Dustin Hoffman is one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve met in the entertainment industry. I trust his opinion. He’s been in some incredible movies… and he’s been in pure crap movies in recent years. But the man has to work and pay his bills like anyone else.
He did an interview with The Independent in the UK. While he praises television, he’s less understanding about the current films being produced:
“I think right now television is the best that it’s ever been and I think that it’s the worst that film has ever been – in the 50 years that I’ve been doing it, it’s the worst,” he claims.
If you’re in the film business or you have a passion for films, you should read the entire article. It’s fascinating. But he knows what he’s talking about. He’s made some classic films such as The Graduate.
Over the course of his career which started in 1961, the length of a film shoot has changed. Scripts are cranked out at a faster pace. There’s less time for character development. And less development time leading into the shoot. The process is fast. Write a script. Put it on film. Show your product. Make money. Repeat. Make a sequel. Make more money. Repeat… The entire process beginning with the writing of a script to the finished film being shown in the movie theatre can take as little as a year on that fast track.
If you can make money in this town, you will be a hit. It’s a business and making money is the goal.
That said, the market has completely transformed. There are still great films being made. And everyone is welcome to contribute to the process in a way they weren’t able to contribute previously. With the Internet, anyone can post a short film on YouTube or Vimeo to build a career from scratch. Make a video and you might be handed the reins of a big budget film. That’s how crazy this town can be.
Whether the process is better or worse, it is what it is in today’s market. That’s not going to change.
For me, it’s always about the story. If you have talent in storytelling, I don’t care what kind of equipment you use to shoot it. I don’t care how it’s edited. If I can see the action, hear the audio, and connect with the story, that’s all it takes. If any feature film, short film or video holds my attention because of its story, then I’m a fan.
Think about the little videos being made on YouTube about the rescue of dogs. There are stories being told in all kinds of genres that weren’t being told before through the use of video. You may not consider this filmmaking because it doesn’t make money… or does it? Two million hits translates into making money when a YouTube link is monetized.
Now, look at this video that received 20 million hits. You tell me if that isn’t documentary filmmaking. There’s a story and it’s a produced piece.
So, Dustin Hoffman is right. Films in the movie theatre have changed because the landscape of filmmaking has changed. Attention spans are short. If you can get people to watch your film – short or long – you’ve accomplished something profound.
This is why I encourage filmmakers in every genre and on every level. Hollywood will tell you, 20 million hits is something special, so take notice. Hollywood executives will perk up if you garner that many hits. Hollywood executives talk about YouTube and Vimeo. They talk about what’s trending on Reddit. They talk about new talent. They’re always looking for the next great story. It may be told differently from 1961, but it is still storytelling.