Saturday, August 10, 2013

What's wrong with the movie industry, applied to the things I love.



I recently read an article on BoingBoing that prompted me to finally open my fat mouth about ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH MOVIES THESE DAYS.  Now, the article in question makes it clear that the author believes these problems lie in too much dependence on explosions and blood and CGI. Or maybe it’s that the big producers keep churning out the same trope worn bull. Or that indie filmmakers just aren’t given enough of a chance, dammit. Except when, like Blomkamp, they are. In which case they churn out trope worn bull full of explosions and blood and CGI. And something about GMO popcorn. He gets a little muddled in the course of his “movies these days aren’t as good as they used to be” rant. But he’s sure this is why Hollywood is imploding.

I don’t particularly agree.

Yeah, the vast majority of movies out there slip in one eye and out the other without a second thought. But that’s how it is with most things that exist. I’m sure that you are familiar with a Bell Curve and that it shows that most of the things are average with very few remarkable in either the good or bad spectrum. Worse, our expectations keep getting raised by every amazing film we see. Inception was a brilliant statement on the value of fiction in reality. If we ignore the horrid writing, Avatar looked damn pretty. Hell, there’s no point in making a puppet based movie since The Dark Crystal because holy fuck have you seen that fucking movie?! It’s goddamn gorgeous and amazing and everything I love in this world. They all raised the bar for what we are willing to accept, moving the line for average further over.

So, there aren’t many amazing films. No shit.

Where I think the problem really falls, and I think this is more of a business model issue, is that there is too much product for the market to support. The same article mentions 600 movies slated for release in 2013. Take a moment to think about the last 600 sandwiches you ate. Now, tell me about the ones that stood out.  We’re running into the same problem here. Especially when someone is asking you to spend a minimum of ten dollars on each sandwich, hoping that you’ll actually spend anywhere from $15 to $40 (if we include an eventual DVD/Blueray sale). 

That’s why I think the projected collapse of several studios is a good thing. Even among the independents. I’m also hoping the remaining studios will learn a lesson and cut their production numbers in half. Right now, this over production is cannibalizing their own profits. I think it is the raw amount, not the quality, that’s killing them.

This is the painful part, where I apply this to publishing and writing. 

Right now, we’re facing the same thing in literary markets. Epublishing and print-on-demand options have reduced the up-front cost of publishing to the point that there is very little risk in it, especially if the authors are paid off royalties.  This has created some marvelous opportunities for independent publishers to stand nearly ankle high to the big boys (Hey, it’s better that being the fungus stuff between their toes) and has made it easier than ever (at least in my lifetime) for a schmuck like me to get published. 

Those things are great, but they’re devaluing the market for everyone. Too many new indie publishers seem to be going with the approach that, since they can publish as much as they want, then they should. They end up putting out way too many books per year, which then cuts the profits they make from the books and devalues the whole shebang.

I suggest looking at the diamond market. Those assholes control the price of diamonds by hoarding them and releasing them in controlled amounts . Sure, it’s a dickish thing to do, artificially creating the illusion of rarity to drive up perceived value. But it works. Their product continues to mean something to people. There’s a lesson in that.

If self-restraint isn’t exorcised, then it will be enforced by market conditions and money eventually. That process is always painful.

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