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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

STAR BUCKS AND THE DEATH OF THE CREATIVE MIDDLE-CLASS



We deal with a theme on the show -- struggle of the small business owner.  Charming is an anachronism.  It's Mayberry.  It's all mom n’ pop, no chains, no mega-stores.  The MC has worked hard to keep it that way.  For them it's about keeping out the masses and the law enforcement that comes with that.  The Sons need the pond small so they can remain the big fish.  That idea is loosely inspired by a town not far from LA -- Ojai.  Ojai has an ordinance that states only residents, living within the town's borders can own and operate a business.  This keeps downtown Ojai small, profitable, community-oriented and refreshingly quaint.

By contrast, the rest of America is getting swallowed up by corporate globalization.  It's not a new trend, Huge mega-stores -- Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc., are wiping out smaller independently-run businesses.  The days of substantial family-owned stores are all but dead.  So what you are left with are chains -- Starbucks, Gap, Jamba Juice, Whole Foods, etc. -- and boutiques.  Small, niche businesses that try to find a product or service that has slipped through the cracks of corporate greed.  Take a stroll down any business district, any mall, anywhere -- all you will find are homogeneous Goliaths and quirky Davids -- nothing in between.

Last week, at the FX upfronts, I was having a conversation with my buddy, Walton Goggins.  Walt and his partner Ray McKinnon, have written, directed, produced and starred in several great, small independent films (Their first short, The Accountant won an Academy Award).  I was bitching to Walt about my frustrating hiatus and how my movie never happened.  I am attached to direct a film from a script I wrote years ago, Delivering Gen.  We have all our financing in place, a great casting director (Avy Kaufman), great producers (Lorenzo DiBonaventura, Brian Oliver), great roles for actors.  All the pieces were there, and yet I couldn't get it cast.  

Why?  The globalization of America is impacting the film business as well -- the days of the 7-15 million dollar movie are dying.  Take a stroll into any movie theater complex, anywhere -- all you find are huge, 50-500 million dollar studio projects and small, 1-5 million dollar indies -- homogeneous mega-movies and quirky boutique films  -- nothing in between.

I was very naive about casting my movie.  I mistakenly thought that because there were less films being made that it would actually be easier to attach talent.  The thought of not getting it cast never crossed my mind.  The two main roles are tremendous vehicles for actors.  It's an actor's piece.  Even though all our money was in place, you still need to attach an actor of a certain caliber to satisfy the financing.  I won't mention names, but we started at the top with offers, A-list stars, then worked our way to the next tier, and when that tier wouldn't play, I realized how short the list actually was -- we were out of put-production names.  (Complicating the issue when you are dealing with talent of a certain caliber, is that there are so many fucking people filtering projects -- agents, managers, lawyers, assistants, producing partners, girlfriends, gardeners, second cousins -- 80% of the time the actor never reads the script or makes the decision.)

Everyone’s representatives loved Delivering Gen, it wasn't a big paycheck, but it was a respectable money offer, yet no one would commit.  Why?  I'm not sure, but this is my guess, and it speaks to theme of this piece -- in the globalization of content, the creative middle-class is dying and as a result everyone is scared about scarcity.  Actors who could normally earn their rate or close to it with a 7-20 million movie, were no longer getting their quote, or because there were less projects, they were losing roles to more bankable actors.  So actors were nervous.  They were either holding out for a big studio movie (cash) or, if they were going to do a small project, they'd opt to work for a director that could at last bring them some critical cache (potential Oscar nod).  The scarcity trend has created another problem.  Because of the economic crunch, financiers are now demanding a substantial name to get even a 1-5 million dollar movie made.  In the past, a smaller budget meant you had more flexibility in casting.  You could hire a lesser-known actor (Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker) because he was the best choice, not because he got it made.  This trend of star restriction will handcuff independent film makers to cast their movies with the right name, instead of the right actor, inevitably bringing down the quality of American independent films.

What's left?  An idea, people willing to work for a lot less money and a Red Camera rental.  Filmmakers are going digital.  Most of these movies never see a screen beyond the walls of a festival, but occasionally some break through.  So like the rest of the US business culture you have the great divide -- elite lavish pigs and the inspired, hungry crumb-snatchers.  The American dream -- life, liberty and the pursuit of more.  This of course, is all my personal conjecture, based on my inside observation.  I may be completely off the mark, but from where I sit, the film industry is in deep creative straits.  Or maybe I’m just pissed I couldn’t get my movie made.

I'm not sure what will happen with Delivering Gen.  It's still in the mix, but I have a feeling it will suffer the same middle-class fate as others.  It's too bad, (and yes, I know this is self-serving) it's really a special little movie.  I hope someday that story gets told.  I've always referred to features as my "virtual career".  I've been writing movies longer than I have been writing TV, yet when I generate a feature script it slips into the netherworld of development -- perhaps never to be seen again.  In TV, I have an idea on Monday, write it Tuesday, shoot it Wednesday and Thursday I'm watching it on dailies.  My day job is very satisfying.  

