Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why doesn’t Hollywood make movies for "me?"

I hear this complaint all the time. "Hey! I’m a [baby boomer, senior citizen, intellectual, evangelical, etc.] ... why doesn’t Hollywood make movies for ME?"

Frankly, there’s a certain tragic narrow-mindedness to this viewpoint, as it presupposes that people have nothing to gain from seeing movies about people who are different from themselves. Presumably "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was exclusively for dashing male archaeology professors and "Die Hard" was made for middle-aged New York cops. And I guess only lonely robots found Wall-E’s story compelling.

From my point of view, one of the greatest things about movies is that they offer the opportunity to broaden your experience. To travel places you could never hope to visit. To embody people you could never hope to be.

But, okay. Let's say you really are itching to see movies about people like YOU. Well. Here's a list of 1000+ movies that were released in theaters last year. How many of those did you see, or even hear of? Are you sure not one of them was for you?

Isn't the real question: Why didn’t I know about the movies I would have liked?

The thing is, you don't hear people say "why aren't there paintings being painted for me?" "Why aren't there books being written for me?" In most of the arts, there's an assumption that you have to put some effort into finding those works which suit your taste. The same goes for film. Sure, a handful of would-be "blockbusters" are advertised incessantly, but they only represent a tiny portion of the movies created each year. Really, if you believe mass-consumption tentpole extravaganzas represent all available movies, then you probably believe all restaurants are McDonalds.

Every single year, hundreds of films are released that represent practically any conceivable taste. Offbeat films. Challenging films. Personal films. There just isn’t much mainstream money generating mainstream ads to promote these films, because they don't appeal to broad mainstream tastes. Every year, quality niche films are made, with the optimistic view that discerning audiences will hunt down and celebrate these little gems. If you care that much about finding special movies that are made for "you," track those films down. Go to film festivals. Subscribe to Netflix and take a chance on some indie films. Start a film club with like-minded people, swapping film suggestions. (Hey, maybe even make your own little indie film.)

And you know what? When Hollywood sees that those "niche" movies are making money, they will make more of those movies.

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