Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Hollywood Filmmaking Today

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      As Hollywood evolved from small production companies into large corporations, so did the financing of motion pictures.  Large corporations could sell stock and borrow money from well-heeled investors.  But this depended on the reliability of the investment.  Investor fears of risky ventures forced Hollywood corporations to incorporate traditional business practices: “efficient management, timely production practices, and profitable results” (Lewis 477).  Hollywood developed standardized practices that still survive today.

       The Hollywood studios held a virtual monopoly over the production, distribution, and exhibition of motion pictures until 1948.  With the Paramount decision, this monopoly came to an end.  Suddenly, the studios lost much of the real estate they had used as collateral to borrow money.  Following the example of independent filmmakers, such as David O. Selznick, the studios replaced the studio system with the independent system (Lewis 477).

       Today, filmmakers have many options for obtaining financing.  “Money may come from the studio, the producer, the investment community, or (most probably) a combination of these” (Lewis 477).  Financing may be procured in stages as the production progresses.  Controlling costs is a major concern, especially when it is difficult to accurately predict them (Lewis 479).

       Under the studio system, the budget was based on direct and indirect costs.  “Direct costs included everything from art direction and cinematography to insurance.  Indirect costs, usually 20 percent of the direct costs, covered the studio’s overall contribution to ‘overhead’” (Lewis 479).  The independent system calculates costs according to a 30/70 configuration.

       Costs can become inflated by the use of union labor (Lewis 476), special effects technology, personnel with special expert skills, and the high salaries commanded by superstar actors, producers, and directors.  Sometimes, it is possible to negotiate contracts that reduce upfront costs and benefit all parties involved.

       Marketing, distributing, and exhibiting motion pictures depend on the product produced.  Exclusive and limited releases assess audiences’ initial response; key-city releases assess audience reaction on a second-run basis; and “wide and saturated releases on hundreds or thousands of screens in the major markets . . . [test audience reaction] as good reviews and word of mouth build public awareness and demand” (Lewis 482).  While studios have established methods for bringing their films to market, independents use various methods.  They can rent their films to a studio or producing organization with the means to market, distribute, and exhibit them (Lewis 482).

       Experts determine release dates, arrange tie-ins with toys, books, and other merchandise, decide screening locations, form contracts with DVD and streaming companies, work on advertising and publicity, and complete negotiations on domestic and foreign rights.  Others calculate rental and download costs, ticket prices, and length of runs (Lewis 482).  Movies are an expensive commodity!

       Today, Hollywood comprises a combination of a modernized studio system and independent production companies that may or may not be part of a studio company.  In total, this collection of Hollywood filmmakers grossed $10.9 billion in revenue in 2013 (Lewis 483).  As Hollywood continues to evolve, it will discover new avenues of financing and generating revenue.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 23, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

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How Hollywood Survived the Invention of Television

(1956 TV Guide featuring Lassie)

       Postwar social changes and technological advances in America profoundly influenced Hollywood filmmaking.  The invention of television produced direct competition.  Audience expectations demanded more complex characters and more mature themes.  Hollywood adapted by incorporating technology into filmmaking that would fascinate audiences and draw them back into the movie theaters.  Experiments in defying the Production Code led to the screening of more mature films and changes in the code.

       “By 1960 there were 50 million TV sets in homes across the United States, and lots of people were watching a lot of television: in 1960 the average daily viewing time for U.S. households with a TV set was over 5 hours a day” (Lewis 233).  Television was a new toy that people could enjoy, and it was free.  Families could gather around the TV set after dinner and enjoy watching it together.  The advertisements exposed viewers to new products.

       The Hollywood studios adapted by creating new business relationships with the television studios.  “Disney led the way, making a deal with the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) that included the production of a Disney TV show that aired weekly on the network” (Lewis 234).

       These synergies were so successful that multinational conglomerates began buying up Hollywood studios and formulating new ways to produce and distribute films.  For example, “Gulf and Western Industries bought Paramount in 1966” (Lewis 237).  Hollywood studios contracted with TV studios to run their movies as a second run.  Walt Disney negotiated a deal with ABC to create Disneyland, an amusement park.  These deals brought in much-needed revenue to the studios.

