MMMM: I Want, You Want, We All Want…. Something Better And Soon
This is really a pre-Oscars SMMM
You won’t get a MMMM tomorrow. This is that instead; tomorrow’s thoughts today. Or rather thoughts before we know anything about who wins what then.
So it is done now. The FKATFB’s Award Season is finally over. Or almost. Unfortunately, we have set things up so next year’s has already started too. Yup. It begins in January with the films that pop at Sundance. Award Seasons run now well beyond a year’s time. We spend more money on the campaigns than many indie movies even cost. In an era where everyone is overworked and overwhelmed, we’ve prioritized tremendous amounts of labor and media attention to the whole silly spectacle, instead of making our existing crop of films resonate or even better. Hmmm… How’s that working out for everyone? And yet, as I have said before, I owe so much of the opportunity I’ve enjoyed to it too, so there’s that too. Nothing is easy nor should it be.
Like the EOY, what IS nice about Award Season being too damn long, is it gives us another marker as to where we are with our work and goals. Where were you last time this year? It’s easy to remember for me -- and probably most of us in the business -- because of the focus we put on The Oscars. Did you advance your projects accordingly? Did you get all done that you thought you would? Did you move the world closer to the one you want? Perhaps it is time to alter your practice.
What is it we truly want from our industry and our own creative pursuits? Why is it that we don’t ponder and discuss this to such an extent that that the answer is readily on our lips at the moment’s asking? Or is it on yours and just perhaps not on mine? We all need to ponder and express what we want our industry to be like, what we want our future to be like, and what we want to stand for. And every exec should ponder regularly what it is that filmmakers want and what it is that film lovers want. I think they have forgotten.
I came of age when the first priority of many was the protection of civil liberties. I found it fascinating how allowing the Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois could be about protecting a better world, and I now think it is. Nonetheless, I think many have confused free speech with free reach, and I don’t think any of us should be able to say anything to everyone at any time. Anyone, yes; everyone, no. When you are reaching a large group, I think rules change. Talking to 5000 is very different to talking to 500K. Wonder where I am going with this? Well…
The Oscars historically have been the 2nd widest viewed American program after the Super Bowl. They have a very wide reach. Last year we had The Slap where not only some did not consider the ramifications of their actions, but others did not have a clue on how to respond afterwards. Some people are good in the moment, but most have to think through certain principles in advance in order to behave in the moment as they should or want. It’s why we need Best Practices (but more on that later).
The whole academy needs to think a great deal more about many things in advance and be transparent about what they base their decisions on – and hopefully it is not just about money and eyeballs. I frankly like a live broadcast event where people can say what they want about what they want – but of course you don’t want to allow people to use the platform for hate speech or toxic behavior, and for those that violate it, they should never get another chance. And last year demonstrated how ill prepared we were for toxic behavior, so you’d think we’d do a real deep consideration of all such things this year, right?
It would be nice if we could remove toxic behavior, bias, and hate from such an event. But is that the extent of the line? Can we, should we, reach further? Are there things – like justice, equality, and democracy – that we need to protect? That makes sense for our industry and community to protect? What is it that we all stand for?
If someone has demonstrated a history of working against those things, does the academy and our industry want to give them a platform or any such promotion? When the academy won’t give such a platform to someone engaged in resisting an unjust war, like Zelensky, why would we give a platform to someone that is on the record of supporting oppression and denying democracy and self-determination? We shut down the democracy advocate who risks his life on a daily basis, but give the platform to the anti-democratic authoritarian apologist (actor Donnie Yen)? Why? Because the former represents little or no ticket sales, and the latter helps access to the world’s biggest market? Is this really the world we want? The academy we want? The Oscars we want? Who is making these decisions and what are they basing them on?
Returning back to my little corner, I want to come up with a better method to prioritize what posts I write and share on HFF. I have a ton of ideas for posts (about 200 now) and still truly appreciate it when anyone shares further ideas as to what they or their friends and students need most right now. If the filter was sheer utility I guess I’d have to drop these MMMMs, but I find it refreshing to just sit and riff. Beyond my own inspiration, and lacking an editor to call my own, I depend on you all to drop a few hints. So that’s my hint this morning: tell me what you want.
I wanted to write a post called “Let’s Stop Rewarding The Best Oscar Campaigns” but felt it more important to write about our industry’s ecosystem instead. Besides Matt Belloni over at Puck does that sort of thing much better than I ever could. His Award Season Awards are a hilarious chronicle of how pathetic we’ve let this whole thing become. There’s just too much now that we have to laugh about or else we would be in a puddle of tears. As the NY Times said, Oscar campaigning has become a blood sport.
I also wanted to write a post “How To Win An Oscar”. A few of you brainstormed with me on this on the Substack chat I think it still could be a good one. I’d still love to hear more thoughts on this in the comments section if you care to add some. It used to be that surest way to get nominated was to have been nominated before. I think that may be changing and thus an indication of a greater shift.
I want to develop a comprehensive Best Practices manual for our industry and creative practice. I also want peace and self-determination in the Middle East, Ukraine, Iran, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the rest of the world too, and that’s not getting much better unfortunately either. Maybe we could just solve LA’s traffic issues. Yeah, right? Homelessness?
Okay, staying in my lane, and focusing on film.
But all films are political and those that claim anything other than that are in denial… or worst!
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I’m here to agree.
While I was watching the Oscars I prepared my acceptance speech, although I know I will never win one, or even be nominated for that matter. "Thank you all, for voting for a whole new genre of film, one that actually offers possible solutions to the problems we face today. I know our Studio, that specializes in this kind of film, has been ridiculed, but we have continued to build our audience over the years. At first, we only offered possible solutions in our films, and now we actually implement those solutions while in production. I want to thank you for recognizing a film that is more than a movie, but a movement for positive change, and I want to challenge you, each and every one of you, to join this movement to lead the way to a better world."