27th December 2007

Hollywood redefines “independence”; Rich people the world over clap politely and count their money

posted in News, `Roids |

By Lloyd Kaufman and Gray Bouchard

Every Christmas, at the Kaufman household, we have a tradition: to see who can drink enough of Grandma K’s famous “Hard Eggnog” to make the holidays with the family we’ve spent the rest of the year avoiding tolerable. After 17 glasses of this glorious whiskey and rum infused concoction, it can be assumed that, no matter who wins, we all lose in the end.

While hunched over the bowl, heaving up gallons of half-digested nog, unsuccessfully fighting off whiskey shits, I found my mind wandering to this year’s SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. The wonderful essay by Tromadance program director Jonathan Lees (available at www.Tromadance.com) did an excellent job of bringing to the surface some of the concerns Troma, as an independent film company working in an industry obsessed with forcibly sodomizing the little guy, would have about the ever-changing face of the festival.

Last year, I commented in the Tromadance program that,

“We believe that the Sundance Film festival has recently returned with focus mostly on independent film-makers and seems to be selecting more genuinely independent movies”

After reviewing this year’s picks, perhaps I spoke too soon. Festival Director of Programming John Cooper made a statement trying to highlight the “new talent” chosen this year. This may be the case, a quick glance at some of the casts of these films and I can’t tell the difference between the “independent” Sundance and the red carpet premiere of the newest Spielberg flick: Jack Black, Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church, Woody Harrelson, Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, and Colin Farrell, just to name a few.

It seems that rather than returning to focus, Sundance, or, more accurately, the industry in general, is trying to redefine the definition of “independence” to mean “a movie made by rich people, with rich people, and starring famous (and rich) people.” It seems as though Bruce Willis taking only a million dollars instead of 50 million equals an “indie” feature. And making him gay/transvestite/retarded equals Oscar, baby!

And everyone is happy! Bruce Willis gets that badge of “indie” integrity; the festival gets more publicity and rich, fur-wearing clients; 20th Century Fox gets a boost to their soon-to-be-released Die Hard Sequel: “Die Hard IX: Die Hardest” (originally titled: “Die Hard: We’re Just In It For The Money!”); and Rupert Murdoch can take his daily bath in the blood of virgins.

Now, some might say Sundance has betrayed independent cinema by carefully picking films that either already have distribution or are basically guaranteed it by the star-power and money behind it. However, we shouldn’t blame Sundance. Sundance isn’t the problem, Sundance is merely a symptom of a larger issue: industry consolidation.

Sundance, like everyone in the entertainment industry, is feeling pressure from the multimedia conglomerates to perpetuate the “Hollywood” system and grease the palms of greedy corporate fucks and their politico lapdogs. Hollywood has turned what used to be a noble forum for indie filmmakers into a vetting-ground for the “serious artistic endeavors” of people who spend the other 364 days of the year filling our multiplexes with forgettable, mind-numbing bullshit. And as Microsoft and Apple computers move in to subsidize the festival, there seems to be no end to the bloated budgets and bureaucracy in sight.

But not only are indie’s feeling pressure to go along with custerfuck, but the big boys are getting into the indie game: Major studios are starting to funnel money into so-called “indie” divisions, resulting in the creation of productions companies like Fox Searchlight and Warner “Independent.” Warner Brothers… independent??? Not since” actor’s equity” have two words been so poorly matched.

Now, that’s not to say the artists who are fining work with these so-called “indie majors” don’t deserve it. Many have worked hard and toiled in obscurity for years before Big Brother WB decided that they were profitable enough to throw a million dollars at (which is about what falls out of Rupert Murdoch’s pockets every day). And they succeed in making excellent movies, for major studios. However, having worked in this industry of 35 years, I’m not stupid enough to mistake this for some sort of benevolence. Corporate execs aren’t creative people, but the can smell money. The majors are merely trying to buy integrity, create an “indie brand,” and, in the end, profit. And while this may help one or two really talented people, the fact remains that there are hundreds more that are ignored and shat on by the Hollywood system.

To me, it has never been clearer WHY we need a festival like Tromadance. When we started Tromadance, we didn’t set out to be the conscience of the fest. We merely wanted to give opportunities to aspiring young filmmakers who operated outside the “Hollywood” (re: corporate) system. If every Joe Blow with a video camera could get Winona Ryder to appear in his debut film, then maybe the new definition of “independent” might mean something. Heck, I have a few projects I wouldn’t mind her appearing it. Mostly low-budget stuff, shot on video. In my home. With me as a co-star. Naked.

