11 Jul Hollywood: A Model for the Future
If you are wondering what it’s like to live in a world constantly being driven by technology changes, you could look at Hollywood or Tinsel town. Why? Because cinema technology has been changing the production of movies since the beginning of the industry in 1908 when it all began in California, USA and a few people began making the first silent movies. Everyone loved movies and wanted more, so the decades of innovation began. And what it was like to produce a movie, how movie stars were paid, and how the film crew was recruited changed and changed.
Early on, the “Big Five,” Studios dominated: Fox, MGM, Paramount, RKO and Warner Brothers and “the Other Three,” Universal, United Artists, and Columbia controlled financing through to the cinemas.
A Shift in Power Came With Demand
In the beginning, everyone was an employee of the studio and had to do whatever the studio bosses ordered. Then, through a series of changes in the law, and the popularity of movie stars and directors, the power shifted so that the people who were most in demand could call the shots, and they could choose to make films for different studios too.
Technology brought in more changes as television came onto the scene. Where before you could only see movies or moving images on the big screen in a cinema, eventually you could watch TV as easily as it was to listen to the radio in the home.
When TV began, just like movies, they were experimenting and learning how to produce content that changed every day. So a lot more people were involved in producing television, especially in the US where every city and almost every town had their own TV station producing local news, and choosing programs to show to their local community.
Again, another change came in how people worked in the film and TV industry. There were a lot more opportunities to be a local TV news reporter or weather announcer, and more people had the opportunity to direct, act in, or write the scripts for TV programs.
Independent producers began creating new products for television: documentaries, news, detective (Sergeant Joe Friday) and lawyer (Perry Mason) series, science fiction (The Twilight Zone), then the long-running series which were supported by long-running advertisers. When the soap makers started sponsoring ‘Peyton Place’ and ‘Days of Our Lives’, that gave rise to the nickname “soap operas” because the action would be interrupted by ads to use the fragrant smelling soap that would make you even more attractive to everyone you met.
The very best place to work if you wanted to be the best, at the top of your game, was Hollywood and to make movies. It became a 2-tier system when The Wizard of Oz was licensed to be shown on television and was a great hit. Movies, when released, would hit the cinemas first, and for their second act, would be shown on television to make more money.
In the 21st century out of Hollywood came three different types of movies: The expensive blockbusters (over $100M like Star Wars VII), art films made by the studios ($20-$40M like Shakespeare in Love), and specialty films coming from independent studios and producers. The third category comprised over half the features released in the United States and usually costs between $5 and $10 million to produce.
Hollywood entered the digital age, with more ways to watch and more ways to buy exactly what viewers want to watch. Now through streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or Video on Demand, or cable, like HBO (Sopranos), Showtime (Billion), BBC (Downton Abbey), we get extended compelling storytelling and production quality as good as the movies, at home.
With rapidly falling prices for filmmaking and film editing equipment, more and more people can make their own films. Small production companies can now compete with the big Hollywood studios with much much lower costs. Sound equipment, music production can now be done in your own home or garage. Many more people are writing scripts or directing and acting in films while supporting themselves doing other work. They show their finished work at film festivals like Sundance and South by Southwest or the Cannes Film Festival and hope to win the awards which bring attention from the major film studios who can distribute their films.
Francis Ford Coppola, long an advocate of new technologies like non-linear editing and digital cameras, said in 2007 that “cinema is escaping being controlled by the financier, and that’s a wonderful thing. You don’t have to go hat-in-hand to some film distributor and say, ‘Please will you let me make a movie?'”
So let’s recap how Hollywood might be a model for the future of work in industries outside.
Hollywood is an even bigger Dream Factory than it ever was before.
Will the world of work evolve into the factory for making dreams come true, whether your dream is to make a movie or do something else? How will you know unless you gather up your friends and give it a try?!
California Safari provides teenage and college-aged students the opportunity to visit Silicon Valley and Hollywood and see first-hand how the future is being made. www.CaliforniaSafari.com