Friday, April 03, 2009

The economy, the internet, scams and Sugar


Reading the NYTimes this Friday morning - in print as I always do before I leave home, being so old fashioned - two disparate articles really hit me. The first was an odd feature for the front of the business page, an interview with Raymond Vaughn, one of the wittiest, most prescient thinkers on the economy to grace the Gray Lady. Really. Vaughn is out of work and trying hard to make a change in his life. You can get the full details of his story from the article, and you should, but this quote from him is probably my favorite quote about the economy thus far this year:

“For me, it’s always been a recession,” Mr. Vaughn says. “I’ve always struggled to find work and pay my bills. And now we’re hearing recession this, recession that, and I’m like, yeah, now that it’s hitting the rich people, it’s officially a recession. They’ve got to give up eating in those fancy restaurants with their $100 chicken dinners, and now they’re stuck eating Church’s with me.”

Amen. I'm not in his shoes - I currently have a job, and have been lucky in this respect, but what he says is 100% correct - the boom didn't ever hit for many in this world. And his quote neatly sums up what I bet a lot of people feel. Reading this also reminded me of something completely different at first glance - Mark Gill's famous speech about the film industry's sky falling, and how every filmmaker I knew wondered what took him so long to realize what we'd already known about the indie film business - that it was overpriced and underperforming, and that for most filmmakers, these companies would never buy, market and make money from their films, so his troubles were irrelevant to the most of us. And most of these filmmakers weren't making any money through the indie boom, the doc boom or the mumble boom.

I also found myself nauseated reading the article - this gentleman is now putting his bets on an online training program to become an expert in medical billing. The article's author clearly isn't sure this is the best idea, but doesn't seem to tell him that. (and I'm really wondering about journalistic ethics now...stand idly by??)Now, I hope I am wrong for Mr. Vaughn and wish him only the best, but it also kinda reminds me of all the film reporters not willing to tell filmmakers what's really going on out there for fears of angering a company and inviting a lawsuit or dashing a dream. It also reminded me of all the get rich quick through internet magic schemes being sold to filmmakers today, 99% of which will fail soon, and which also won't make filmmaker's rich.

Then I read this great review of the new film Sugar, which I can't wait to see. A.O. Scott writes this great line:

"There is something undeniably noble and beautiful about the love of sports: the appreciation of grace and excellence for their own sakes, the pleasure of competition, the discipline of training. But the practice of big-time sports is often cruel and corrupt, a business built on the exploitation of young people and the peddling of impossible dreams."

And this too reminded me of the state of film today. A lot of hard working filmmakers, just wanting to tell their story, learn the craft and reach an audience. And a big, corrupt business often exploiting these dreams. And I don't just mean Hollywood, it's in many aspects of the indie film world as well.

Boy, depressing stuff this print media. Luckily, I work with some great people, and know many others, trying to be real about the business and help dispel these myths. (boy, the hotlinks I could put for the word "myths," but there's those lawsuits...) We need more of it in the film world. Anyway, just thought I'd share these random thoughts on the interconnectedness of all this.

Image - NYTimes, Fernando Calzada/Sony Pictures Classic

1 comment:

soapeymad said...

"The mumble boom"? Nice phrase but I'm not sure there ever was/will be a boom in Mumblecore films, financially-speaking. But that highlights the main issue with the lack of financial viability in the American independent fiction film arena - there just isn't a movement exciting or consistently well-produced enough to interest a large(-ish) audience. As long as contemporary filmmakers keep making cheap copies of Cassavetes, Ashby, and Altman films instead of trying to create something new, there will be no boomtime for the independents.