A Hollywood Director’s Message to Pirates
This is my fourth attempt at writing this requested guest blog for the Pirate Times. I actually gave up after the third one, but then it occurred to me that if we can’t talk to each other the bad guys win…and nobody wants that to happen.
The issue I come across when explaining the inner politics of Hollywood, or any of the obstacles we filmmakers face on a daily basis, is that it always comes off as somewhat conceited and privileged. But that’s only because those outside of Hollywood perceive certain actors, directors and events as glamorous, whereas those of us on the inside have long identified them as threat and part of the Hollywood oligarchy.
It’s a bit like being an agent of M.I.B to use a movie reference, where you can see that Vincent D’Onofrio’s farmer is really a giant cockroach, but nobody else can?
I could drop a name of a famous and generally well-liked movie director for example, who garnered many awards for a civil rights movie he made and you’d say: “Well surely he’s on the side of the underdog in Hollywood?” But because I was present in the director’s guild meeting where he aggressively suppressed a proposal to achieve gender equality and diversity amongst filmmakers, I now have the ability to see him as the giant cockroach he is as well.
People need to stop thinking that famous writers or directors make certain movies to make the world a better place. Hollywood oligarchy is a nest of narcissists and egomaniacs who choose their projects either based on how much money it will make them or by the amount of potential awards they can win.
But what is important to understand here is that I am referring to the 1% of Hollywood elite. Our industry reflects exactly what’s going on in the rest of the world. The 99% in the film industry, we find ourselves with less and less resources and little to no power. Furthermore, as a person of integrity it is almost impossible to function within this industry, once you look behind the curtains.
Hollywood is a union town. Nothing happens without the unions’ consent. People who wants to break into the film business can’t just join the union, you have to achieve certain steps to be invited. Those steps are different for every profession and they’re designed to keep those already inside the club on an unreachable, safe level so that they don’t have to compete with newcomers. For example, assistant directors (who really have little to do with directing, they have the much harder job of organizing a bunch of crazies and scheduling a movie) will most likely “count days” to get in, which means you have to slave on non-union movie until you can proof you have worked 400 days on a movie-set. But the kicker is, even after you’re allowed in the union, you’ll be considered 3rd Area QL, which means you are qualified to work on any union job OUTSIDE of Southern California or New York. So basically, you’re still excluded from working in the two mega production cities.
As a director I don’t have to count days to get in the union, but I have to book a job with a DGA signatory company to qualify, then I have to get three recommendation letters from directors who are already in the DGA.
I will let you make your own conclusion about that.
Unfortunately because all the networks and studios are union signatories, you can’t really go rogue because you won’t be able to make a living.
For those of you tempted to think that this is unique to America, I would urge you to look at the film industry in your own country and check how easy it would be for a working class kid to break in. There is a reason so many Europeans come here to break into the film industry before even trying in their homeland.
This is really such a shame, because if only the privileged get to tell stories, how can we be surprised the world reflects the “rich getting richer” narrative?
For those of you who have joined the Pirate political movement to make the world a better place, I would urge you to consider liberating the arts and artists as well, rather than just battling the Media giant as a whole.
During my research into copyright reform, your party and other organizations, I have often come across articles with a certain tone of disregard about my profession, as if filmmaking was not a profession to be taken seriously. Or I read statements questioning why anybody with a conscience would even be part of Hollywood.
Ben Okri once said: “A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad.”
If you consider there is some truth to that, then you should really root for people like myself and many of my colleagues in the Hollywood 99% not to give up. And yes, many of us are guilty of having made movies that do not contribute to the health of the world, but that’s because the 1% is in control of greenlighting movies and TV shows and some of us actually do need a paycheck once in a while. I can promise you though, there are plenty of healthy and inspiring screenplays currently rotting in the drawers of studio executives.
I have watched some of the Pirates I now had the pleasure of meeting take a strong stance during the Ferguson tragedy and the resulting protests. Obviously, protesting for civil rights is always a good thing and I am genuinely impressed by anybody who shows up for that. But I notice this pattern of all the courageous people showing up to protest a fire whenever a house has already burned down.
I get it, because it’s a crisis that has reached its emotional peak, it’s all over the news, it’s raw.
But what about trying to prevent the fire in the first place?
If you can for a moment put the image you have of silly, red carpet Hollywood out of your mind and think about the product we make, then let’s consider the movie that has become the taste of the town right now:
BOYHOOD. Filmed over 12 YEARS, Boyhood follows a white boy into adulthood.
And apparently it’s fantastic, I don’t doubt it. But you know what we could really use here in America? That same movie about a black boy. See, you can only shoot somebody in cold blood because they’ve been dehumanized, because you can’t relate at all to them on an emotional level. They’re alien to you.
So yeah, a movie shot over 12 years about a black boy growing into an adult would really be amazing. But fat chance that’s ever going to happen. Nobody would finance it, nobody would distribute it and so on…
So while you’re tweeting and posting about Ferguson, just take a minute to consider the less sexy path that leads to such a tragedy and what could be done to prevent this from happening again.
In general I think it’s a massive mistake to underestimate the influence of film and TV. I know some of you have kids and have therefore experienced a phase when a certain movie is on 24 hour repeat until your kid has memorized all the actors lines and by default, so have you. Talking about giving the enemy a space in your head, you might as well move into the MPAA building.
I make you a deal, email me the movie your kid has on repeat right now and then I tell you the behind the scenes scandals on that particular project. Let’s see how comfortable you feel with that particular storyteller or producer having that much influence on your child.
I took a pro-pirate stance because I instinctively felt that I have much more in common with Peter Sunde than former Senator Chris Dodd, who supposedly represent my interests. I have met neither one of these men, but instinct is a big part of being a storyteller so I tend to listen to it. Had I known the size of the big red target that would mark me as a result of taking that stance, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to go through with it.
Now it’s a matter of making it worth it. I look at you guys and your goals and I compare it to those of myself and my colleagues and the winning chess move visualizes right in front of my eyes.
It’s all going to depend on how well we can relate and unite. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.
PS: Here is a riddle for you: What organization breaks international copyright laws on a daily basis while actively lobbying to imprison those guilty of the same crime?
Guest author Lexi Alexander is an Oscar nominated film director and former World Kickboxing Champion.
Lexi Alexander has allowed us to reinstate this post. She originally asked us to remove it due to the virulent backlash she experienced at the hands of the Hollywood establishment and the initial lack of support from Pirates. If you are on twitter then you can help advance the cause of ‘culture sharing’ by following and retweeting @