However, since all but an infinitesimally small number have access to the Olsen Twins, we believe there needs to be an outlet for these voices, and Rupert Murdoch or one of the other Hollywood billionaires aren’t exactly lining up to provide it. This is why I decided to run for chairman of the The Independent Film & Television Alliance, a trade association for the independent film and television industry worldwide, featuring nearly 200 independent distributors and production companies. IFTA is a non-profit association whose mission is to provide the independent film and television industry with worldwide representation, with members from who have real industry experience, like Roger Corman and the producers of “Monster,” who are committed to fighting industry consolidation. More information can be found at www.ifta-online.org.

The responsibility for providing art and entertainment has fallen into the hands of the greedy, and I feel that it is everyone’s responsibility to take it back, at least whatever little part you play in it. We are being inundated with bullshit, while the true independent artists, artists like Takasi Miike and Giuseppe Andrews, find it more and more difficult to find forums for their work.

But if history has shown us one thing, it’s that the major studios have made it their business to try and silence people like me. Economic blacklisting, muscling us out of theaters, flaming bags of dog crap on our porch: you name it, they’ve tried it. But, if there’s one thing the media conglomerates can’t ignore, it’s the voice of the people they’re trying to sell to.

If you’re unsettled (and rightfully so) by this grab for power by the multimedia conglomerates, here’s a few ways you can fight it:

  • Write to your congressmen and women telling them that, if they value your vote, they should not bow to corporate pressure and industry consolidation.
  • Write to the FCC telling them that you want more diverse voices in broadcasting.
  • Voice your concerns with the major multimedia conglomerates: if you hold stock in the companies, voice you opinion. If you don’t, just don’t support them with your money. Skip the new animated Pixar Shitfest. Don’t watch the new family sitcom on Fox. Pass on Warner Brothers new romantic comedy.

Or, as I’ve said many times in the past, MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE and submit it to TRULY independent festivals: festivals like Tromadance, or local and regional festivals like Asheville Rejects, where often entry is free. Every person has the right to not be force-fed bullshit by people who only care about their next paycheck.

In the meantime, check out www.tromadance.com and of course www.troma.com for updates and ways you can help out in the fight against industry consolidation, as well as get helpful tips about what to do with all that post-holiday fruitcake (next week: butt Plugs!).

Also, keep an eye out for our Sundance submission for 2009! It’s a wacky romantic comedy featuring Tom Cruise, the Olsen twins, and Helen Mirren. Basically, they all shit in each other’s mouths for two and a half hours. And all it cost was $65 million to make! What a bargain!

There are currently 6 responses to “Hollywood redefines “independence”; Rich people the world over clap politely and count their money”

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  1. 1 On January 31st, 2008, John Pannozzi said:

    “Skip the new animated Pixar Shitfest.”

    That comment really offended me. You do know that despite being owned by Disney, Pixar is a very artistic driven-studio.

    On a similar note, I was also offened by the Toxic Crusaders chapter in Lloyd’s first book, where it said all cartoons from the 80’s onward were toy commercials. That may have been true for the ’80s, but by the early ’90s, the animation scene was changing. For example, Ren and Stimpy was anything but a toy commercial. It’d be interesting if Lloyd ever met John Kricfalusi (johnkstuff.blogspot.com), Ren & Stimpy’s creator.

  2. 2 On May 14th, 2008, Matthew Corbin said:

    I can only hope your defense of Pixar is mean in irony. It is the same garbage rehashed over and over again since Toy Story. Take anything, object or animal, make them talk have some smarmy humor and really, there you have it, a typical Pixar movie. That CGI crap is slowly running real animators under the ground, legends like Miyazaki or Kricfalusi.