This brings me back to my chat with Goggins.  Walton, who is starring in FX's new series, Justified, was expressing deep gratitude for cable.  Both, for his opportunities on The Shield as well as his new gig.  We were looking at the landscape of television and noting all the A-listers who are jumping into cable -- Close, Hurt, Pacino, Hoffman, Keaton, etc.  It was Walt's observation that cable is now fulfilling the creative and compensatory void that has been created by film's dying middle-class.  I think he's right.  As network television continues to spiral down the shitter, cable continues to attract more and more talent.  It's one of the few mediums that is actually thriving and growing creatively.

The world is in a media/content upheaval.  Digital has changed the game.  Everyone is grasping at what they thing might be the next big thing (that handful of WTF was the major reason for the WGA and SAG strike).  But the truth is no one fucking knows.  TV, internet, movies -- it changes every day.  The good news is that no matter what it looks like, how, when or where they get it, people want entertainment.  So there will always be a need for content -- writers, directors, actors. 

I take solace in my experience with the human condition.  Knowing that men and women will always find a way to express themselves.  When I was a kid in 70’s and 80’s in NYC, it was performance art, Hip-hop, and bad experimental theatre.  Artists always found a way to communicate ideas and feelings.  Now we have You-Tube, Funny or Die, I-movies, even Twitter and Facebook.  All grown from that same need -- communication of expression.  I don’t really know what the point of this blog is, so if you’re expecting a clever, concise wrap-up -- I got nothing.  Maybe the point is that we don’t need a middle-class, maybe we are already part of it, maybe I’ve had too much coffee.  I don’t know.

Something to think about, or in my case, something to obsess over.

60 comments:

Steve said...

Good read. Thanks for posting, Kurt.

mark said...

kurt thats one thing i really like about you you are straight to the point , thats also why i love your shows in your face writing ,keep it up man

Anonymous said...

Your post rings sadly true. I heard similar comments from Francis Ford Coppola in an interview he did on Howard Stern a few months ago - his point was that Hollywood would not support this level of film because there was no "guarantee" that the box office would be there. Even on the big budget films they are only interested in recycling old ideas that have been a hit before because it gives them some comfort that a big return is likely. Therefore, for folks like me I shy away from so many films because they are not a new story - just a retelling with CGI or a more modern setting. Lame, lame, lame!

Kurt, hopefully, yours will get beyond this point - I know that there are a lot of folks who would love to see it.

Thanks for sharing your creativity with us out here in the real world.

Mike in Cypress, TX

Ben H. said...

Kurt,


I agree with you (sort of)

Cable Channels such as FX and AMC have filled the deep creative void. Network cable is engrossed in a mash-up of terrible reality shows and cookie-cutter dramas.

FX and AMC have really made a name for themselves in the past 5 years with shows that push the boundries such as Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Mad Men.

Good Stuff

jimiwanderson said...

yea brother its all about keeping those that have less or want to work with less in our place. one nation above god with liberty and justice for SALE !!!!!

Joe Reitman said...

What you wrote is painfully true. I hear over and over again that there are not enough "names" to go around. The problem with that statement is obvious. Someone can not become a name without the right project or the opportunity. I way too often see the wrong actor cast in something because they can procure financing, not because they should get the role. In the current climate in the entertainment industry the working actor who grinds it out is being buried. The new SAG contract which allows webisodes to get made has actors working for $100 a day, which is something I can not even afford to commit to most of the time. The roles of guest stars are often being stunt cast and to get the big break these days has become harder and harder. It is forcing actors like myself to write, direct and produce more to try and create our own breaks. Lucky for me I have some skill in these areas and relationships where I can explore these options, but for most actors I have seen nothing but a period of 6 to 8 months where they have not worked at all. Most of my friends are suffering because of exactly what you are talking about. The middle class being crushed. Hopefully this will change and the people with the money will realize that sometimes making something with good talent that creates the best product will make the project successful just because it is the best it can be.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I really enjoy reading your blogs sir.

MissBillie said...

My husband just took me to Ojai for the first time this last weekend. When we drove thru downtown I thought to myself, wow, this is amazing...no huge walmart or target crowding the block, just a downhome, small town at its finest. Beautiful town. Hopefully we can all get back to that, one day.... My entire family is full of small business owners from small towns in Texas, and it's tough watching them fall one by one, especially when a super walmart comes into the area. People never think about that. Sure you may have to a pay a few extra bucks, but it's local, and you're supporting your town...not some crappy conglomerate. Great blog.

