Film is like nuclear fission.
Its power is awe-inspiring, and should be handled with great care. An entire generation’s worldview has been shaped in large part to the power of film.
More so than other artistic disciplines, film can place you inside of a world, a character, a situation, a feeling, inviting you to experience reality from perspectives other than your own. The metaphysical value of this cannot be overstated.
Storytelling is hugely important to the health of a culture and film is still its most popular and immersive form, but it’s critical to remember that these worlds, characters and feelings are carefully constructed artificial realities, based chiefly on the experience and imagination of the writer and director.
This is why intellectual and emotional honesty should be expected of each filmmaker, and why having truly diverse voices in filmmaking is a hedge against subjecting the art to one-sided propaganda.
Making movies isn’t cheap or easy. It’s hard to turn a profit. Directors and producers are required to possess a talent stack unfamiliar to the unencumbered writer or painter or even musician. Also, you can’t make movies on your own (at least not narrative fiction). You need a team of talented people who want to work with you. Your success as a filmmaker depends on these hardworking, often unsung heroes.
Naturally, this puts you in an implicit negotiation with them. Quality people won’t work with you if you consistently produce poor quality work, because it would negatively affect their perceived value in the notoriously ruthless Hollywood marketplace. And that’s a good thing. Rejection on the basis of merit is necessary to maintain a high standard of quality. This type of rejection is very common in Hollywood, and nothing to be butt-hurt about.
But there’s another standard they maintain, also using rejection.
Hollywood’s Moral Code
The stereotypical wide-eyed, hope-filled but tragically imperceptive “aspiring filmmaker”, having freshly embarked on the yellow brick road to Hollywood stardom, doesn’t realize that Hollywood is controlled by a powerful priesthood. Much like the proverbial Dark Ages, when society was ruled by powerful kings and social mores were dictated by a centralized Church, Hollywood is run by tyrannical studios who know how to make a buck, and its morality is tightly controlled by its priesthood equivalent: celebrities, producers, studio heads, film critics (among the worst), etc.
Indeed, just like the priests, bishops and cardinals of Dark Age lore, our Hollywood equivalents enforce their twisted morality using shame, guilt and excommunication.
Quality collaborators won’t work with you if you’re not deemed acceptable by the Hollywood priesthood, even if you produce quality work and even if they personally agree with the subject matter, because it would negatively affect their perceived value in the Hollywood marketplace, resulting in diminished prestige, lost opportunity and eventually career failure. This is how Hollywood’s priestly class protects its monopoly on the art from the blasphemous influences of the barbarian horde (or, deplorables).
Even in film school, students are taught about the tyrannical Hays Code, and McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. But they’re blissfully unaware that the same policing of morality is occurring right now, only inverted and implicit.
Instead of trusting their values in an open marketplace of ideas, the priesthood opts to silence any opposition and monopolize the marketplace itself. Perhaps they do this precisely because they know their values aren’t inherently good. And just as their favorite villain Adolf Hitler rose to power using democracy only to subvert democracy, Hollywood undermines the very reason that made Hollywood possible and profitable in the first place: the special, time-tested values of traditional Western culture.
Hollywood has embraced subversive values that now constitute an unwritten but implicitly understood religio-political charter to which allegiance must be sworn in order to play the game and partake of its fruit.
The danger of this fascistic enforcement of values is that, well, you end up looking like a fascist. So Hollywood does what it does best: design propaganda to pull the wool over people’s eyes. And not even Leni Riefenstahl could aspire to create propaganda as effective as Hollywood’s call for diversity.
Yes, while the Hollywood priesthood is constantly signalling their virtue by demanding diversity in films and filmmakers, what they’re really doing is developing diversity in appearance to cover up their utter lack of diversity in voice.
Which of the following two scenarios are more diverse: Two same-race, same-gender filmmakers telling stories from two vastly different perspectives, or two different race, different-gender filmmakers telling stories with essentially the same priesthood-approved message? It’s not hard to understand that valid human perspectives don’t flow solely out of race and gender. To suggest otherwise is to reduce artistic merit to qualities outside of human control. It strips the artist of human agency. It strips the artist of that which makes the artist an artist in the first place.
Of course there is art in exploring different cultures, many of which run along racial lines. Of course women experience life differently from men in every part of the world, and those perspectives are valuable. But that’s not what the Hollywood priesthood calls for. Many of said perspectives would violate the priestly code. Where are the films portraying the plight of oppressed women suffering acid attacks from their husbands in Pakistan? Why is female filmmaker Cassie Jaye’s seminal documentary The Red Pill not championed by industry darlings?
Instead, race and gender are shoehorned into digestible caricatures – memes – to indoctrinate us into espousing easy-order but artificial (and demonstrably destructive) notions of equality.
Should we not rather focus on individual qualities like merit, skill and, most importantly, uniqueness of voice than on collective qualities like race and gender that are weaponized in order to homogenize and obliterate individualism? “But we need more female filmmakers!” Fine, but are you willing to give that conservative woman a chance to make her pro-life passion project? What are the chances of that project getting financed?
Hollywood diversity is literally skin deep; it is a cynical ploy to appear inclusive when the opposite holds true. It’s propaganda.
The instinct of a new filmmaker, fresh-faced and looking for gurus to help them transmigrate the industry’s caste system, is to publicly emulate the industry’s celebrities (read: priests), thereby satisfying the gatekeepers.
‘Correct’ values, like skin-deep diversity, are transmitted and reinforced via movies, popular music, celebrity worship, entertainment news, self-aggrandizing award shows, etc. Espousing these values in your scripts and short films, and especially on your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts are absolutely key when seeking gatekeeper approval.
You have to retweet the right people, and share the right NowThis videos and Huffington Post articles. Script readers, producers, casting directors, etc. are instinctively brainwashed to look for these qualifiers. It’s rarely talked about in explicit terms, but everyone understands it damn well.
The reason this is so important is that arts and culture set the tone for change in society. As the adage goes, “politics is downstream from culture”. Deserting the field of battle in art is to give up altogether.
Diversity Propaganda is an ingenious way to keep the industry “pure” from the profane creatives like myself. Hollywood is full of incredible technical talent but devoid of diversity in philosophy.
This presents an opportunity.
Their obsession with keeping the ranks pure has turned the entire industry stale. They’re producing sequel after sequel, remake after remake, all with the same rehashed plot formula. The only thing still putting asses in seats is spectacle – based on technical quality.
The only place where innovation takes place is on online streaming platforms. And even then, it’s in format and distribution, not so much in subject.
The market is hungry for innovation in content. We can provide that. But because of the priesthood’s stranglehold, we have to innovate in every other area as well, especially distribution.
Distribution is the last great gate which they still have total control over. If a film is made, and no-one gets to see it, does it make an impact?
Distribution is a difficult nut to crack, but things are brewing. I’ll write more on that as time goes on. But for now, I believe defying the priesthood’s standards of content is our best bet to drive disruption.
Disruption itself is, by most definitions, impossible to control. But we may be able to steer it, or at the least take advantage of it. We are in a time of massive disruption right now. Politics, technology, science, art, anthropology… it seems no area of human experience is immune to it.
This is the time of rebel uprisings. This is the time of David defeating Goliath. This is the time when legends are made.
Will you sit back and observe, or will you jump into the fray and take advantage of the immense leverage disruption affords, and shape the future?
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