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)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The News

Once upon a time (as in just a few months ago), this is the kind of post that would have appeared on a Wednesday rather than Sunday, sharing links to podcasts and articles relevant to some aspect of the film and television industry. These being different times, compressed by the competing demands of an increasingly busy world, the mid-week post is no longer a viable option, so here we are on Sunday.

The Kickstarter revival of "Veronica Mars" is the latest big news: a TV show that hasn't been on the air for half a decade will be brought back to life as a movie, thanks to two million dollars in contributions from fans all over the world.  I never saw "Veronica Mars," and am thus neither a fan nor familiar with the dramatic narrative, but this phenomenon -- a television show rising like Lazarus to grace the screen again thanks to the direct financial involvement of fans -- is something new. A thoughtful analysis appeared here on Vulture, and it's a good read. 
Whether the resulting movie will meet the high expectations of those fans remains to be seen.  Similarly unclear is whether this might be the wave of the future -- moribund shows brought back from the grave by fans willing to pay the budgetary freight.  I doubt it, but it's nice to know that a good, smart show killed prematurely for the cardinal sin of failing to attract a mass audience might not have to rot in the grave after all.  

The customer, as the saying goes, is always right.

Participant Media has been in the news lately as well, a motion picture production company seemingly intent on doing good while doing well.  KCRW’s “The Business” did a terrific interview with Jonathan King, Executive Vice President of Production, and Ric Roman Waugh, director of Participant’s latest release, “Snitch,” a movie aimed at raising awareness of the draconian mandatory sentencing laws currently on the books of many states.

Truth be told, I’d never heard of Participant Media before hearing that interview.  I don’t pay much attention to feature production companies these days, and was unaware of what this company has been trying to do for the past few years -- make good documentaries and dramatic films dealing with nettlesome real-world issues in an effort to raise societal awareness, and hopefully, help begin to turn the tide. 

Having released movies as diverse as “An Inconvenient Truth,” "The Help," and “Lincoln,” Participant Media is -- to paraphrase the words of Eldridge Cleaver -- trying to become part of the solution rather than remain part of the problem.*  I’m not accustomed to such a stance from a production company here in Hollywood, an arena typically devoted to the sacred pursuits of self-aggrandizement along with the acquisition of money and power.  

"Snitch" is an action movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson -- a wrestler-turned-actor who is, from everything I've seen and heard, a very nice, earnest, genuine guy.  Still, he's an action star, and unlikely to be compared with the likes of Daniel Day Lewis anytime soon.  But the didactic, preachy approach of a film like "An Inconvenient Truth" can often alienate a younger  audience -- reaching those kids might require that the message be delivered right into their demographic wheelhouse.  Whether "Snitch" is a good enough film to do that, I don't know, but I like the fact that Participant Media is making the effort.

If I was a twenty-something Hollywood hopeful, I’d be knocking on the doors of Participant Media trying to get on board.  Given the monumental challenges facing the world these days -- and seriously, if we don’t make some major changes soon, the cosmic shit will hit the fan over the next few decades with a force and fury unlike anything humanity has yet experienced.  We’re steaming full speed ahead into a world of unprecedented hurt, and the only hope of avoiding the worst of it is to dispell ignorance and apathy by spreading an awareness of what’s really at stake here.

It’s just the future, that’s all.  

I’ll be dead and gone by the time things go all the way south, but many of you will have to bear the full brunt of the coming shitstorm when you're in middle and late middle age -- and believe me, that’s a time of life when you’d much rather ease off the throttle and relax a bit.  But if we remain on our current course, there will be no relaxing for anyone.  Things are going to get unbelievably ugly.  

So more power to Participant Media, the only production company in Hollywood I know of that’s actually trying to make a difference.  Their efforts alone will certainly not be enough, but it's a start -- and we have to start somewhere.   

* Say what you will about Cleaver, a troubled, complicated historical figure, but the man came up with some great lines...

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