Tag Archive: film distribution


I read a very disturbing blog on the film industry a few days ago by James Fair (lecturer in Film Technology at Staffordshire University).The thing that made me sick was the site of a corporatist organizational chart. If you’re anything like me, the site of these charts makes you want to puke (You may want to put your hand over it).

Bullshit Organizational Chart

Traditional Hollywood Failed Corporatist Organizational Structure

So here we have a film scholar (as if good filmmaking was ever a scholarly endeavor) telling us that business models are questionable in light of the artistic and creative aspects of filmmaking. Then he goes on to suggest there may be a better model out there, even though this one is working. But the current system isn’t working. It never did work. The film industry is having one of its greatest depressions. Even when it was on top, 50% of all industry product never made a profit.

The problem is not that we need a better business model. The problem is that even having a conversation about a business model is absurd, which brings me to David Lynch. When I listen to him talk about the process of making a film, there is no business model or organizational structure. You may say even he has departments run by department heads, which may be true. But in a truly harmonious film production these departments operate as single entities to fulfill their respective tasks, and like our scholar mentions, none of this is ever set in stone.

The problem that 99% of the film industry continues to have is that film is not a business, nor is it purely an art. It’s the business of making art, and that means that the art has to come before the business, since you can’t sell your art if you don’t go about making it first. This may depend on your definition of “art”, which is an abstract word much like love. I think of art as stuff that moves people emotionally and even physically. That has absolutely nothing to do with making money in itself. If the moving of people can be achieved then I think the money making potential is there. You don’t start out with the idea of having to make money and then come up with art that has that goal. That is not art. Nor should business have as its goal to make money without first having some higher purpose, to fill a need or fix a problem or help society.

Of course, failed American corporatism and its decades of authoritarian conservative ingrained tradition will continue to insist to its dying day that pure business models (regardless of product and with no other goal than money) are the way to go about doing any business, even art. But, like the Roman Empire, blind leading the blind (no one knows anything in Hollywood) kind of thinking is ultimate doom.

Pull out David Lynch’s Inland Empire DVD. You do have one right? There, not only will you find David Lynch show you a great quinoa recipe (maybe you eat too much meat to be able to make good films that can sell on their own merit) but you’ll also hear him talk about his artistic “business model”, which amounts to getting one idea, then getting another idea, and eventually putting these ideas together. But if you were to talk to a good sample of great artists, you’d find that each of them have different ways of doing their art.

Even most indie filmmakers have a model where they come up with a script, and even a cast an crew, and sometimes even make the film before they go about looking for an “executive producer” (since often the only real business aspect of films is the distribution after they’re made). They may or may not take notes from that producer. My understanding is that most indie producers act as patrons and seek to fund artists with no expectation of return. That is the traditional model of artistic endeavor around the world.

The one reason that any good films even exist in America, I think, is that there are indie renegades out their like David Lynch and there is also the independent spec screenwriter factor. Screenwriting can be done in a vacuum away from all the failed corporatist bullshit. So in that regard, screenwriters have the ability to be true artists, going about writing in whatever artistic way suits them (as George Lucas did far away from Hollywood). For that reason, we have some great screenplays in existence that Hollywood then gets it’s greedy clammy little hands on and plugs into its organizational chart to end up with something resembling art (so long as no dogs are killed).

Another fallacy about the chart above, with the quintessential executive asshole at the top, is that there is no marketing department. Anyone and everyone knows that in the Hollywood studio system marketing is god. They only make films that project (as proven under failed corporatist business formulas) to make money. So we end up with trilogies and sequel after sequel riding on the success of previous success. We see film stories (like Inception) ripped off of other films (like The Matrix) that worked and we see a plethora of remakes that are again remade on a regular ten year schedule, just like regular old white men on Exlax.

Fuck all that.

Advertisements
Alexandra Fulton

Alexandra Fulton on the set of Eight-ish, my first festival submitted film.

I had a thought after listening to Tim Westergen on The Workbook Project talk about Pandora Radio and The Music Genome Project , and how that should be applied to films. Many filmmakers are frustrated with the rejections they get from film festivals. Arin Crumley and Susan Buice really shed a lot of light on this process with Four Eyed Monsters and the accompanying vlogs where they talk about the festival and marketing processes they went through. So add 2+2 and what you get is this: a gnome film festival.

If you’re not familiar with Genome, listen to Tim on the Workbook Project’s This Conference is being Recorded archives. The Genome project categories music, one track at a time into about 400 attributes with ratings in each one (as I understand it). As Tim says, this translates into a truly democratic form of music promotion based on these categories and based on comparing the music that a listener wants to hear with other music that has the same characteristics.

So there would really be no direct all encompassing human judgment factor on rating an entire film. It’s more on these individual traits. In film you could have categories like acting, actor, directing, director, photography, DP, genre, running time, locations, production company, on and on.

This makes so much sense for film festivals where fairness really is an important issue and one that is now clearly forsaken over branding, theme, diversity and other marketing factors that really are what drive film festivals.

Of course the Genoming [sic] of thousands of films submitted to festivals would be a monumental undertaking. So I think it would have to be something of a universal service for all festivals (like Withoutabox, which in fact already does this on a very small scale of non-merit factors), where you have a company categorize films and then you’d have festivals look at that database and select what they want. But again you could end up with festivals choosing films based more on marketing factors than quality or originality or other more merit type factors, and you’d also have to deal with devising a good objective way to rate acting, writing, directing and artist type performance.

Perhaps there could be a new wave of festivals that would choose film solely on the merit and quality categories, or at least those could be the primary factors with marketing playing a secondary role.

Another important point here is that filmmakers need and even crave objective feedback. This would give them that feedback and could even serve as a marketing information database for the entire industry. Filmmakers, studios, distributors and anyone involved with film production or distribution should be willing to pay at least something for such a service.

I’m both a filmmaker and an experienced data-driven software project developer and I think his would be really not a big deal to make happen. But it would cost. It would take a lot of labor to categorize films, and ongoing labor to maintain it; plus coming up with categorization strategies would also be a major hurdle. But probably Tim and the Gnome Project could help out with some insight on that.