All I Want for Christmas… A Wish List for the Entertainment Industry

Creepy Santa wishes you a Happy Holiday

 I’m not particularly known for being motivated by the traditional “Holiday” thing. I’m more of a “Halloween” kind of guy than a “Christmas” elf! (Hence the creepiest Santa Picture ever!) That said, I am not some kind of “Grinch”.  I’d like to take this opportunity to personally wish everyone well for the Holidays and to all the hard working filmmakers, musicians, actors, artists and creatives of all kinds: The very best for 2011!

Now let’s put a face on those words. What would a better world for artists and independent filmmakers look like? There has been a lot of talk about an emerging “new entertainment industry paradigm”.
If we had a “Holiday Wish List” for things we would change about the nature of the entertainment industry, what would it look like?

So I thought I’d kick things off by jotting down my own wish list for the future of the entertainment industry. I am of course entirely biased and there are obviously many more ways we can improve the business. So feel free to join the conversation and weigh in with your own wishes!

1.       Interest and investment in new stories and talent – I think we can all live with a few less big budget cliché remakes or reboots of back-burner franchises. It’s time for some new ideas. Well financed Studios need to go there. Independent Filmmakers also need to create entertaining films that are uniquely them and not merely underfunded versions of movies that already exist. Artists and investors need to be bold enough  to go there. Let’s fire up a vibrant creative community and industry based in values that we hold as important and never again cede control of our art to bean counters and demographic charts.

2.       Greater respect and consideration for music and sound in film – Few essential team members get left out of the equation more than composers. They are often relegated to back end fixers when they could be so much more integral and creatively engaged if they had time to be involved with writer/director/sound earlier in the process. Music is often an afterthought (especially in independent filmmaking and commercial work) that gets left out of the budget (till it has already been bled dry by unforeseen shooting expenses) and left out of the process till the last hectic surge to get the film in the can. It would be nice to turn this trend around.

3.        “Getting a Budget 101” should become a priority in film education – While we all understand the story of indie filmmakers with no budget getting everyone to donate their efforts, (be it actors, crew, music or post production) this should be reserved for people making their very first films where everyone is still learning the basics of the process (and perhaps for special “pet” projects and/or charitable causes for which we might share a specific passion.) Whether one attends an accredited Film School or the “University of Hard Knocks”, any filmmaker should have a reasonable sense of the tremendous amount of work and dedication every aspect of the filmmaking journey entails after making only a couple films. One also comes head to head with the old adage: “You get what you pay for”. Finding the means (conventional or creative) to fund your project should be a priority and it should part of any film education.

4.       Equitable Distribution Channels and New Revenue Streams From my experience in the music business, it is the actual Artists that tend to get paid least and last. Distributors would take a tremendous amount of time to pay labels (if they paid at all). Often very little or none of this would wind up in the Artist’s hands. We were once nearly entirely at the mercy of established distribution channels. Those doors are opening to new possibilities and new revenue streams but new companies and methods also mean new risks and required research. We need to be cautious (but open) to finding new income streams and more equitable distribution arrangements that will work for us .

5.       Concern for Quality/Craft – Currently there are ubiquitous affordable methods available for working with film and music that didn’t exist a mere decade ago. That means there are a lot more people trying their hand at these crafts. Not all of them are going to be great filmmakers and artists.  Not every independent film is going to be a Cannes or Sundance Festival Winner, let alone an Oscar worthy effort, but I would hope we could at least try to make work good enough to counter the (not entirely undeserved) bad rap “Indie” film has gotten.

6.       Every State needs its own “Hollywood” – A film hub, a film commission and a supportive incentive program would be a great place to start. Filmmaking should be looked at as both an International Industry AND a local affair. It should be thought of as a part of local economies and an enthusiastically supported source of local pride. People from cities other than New York and L.A. should not have to export or import all their talent to be involved in serious film projects. (Of course I am speaking from the position of someone living in the States, but the same applies regionally to other countries as well.)

7.       A spirit of collaboration and cooperation – As opposed to an atmosphere of competition and cutthroat career sharks. Whether it is film, music, or any other creative endeavor, all would be well served by a dedicated (and talented) team that puts their time, heart and skill into a project, and has an incentive to make it great (that goes beyond their next paycheck). This is the “secret” recipe for making great films, music, and art as well as friends and colleagues that can last a lifetime. So let’s have more of this…’nuff said?

8.       Erosion of the “Middleman” the “Gatekeepers” and other aging paradigms – Enough already with everyone except the Artists themselves getting paid. Enough with power players holding an industry hostage to their whims, greed and lack of foresight. Enough with non-creative industry driven paradigms that are nothing more than systems/traditions we have been mesmerized into believing. There will always be a need for services that take care of duties artists are not generally as well suited for or enthusiastic about. But that is what they should be – services – legitimate equitable services. I think we could also live without the “Actor’s Caste System” (A list – B-list – C-List etc.) based on fame/popularity rather than acting ability ! i.e. Every movie does not need to have a Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie or whoever is “on top” today. (No offense Tom  & Angelina but you guys are already on top so you don’t need my help or ego carressing).     REAL working actors who are passionate and dedicated to their craft can bring a hell of a lot more to a role than a paid “familiar face” going through the motions. In fact over familiarity with an actor can destroy the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy a story. Sometimes you’ll even see complete non-actors step in and steal the show (see Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious”

9.       The Rise of the “PMD” – Filmmakers could really use some talented “Producers of Marketing and Distribution” but the field is fairly unproven ground and it is very difficult to get a handle on effective budget allocation without some proven success metrics to consider.
I hope to see a number of qualified and earnest people taking on this challenge. By the very nature of the job, I expect to see a lot of people abusing this title and/or simply being ineffective. This is the time to get it right: Now at the beginning before bad precedents and a bad reputation become engrained.  Ethical, affordable, competent, enthusiastic and effective: That’s what we are looking for in a PMD! Now who is gonna bring it?

10.   Best Wishes for great success to all my friends and colleagues in the business of creating! I’m encouraged that we are seeing strides in a lot of these areas and more, due in no small part to readers like you who are “tuning in”, connecting and getting down to the business and art. So for my 10th wish – May you all have a fruitful and productive 2011!

I invite you to add your thoughts and wishes for the future of Filmmaking and the Entertainment Industry in the comments below.  This is our chance to set the agenda and share some of our best ideas on a subject dear to us all. May we have the power and will to communicate and reformulate a better, more equitable and sustainable creative industry.

Happy Holidays!

T. Reed  – TAO X Productions