David O. Selznick

"I stopped making films in 1948 because I was tired.  I had been producing, at the time, for twenty years . . . . Additionally it was crystal clear that the motion-picture business was in for a terrible beating from television and other new forms of entertainment, and I thought it a good time to take stock and to study objectively the obviously changing public tastes . . . ."
-- David O Selznick

I read this quote today and thought it was relevant to the current discussion of the future of the film business.  It's great to see that Selznick didn't run around like a headless chicken, grasping at any new thing that might become the 'future' of cinema.  There is a lot of that going on today.  

Selznick was right about the motion-picture business as television did take a hearty bite of the profits of the movies.  Yet, for most practitioners of the craft of making films, television didn't mean the end of creativity and work.  Some people stayed in the motion pictures and some went off and made television. In fact, television created more jobs for people who wanted to tell stories with a camera and a microphone.  On top of that, many great motion picture artists were trained and found great success starting out in the television business.  The great Sidney Lumet, Paddy Chayefsky, and John Frankenheimer (just to name a few) came out of making television.

We are in a period of flux once again.  People love television and they love movies.  I don't see the business of telling stories in pictures going the way of vaudeville.  The audience will get what they pay for, that is for sure, and that is the centre of the issue.  It was great that Selznick had the fortune to wait and see.  For now, we'll just have to keep our heads above water and hope to see land in the near future.  It's good to see that we aren't alone.  

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."
--Karl Marx

1 comment:

Robbo said...

McLuhan stated that old media become the content of new media. Vaudeville didn't die - it was subsumed by television - at least for a while. Circus freak shows have been reinvented as reality programming. Good solid cinema is being produced for - television - whereas the film industry itself follows Aristotle's adage that spectacle is the last refuge of theatre.

Yeah, Selznick was sitting pretty enough to just kick back and relax - unlike most of us who are still trying to scrape up the rent money.

Storytelling will never ever die - simply because we are our stories - we define ourselves through our stories. The structure of a story is the structure of human life - with a beginning, a middle and an end. How we tell our stories is always changing - with language, symbols, voice, music and whatever new means we have of reaching out to other human beings willing to take the time to listen and watch a good tale.

You concluding Karl Marx quote was good but I still prefer Mark Twain's: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

The current disruptive changes that are seemingly destroying established cultural industries will certainly create new means and methods and economies in service to telling a ripping yarn.

I'd just like to get a paying gig out of it.