The Hollywood Paradox

Dear World

Please Kill Me,

Here’s a question, that I pose to those willing to take a little journey down the path of self-reflection: Who are the gate-keepers of fame, fortune, and exposure?

Smart money would suggest the answer to that question is obvious. “Clearly,” they say, mount their soapbox, and swallow the phlegm. “It’s Hollywood! Those elitist sons of bitches…that we can’t stop giving money to!” Then, someone like me, would ask “How are they stopping you?”

Rather than continue the conversation with myself (as my therapist has recommended) I’ll cut to the chase; they aren’t stopping you. Is Hollywood an ever-deepening echo-chamber of idealism, self-righteousness, and greed? I mean…probably? I don’t know.

Do they actively prevent the “unworthy” from joining their ranks of fame and fortune? Again, who can be certain?

What is clear is what Hollywood is, in its basest form. Essentially, the almighty entertainment industry is little more than a collective of individuals hard-working or fortuitous enough to meet other people who knew how to do things: write, direct, act, score, etc.

It’s an entertainment-industrial complex that has evolved alongside the demands of a parallel society (in the form of their dollars). The they aren’t those who traverse the red-carpeted terrain. They are the equivalent of civil servants, whom we choose to fund. The amounts are simply a consequence of our fervent participation.

That being said, whenever I hear complaints about things like diversity in entertainment, I get confused. I’m not so grey about the discriminatory practices. That exists. That’s real. Neither am I lost on the topics of greenlighting or blackballing. Like any good industry, they try only to make what sells. It often doesn’t matter what you think you’d like to see. They make what people pay for. These topics are not my gripe.

Instead, I focus on the complainers. Those who’ve barely cracked the surface of their creativity before ousting themselves with the false belief that it’s either the Hollywood infrastructure or none at all. This, to me, simply isn’t true.

Sure, you can write a script and Hollywood’s approval will fast-track you to a realm of relatively easy money, connections, experience, etc. However, should those options not avail themselves to you, there ARE others. With a camera, a script, and the know-how (required to make a project sing) your creation could join those you admire by aiming for quality, accessibility, and just a little bit of marketing savvy.

For example: Do I think there needs to be more diversity in film? Absolutely. In addition to that, I applaud the efforts of celebrities and other industry affiliates who’ve adopted the inclusion rider. They’re doing what they can, within reason, without making it about them. However, it’s up to us to join the fray with the manifestations of our own will. In the end, that’s all the industry is–the manifestation of will. More importantly, that’s not all it can be.

Think about the book industry and the changes that it’s seen over the past few years. At one point, not so long ago, it was nearly impossible to publish and gain recognition without some major backing from the industry or someone close to it. Not more than twenty years later, you can go on dozens of sites and download something directly from the author. No red tape. No guards. No sudden pandemic of influenza. There’s just the art, the creator, and those willing to interact with either of the two.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Naturally, when you open up the Pandora’s box of independence, you’ll see an increase in ‘not-so-great’ work. What’s often overlooked is the increase in the percentage of hidden gems, niche-diamonds, and developing creatives—who may not quite be where you’d like, but they will be sometime soon. This would not be possible without the impassioned motivation of the creators. Why do we look at the film industry any differently?

The process seems pretty straightforward to me. Once you get past the necessary hurdles of purchasing/renting/borrowing the equipment, the rest relies on your talent and/or the talent that you’re able to acquire/convince/or coax into assisting your efforts. If not, you’re on your own—which isn’t an impossible task. Difficult. Not impossible.

Once the project is done, you preview it for a select group of constructive critics (friends, family, neighbors, etc.). Then, you make the changes accordingly. All it seems to require (beyond base capital and ingenuity) is a concept (that can be written for a shoestring budget) and the confidence of all parties involved. Again, where’s the barrier beyond your own imagination?

Is it hard work? OF COURSE, it’s hard work. But the job is the job. It’s ALWAYS hard work—whether you have a budget of $2 or $200 million. I wouldn’t call “ease of process” a discrimination issue. It’s a creator issue. It’s an industry bonus, not a prerequisite or signifier of success (See: Cats, John Carter, Battlefield Earth, Roman J. Israel Esq, Gemini Man, etc…).

If you want to see more of something in modern cinema, don’t waste your money on a Hollywood project that you will ultimately detest. Do some searching. Find independent creators, whose message and creations you enjoy and support them. You want more Asians in film, find an Asian director, who hires working-Asian actors, and fork up the money (just like you would for that blockbuster you’ll inevitably complain about). That same rule applies to any minority, majority, or abstract group.

Hollywood isn’t the only issue. We are too. Our laziness and need to control what is ultimately just independence writ-large. They don’t owe you anything. They just want your money. NEVER FORGET THAT DYNAMIC. Be brave enough to create or be bold enough to follow your integrity to something new.

Sometimes, it’s up to us to be the change we’re searching for. If you’re not willing to do that, I honestly don’t know what to tell you. Just stop complaining.

Until Next Time,

Antwan Crump

Bedlam: A Collection of Things Now Available on Google Books.

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