       The conglomerates abandoned production in favor of distribution.  They began using market research and tie-ins with books and other merchandise.  Technological gimmicks such as 3-D and widescreen were tried (Lewis 234).  But what finally brought audiences back to the movie theaters was the distribution of foreign-made films and defiance of the Production Code (Lewis 238-247).

       While American audiences enjoyed foreign-made films, these movies were produced by European standards and often came into conflict with the standards of the PCA.  Otto Preminger completed his controversial film The Moon is Blue, in 1953.  When United Artists submitted it to the PCA, it was rejected.  As a result, United Artists gave up its membership in the MPAA to avoid a fine (Lewis 239).

       Theater owners, however, were more than willing to screen an adult-themed film that did not have the PCA seal, and “The Moon is Blue grossed over $4 million in its initial release” (Lewis 239).  Preminger used the same strategy with his second movie, The Man with the Golden Arm.  As more and more controversial films were released, the PCA was forced to relax some of its codes.

       Jack Valenti, who was named the president of MPAA in 1966, agreed to an exception for the release of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.  Warner Bros. labeled it For Mature Audiences and left it to the theater owners to decide whether to screen it or not.  Pretty soon, Welcome to Hard Times was released with the label NO PERSON UNDER 18 ADMITTED UNLESS ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT (Lewis 244-245).   Finally, in 1968, the MPAA came up with a new voluntary rating system: G (General Audiences), M (Mature Audiences and parental discretion), R (Restricted and no one under age sixteen unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian), and X (no one under sixteen admitted).  Films with an X rating could not receive a PCA seal (Lewis 283).

       The new rating system gave Hollywood the latitude to create a greater variety of films.  With social change rapidly advancing, the studios began targeting the youth audience and the social issues which were important to them (Lewis 285).  For a short time, studios began promoting “topical movies with a political edge” (Lewis 286) produced by new, young directors (auteurs) who could tap into young audiences’ interests.  The most famous and most profitable movie produced was The Godfather in 1972, directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  But as iconic as many of these films are today, studios wanted more formulaic films whose success could be easily reproduced, and the “auteur renaissance” (Lewis 282) ended.  Action blockbusters formed the new wave of Hollywood films by the 1980s.

       Hollywood has been resilient over the decades and found ways to adapt to new technologies, changes in audience interests, and restrictions placed on them by the Supreme Court.  Always alert to new avenues of revenue, Hollywood has survived by its willingness to negotiate new (and more profitable) deals.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 17, 2018

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Lewis, Jon. American Cinema: A History. New York: Norton, 2008.

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Radical Writings: Capitalism as Terrorism

dollars and American flag

 

 

“Guerilla Marketing,” “Survival-of-the Fittest-Capitalism,” “How to Succeed in Business by Killing the Competition,” “Hostile Takeovers,” etc., etc. We are all familiar with the books, lectures, seminars, economic gurus, trendy management strategies, slogans, etc., etc. which dominate the business world and corporate thinking. But have you ever thought about what these strategies and ideas really mean?

In today’s competitive world, competition has increased to the point of desperation where anything goes and every immoral act is tolerated — and even encouraged. It becomes harder and harder for companies to compete and survive. They must resort to evermore desperate strategies to survive the competitor around the corner who is waiting for a chance to rip out their throat. The business world is a jungle where only the very strongest can survive for long.

At the same time, the companies who have succeeded in surviving look increasingly for ways to eliminate competition through legislation, buying illegitimate political power, investing overseas, downsizing, cutting wages and benefits, and creating an environment where smaller companies have a difficult, if not impossible time, succeeding.

If this competition affects corporations and small business, it equally affects workers who must equally engage in a jungle struggle to survive. The fear of being laid off or downsized out of a job creates an atmosphere of fear, antagonism to fellow workers, and outright hostility towards anybody perceived as a threat.

These fears and anxieties are carried home and into the classrooms. At a younger and younger age, children are told that they must learn to compete in school, in college, and in a future career. To not compete is to be eliminated in the social jungle that is called America.

Thus, we see a society torn apart by competitiveness and the need to survive.