Tyler said...

Another great blog, Kurt. So true of the dying/dead middle class. And I think it's true in all aspects of art these days, in particular film and music. There's no middle ground anymore in anything. But my question is...where are the big name actors that aren't afraid to buck the system? Some of these older generation actors have to have enough money, clout, and power to do what they want to, and take on the projects that fulfill them creatively. Am I naive? Are they all being controlled? We need some more Lee Marvins.

hawk424 said...

I totally agree, sir! And no, I don't think you're obsessing! Cable television is the better medium today. I'm not "in the biz", but I can see your rationality in your train of thought. Keep writing (as I do also). We can't lose our passion for writing because like you said, people need and want to be entertained! And you have a gift. You're a good writer. I love what you've done with S.O.A., so far!

Anonymous said...

OMG! Yes, maybe too much coffee. Yes, maybe a bit of a sore loser. Yes, something to obsess over.... no doubt. And that's what makes you so fabulous Kurt ... consistantly putting out stuff for us to read, watch, enjoy and ponder over! You're human like us and that's why we love your stuff so much. I hope one day your film finds it's way to those of us that would appreciate it. Keep those blogs coming !!

Jayson Frawley said...

I am trying to figure out exactly how to put this so forgive me if this makes absolutely no sense what so ever. I believe that what you see as a new creative outlet for the in-between i.e. cable will in the end only add to the problem. While I rejoice in the fact that I have so many choices as to what I can find to entertain myself, I also find that lately it can be a tad overwhelming. The problem is that now there is so much good content (meaning all media song, film, literature, and the like) that the pool is now diluted. Leading to a situation where even a mediocre project if seen at the right time on the right network, shelf, or venue will get ahead leaving so many often better projects in the ether. So for a fan(broadest sense of the word being used), you get selective as to what you will spend your time enjoying and in the end lose the objectivity most of us had only 10 to 15 years ago when the world was simple.

On a side note and in someways relevant to your latest post, when is SoA going to have guys on custom bikes? And I don't mean $60K Discovery channel whores either. Seems to me the characters, some more than others, would be much more suited to ride bikes built by their own hands and not massively marketed CORPORATE "hogs". Just my .02. I can understand if it is a bottom line thing. As it pains me to say so there in may lie the answer to the question plauging both of us.The bottom line is..... Yeah well you know the rest.

Jayson Frawley
baneslament1@cox.net

Anonymous said...

hello i love your show Sons of Anarchy it is the best. I Like the tattoos ho is in the show, do you have any pitchers on juice tattoo I has on his right arm. i have looked everywhere for his tattoo.

Iberostar said...

Choices are being taken away daily. I used to be able to go to a real hardware store and look for the type of nail or screw I needed for the job. Now I have to go to big box stores and look inside a bubble pack with four or more pieces in the pack - no matter if I just need one. Or last week, I wanted to make sun tea. Those nice glass jars are not sold anymore, but you can buy an electric ice tea maker.
It seems with all the money floating around to make stupid movies, there would be someone interested in the WORK and not the paycheck. The stars need good writers - or what they have will never be seen.

Anonymous said...

I have to say this post made me reflect and think about the overall situation for writers in America. There are so many talented young writers walking out of MFA programs and can't work in their craft because the opportunities are not available. Needless to say it sucks, but we simply have to produce good work and hope it'll fall into the right hands.

As for you movie, well not being able to cast it sucks too. I'm a big fan of Sons of Anarchy and Justified...those are the reasons that FX is becoming such a stand out channel. It's apparent that the talent, dedication and love of the craft is so important in these shows and I bet in this movie script.

You've probably already thought of this, but what if the movie was made for FX? I don't know much about the finance and the details, so sorry if this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but if cable is becoming the hub for great creativity and great acting caliber, then maybe your script has a chance to flourish in this medium. I mean, A-listers are jumping for roles on good shows/mini series on cable, right? your movie could be a special...similar to what HBO and Showtime do. Moreover, the movie would have a better chance at a golden globe/oscar nod, right?

Again, I don't know much about the rules, regulations, and financing connected to all this, and you've probably already thought about this option, if it is an option, but I personally love the writing/creativity of SOA and would love to see this movie come to fruition.

Steve Mona said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Some of my favorite movies I don't believe would have a ghost of a chance of being made today. I could list a dozen movies that had "no-name" actors in them, or at least lesser known actors that went on to become the very same A-list simply because someone (read that as the money people) took a chance and made some great film. It's sad. I still prefer the mom and pop places that are dying all over NYC. Still get my Italian deli stuff on Mulberry Street, my mozzarella on Sullivan Street and a nice bottle of wine from a small family owned place in the West Village. I hope I never see the day when I can't...

