In all honestly, the only thing I want to see is "Control", aka "The Ian Curtis Movie." Ian Curtis was the lead singer of Joy Division, which is probably in my top ten of all-time favorite bands...listening to Curtis belt out "Transmission" or "Leaders of Men" is definitively one of my favorite things to do to this day. Recently, I got to watch "24 Hour Party People" and the Joy Division parts brought goosebumps to my whole body.
Curtis made his mark by writing killer rock songs and having the good luck to have Factory Records record them suckers before he hung himself at the age of 23. ***23***! We should all be so lucky to write great shit before 50. Curtis and his band were a GIANT influence, not just on bands but on people like me who wanted to write the absolutely most honest things we could possibly say, be it in a pop song or in real life. To quote my most favoritest song, "Auto-Suggestion":
"So take your chances step outside.
So lose some sleep and say you tried.
A point of view creates more ways."
The film won a standing ovation at Cannes in May, but it's mostly word of mouth that has reached me, through the Internet and fan 'zines and such. Little else about the fest really excites me, though that might have something to do with my role as a juror. I easily watched 200 films (mostly shorts, but still) this year, and there's not that many that stand out for me, sadly. The fact is that most of the compelling content I've watched in the past year has been on YouTube or via sharing networks (aka "bootlegs") which brings me to The Other Thing I did tonight.
I have a minor flame war happening on the MISP list. Basically, someone posted something about how Jaron Lanier, former cyberspace "visionary" and now basic writer slob like the rest of us, has finally figured out that unless you're riding high on the wave of some fad, a content creator can have a fairly crummy existence in the Information Age. Much of the *best* content out there is created - and distributed - more or less for free, leaving content creators with an Inbox full of "favoriteds" and not much else. I happened to point this out, whereupon a veteran of the industry and co-creator of the MISP document, Frank Zuniga, (himself riding high at the moment thanks to his fine networking skills and killer connections) basically posited that anyone who didn't clam up and take the lumps of the inequities of the business was a big fat whiner. (I think he was talking to me, but who knows really?) To quoth Frank,
"Filmmakers and content providers have chosen a career that high risk and should be driven by a passion for what they have to offer. For me, this has always been a feast or famine existence. My passion is what keeps me looking under every rock and expanding my network to find those who find my work/content marketable. There is no panacea. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence to make the slightest progress. If a filmmaker/content provider finds a need to whine every time they get a turn down or don't hit the motherlode, they really should seek another way to make a living. If it was easy, anybody could do it.
The internet is embryonic and needs to develop systems that level the playing field. It is not someone else that is going to develop the systems that make the glass slipper fit your foot. It is your hard work and tenacity that is going to get that done. Otherwise, get out of the kitchen."
I honestly wonder if Mr. Zuniga would've said this without his extensive experience and ties to the industry. I honestly wonder if Mr. Zuniga honestly thinks that the way to grow the film industry is to provide more or less zero protections for people who might create content. I honestly wonder if Mr. Zuniga would seek to stifle the debate of labor protections only in the case of his own personal exalted creator class, or if his opinions would extend to other film-workers, such as laborers below-the-line in the film world. Does Mr. Zuniga think that the writers currently on strike in Hollywood are whiners also?
According to his bio (which he was kind enough to post on the list as exemplary of his outstanding credentials in this industry) Mr. Zuniga was the Director of the New Mexico Film Office for the years 2003-2004. Thus, here we have an industry heavyweight with
with ties to the current administration that claims up and down the street that they wanna support the Industry in every possible way is basically saying, "You're totally on your own, and if you bitch about the terms, you're a whiner."
That is so excellent. Thank Frank, for all your kind words.
The fact of the matter is really that the entertainment industry in particular, and the content world in general, is in something close to total turmoil over how to deal with the fact that a lot of the content that people eat up isn't being created by people who are getting compensated for their work. To state that creatives who are fed up with that particular state of affairs are nothing but a bunch of whiners who should go elsewhere is essentially stating that an entire class of workers are not entitled to the same protections, benefits, and rights as other types of workers. This is nothing new - people in positions of privilege frequently feel that Horatio Alger style "hard work and tenacity" is what separates them from the rest of the failing populace, but the reality is that changing conditions in the way we produce and consume content and media means that there WILL have to be changes in the way we compensate people for their work.
This demands meaningful dialog and support from those in a position to have influence on the situation. Calling people who want to be fairly compensated for work they create "whiners" isn't exactly the best way to go about it. Acting as if all workers go it alone and either make or break it isn't really owning up to the reality of the situation, which is that content creators are a remarkably large group of people, not just a bunch of writers like me hanging out in lofts waiting for their big break.
I was remarkably saddened to discover that the guy who called for those who aren't quite making it in the new paradigm whiners is actually in a position to make changes within the very industry that so much of New Mexico's economic re-development is based around. Zuniga's comments are remarkably callous - I certainly hope he continues to ride the wave that he's on. Should he fall, perhaps he'll see that the strategies that have worked for him aren't necessarily panaceas for the rest of the populace either.