Corporations seize control of their competitors; men blame women for entering the workforce; reports of domestic violence, child abuse, and rape increase; whites blame blacks; blacks blame whites; American citizens blame illegal immigrants; workers blame welfare recipients; the young blame elderly Social Security recipients; Democrats blame Republicans while Republicans accuse Democrats of every crime under the sun; the rich blame the poor, etc.

An economic system that encourages competition indirectly encourages violence, crime, and every act of immorality. People will do whatever it takes to survive.

When companies engage in acts of terrorism, it is considered good business.

When ordinary people engage in aggressive acts, it is considered a crime.

Ordinary citizens have as much right to survive as any corporation. And they have as much right to engage in whatever tactics are required to survive.

Dawn Pisturino

May 23, 1998

Published on the Committee for Direct Democracy Website and in the Committee for Direct Democracy Information Packet 1998-2000.

2019 Response:

Engaging in criminal behavior is a lose-lose situation whether done by a corporation or a private citizen. In these times of transparency, it is better to fight and let honorable people in positions of power bring down the bad guys.

Copyright 1998-2019 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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E. Scott Levin’s Black Friday Commercial

E Scott Levin baritoneOur friend, E. Scott Levin, was in a Wal-Mart Black Friday Commercial. You might have seen him on TV!

Watch the video here:  http://ispot.tv/a/759A

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WRITERS: MIND YOUR MANNERS!

weneedyoubadge1

A MESSAGE FROM JON BARD, MANAGING EDITOR OF CHILDREN’S BOOK INSIDER:

“If you spend a fair amount of time online, perhaps you’ve noticed it:

People are becoming ruder. And angrier. And more entitled.

Really, I’m simply amazed at some of what appears in my e-mail inbox. Folks with whom I’ve never corresponded are sending me demanding messages such as “SEND ME THE EBOOK!!!!” and “I WANT TO GET PUBLISHED. TELL ME WHAT TO DO!”

People (non-customers) send us long, detailed questions out of the blue and expect immediate responses. If they don’t get one, we often receive an abusive message as a follow up.

And then there’s the magic words that many people seem to be using as a justification for curt, nicety-free missives:
“Sent via my iPhone.”

Look, I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve got a pretty thick skin. So I raise this not to prevent my feelings from being hurt, but rather as a cautionary message about how *not* to sabotage your writing career.

As a 21st century author, your ability to communicate is paramount to your success. Editors, agents, bloggers, book reviewers, distributors, promotional partners and readers are just some of the people who are important to your career. For goodness sake, treat them with more respect than “Here’s my new book. Write a review!”.

Here then, are my tips to help you be seen as a courteous author worthy of consideration:

• “Dear”, “Thank you”, “Please” and “Sincerely/All the Best/Yours Truly” aren’t archaic leftovers from the distant past. They’re still as important as ever. Use them. Please.

• Composing a message from your phone or tablet is not an excuse for overly-direct curtness. If you have a business message to send, wait until you have the time to write it properly.

• If you’re contacting someone for the first time, make the effort to introduce yourself, and clearly state the purpose of your message.

• If someone doesn’t get right back to you, don’t fire off an angry e-mail accusing them of ignoring you. Perhaps the message got lost. Maybe they’re on vacation. Perhaps they’re ill. Calmly send another friendly message restating your request or comment.

• Remember that you’re dealing with human beings. In our case, every piece of e-mail is read either by me or by Laura. We don’t have a building full of underlings to take care of that for us. When you send us kind words (and many of you do — thank you!), it feels great. When you’re rude or angry, it stings. Treat me with respect — I think I’ve earned at least that.

The vast majority of you are nothing but gracious in your communications with us. That bodes well for your future success. Keep at it, and gently work to correct those who aren’t minding your manners.
For the few of you who may have let your etiquette slip, please take heed of the points I’ve laid out, and make a resolution to make the online world just a little bit more courteous.

That’s it — venting over! Onward….”

THANKS, JON!

Dawn Pisturino

 

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TOO MANY BOOKS, TOO MUCH COMPETITION

stack-of-books

 

In an interview with the blog SIX QUESTIONS, John Raab, Publisher/CEO/Editor-in-Chief of Suspense Magazine, answered the following question:

“What can you truly expect to get out of your writing?”