  3. 3 On July 1st, 2008, Hastor said:

    I agree that most of the big-budget CGI stuff coming out now is a bunch of crap. However, Pixar does have true artists, and their movies aren’t the same. The last post just boiled them down to their basics like you could boil Troma down to “a bunch of fart jokes and blood over and over”. I love Troma and don’t believe that at all, but Pixar is about the only studio that does all of their animation themselves. They refuse to take shortcuts such as motion capturing or rotoscoping. They even refused to come back to Disney until Michael Eisner was gone, and then only because Disney owned their characters and they, and I quote, “didn’t want the same people that made Return to Neverland touching their characters”. CGI does take money, and I have no problem with big budget movies, if the budget is used wisely. I’m no fan of Disney as a company, but I must defend Pixar in being true computer animation that is a labor of love. If Disney didn’t own their characters, they’d be with another studio by now. Now bashing Shrek 3 I’m all for. I’m also all for 2D and 3D animation co-existing in the world, they both allow for different visions, and can often be mixed well in the same work. Eisner had shut down all 2D animation at Disney, at least with him gone, 2D is being brought back. I assure you a Pixar movie has every bit of work put into it as a hand-drawn movie. Even in Toy Story 1, they wouldn’t trace video of rain on a window. Instead they watched the video and wrote a program, then fine tuned it until it looked similar to the video. May seem like a waste of time, but now they have at least the start of a program when they want rain on something else. I couldn’t be a bigger Troma fan, or disliker of Disney, but if you’ve seen interviews with the Pixar guys, they are the one 3D studio treating it as an art. They also get to make their own decisions, Disney doesn’t get to tell them what to do. Thats why they are Disney/Pixar movies and not just Disney. Disney is simply the distributor, and sadly, makes money off them. Perhaps being into CGI and impressed by the animation alone, which is far superior to other CGI, makes me a bit biased. They do throw in a sappy song here and there and used *blech* Larry the Cable Guy as a voice, but overall I’ve been impressed with their work. Story-wise I’d say Toy Story 2 is their best. It was to be straight to video until some test animations were done and they realized the great story they had, so it was made on a feature budget instead. I defend art in general, and Pixar makes art, even if it has to be distributed in a crappy manner. It sucks that the path they found to get their art out there is part of the Hollywood machine, I wish it wasn’t, but a lot of great artists have had their works released that way. Better than never seeing their art at all I say. But still fight the system, just make your targets things like Michael Bay movies that have no vision, he makes any cut a test audience or producer wants, he’s a businessman. Or target things that ruin fond memories like the new Get Smart/Underdog/Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. There seems to be an ideal here that if the budget exceeds a certain amount, its crap. Troma’s vision is considered too risky for people to sink large amounts of money into, though it is art if I ever saw it. There is art that is marketable as well too, and it shouldn’t have its label as art removed because the artist got Disney to pay for it being made. The main point though is that things should be more diverse, less controlled by higher ups, more people’s unique visions, more companies working to get them out that aren’t part of some larger company, more people looking at more people’s work and actually considering it despite the current market trends. The business behind it all is what really needs to change. Opinions on different movies are going to vary person-to-person. I always look at the director’s name when deciding whether or not to see a movie, not the distributor (unless its Troma, and thats because it has a person’s (Llloyd’s) stamp of approval). I often avoid theatrical releases too because they will cut things out to save for the real “director’s cut” DVD to sell even more copies. I just wait for the final cut. If I know a movie has been tampered with after leaving the director’s hands, especially in a way they don’t agree with, I’ll avoid it outright until there is a director’s cut released. The fact that Pixar doesn’t allow Disney to make changes shows me that they care more about their vision than the box-office gross. Sure they have trends like a lost character trying to find its way home, but then Troma has trends like super heroes beating the fuck out of bad guys. The way they carry out these trends is different in every movie though, its about the movie, not the plot synopsis. People complain about all the Hollywood happy endings, but in any way I could currently imagine, I’d be pissed if Toxie got killed off and didn’t come out on top. He may be a parody of happy endings at that, but still you want Toxie to kick ass and win, parody or not. Tromeo and Juliet is my personal choice for having an ending that shits on Hollywood cliches.

  4. 4 On October 28th, 2008, pete the killer said:

    i did time for eating a easter egg, this crazy country..

  5. 5 On December 21st, 2009, Hiram Grange said:

    Lloyd, we just wanted to thank you for supporting the indie press and for reading and commenting on the upcoming Hiram Grange novel. Thanks!

  6. 6 On February 27th, 2010, Jimmy Cracks Rocks said:

    Way ahead of you Lloyd! I just don’t watch movies at all unless they were made before 1980 and feature lots of stupid screaming, too much blood and really bad camera work. Like Driller Killer!

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