Producer Bert Schneider has passed away at the age of 78. Now many people may not know his name, or his face, but a lot of you know his films, because he was part of the generation that saved Hollywood from itself.
You see in the 1960s Hollywood was a sorry state. Since the advent of television in the 1950s the entire industry had been flailing around trying to find something, anything, that could butts in theater seats. They tried mega-budget epics loaded with lots of big name stars and special effects, they tried gimmicks like 3D, and for the most part they dropped more expensive bombs than Curtis LeMay.
Into this stumbled young Bert Schneider, the son of Abraham Schneider, a former President of Columbia Pictures, who had recently been expelled from Cornell, and rejected by the army. His father's status in the industry helped the then aimless Bert get a job at Columbia's Screen Gems TV division under the White Man's Affirmative Action Plan.
However, once he had his foot in the door he started to make a name for himself. He joined forces with another young go-getter named Bob Rafelson, to form Raybert Productions, and put together a little show called The Monkees.
Not willing to rest on their laurels, or cash from The Monkees franchise, the partners branched out into feature films that attempted to break from the studio dominated norms and target audiences that had either been ignored or insulted by the majors. Their film Easy Rider became a break-out hit, and producer Stephen Blauner soon joined the team which was reformed as BBS Productions.
BBS Productions then went on to produce such seminal films of the 1970s as Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show before he dropped out of the movie business entirely in the early 1980s.
Now let's take a moment to look at how Hollywood history is repeating itself.
We're seeing dwindling audiences who are finding entertainment from other mediums, skyrocketing budgets, huge gaps forming in the movie market, gimmicks like 3D, over-paid and under-performing stars, and a stifling group-think controlling Hollywood to the point that anyone dwelling outside its permitted attitude range is viewed as either alien at best, or sub-human at worst.
Yep, history is repeating itself... except I don't see any Bert Schneider's coming around to shake things up from the inside like he did. In fact, I see an industry that would rather risk seeing itself die out completely before changing how it operates.