“I feel that many authors have false expectations and think they are writing the next NY Times Bestseller. Here is the problem with that. Just because your book is not high on a list or selling that great, doesn’t mean you can’t write. Authors have to remember that anybody can now publish an EBook on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. What does that mean? That means that readers now have to navigate through thousands of more books to find one they like and readers only have a certain amount of money to spend. If you don’t have thousands of marketing dollars behind your work, then you have to spend triple the amount of time marketing to fans than it took you to write the book. Writing the book is the easy part, getting paid from it is the difficult part. Authors should expect to not retire off their work, but instead write for the love of it, because it is your passion. Writing and music are the same thing, you see a great band in a bar and say ‘They are better than anything I hear on the radio, why aren’t they signed?’ Writing is the same way.”

Is it true? Are there too many books on the market? Writers don’t just write for the love of writing, they write to make a living. But if thousands of self-proclaimed authors are flooding the market with books, how can someone achieve that goal?

For myself, I stopped buying books because I was tired of wasting my money on mediocre crap that was marketed as best-seller material. A slick cover and a wide audience do not a-book-worth-reading make. Extensive marketing will not salvage a poorly crafted commodity. Readers might buy from you once, but they won’t come back again.

The book market is, in fact, overwhelming. Every time I go into Barnes & Noble, the stacks of unread (and unbought) books makes me want to swoon.  Scanning through Amazon and Goodreads makes me feel the same way.

The books shout in my head: READ ME! READ ME!

It’s the same on Facebook. Thousands of self-proclaimed authors scream at me: BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!

Millions of blogs and online publications float around in Internet outer space, vying for attention.

TV, movies, and video games also provide tough competition. And to top it off, a recent poll suggested that only 75% of the population ever reads a book (print or digital.)

So, what’s a writer (and reader) to do in an age of information overload?

1. Write the best damned book you can, using original ideas.

2. Don’t write derivative material because thousands of others are doing the same thing. We don’t need anymore books about vampires and wizards unless the slant is so original, and the characters so unforgettable, that the world just can’t live without them.

3. Define your goals realistically. If you are only writing out of love for the craft, then be content to do so. But if you dream of making a living as a writer, then treat it as a business.

Personally, I think the publishing industry bubble is going to burst, just like the dot.com bubble and the housing bubble. Too many books means too many choices and a flattened market. After all, people don’t have the time or the money to spend on reading all the books out there. And traditional publishing houses depend on blockbuster best-sellers to keep themselves afloat.

I will continue to write because I love to write. But don’t be fooled: I want to make a living off of my writing as much as any other writer. The question is: can I beat the competition?

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Bree Ogden, literary agent extraordinaire, is making herself available for all you aspiring authors out there! Check out her class!

this literary life

I’ve had enough experience with writers to know that they almost always feel like this when writing their query letter:

Writers Block

 

Because they know that agents are like this almost every day:

slushpile

 

 

You want agents fighting over your query and manuscript like it’s the freaking Ring of Mordor. If you are stuck, feel like you just can’t figure out how to write that winning query letter, think about signing up for my LitReactor.com class THE ART OF THE QUERY LETTER.

Being a literary agent myself, I know what grabs us, what immediately turns us off, what makes us laugh in good spirits and what makes us laugh in disgust. Often times, you’ll think that your clever opening will win you a manuscript request, when in reality, it’s the thing that makes us hit the “trash” button.

During the course of my class, I will help you:

  • Learn how…

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Good writing comes first because no amount of marketing will salvage a poorly crafted book.

Writers In The Storm Blog

By Lyn Horner

I’m sure you’ve all heard this before but it bears repeating. When you publish an e-book, expect to spend as much time on marketing as you spend writing the next book, especially if you’re new on the publishing scene. In order to get the most from promotional efforts, it’s wise to pick and choose where you’ll invest your precious time. Today I’ll share some suggestions gleaned from two successful e-book authors.

Most writers have heard of John Locke, the New York Times Best Selling Author who was the first self-published author in history to sell one million Kindle books. Last year he published How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, a helpful guide I highly recommend. It reveals how the author built a loyal following of readers who promote his books for him. Before Mr. Locke explained his marketing system, he listed several…

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