Nine Revolutions the Film Industry Needs

The “No Film Festival Entry Fee” Revolution

A random independent filmmaker once sent me a letter that laid out his big vision of how he wants to single-handedly change the face of film distribution. I felt like telling him, "You're an idiot." The film industry has been around longer than most sovereign nations. It's a behemoth. And besides, a revolution can never happen unless there is a mass voice behind it. And as this industry preys upon struggling, insecure artists – many of whom would give their right arm in exchange for a modicum of fame, money, or respect – there's little chance that these people will ever band together and change anything. So take this list with a grain of salt, even though I write it only partly in jest.

  1. The "Normal Weight for Actresses" Revolution. Does anyone find a bony woman more attractive than her shapelier sister? Yet most actresses – famous and not – seek to starve themselves into some emaciated ideal. I don't know who started this gruesome trend, or why, but I will say that nearly every actress I have ever met has felt the pressure. If only they could all join forces and say, "We're all going to maintain our normal, healthy weight," everyone would be happier. And that goes double for breast implants.
  2. The "Anti-Charles Atlas" Revolution. Male actors have it almost as bad as the ladies these days. Or haven't you noticed that every star – action hero or no – is now more chiseled and muscular than Stallone in his prime? Please, no more superhero physiques. Unless you're actually playing a superhero, of course.
  3. The "Fair Trade Distribution" Revolution. In honor of that guy who emailed me his "vision", I'd like all the indie filmmakers of the world to say "no" to distributors who offer to buy their films for any less than what said films cost to make. Right now if you say no, the distro will just move on to the next desperate candidate. But if everybody said no, there'd be no product. Thus the distros would have to loosen their purse strings and only make a 400% profit instead of a 900% profit.
  4. The "No Jack, Harry, or Max" Revolution. This one goes out to all you screenwriters. Studios aren't forcing you to name your leading man Jack, Harry, or Max. So why is it that two-thirds of all male movie characters have one of those names? Seriously, how many Jacks, Harrys, or Maxes do you even know in real life? I mean, you never see main characters named Chris, Matt, or Eric.
  5. The "No Agent" Revolution. Actors, directors, writers, and just about everybody on the creative end of the industry needs to land an agent in order to secure serious work for serious money. But while everybody knows that agents have a reputation for being awful people, you don't know just how awful until you are dealing with one. Major productions depend on agents to be gatekeepers, of a sort – if you allowed for open submissions, you'd have every crazy, untalented, would-be actor or screenwriter pounding on your door. But wouldn't it be great if filmmakers of all stripes could just deal with each other directly, leaving the "ten per centers" out of the equation?
  6. The "Sliding Scale Ticket" Revolution. I'm not the first to come up with this idea – indeed, I'm not the first to come up with any of these ideas – but imagine this: If a film costs $200 million to make, you can pay $15 to see it. If a film costs $10 million to make, you only need to pay $5 to see it. This is how it works in live theatre, and it would be fair to the moviegoer as well. It might increase audiences for smaller films, while encouraging studios to make something more than those excessively-budgeted pictures that drove up ticket prices in the first place.
  7. The "Salary Cap" Revolution. Revolutionary thought can even benefit the studios. Imagine if everybody simply said, "No, $20 million is too much to pay Tom Cruise." Eventually, Tom Cruise will have to humbly lower his salary requirements, or face an early retirement. Look, even $5 million is a ton of money. If stars were not allowed to earn more than that amount annually, perhaps it would be easier to comply with the new rules laid forth by the Sliding Scale Ticket revolution. While we're at it, let's make sure producers and studio executives don't see a penny over that amount either.
  8. The "No Film Festival Entry Fee" Revolution. Filmmakers' submission fees cover only a tiny portion of a film festival's budget. The vast majority is taken care of by corporate sponsors. But for poor filmmakers who just want their work to be seen, those checks for $20, $30, even $50 add up quickly. Why should you have to pay for rejection? Let's force those fests to drop the entry fees. It's bad enough they never return your screener.
  9. The "Only One Awards Ceremony Per Year" Revolution. Cut the Golden Globes, cut the SAG Awards, cut the People's Choice Awards... Let's just leave it at the Oscars. And okay, maybe the Razzies.