I was speaking with a friend of mine who is in the film and television industry. He is lucky and personable enough to always be in demand for his directing talents. The last few years have been busy for him, with a long cherished project coming to completion and various television jobs. He also directed a comedic feature, whilst hawking around another biopic project. This is a man who keeps busy.
With the various platforms and streaming services available all needing content, a man such as he is, can, without too much of a herculean effort, keep themselves in demand, as he has done. As grateful and happy as he is to be a working director, the film industry still remains a source of frustration.
In years gone by, tentpole, summer movies would, as they do now, be the big hitters in the season, the viewing masses flocking to see them. Typically, they would dominate the early July weeks and everybody in the industry, the smaller players, respected that. Over the past few years, since the House of Mouse bought, well, everything, there has been a very different approach to marketing.
Disney’s omnipresence in the film business cannot be overstated. The company dominates the film world. Owning not only the Marvel Studios brand, but the Star Wars franchise and overseeing their sub-division of Pixar, Disney produce the most popular films on the planet through their various subsidiaries. It is not just that they own so many popular products, they also have the clout and experience to be able to saturate media with their output.
Films are trailed a full year in advance of release. They have standing room only Expos at the film and comic conventions, meanwhile their stars do social media, television shows and internet shows, keeping the money making machine going.
I wrote about seeing the quirky and highly enjoyable Colossal a few months back. It starred the Hollywood A lister, Anne Hathaway, famed for The Devil Wears Prada, Les Miserables and The Dark Knight Rises. Even with the kudos of Hathaway, the film took less than quarter of a million dollars in its opening weekend.
The democratisation of filmmaking has made it so that anybody can make a film, with the internet making it possible for one to get that film out into the world. Unfortunately, everybody can now get their film into the world. The sheer volume of media available to watch on every type of device and being widely accessible, means people have to be more discerning as it is not possible to watch everything. Because of the overwhelming amount of content and the fact that even for the most avid film geek, there are far too many films released annually to keep up with all of the good or even great films, the big boys have taken advantage.
Disney’s massive roster of talent takes the guesswork out of finding a good film. As I mentioned earlier, even an A list star does not guarantee any traction when it comes to box office attention. Remember, even a lot of the big stars are actors first and stars second, they still, for the most part, want to act. As much as they want to act, they also want to be in successful works, so the bravery needed to appear in quirky, independent films, evaporates for many an actor wanting to forge a career.
Though there have been a few sleeper hits, they are few and far between, with so many of the biggest studio films, outside of the Disney/Marvel/Star Wars fare, being sequels. The other thing that the internet has done, that has proved detrimental to the smaller films, is to make film watchers more savvy to the process and the goings on behind the scenes in Hollywood. Knowing the actual character of an actor or director of a film, especially if the perception is negative, can be harmful to a movies possible box office.
It is up to the smaller independent films to bring variety amongst the juggernauts juggling their tent pole offerings every year. After all, as much as we love the big films, it is the small films that inspire.