Willie Taylor said...

I totally agree with the concern of "Big Business." It has and will continue to do more damage than it it will any good! Personaly, I think you should incorperate "Big Business" even more into S.O.A. ... In my house, as in most that watch the series, it is kept uninterrupted. With this many people glued to the show, it would be good grounds to turn heads and make people think.....maybe even for themselves! Instead of allowing "big Business" to influence them so much! With any luck, people will start standing up to "Big Business," instead of being cattle lead to slaughter.

Watching S.O.A. has definitely made a difference in our home. We have started acting more as a unit, than as individuals. It has reminded us that we need to stand up for ourselves, instead of just "going with the flow!"

I want to thank you for "opening our eyes," and creating such a wonderful show!!

S.O.A. fan....Wilie Taylor

Spooky Lil Girl said...

Thanks for delivering such a much needed commentary. A country founded on rugged individualism gives so little crediblity to those who still practice it. A way of life lost forever in a sea of "pod businesses." Its go large or go out of business.
I live in a small town that has gone to great lengths to keep the chain businesses out. But little by little they have crept in.
I am a small business person, running an art service out of my home out in the country. At times I have high profile projects and the media comes calling. Some think its cool that such projects come out of a small, informal studio in the woods ( ironically NBC News was one of them.) Others see my place and I instantly lose credibilty as my place is not a big polished shrine to art.
I see other beautiful big studios that do the same thing I do. I could not even imagine paying the heating and a/c bill for these places.
But life and business has changed.
I still hang in there with my art and make a living.
And one of the best things about living way out in the country? If I want, I can shut out the world (the news, tv and such), and pretend the world is anything I want it to be. Atleast for a little while. I sure can't do anything to change it.

Janet said...

Everywhere should be Ojai!

I love your take on things. Interesting how corporate globalization effects everything, one wouldn't necessarily see it in the movie industry, but after reading your post I definately see it happening.

I just don't understand why all of the horrible remakes (Private Benjamin?, Overboard?, Dune?)if there is fresh new stuff out there. Seems kind of backwards.

Good luck with your project, I hope we see it sometime in the future.

troiluann said...

It truly sucks that so much hinders a great work from really "making it." I'd love to hear more about Delivering Glen. You're such an incredible talent. Both on and off screen. Keep up all your effort. It's paying off in more ways than you know.

what'saname said...

Sutterman, Remember back when you were just starting out writing? This is what it's like for a lot of us still! Great concept, great storyline, and you just can't get anyone interested in it enough to get it out there. I have (?) an MC lifestyle book deal with a niche publisher who just told me that because thier new projections estimate sales of less than 200K units, they want to drop the project. This, as we were in the middle of discussions of book #2. What's a mother to do, when everyone wants to be TARP'd into safety? What's a creative to do, when it's only a deal if a publisher can see subsidiary rights, movie rights, cable rights, foriegn rights, paperback rights in his or her binoculars? It means that some writings never get beyond the thumb drive they reside on. I spent an eternity in a former life building a great pro-photo biz servicing smaller ad agencies and design studios because I couldn't break into the NYC/Chicago/LA AdWorld without payola of some kind. Now, 15 years or so later, I find myself practicing the same creative masturbation with words instead of pictures. The bottom line: if it won't sell muliple millions, no one is interested. No one except those who know creative work when they see it. Keep up your fight to get your feature made. You have the talent. And with your history of The Shield, and SOA, you'll prevail. Have faith.

Annie said...

Why not take the book tact? When it becomes a best seller, and you've retained the film rights; A-list stars will fight over it. PLUS we get to read it!

SeanMurphy said...

I think the was about as concise a wrap up as you can possibly have on that subject. There is no answer as to the validity of it, it just exists out there and any of us with a creative voice have to constantly deal with/cope with the frustration of trying to speak to the desensitized public that is our audience.

There is no taste left in the middle, there are only extremes. The deluge of information into the entertainment or creative world has only created a soaking wet public full of shit waiting for the next blockbuster, boxset, or reunion tour.

Do people not know how to form a taste for something or recognize something not even great, just entertaining or real anymore?

Dont worry, I obsess over this all the time.

Greg said...

I think the audience has changed. They want to see an expensive blockbuster (Avatar) or a great, interesting story (for some "Hurt Locker" is a good example, I didn't like it that much). The place of middle-class movies was taken by TV shows - not very expensive, but with a neatly written script. And that thought just came to me: is that possible that with "SoA" you're cutting the throat of "Delivering Gen"?

Just a thought, you know ;)

Great blog, by the way. You're not afraid of saying unpopular things ;)

Greg,
Poland

Ps. Lookin' forward to see the next season of SoA :)

Frank said...

