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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

My sales agents have been arrested for drug and gun smuggling, Brit producer laments

“The LA-based sales agents for my British feature film, Living in Hope, have just been arrested for drug and gun smuggling. And no, this isn’t a pitch for an all-American movie.” writes UK producer Guy de Beaujeu in the Guardian. “[I]t appears that… Limelight Films Inc, was a front for laundering drugs money. The DEA busted livinginhope235075.jpgmy sales agents and a number of associates after a two-year surveillance operation called—you guessed it—Director’s Cut. I’m gratified to see the Limelight guys were as bad at drug-dealing as they were at selling my film. Perhaps I can fool myself that they failed to make any sales of a low-budget indie Brit [pic] not because there was no market for such a thing, but because they were simply concentrating on the potentially more profitable side of their business. But, sadly, as much as I wish it wasn’t so, there was never any real chance of Living in Hope, or any other indie Brit [pic], making them any money. Anyone connected to the British film business, with the probable exception of the staff of Working Title, could tell you that.” Describing his production as “a British take on American college movies,” de Beaujeu proceeds to dissect what’s wrong with British film, making things sound as bad as they are in Anglophone Canada: “bad ideas, poor scripts, ill-directed tax and lottery funding, appalling distribution opportunities, and a total inability to grasp the importance of selling to a market… Too many of us don’t seem to live in the real world of commerce because our world has been skewed by subsidies, and then by tax breaks that work for the investors whether a film makes money or not. lazy_45890.jpgSubsidies and tax breaks allow lazy filmmakers to ignore the bottom line, because they can make their money at the production stage rather than through cinemagoers paying to see their films. Which means there is no incentive to make a good film that draws in the audiences.” He also takes the advertising industry to taste, as well as the attempt to mimic U.S. movies. “We cannot and will never compete with Hollywood. We lack the stars to open a movie (with the possible exception of Hugh Grant). We lack the budgets for the sheer grand scale, the special effects, the razzmatazz and the marketing spend.” Silver lining? “[T]hat could be an advantage. I believe there’s a growing disenchantment with formulaic Hollywood blancmange. There’s a desire to see more intelligent, better-crafted, better-acted films that surprise and delight, not just factory-produced mush.” As a contrary example, he cites Australian product like Lantana, Chopper, The Dish, Muriel’s Wedding and Shine. No big stars, just good stories well acted, well made and, crucially, recognisably Australian. We can learn, too, from the likes of New Zealand’s 2002 hit Whale Rider. Here’s a very small film, simply made, based on a local culture with its own traditions that mesmerised the world (and made a lot of money).” [More trenchant analysis at the link.]

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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch