Risking It All In Hollywood: Intense Hope That Success Is Around The Corner

Put yourself is James Cameron’s shoes for a minute.  Third highest paid director in Hollywood, with a net worth of 700 million, nothing compared to the two ahead of him being Spielberg and Lucas with 3 Billion (with a B, no typo) and 3.25 Billion respectively.  I’ll come back to this idea in a bit, but in the opening chapter of Hollywood The Dream Factory by Hortense Powdermaker, we read about how there are few stable and long lasting relationships in Hollywood (Pg. 30).  Adding to this we are given the reality of the constant power struggle even as the director, because while you may be the director, often tia2467938098e340fc005327bf51c5591mes the producers get the last call on things such as editing or script ideas.  As Powdermaker discusses on page 189-190, the director used to be the main person in charge, they would rush the editors to develop rough cuts day to day while they watch over their shoulders.  In addition they would do all of the story development, all of the camera work and most of the planning for the film as well.  However, now the directors don’t always have all of the authority.  While films are often the directors vision, that often makes the director feel as though every decision is theirs.  With casting directors, freelance writers and hundreds of other employees working on a project, the director isn’t always given the final say on editing, writing, casting and more.  That being said, the old argument presented on page 202 is that the director has a pivotal role in combining everyones skill to produce a good story.

So what makes a director great? On page 188 of Powdermaker’s article, she says, “The cynical definition of a good director given by many Hollywood actors – ‘one who reads the script before he begins shooting’ – is indicative, in an exaggerated manner, of the situation.”  I think this quite is hugely important because while it simplifies everything, a truly great director doesn’t follow the cookie cutter style filmmaking, especially in todays age, because no one cares about a cookie cutter film anymore.  I think a good director is one who can retain vision of the film, while adapting to the constantly developing industry, and while keeping everyone working happy.  That means directors need to know when to risk adding to the budget to push the story to the next level.  The whole idea of risk is brought up by Powdermaker on pages 32 and 33, where so many factors and people are involved, often unfamiliar to each other.  On page 33 she says explicitly, “Crisis is the backbone of our business.” (33).  I think additionally part of the whole idea of being an amazing director is how you handle that crisis (as cliché as that sounds).

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 5.05.44 PMThis loosely brings me back to James Cameron.  In 1994 Cameron developed the treatment for his film Avatar.  The original plan was to develop the film after his 1997 film Titanic, and to release the film in 1999.  Jump forward to 2009 and Cameron had successfully answered the estimated $237 million question.  There was HUGE money involved in Avatar, and over 14 years of work was put in to it.  And while the production cost varies by different sources, the budget was just as massive as the new techniques he was exploring.  When experimenting with this huge budget with the intention of doing something revolutionary, Cameron ended up succeeding and Avatar is still the highest grossing film of all time, behind Titanic.  So now the question comes up about sequels to the original because of the success of the first film. This is what’s so insane about the industry because Cameron spent years of his life to develop this film and do something truly revolutionary and innovative, but all of the questions and risks paid off, for $2.7 billion to be specific.  (again a B, no typo).

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FINAL THOUGHT: You have to catch up or get left behind in the film industry, someone is always working harder than you for your spot.

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