I guess the industry can get a lot of people's hopes down,

No matter who we are, we all have dreams, goals, I wish you the best with the film,

Even though I dont know you, you achieving this goal, will be an inspiration, not just to me, but to all your fans, we all got dreams, and you are still working for more,

good luck with all your projects

Anonymous said...

I agree about the movies from your point of view, as I know absolutely nothing about getting movies made or casting them.

However, on the TV side, what ever happened to being excited about the new season of shows coming on? Now all you have are reality shows with people fussing and fighting over God knows what. It's embarassing to watch!

Actors better be willing to jump on a creative project unless they want to invite cameras into their homes so we can all view and comment on their disfunctional lives. Because, if things keep going the way they are, those will be the only jobs they have to choose from!

tonilost said...

The actors from Lost will all soon be available, dont know what your movie is about but that's a wealth of talent, Terry OQuinn, Michael Emerson, Matthew Fox, all age groups too. You can even go international, geez, even little Tommy Cruise cant find work, I see him going Indie soon too. The paychecks so-called A-list actors used to command is over. Dude, you need to schmooze and get out more, take Katey to a place where TMZ cameras are, free publicity! I feel bad a guy from Jersey cant get his movie made. What about Viggo? He is real, a great actor and down to earth and if anyone is approachable it's Mortensen. I can see you two being great friends.

Carl V. Natale said...

I admit ignorance about the economics of film and TV. But is cable a viable option for your project?

I know it's not the big screen. Does that matter if it gives your story an audience?

I would be interested in hearing how that would work or not work for you.

BTW, I appreciate the information you share. I learn a lot.

Harley Harlet said...

i love SOA and its the only tv show aside from the nerd squad i watch or care to watch. when SOA is on we as a family watch it. and last i checked starbucks isn't mom and pop as they killed alot of the old mom and pop stores when they first opened which to me is very sad. we love movies about bikers and even ones that show the average biker (remember Then came Bronson?) but anymore the media has taken and ruined tv for me and also the real lame shows like the new christene (or what ever the title i feel bad Julia Dreyfuss had to lower herself that low to play such a dimwitted annoying character! i am all for supporting SOA and unless you do a show that is that is more related to bikers it probably won't have a chance here we are tired of worthless tv.

Connie from Queens said...

They are actually remaking Overboard. That movie was a flop the first time it came out with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. They are going to have to spend at least 15 million to get that made. Why spend it on something like that and not produce an original, creative work. We have become India. No middles class, just upper and lower. I would try and have the movie made as an HBO mini-series. The best work is on cable, as we all know. Be good and take care of yourself.

DaisyChained said...

The middle class getting crushed under big corporate America is true in every area, every field. It's difficult for a new comer to get their foot in the door. All the big names are gettig their kids, aunts, brothers,sisters Grandparents into the acting field. Also it seems eveytime you turn a cornor there is a 'new' drink, clothing line, parfume, makeup line.... The list continuse to grow. So just where is the space of oppurtunity for the new and unknown? Getting an 'in' is like trying to slide a piece of paper between the stones of an ancient wall.

Marianne said...

Sorry to hear your film didn't get made. Having watched and loved 2 seasons of SoA, I would have given it a look in the theaters. I guess the fan response is going by the way-side in terms of importance to studios, too. Everyone loses.

WyzWmn© said...

why not Delivering Gen made for cable?

Anonymous said...

Come out to Australia to make the movie :D we'll have you, plus lots of the big movies are shot out here now cause it's cheaper and we have a ton of awesome rising actors for you to choose from

Chook

Dax said...

Hi.

Did AMC pass on Goggins and McKinnon's Rectify, or is it still in their development hopper somewhere? I was looking forward to that (but am also happy to see Goggins settle into Justified...).

Hope your movie gets made... someday, somehow.

I'm greatly enjoying SOA... it's fantastic work.

I saw you note on twitter in response to a question about your friend Drea, something like 'not this season, but maybe next year'... I haven't gone back to review, but I thought I remembered Season 1 leaving Wendy ON-canvas (and in a tentative peace with Gemma), so I wondered where she went between seasons (besides the obvious answer of 'to Desperate Housewives'), story-wise, I mean...

Penn said...

How can tv and movie audiences convey to the Hollywood-circus ringmasters that we want the type of quality shows that are moving to cable? FX has been delivering good programming. When I watch SOA and a handful of others, I feel like I'm using my brain. At least I'm not losing additional brain cells ingesting shit. I was always an avid moviegoer. Never complained about the cost, or waited for the DVD (or VHS tape)to come out. Now, I'm not even interested in going to the movies. I'm waiting for the DVD. The Hurt Locker was a good movie, but was able to view that on On Demand at the same time it hit theatres. I believe that, in itself, states the powers that be don't have confidence in their choices. Maybe I've had too much coffee...and it ain't from Starbucks.

The Drizzle said...

I totally agree. When I became a middle class housewife a few years ago, I was deeply disappointed in the options that were presented to me. Not only the extent that huge corporations have taken over, but also their offerings. I have always made my own gear, clothes, home furnishings, etc, and I just can't find what I want in ready made store-bought items. I buy food in bulk and only go to the big chains to get yarn and fabric, spending as little money as possible. I can afford it, but I just don't like what's being offered.

I LOVE Sons of Anarchy and as a TV junkie, it's one of my favorites. I hope that first, the baby gets rescued in the first episode, I don't want to have to sit and twitch through the whole season, second, keep Charming...well...charming.

Pointman said...

That is why I'm drawn to your writing and opinions, it's direct and illuminating.
What you describe is maybe why I don't watch in-theater movies anymore - too much CGI, light sabers, glitz that requires a mile high suspension of disbelief.
SOA is a great example of human condition and emotion. Other than camera angle, there is no slight of hand when dealing with greed, grief, revenge, love, brotherhood, justice, and just Life.
I enjoy a great plot any day to a high speed chase or high tech gadgetry..
Thank you for providing that through your talents.
Good luck on your movie- it has been my experience that when it's time, everything will fall into place.
Enjoy the great riding weather!

indianacat said...

Being far from the land of make believe that Hollyweird has become, I hope that you can get your project out of developement purgatory and made.

Disappointments can be a bummer in Life. Too true that the idiots in charge tend to want guarantees on the return in the form of mega millions, and now everything is going 3d from 2d, making it more expensive for the movie houses to show and the general public to see.

That's genrally why I wait for the stuff I want to see to come to 'premium' cable and/or dvd. It's less expensive that way, and if one has to run to the necessary during the show, one can pause and come back and miss nada (TMI, but that's life, folks!).


Is direct to video still a factor? When my husband worked as a video store manager, it seemed there were a lot of the direct to video/made for video movies coming out (I think they called 'em 'B listers'?) NOT that I'm sayin' that your movie is less than stellar, but is that a possibility for getting it out to the masses as opposed to the obstacles the so-called 'normal' film making path seems to toss in your way.

You're right about one thing, corporate conglomerates have definitely taken over the landscape. The 'mom and pop' stores are a thing of the past, and will soon go the way of Beta video and vinyl records and the dinosaur.

Some still exist, like you say, they fill a niche. I try to support them when I find 'em, especially in a metro scene like Indy. You can find 'em if you look hard enough.

Hold on to your dream, Mr. Sutter, and don't let it die. Delivering Gen will deliver, and will do so in your lifetime, cause you're the type of person to make it happen.

Charles Sydnor said...

Great post Kurt. Building on what Joe Reitman said in these comments, the middle class below the line workers are also being crushed. I know many talented people who are trying to figure out what to do for a living now that their post production career choice has become untenable. The industry is truly in a state of revolution as all of us (including corporate big media) try to see how entertainment will be monetized in this age of new media. I personally choose to seek out the opportunity born in times of upheaval.

Outsider said...

Quirky David Crumb Snatchers...I like that....
Tell me about it on Festival Films....two of the best things I ever did barely made it to dvd and another with a great semi A Lister who did a classic motorcycle film is just squeaking to limited theatrical release. Another friend I've done several films with has a boxed set compared to "Decalogue" that is just to low fi to sell it seems.
Anywayz....I noticed the role with the same name as a peacock head....reminds me that I shot a role for the peacock that they didn't have the cojones to air...it involved my Cojones....guess their censors were just a little too squeamish, wriggling with a hair up the butt to throw the dice in primetime...
The peacock head needs a figurative Sarah Palin thanksgiving turkey waterloo

Outsider said...

Meanwhile I have to say I dug Noomi Rapace in "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo". I was supposed to do a project with her but then her recent cult success has made her too pricey....perhaps you could nab her

Backdraft said...

Hey Kurt,
Love the show (S.O.A.)rocks.

Is there any chance your movie could be made in the cable tv medium ?

Laura Bee said...

I live in a well-known wine valley, THE wine valley in California, and I'm seeing on the business end this exact trend. The death of the small family-owned business is rampant here, you see the "for lease" headstones all over town. We do have several big new hotel projects going on though. The word "elite" is being used more and more to describe the direction the city is trying to take. I have no experience in the TV or film production world, but your Starbucks metaphor really hit home with its basic truth. The super-cool camping supply store that was here for 40 years is gone, but you can bet we have a Big 5 and an REI. We also have about ten Starbucks now, while the Smoking Cat (a really cool little coffee house that showed old movies on the weekends and had shelves full of board games available to enjoy on the mis-matched couches) is long gone. I'm a small business owner, but there's no chain that does what I do so I think we're safe. It was really your first few paragraphs that touched me. I better find a way to become elite real fast or my days could be numbered too.

Reynard Da Sylva said...

Hey Kurt,
No wonder you can't wrap it up neatly, it's a subject like a cartoon thread. As you keep pulling whole garments are unravelling until every stitch has gone.

Death of the creative classes sounds too remote and like you I don't doubt this human spirit we try and contain in ideas.
I don't think we have anything to lose by the death of average, middle-of-the-road mass-produced rubbish. All that promotes is a uniform mediocrity with the chance of a little fame or notoriety, dreams of safety and security.

Keep it real and raw as always.

Dan said...

Indie producers like Ted Hope and Scott Macaulay address this issue quite a bit on their Truly Free Film and Filmmaker Magazine blogs (essential reading for DIY filmmakers - check 'em out.)

Ted and Scott are facilitating the discussion on how filmmakers can bypass the traditional studio system in the age of RedCam, streaming and VOD, and make a return in the process.

I think the success of PRECIOUS and HURT LOCKER was a signal that, even in the age of mega-franchises, audiences are hungry for compelling stories well told. And that those well made films can ascend from the festival circuit to Academy consideration.

I'm having a similar challenge with my feature project, a grisly gay drama based on a novel by a literary cult figure. A tall order for funding and casting in 2010.

I'm confident that you'll be able to make your film, with your track record and impressive body of television work. My guess is that the indie film community would jump at the chance. We def need your voice out there.

Big respect,
Dan

Melissa Center said...

Great post. It's an interesting time indeed, but I feel like the pendulum is shifting in a new direction. With all of these emerging platforms, the class lines will hopefully continue to blur. It's an era of DIY! Let's hope we can continue to get our work seen.

Best,
Melissa

Tobias said...

Damn, your blog left me feeling drained of all will to live.
It wasn't the world becoming a franchise part. I'm from norway, so I'm able to stay blissfully ignorant about that part a wile longer.
What really beat me up and left me for dead was the fact that I've had the exact train of thought as the one you presented here concerning cable becoming the stage for quality production as opposed to film/movies
(To be completely honest I didn't make the distinction between network tv and cable tv, the reason being I'm from norway so I don't really know which shows come from where (except that if there's cursing it's probably cable, cause it's more accepted there (I think)))
I came to that conclusion after reflecting over the tremendous quality that some tv shows have displayed the last few years. I'm thinking particularly about shows such as; the wire, dead wood, the shield and now sons of anarchy. (I know some of these shows are produced by hbo, and hope you'll forgive me if they are competitors. (not quite sure if it's a channel or just a production company))
So the reason I feel like a new friendless inmate,huddled up in the fetus postion in the corner of the prison shower after being gang raped by a bunch of white pride prisoners is this; I had the same (or close to the same) thought as a living and breathing genius, and I can't prove it. I didn't share these thoughts with anyone..
I'm the freaking definiton of mediocre. I'm so mediocre I don't even fit in anywhere. There is nothing I do above average that gives me some sort of bond/connection with anybody. Of course I have my family, but they don't really count, cause they sort of have to.

Before I go one with my mediocre life, I'd just like to add that, in my opinion the creative force going to tv productions is a good thing. After seeing shows like the ones I mentioned earlier I came to realize that the tv medium can do something that film/movies have a hard time doing. That is really establishing characters.
In books there's the advantage of a narrating voice, (who can be much more present then in film/tv) and the description of a charaters internal dialog. Those things make the audience feel a closeness to the charaters that film as a medium just doesn't have the time window to match.
Tv shows aren't constrained by time like movies. They can give the audience a close connection with the charaters through all the small stories /scenerios that happen while the big picture / story is being unraveled.
The season ending of SOA leaft me feeling depressed for days, seriously! The reason was that I missed the characters. I really missed Jaxx..

Well. if by some miracle in hell you, Kurt Sutter, are actually reading this; I would just like to finish by saying; thank you for a incredible show!
People in Norway love the story, the characters and the backdrop you've so ingeniously have created. You cannot be anything else then a freaking genius.
(it's a really mediocre mind writing this comment, so don't let your ego get to big though ;)

Anonymous said...

I see this same phenomenon in other fields -- I'm a university professor who works closely on federal grant projects. Ideas for new and creative projects go no where -- if you want the grant you have to develop another shade of gray to attach to the "accepted" vein of thought rather than try to develop a new creative solution to a problem. The freedom to creatively explore is dwindling away as the freedom to fail has become an unacceptable alternative, even though we learn a great deal from our failures. Federal programs are a lot like Starbucks -- place them in a community and make the community pay for it and accept it, even though the community likes neither the cost nor the taste.

