In the comments for
Daniel Wu's blogwhich raised the question of Asian stereotyping in films, I noticed that it there was an incorrect assumption of how 'Hollywood" works - and how that would affect Stereotypes in Hollywood films.
So this blog will address those topics in that order.
In Hollywood - movies are made to make money.
This doesn't mean filmmakers don't have personal stories and people who are making the movies don't care about them deeply. This simply means that movies are very expensive to make - even in the DV film making rage, these indies were spending 100k or more on their movies and that was with begging and borrowing - a production model that is unsustainable.
And even if the movies were free - the marketing will cost a great deal. If there is no marketing, no one will see the film - even though the internet has made access simpler - there is so much noise that only marketing dollars can really cut through it. Even the filmmakers with a deep personal mission will not spend the energy it takes to make a film unless there is some marketing... because it's too much work if no one sees the end product. So, nothing happens unless someone puts up money.
And for someone to put up some money - one of the following will be true:
They expect to make the money back. (Commercial Entertainment)
They are willing to spend the money to propagate their ideas. (Propaganda)
They are using the movie as an advertising vehicle for a product (Ancillary Marketing)
2 would be movies or music which promote political or religious beliefs
and are paid for by the believers. 3 is to promote products like
hamburgers or cars. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll ignore 2 and 3 because that is not what most people are talking about when they're talking about Hollywood movies.
So - in the traditional Commercial Entertainment... how does a financier make his or her money back?
Audiences pay for the end product.
What do audiences pay for?
...well, that's just it. How do these financiers know? Filmmakers will say "Audiences pay for the experience... to be touched... they want a good story..." And while that may be true... that's a very subjective thing quantify. It's really just a notion or a hunch. As a result, most of the people responsible deciding whether to spend have another concern:
They are liable to whomever is putting up the money. Even though they are the creative person in charge of helping the money person choose what to put the money into - at the end of the day - they don't want to lose their job. So - this person needs to be able to prove that even if the movie fails - their reasoning was perfectly sound.
So whenever a movie sucks and the audience/fans are left thinking "Why the hell did they hire the writer of that horrible other movie to write this one and not some awesome unknown writer?" Well, it's because this person who had to choose equivocated telling their investors if the movie failed "well, I decided to go with this totally unknown writer" vs. "I went with this writer who wrote this big other movie that you already know about."
This insecurity applies to every single aspect of the movie - and so many many decisions are made based on things which worked before.
This is why a couple years ago, everyone wanted to buy horror films and every writer in town had a horror film to sell. Today, not so much the case. What happened? At the time, audiences were going to horror films. There were a few movies which caught people's attention like "Blair Witch" - and then suddenly - making a horror film seemed to make a LOT of sense. Why? Because the person spending the investor's money could always say "Look at Blair Witch - look at SAW... of course we thought we could make our money back if we had a horror film. We even cast this actor you know about and did a big movie - we even hired this writer who wrote this other horror film." Of course, the irony being that both Blair Witch and SAW were made by unknown filmmakers and only SAW had any remotely recognizable cast. But the money was chasing the trend.
So - every aspect of the film needs to be marketable - and the only way you can prove that something was a wise decision is that if something like it worked before.
But Mark - how does this lead to stereotyping? Almost there...
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