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Monday, April 17, 2006

Hollywood Obituary

As we know - or if we don't, we should wake up to the fact - Hollywood is dead.

Damn. There I go, exaggerating again. Why I am I ALWAYS EXAGGERATING??!!!!?

I draw a long, cleansing breath. I take a moment to become still and centered. And I correct myself:

As we know - or if we don't, we should wake up to the fact - Hollywood is dying.

The ship has not yet entirely upended and made for the briny deep, but don't hold out hope that it will miraculously right itself. All is not lost, but it will be soon. The patient has not yet been pronounced deceased, but he hasn't been breathing for some minutes now. The fat lady has not yet sung - but only because she has dealt with her overeating problem and has moved on to bigger and better things. The comet has not yet destroyed the dinosaurs, but ... I think you see where I'm going.

Strangely, the motion picture itself, as a form of communication, as a means of artistic expression, as a means of documenting the world, is thriving as it never has before. It is the motion picture "industry" that is dying. An "industy" implies centers of manufacturing and regulated systems of distribution - and it is these two facets of Hollywood - and the other media institutions - that are disintegrating with a steadiness that is truly unnerving.

What is blossoming now - blossoming just beautifully - is something called the NEW MOTION PICTURE. At its most primitive the NEW MOTION PICTURE is a dad posting his family vacation video on Buzznet for his family and friends and the 7 billion rest of us to see. At its most sophisticated, the NEW MOTION PICTURE lurks, like a hatchling dragon, in high-end video games.

It will be harder and harder to make millions and millions in the NEW MOTION PICTURE economy. That is terrible news for some of us. That is great news for some of us.

Just because the Hollywood system, in place for 90 years, has died, does not mean it will immediately vanish, however. Like any megalithic institution it will continue to observe the formalities and practices long after the meaning has left them. Development people will still develop, because they are hired to develop, but will not really even understand what the word means. Producers will still produce, but the process will be more like excretion than creation. Spec screenplays will be bought and sold and shopped around because that is the way it has always been done, but that process will have less and less to do with creating any kind of moving picture for any kind of audience.

Audiences may still be cajoled and lured into observing the three-act noh-theater spectaculars rolled out at regulated points in the calendar year, but even they will be observing formalities - dyeing eggs at easter, putting up trees at Christmas, without knowing or caring why.

I know that you - wise and cagey reader - will not be fooled into thinking that these last glimmers of the Hollywood dream have anything to do with real Movies (or the MOTION PICTURE, as it prefers to be called).

It's going to be a bumpy ride, Mrs. Hudson. We will all need to help each other if we are to get through this trying/thrilling transition intact. I have provided here some fodder for discussion, which I hope will help the faint-hearted to make the necessary leap and will give the NEW MOTION PICTURE author a little more encouragement to do what he knows he can do.

10 features of DYING HOLLYWOOD contrasted with 10 corresponding features of the world of the NEW MOTION PICTURE:

  1. Blockbuster stores
  2. Development, production, and distribution times relatively long
  3. Creation by committee
  4. Corporate control
  5. $1 million
  6. Creators/Producers have little or no contact with their intended audience
  7. Economy of scale
  8. Buying & selling
  9. Rewards determined by negotiation
  10. Mohammed must come to the mountain

  1. Netflix
  2. Development, production, and distribution times infinitely flexible
  3. Creation by author(s)
  4. Corporate assistance
  5. $100,000
  6. Author communicates directly with audiences
  7. Economy of need
  8. Sharing & trading
  9. Rewards determined by merit
  10. The mountain must come to Mohammed

There will be much weeping along Wilshire Blvd., much wringing of hands behind the tinted windows of the studio executive offices. In the meantime, the rest of us will be putting pictures and sound and time together and having a ball.

Don't fall into utter despair, you industry conservatives (and I mean the word in its best sense). We'll save you a place - if you think you're up to it. And you may find it reassuring to know that your day will come again. It must. The wheel never stops turning. The NEW MOTION PICTURE will itself coagulate into a system eventually. That system will have preferences and those preferences will harden into requirements, which will become necessities. And a new thing - more flexible & fast, or slow & sturdy - will rise up and overcome the NEW MOTION PICTURE before it knows what hit it.

And you will find me on the ground complaining about those damn kids and their new, incomprehensible ways, and how things were better before, and how they don't make them like they used to.

But in the meantime...

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Wringing of hands, methinks.

- By Blogger MaryAn Batchellor, at Tue Apr 18, 03:29:00 PM GMT+1  

Thanks! "Ringing" has been duly corrected.

I usually tend to "wring" in the New Year, and I'm also fond of exclaiming "Let freedom wring!" So you can see how I might get confused.

- By Blogger Neal Romanek, at Tue Apr 18, 07:01:00 PM GMT+1  

First I thought maybe you had an asian accent, but linging and ninging aren't words so there ya have it.

- By Blogger MaryAn Batchellor, at Tue Apr 18, 07:28:00 PM GMT+1  

My Dear Deluded Brother,
When did being a Doom Sayer advance anyones Life. Remember John the Baptist? Sure, he got to touch Jesus (lot's a people did nad isn't it alittle like putting the touch on the film execs) He got to touch Jesus (bathe him really) but , got his head served up on a plate(even though Slome danced for him SheTurned Him In. And that's what's going to happen to you you little toady, risking your career pontificating the downfall of the greatest american industry(nest to rock&Roll). My heart hurts...how can my precious and blessed brother treat like this when all I could teach him was look inwardly and change it through prersonal change-not personell change. What am I saying? As mum would sy Daon't fret and cause panic and dissension and don't bite the hand that feeds you all those nice little tid-bits and think of your brother and his heart and how he wishes you a long and prolific career. And Businesss is all about being positive. Everyone worries about their industry. You have to be positive and guys and gals will say OOOH! He's not worried I'm not worried He's success He's the Man!! please get the picture---Your Bro" Sean Alan

- By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Apr 22, 04:34:00 PM GMT+1  

For your feedback, bro, as usual, thanks. In the rabbit + crow blog I reserve the right to be provocative. And I reserve the right to be wrong also. Who knows? Maybe next week I'll be celebrating the rebirth of the theatrical motion picture - the new second wind of the industry. And that will be perfectly fine. I don't need to be consistent. There is plenty of time to experiment. And plenty of time to make plenty of mistakes. All will be well.

- By Blogger Neal Romanek, at Sat Apr 22, 05:56:00 PM GMT+1  

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