Isn’t it funny how old media are saying the internet could not make Snakes on a Plane a better performer on the one hand, and are now reporting, with the Paramount–Cruise/Wagner break-up, that the movie business is slow anyway?
As I wrote earlier this week, Snakes has beneﬁted from the internet, and if it were not for the blogosphere, things would have been far worse for what was essentially a horror ﬁlm with limited appeal. I would not have mentioned it myself had it not been for company involvement, as I never see horrors.
However, Hollywood’s trend toward smaller stars is no surprise: it has been bubbling under the surface for some time. A particularly good column in the Murdoch Press by Chris Ayres cites the end of an era beginning with the departure of now-Governor Schwarzenegger; Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor, has always been slightly ahead of his time when it came to career planning. Three years on, his choice to turn to politics seems particularly prudent—just as once upon a time, he decided to enter the movie business. And to think we ridiculed him, when he has been interested in politics for an awfully long time.
Budgets are one reason in the high-proﬁle dumping by Paramount of Tom Cruise. Movies are making less money and stars are demanding more of the cake. It was never going to be sustainable.
Tied in with the shift has been everything from No Logo, the criticism of monolithic brands, and the desire of the moviegoing audience for decent story-telling, not over-the-top special effects. (The Lord of the Rings was the height of this; at least Peter Jackson combined story-telling with his visual effects; and perhaps Jackson proved that big actor names doth not an Oscar winner make.) There was only so much visual stimulation that people were prepared to take—and a phoney cartoonish James Bond surﬁng a pressure wave in Die Another Day was a step too far. At least the Harry Potters have a great storyline.
But this has also been an issue of personal branding. Any personal brand has to tie in with the mood of the times, the Zeitgeist; it cannot stay still. There, too, there has been a shift; if in commerce, organizational brands now need to appear homely, smaller and uniﬁed with the audience, then distancing yourself from everyday people is not a good strategy to take. And Mr Cruise did just that—sure, jump on couches (at least that gave me good ammunition on television for myself)—but to criticize Brooke Shields for her use of Paxil, or to go on just a tad too much about Scientology, are steps that planted a divide between Cruise and audience. That audience ultimately included Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom, which owns Paramount Pictures. A similar criticism may be levelled at Mel Gibson, though I applaud the man and his publicist for the apologies to the Jewish community.
These can be contrasted to the low-rent name of Snakes on a Plane, Samuel L. Jackson’s own personable approach to the movie’s promotion, and the ﬁrst major movie that seems to have studio and blogosphere combined. It is One.
Survivors may include Bruce Willis, with his genius of appearing like the everyman, unless word of his contract perks gets out more. But somehow I doubt we will see the mega-stars team together to form a latter-day United Artists, away from the studio system. That would only serve to distance themselves more, unless, tied to its formation, they talk about studio pressure, and how the new ﬁrm will serve audiences ﬁrst.
Thus, the next stage will likely be toward stronger stories with an almost clean acting state, as Hollywood builds up a bunch of actors that we will, in ﬁve to ten years’ time, call our stars. Think of where Gene Hackman was in The French Connection. Or, perhaps we should be casting our eyes to other movie-making centres, from Bollywood to Miramar.
After all, New Zealand has just had its own academy awards, at which The World’s Fastest Indian (of which Sir Anthony Hopkins was its star without taking home an impossibly fat pay cheque—an example to other actors, I bet), No. 2 and River Queen scooped prizes. The irony here is that this ceremony was once networked when we had some cringeworthy productions; now that we make world-class stuff, it is a footnote on the late-night news. But that alone is a sign that New Zealanders are not in to worshipping stars, or Aucklanders, for that matter; the movie business Down Under is in the business of making movies.
We might not have Hollywood’s promotional budgets, but we can increasingly rely on grass roots’ campaigns to get the word out. That may be the future of movies, with clips of the best, downloaded the most, via the likes of YouTube. Give away your video production diaries, rather than sell them on DVD. Use that to attract further ﬁnancing, breaking that stage up into a round of initial funding and a second round of more money. And, team up with us—regular folks—to build your audience. We’ll buy in to the experience, but only if you let us.
Del.icio.us tags: movie movies ﬁlm ﬁlms Tom Cruise Paramount studios Viacom trends Mel Gibson stars Hollywood New Zealand Posted by Jack Yan, 23:02
We don't do the star thing that well in New Zealand, a good thing I reckon...
Too right, Robin—I totally agree. The minute we turn our actors into idols, we are in trouble. We then lose something about New Zealand—and how we do things because they express who we are and what we want to do, not because we receive adulation. I am glad TVNZ failed in trying to turn newsreaders into stars, for starters.
One aspect of the star thing that annoys me is those who sell literally every aspect of their life when it's suits them - Wedding, babies etc - becoming hostile about attention when things aren't so rosy. If you exploit the media to polish your image expect it to be there to exploit you if it's tarnished.
I remember that was how Mike Hosking lost his case—he courted the media, then got upset when things didn’t go his way. Humility is still a valued asset among stars, which is why history will remember Jack Lemmon better than Tom Cruise. (I was very shocked to see my own courtship on TV—sure, I court the press, but for work, never for my personal life. I wouldn’t have thought anyone would care about my personal life.)Post a Comment
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