is raised and a film is born. But there are other ways like independant films financed out of any system. Hollywood is not the only way...

Robert A. Yarbrough

Matt Kassimo, does that mean your country uses a studio-run crowd-funding or just financed by the television studios? The television studios must sometimes cater to audience trends and demands, so does that mean audiences have a say in what should be financed? I'd liked to know more!

Robert A. Yarbrough

Definitely, Floyd! And because of the ever-changing industry, we can all benefit to learn how the industry is different in other countries or how people have adapted to the online growth.

Matt Kassimo

Robert A. Yarbrough, in my country most of a film budget is financed by the TV studios. But a part is also financed by picture houses. But they don't really care about the audience. The french film industry is run by old people who don't clearly pay attention about what the audience has to think. They're making their own thing for themselves. And so the business is closed to young talented people who wanna change things. In France, noones wants to change. They want to eject from their chairs those who take decisions and take their places. That is whay french cinema is getting worse years after years with always the same faces...

Patrina Reddick - Pimosh Publishing

@ Floyd Marshall ... That's the spirit - lets open / kick-in our own doors ... I'm with you. I believe in what we do & produce. Therefore, it's not about money - rather about content. You have encouraged the Indie in me to keep it moving with my eyes open for oposrtunity. This, however, includes Hollywood but is not limited to it.

Mark Sanderson

Yeah, you're right -- you can never approach these people and explain that you have a script and you want them to read it. Firstly, it's unprofessional and will show an amateur status immediately. They get hit on every moment by people who have "scripts" and the best way is to just treat them like people... regular people as if you don't know who they are... this is because everyone is always kissing their ass and many times it's refreshing when that doesn't happen -- almost like you're just looking at them like a person with a job and that job is directing or writing. AND even if you have not sold a script, you project the image of a writer because that is what you are - paid or not - and people will pick up on the image you project. If you do get into a "regular" conversation and they eventually ask, "what do you do?" then you can gently ease into telling them that you are a writer and about the many things you have going on. Successful industry folk (and even potential agents and managers) want to see that you are paving your own way... that you are chartering your own course and at the helm of your career. They don't want to feel like you are desperate and clingy and look to them for your big break. Not that you were doing that. And many times an encounter will be just that -- an encounter. Great brush with greatness though!

Debbie Elicksen

Hollywood will never die, but now the rest have a shot at creation thanks to the new tools of the trade. But what a great thought-provoking line: "Why should his opinion be a deciding factor?" It's good that came into your brain before you made a move that you would kick yourself for after. Who knows? Circumstances may bring Cameron or another into one of your projects when you least expect it. We never know what is around the corner.

Debbie Elicksen

Gary, that is great advice that transcends every industry. I'm bookmarking it. :)

Shane M Wheeler

I think the Hollywood system will be evolving soon, not dying. The dramatic mega-budget films are starting to lose the risk vs. reward war, and I think a change in thinking will bring it back in line. Checking out the Conjuring, Insidious 1 & 2, they are all relatively low budget films, well put together, effective, and have easily earned out, doubling the money put into them. It's not the killing that an Avengers will make, but neither will it be the catastrophe of a Jack the Giant Slayer or Lone Ranger or John Carter, etc. I think the internet/crowd funding/indie productions are an ever improving testing ground for Hollywood as well as a market unto themselves. It's been a successful platform for highly independent projects as well as proving a market for some bigger productions as well. It's much better than the film festival circuit alone, as it's a massive test audience, not just the judgment of a single panel. A film with a lot of awards can make a better deal for distribution with a company, but a viral film maker can fund bigger projects with increased ease and has a proven market/fan base, then put them in film festivals afterward. Over all, this is good for the independent & Hollywood, as it makes the worth of a creative monetarily more accessible and obvious. Hollywood won't die just like theater didn't die and radio didn't die. It will change. It could become much smaller, a withered shell of it's former glory, but I think it more likely that Hollywood will only shrink a little. There's too much money bound up in it, too many distributors and producers and stars and directors and studios for it to all crash without a major shift in technology. People still enjoy watching things on a big screen with good sound, productions with high value sets/props/effects, big name stars, etc. Until star power and money are dramatically invalidated by technological advance, there will always be some kind of Hollywood there.

L. Renee Boyd

I agree Shane, and well put. It all evolves into what it needs to be to continue. What I am excited about is now we are more easily able to see so many more stories, through social media, online sources, and thousands of film festivals. As we all know, for the most part these independent short films and full features don't have the big budgets that Hollywood studios have but they are created with the same passion and creativity. I have seen some really amazing films that aren't remotely connected to the Hollywood system. And as you put it, I will always still like to watch big screen films with "high value sets/props/effects, big name stars, etc." But as co-executive director and founder of a short film festival, I look forward to all the independent films to come.

William Joseph Hill

Here's my take: Cameron, Lucas, Spielberg, and even JJ Abrams "came of age" in the era between the old studio system and the beginning of this current "digital" era, which really began around the mid 2000s, even though the technology existed in the late 90s. The changing industry has baffled a lot of established folks, and created anxiety as the days of "development deals" and other cushy studio perks are rapidly disappearing. Whereas our generation has grown up in a time where you now have the tools and technology to really do things all by yourself, or at least with a support group of like minded artists. We are the "Millenial" entertainment generation. If I had run into James Cameron, I might feel inclined to go up to him and say how much I admired his work and how it's influenced me. But that's as far as I would go. I've learned that even the big players don't know how to finance their projects, and without a big studio behind them, they're helpless. If you've been able to successfully crowdfund and produce your film project, then, in my opinion, you have skills that the "big players" don't have. They WILL notice you...in time.

CJ Walley

Check out the documentary Seduced and Abandoned which follows Alec Baldwin and James Toback at Cannes interviewing a-list directors about this topic. Also check out Room 666 which is a very similar documentary filmed at Cannes in 1982, Spielberg talks then about the forthcoming budget issues with movie production.

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