Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Land 'o Links

Just Do It

They didn't follow the rules. Why should you?

I'm not a big fan of blog posts laden with links. A link or three that further illustrate a point is fine, but when every sentence is riddled with glowing patches of hypertext, the smooth flow of prose is disturbed and I start losing interest. That said, I'm often guilty of link abuse, and rarely so much as today. Black pot, meet the black kettle. But sometimes you've just gotta break the rules...

After a holiday week of overindulging in rich food and drink, are you fed up with reading/hearing/watching anything having to do with the terminally over-hyped Douchebagian family? Me too. I remain thoroughly baffled by the Douchebagians, having no idea who the hell they really are, how they became so famous, or why anyone beyond their obsessively narcissistic selves and the cloud of opportunistic flies hovering around them (agents, managers, and other assorted parasites) could care one way or another about their “reality” shows, clothing lines, fragrance products, or benighted celeb-u-tainment nuptial extravaganzas.

Seriously – who gives a shit about these look-at-me fools?

There are much better ways to spend your time, starting right here. Pay attention, kids -- I’ve been makin’ this list and checkin’ it twice...

KCRW’s The Business has been on a roll of late, including this fascinating interview with Werner Herzog -- who at the outset of the show promised to speak for exactly thirty minutes and not one second more. Herzog is a unique individual in the independent film world, crafting films nobody else would even consider making, and he’s learned a lot in the process. Accordingly, he has much to say on the subject -- which he does by running his own quick-and-dirty film school on a highly irregular basis, teaching a limited number of carefully selected students lessons on how to pick locks and forge film permits, among other things. The latter skill, Herzog claims, proved crucial in enabling him to finish his surreal epic Fitzcarraldo.

His advice to young would-be filmmakers is to avoid the system altogether and go to work doing any job that will earn ten thousand dollars over the course of six months to a year, then go out and make the film using cheap modern digital technology.

Whatever your involvement with Hollywood or the film/television industry at large, you’ll get a kick out of Werner Herzog. Having walked the walk over the past forty years, he’s earned the right to talk the talk – and there’s really nobody else quite like him.

The Business ran another interesting interview with Mark and Michael Polish, who more or less followed Herzog's template in making their new film For Lovers Only, shot in France on the very thinnest of shoestrings. They pulled it off in a manner that would make Werner proud, and their efforts should give any young wannabe hope that although the Hollywood system is indeed rigged against outsiders, you don’t necessarily have to play by the house rules.

Yet another recent half hour of The Business features an interview with Roland Emmerich discussing the long and winding road he traveled to put his new movie Anonymous -- at one point considered unmakeable -- up on the screen. Whatever your feelings about Emmerich, his movies, or the endlessly vituperative debate as to who William Shakespeare really was (not having studied this contentious issue, I have no dog in that fight), hearing how he overcame the many obstacles between script and screen is an interesting and instructional story. You don’t always have to like – or agree with – somebody to learn from them.

There's a common theme to all these interviews: if you really want to do something -- like make movies -- don't sit around waiting for some higher power to discover your true inner genius so you can then dazzle the world. Get off your creative ass and make it happen.

Otherwise, "it" might never happen for you at all.

It's the self-starters who make a difference in this world, regardless of the field -- those who refuse to play by the establishment rules, wait their turn in line, or take "no" for an answer. Those people carve out their own destiny, and sometimes achieve spectacular artistic and/or commercial success in this town and beyond. Rule-breakers can bomb in an equally spectacular manner, of course, but failure stalks all creative endeavors, including those that toe the line. Doing anything in this town is a roll of the dice, so if you really want to make your own films, what have you got to lose?

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates didn't follow the rules. Neither did Orson Welles, Steven Soderbergh, or Quentin Tarrantino -- instead they broke the mold and got it done their way. Welles paid a horrendous price for daring to buck the system, but in the process reinvented modern cinema, and for that earned his place as a Hollywood legend. Roland Emmerich might only be a legend in his own mind, but he makes a good point in his interview: "A moving train is more interesting than a train that's standing still" -- meaning that momentum is important. It's easier to attract backing for a project already rolling toward the starting gates than get people interested in a brilliant idea that has yet to venture off the page.

The lesson: get your project moving and make it happen.

And finally this four minute meditation from Rob Long, who once again explains how and why Hollywood works the way it does. His is another voice of experience, so listen up. You just might learn something.

That’s all for this week. Remember, only 24 shopping days left...

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