Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #799: Comission/Shmission


I hate having to repeat myself, even though it makes it easy when you're running a mostly daily blog like this, but sometimes I have to. Cue former US President Lyndon Johnson & former Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara...
Today's act of brutal repetition comes courtesy of Deadline: Hollywood who led me to producer Adam Leipzig and his new indie film/business blog, (imitator) but specifically to his pondering the need for a National Film Commission for the USA.

Here's what I have to to say on that issue...






Am I clear?

I can speak from experience and I can tell you that if you think the Hollywood film studios are narrow minded and closed off now, you haven't seen them when they're in partnership with the government.

Right now each state in the USA has their own state film commission. Their mission is to lure good paying movie and TV making jobs to their state by offering tax breaks, easy permits, and occasionally subsidized facilities.

While I'm not a big fan of government interference, I can see where the states are coming from. They want some of that money that California's been sucking up for 100 years for themselves, but a National Commission is a different kettle of fish.


Because any sort of National Commission would be a "partnership" between representatives of Hollywood, and the government.

That's what we call a recipe for disaster.

It's a disaster because what happens when people from big business get in bed with big government? They screw any and all competition and use the power of the state to maintain their position at the top of the heap, whether they actually deserve it or not. When they screw up, which will be often, they'll be protected from the consequences of their stupidity, because the government will gladly give them taxpayer money to save their bacon because they are "too big to fail."

That's called either "crony capitalism" if you're looking at it from the left, or "corporatist socialism" if you're looking at it from the right.

Either way it isn't good.

You have a combination of politicians laying down policies based on short term poll results, whims, and internal political games, bureaucrats manipulating those policies to benefit themselves as well as their friends, the big movie companies who will reward them with cushy well-paying "consulting" jobs and positions on boards after they retire with plush senior civil service pensions.

Protected from the vicissitudes of the free market, because the government will regulate away any competition, and bail them out when they screw up, the film community becomes hyper insular, relying on a smaller and smaller cadre of people for everything, where connections to the bureaucratic elite count more than talent, or an ability to sell movie tickets or attract TV viewers.

At least in Hollywood there is a need, albeit under-appreciated, for the new and the novel. Actors wear out their welcome, and writers and filmmakers get too comfy and lose their mojo, so new faces and new voices have to be found, or they're going to start losing money, and losing their jobs. They are insulated by their parent companies to a certain extent, explaining how some "star" actors and filmmakers keep their careers going long past their "best before" date. However, there is a line that if crossed, will awaken the sleeping giant of their parent company and shake-ups ensue.

You don't get that when government is involved. When protected by taxpayer money and bureaucrats that can't be fired because of their titanium clad contracts, there is no line, and thus, no shake ups, and because of that, no remote desire for new talent.

Two stories from my native Canada can illustrate this point.

I was channel surfing one night, and three shows, one sketch, and two sitcoms, on two different networks, one government run, one privately run, and
all three shows were written, or co-written by the same man.

Now the guy was a pretty good writer, but when you include the two CBC radio comedy shows this guy was writing or co-writing that were also running that season, must admit that there is just too much on the shoulders of one man.

Another story that illustrates this is one of my own experiences. In film school I was told about a new initiative to find "new" and "undiscovered" film writers. So I called them up and asked what it took to qualify for the program.

I was told that to be considered "new" and "undiscovered" I had to have had two screenplays produced into feature films that were released theatrically.

That essentially means that if you want to be considered "new" and "undiscovered" you have to be old and so deeply entrenched in the industry, you have to have achieved something less than a dozen English language screenwriters at the time could claim.

That's government backed film-making in a nutshell.

If you want to learn more about this phenomenon CLICK HERE and memorize every word, there will be a test in the morning.


  1. Just what we need the movie version of 'Piss Christ'.

  2. The Texas Emerging Technology Fund works more or less like this. If you make a loan to a bunch of flakes with some pie-in-the-sky concept, then the TETF will reimburse you for 10% of the loan.

    This means that you are likelier to invest in flakey stuff (risk is lowered), but the government doesn't need to vet every crazy idea, because presumably the 90% of your money you plunged into the venture means YOU will vet it.

    It also means that the government doesn't need a staff of 10,000 bureaucrats, because the fund is comparatively easy to manage.

    It seems like a National Film Board that did something similar to this might actually work. Of course that will not be the case.