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August 1 at 8:15am

Why Our (Film) Elites Stink

By Ted Hope

I haven’t yet read Christopher Hayes’ book “Twilight of The Elites“, but I did recently read David Brooks counter-arrgument “Why Our Elites Stink” in the New York Times.

The film business suffers from a similar ill to our government and banking industries.  There’s no question that the current structure only allows for those of privilege to rise more readily than anyone else.  And there’s no question, that those in power do not reveal any evidence that they think anything is wrong with this picture.

When one wonders why our movies, both studio and independent, seem so redundant, one only needs to look at the race, class, and gender of those able to make films.  When I make this argument, someone usually replies  that anyone can write — it costs nothing, can be done alone, and you don’t need connections to type.  Ah, if only a good script was all that it took.  It takes an army to make a movie and several more to make sure it gets seen.  It requires a campaign strategy, with an incredible depth of support, armed with incredible depths of people power and finance wealth.  It requires experience and connections.

We are an industry that defines itself as rebels, when we are anything but.  We never think we need to change things, because each and every one of us thinks we are the change.  Brooks states:

“Today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites. Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else.”

When we closed the doors to the This is that office, I decided to do without interns.  Sure, we significantly missed those Ivy League students who donated their labor in the service of education and career advancement.  I had hoped to find a way to reward my interns beyond access and knowledge.  I wanted to be able to work with those who were not able to so easily wipe away the nervous sweat of working for free when they faced student loans of tens of thousands of dollars.  I went back to interns this summer when we found some ways to have others compensate some of the interns for their time.  It’s a divers group.  Yet, there is always a real difference when some one recognizes their privilege and opportunity. Some interns may, but once someone has done a decade in the film biz, do they still remember how fortunate they are to use their labor at the dream factory? 

We need to give a hell of a lot more thought on how we can build a system that actually creates original and diverse work.  It begins by recognizing that we must not just work with those that are like us.  

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