By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.
The US creates a very large percentage of original content. I mean TV shows, films and the like. With the advent of hundreds of cable channels, subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, we create a tremendous amount of demand for what the entire world wants to watch.
Now there are many “foreign” films. Here are just a few of the more recent popular ones. When you read through all these titles, only a few are readily familiar (such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – which I might add I’ve yet to see!).
This raises the obvious question: “Why is such a high percentage of TV and movie content created here in the United States?” My own opinion is that we have such a diverse and rich culture – created by we being the “melting pot” of the world, that it is a natural outgrowth of this.
Our oldest son is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. When he graduated with a writer’s degree from one of the leading colleges that produces such talent, he immediately set off for L.A. In fact, he had a job waiting for him through a business associate of mine. But a soon as he was able (two years), he quit to start an independent writing career.
You have to spend some time in L.A. to really get the feel of how strongly and important the entertainment industry is to this city. In fact, there are a number of notable movies made about this. One of my favorites is "The Player," starring Tim Robbins. Although this is a 1992 movie, the entire cast featured future notable actors including Vincent D’Onofrio, Sydney Pollock (whom I will never forget for his movie "Tootsie"), Dean Stockwell, Jeremy Piven, and a host of others.
The movie is essentially about how phony the entire movie business is. The plot is about the character played by Robbins who is a Hollywood studio executive who is being sent death threats by a writer whose script he rejected. It is a constant theme throughout the movie that there is no such thing as a “commitment.” Every meeting is attended by phonies all trying to “talk the talk and walk the walk.”
Even Woody Allen does a great send-up in his best movie, “Annie Hall.” Actor Jeff Goldblum – long before he became famous, is shown at an LA party talking on the phone (apparently to his spiritual guide). He says: “I forgot my mantra.”
If you take one thing away from “The Player,” it is that Hollywood is as phony as the day is long. In fact, our screenwriter son has confirmed this in many conversations I have had with him as he tries to get a script adopted and made into a film.
Another classic movie about Hollywood’s phoniness stars Kevin Spacey and a very young Frank Whaley. The film, "Swimming with Sharks," is about just how much of a bastard a “typical” Hollywood executive can be. Whaley plays Spacey’s new assistant. To say Whaley is “abused” is a very large understatement. Throughout the film Spacey abuses Whaley until Whaley takes Spacey prisoner and “acts out.” The ending is a bit unbelievable, but it involves pinning a murder on the wrong guy so that Spacey’s character can emerge “free and unscathed.”
Another great movie about the very tenuous relationships among Hollywood people is Quentin Tarrantino’s “Get Shorty.” Gene Hackman’s role as a producer of “B” grade horror films is so accurate (if you believe that the movie “The Player” is sort of realistic) that you cringe at every “meeting” Hackman attends. He is the consummate phony.
Since fictional stories are often based about real life events, a follow up question could be: “If Hollywood is filled with such phoniness and transparent people, why do so many writers, actors, etc. migrate out to L.A.?” The answer is, as was outlined in the film/book: "All the President's Men.” The key phrase is “follow the money.”
All you need do is look at the net worth of leading Hollywoood producers and actors. While the competition is fierce – for any significant leading role in the movie business, it is a guaranteed way to become filthy rich.
Of course, you give up any measure of privacy. Everything you do will be front-page news on all the leading film magazines. Here is but one example: "Things we know about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's-divorce."
Countless TV cable shows are dedicated to covering the Hollywood scene. Frankly, I find these stories to be revolting, tepid and totally without merit. I’ve often felt people who immerse themselves in crap like this really need to “get a life.”
As for me, I prefer my quiet life living largely undiscovered on Puget Sound.