Say What?


on audiovisual and literary translation, subtitling, and the French & American film industries

Is Online Killing Movies?


. . . Those who read own the world, and those who watch television lose it.
— Werner Herzog

From all appearances, the opposite of the above seems to have come to pass.  What was once “programming,” now morphed into “content,” has rapaciously proliferated like whatever your preferred metaphor might be.  Now I readily admit, as “A Writer who Translates,” that I’ve immersed myself in “must-see TV” stories that submerged its audiences into fantasies or history to brilliantly illuminate the present.

But on some level, whether it’s a pendulum swing or some type of karmatic comeuppance, a shift is underway.  So-called “content’s” accumulation via multiple “platforms” etc. seems to have reached a breaking point. Did we actually ask for all of this . . . information/story worship/making?

In olden times, i.e. pre-2007, there was some separation of media artistic appraisal/criticism and business analysis on all things audiovisual. Now, the critical pile on of praise and worshipful adoration is contextualized by what exactly?  That, save for narrative features reduced to two genres and precious few exceptions, there’s absolutely nothing else out there?  The past, i.e., a prior half century of utter TV dreck in terms of “content” antecedents, and a century of cinema?

The cheerleading justifies “more,” but of what exactly?  The absolutist publisher/”content provider,” instead of curating or nurturing individual voices, has created a self-mirroring kingdom where the business model is all, and the actual story or project is a trivial, detailed afterthought.  This devout, holy cynicism, in which “creatives” fully participate, pollutes the entire landscape, snuffing out and stifling actual trailblazing and risk-taking.

How much more can we take without cultural indigestion or worse? Like some ridiculous sedative, we have become anesthetized by stories where the ultimate goal is simply to get lost. Are we hastening our extinction by bending our heads in prayer like to our screens, ignoring not only the manifold and manifest problems around us but one another? There’s no hint of catharsis, much less a desire to be more awake or alive afterwards. Instead, we’re venturing further off trail from our own lives and any semblance of bonding or deeper connection with those around us and those far beyond.  Of course, there’s endless virtual “watercooler” activity, but whose existence merely perpetrates the content-saturated ecosystem itself.

In all of this submergence, we’re fast losing something critical: the cinema. Almost undetectably, while we were asleep in front of our devices, the business of movies has disappeared. And possibly the most frightening thing about online’s algae-like monopolization is its dominion and domination over all dramatic forms.

So what if or when the dam bursts, and the theaters simply are gone, how will we come together for entertainment?  Never before, to my knowledge as someone with a theatre background, has humanity shirked collective aesthetic gatherings. What’s ultimately at stake is the one mass cultural enterprise where everyone comes together—the masses, the elite, and everyone in between.

Like any bubble or “sure thing,” push eventually comes to shove, and “reality,” in this case something more measured, retrospective, or completely different, asserts its dominion. But what exactly that will look, sound, and feel like is anyone’s guess  . . .


Filed under: audiovisual translation, French film industry, US film industry, VOD, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em: Brave New World of French film sales

This one article from Variety is a great tutorial in the ups, downs and sideways of French film distribution today as seen through the prism of Toronto.  The upshot is inevitably the end when Régine Hatchondo, head of Unifrance, utters the ‘V-word’, but it’s nevertheless fascinating to see how, knock-on-wood, the market for character-driven French (and other national) and indie content seems to be coming back (even with a bidding war for Werner Herzog‘s 3-D doc about French cave art, no less).

Filed under: French film industry, VOD, , , , , ,

Sundance, back in the saddle

I’ve never been, but, having applied several times to their annual Screenwriting Workshops, and gotten the kindest rejections, I’m quite partial to the Sundance Film Festival.  And from what I’ve read, looks like things have gotten back to basics, in the best possible way for the quarter-century plus old fest.

The kinds of titles and content which sold quickly (and at somewhat a record pace, at least compared to recent seasons) don’t seem terribly indie, innovative or genuinely unusual.  But the distribution vehicles definitely seem to be evolving, with youtube getting in on the game, along with several new players.  If anyone actually reads my blog, they (I hope) would see I tend toward optimism, so I think all in all, it sounds like it was a good year.

Filed under: US film industry, VOD,

Beginning of the end . . . or visa versa?

"It's Always Darkest . . . " by Judy Chicago

"It's Always Darkest . . . " by Judy Chicago

VOD is rapidly getting more attention, if for no other reason that films don’t seem to be catching distributor attention, or rather distributors.  The news from Toronto was dreary, both inside and outside screening rooms.

I heard an old friend/colleague say this recently, which could mean it’s now a mantra, but producers and filmmakers who complain about “too many movies” seem to me more like desperate reality TV participants than sober business people, essentially opting for a “women & children first” policy for the film business.  Why not let go of the sinking old model, and let in what could be a warm sea and rising tide of new opportunities?

Filed under: subtitling, US film industry, VOD,