Marjorie said...

So excited about Hal Holbrook in SOA next season. Can't hardly wait to see him and Katey working together, it should be magic. Great casting choice for Gemma's dad.

Anonymous said...

Kurt: Congratulations on signing the GREAT actor, Hal Holbrook! Big, big 'attaboy!'
I was wondering if you have ever considering using an actor named William J. Sanderson. He played Larry on Newhart and, more recently, he was Farnum on Deadwood and he was (I think the Devil) on Lost. Really talented guy!

Aaliyah said...

This post got me thinking that if a person of your stature is having a problem getting his film made that it doesn't bold well for the screenwriters and filmmakers like myself who are outside the system and want to get their stories on a big or little screen. Hot mess.

I guess we all have our struggles and even when you're a big fish in a small bond or a big fish in a big pond the system of elites can screw you. I'm starting to understand why so many people in Hollywood are shallow opportunists, it seems like it is the only way you can get your stuff out there, another hot mess.

Oh well, life goes on right. Thanks for the post. I'm going to ponder this for a while.

Eric said...

What? You don't have private detectives slip your scripts into actors faces and force them to read the first pages at gunpoint?

You could try a coordinated snag campaign through Twitter and Facebook. One of their followers or friends has to be a fan of yours.

Michael Taylor said...

I think you're dead-right on this -- the creative demise of features and network TV set against the rise of cable. For the viewer, it's not a disaster -- there are so many quality shows on cable these days (this really is a New Golden Age of TV) that the networks bilge is easy to ignore. The last decent network drama was "Southland," and Jeff Zucker's NBC was too stupid to understand what they had -- so the second batch of shows aired on cable. It's a shame to lose the ten-to fifteen million dollar features, but as you point out, new talent will arise using cheap modern technology, and the cream will eventually float to the top.

The rise of cable is a mixed blessing for those of us who do the heavy lifting on set -- the men and women who actually make the shows. Network shows pay full union scale with double-time kicking in after 12 hours of work on set,but cable shows can pay their hard working crews 20% less per hour with double-time after 14 hours worked. When you're 22 years old and can take the punishment, that's not so bad, but 30 years later, working much harder for considerably less money is a real bitch.

I love the quality of cable shows -- "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," "Justified," and "Sons of Anarchy" -- but can no longer take the low-rent flogging such shows are contractually allowed to inflict on their crews. I'm sorry, but a 14 hour work day (at least 16 hours when you count meals and drive time) is just too damned long.

Not all cable shows abuse their crew, and I'm not suggesting "SOA" does -- I don't personally know anyone who works on your show -- but the sidebar cable contract allows for such abuse. I took my share of punishment day-playing on HBO's "Tell Me You Love Me" a few years back, a show that took full advantage of that odious sidebar deal to grind the crew into the dirt every day.

Too bad. Just once it would be nice to work on a show I could truly believe in.

flippen said...

I'd work for you for free man, too bad I ain't an actor and I live in Sweden. What you're saying is so true. Now it's gonna be forever till I can watch season 3 when it hits in the States, but keep up the good work! (I also want more Tommy Flanagan, he rocks!)

therealzenobia said...

Thank you thank you for Paula! Three isn't even half of half, so more casting announcements?! Jesus Christ, I hope you didn't hire that horse Steve fucked.

Anonymous said...

This is so true, Kurt. So what's the solution? I mean - you would think some of these upper level studio excecs could do the math and see that investing $20 million to make $100 million is far better than investing $100 million to make $105 million or $2 million to make $13.45, but then,maybe they weren't hired for their math skills...

John said...

I'm just waiting for the first big budget "TV" serial to be released straight onto the internet. It really can't be that far away.

If most of your overseas fans are torrenting your show anyway, leveraging that for revenue is much smarter than trying to fight an inevitability.

Just sell the space where the station/network ident goes to advertisers. Make it unobtrusive enough so that no one feels it worth the effort to obscure it, and then release the episode into the wild (and maybe offer a push option for a small fee - for all that torrenting TV shows is easy these days, it's still not a trivial task).

The problem is of course getting the advertisers to see the value, but any sharp global brand should at least begin to understand just how much exposure they could get that way.

Ike Diamonds said...

Cable TV over the last decade has fueled what I feel is the golden age of television. There is more quality content on TV (mostly on cable) than in movie theatres lately.

Dee from Tremendous News! said...

I think this is a great era for anyone with vision and creativity. Hollywood can continue to make the bankable big-budgets, but eventually small cult followings become big followings and Hollywood will want in again.

Cable TV and the Internet are like the farm system for Hollywood. They can see what develops and pick and choose what they like.

Which makes you like A-Rod playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

By the way, thanks for promoting my cats-recapping-lost video. That was cool of you.