The article that follows is pretty old now, and looking over my shoulder it's hard to believe it's almost a decade ago. Every once in a while, particularly when I run into would-be filmmakers, I drop it on them.
That usually makes them stutter step a sec.
However, psychology's a powerful, no, OVER-powering thing. Myth, propaganda, urban legend and all of the unscholarly, "rough around the edges" detritus about "art for art's sake" is now available on mobile phones. If the would-be filmmakers are young, say, under 35 or so, they also seem to still be ardent kool-aid drinkers.
As of 2011 we're coming off of jaw-dropping conglomeration in mass media, specifically, Comcast's devouring of NBCU, the latter the amalgam result of prior massive corporate conglomeration. Then there's AT&T's takeover of TMobile (which is being played out in the courts) that will potentially create the largest wireless entity in history.
This "conglomeration threat" is what I spoke about back in SiB's first incarnation, but no one with any kind of teeth seems to care; the courts, the politicians that run our government, the academies that teach "media studies" and "communications" or "filmmaking", much less the community run media groups (if they exist in any kind of viable manner, what with the cable companies abandoning public access several years ago) that teach and/or facilitate production. Let alone the would-be filmmakers. They didn't care then, and in light of the econ meltdown of 2008 which tends to turn people's attention toward themselves and away from things like massive corporate godzillas eating other massive godzillas the pattern is set, game and matched in favor of payola.
Then there are the for-profit companies that teach filmmaking for exorbitant amounts of money and fill (for the most part) young, impressionable minds with visions of desire and maybe even grandeur; let's face it, to be on a set, even if you're paying to be there, is very intoxicating. So-called "schools" in LA, New York and even Florida charge a lot of money for something that, with a bit of research, reveals the stark truth; you're better off taking the money you'd sink into a "filmmaking education" and just making a movie, which is in itself a lousy investment to begin with. Perhaps better, invest it (better, invest only part of your bankroll) in something with the thought of making a movie with potential profits. Find a pool of other filmmakers to spread risk and work on each others' projects. Then think about how to market your film -- something most film schools never teach but that is absolutely crucial. What they're teaching are the tech aspects to go along with more mythmaking; you've got to have a burning passion... perseverance is 90% of filmmaking... But they'll never tell you the truth; that the only ways to gain entrance into the studio system are:
1. You know someone who's in the system, and:
- they have juice;
- you're on good terms with them;
- they're willing to make a move for you;
- there are current options available.
2. You're related to someone who's in the system, and the four points as in #1, or
3. You're romantically involved with someone who's in the system, and the four points as in #1.
Every once in a blue moon they'll let in someone like a Spike Lee, but he's the exception, the lottery winner. And we all know that someone wins the lottery, it just won't be you. We're not talking about exceptions, anomalies or lottery winners, we're talking about the rule.
Which brings us back to: Why is conglomeration a bad thing for independents? Because conglomerates aren't interested in gambling money on unknowns like you. Their interests are in "verticalizing" their business (basically, controlling as much of the processes as possible) to maximize returns on investments. Therefore they erect impenetrable walls to keep you out. To quote George Carlin: It's a big expensive club, and you and I ain't in it.
The point here is that with historic conglomeration the reins have been tightened and the media whales are becoming larger. The truth is that individual filmmakers literally have no chance of getting into the industry to make movies, particularly as a director. This is the stark reality of the Hollywood Lottery that's bigger 'n badder than ever. The last thing the Hollywood machine is thinking about is gambling on unknowns.
But again, psychology's a powerful thing, and the young, starry-eyed hopefuls are deboarding at LAX as you read this; like clockwork they come from around the world. This is why anyone interested in becoming a filmmaker -- or artist of any kind -- could do worse than study the relationships between the media conglomerates, mass-media/marketing and consumers. If you don't know the name "Ed Bernays" you could do worse than to start with him.
"Stakes is high" said De La Soul back in the day and it's never been truer.