How often have you left the cinema feeling like you’ve been grifted out of your hard-earned dosh by an aggressive carpet-bombing marketing campaign, and a trailer that made the movie seem more exciting than delivering a screaming baby on a rollercoaster? If you think going to the movies is expensive, you should try making one. The budget for the most modest Hollywood film could wipe out the national debt of a small country. As such, one would imagine that the filtering process for what does or doesn’t get past the development stage is quite robust. So why are the vast majority of films that make it through the Hollywood studio system exercises in safe mediocrity? We are fed blockbusters with enough emotional resonance to sustain the opening credits; tent-pole movies designed to hoover up the widest possible audience without any attempt to engage on an emotional level.
Where does the money go, and why is every second film a goddamned remake or reboot?
Steven Soderberg’s State of Cinema keynote speech at the San Francisco Film Festival addresses many of the fundamental problems at the heart of the modern studio system. Astronomical marketing budgets, studio executives that second-guess the audience, and a distinct lack of desire to take a chance on new talent are issues which affect the present and future of cinema.
In short, this is why we have The Hangover Part III, and why The Amazing Spider-Man is getting a sequel.
Soderberg’s career has been nothing if not eclectic. For every one of his movies that I love, there is another that leaves me scratching my head. But he has always struck me as a filmmaker of passion and integrity, a man who approaches the creative process with the right intentions, and the desire to develop. I have no doubt that his “retirement” from directing will be short-lived, but his reasoning for doing so is to be applauded.