Roman Stoad’s Rules for the Road: Part 4

2011 April 28
by Roman Stoad

Making Movies!

When Roman is in the NYC, he often beds down with his comrades over at Hobo King, that hot bed of atheism and anarchism down by the river here in the trendy Bill. Today they began filming a new episode of “Men In Black,” restricting the public from many blocks of the ‘hood.  As the various guards and self-important types chased Roman away from their catering trucks,  costume wagons, star trailers, and general asshole trailers, he could not help but notice the millions of thick power cords he kept tripping over in his flight. They were everywhere, and they were there to power the camera carts and the gigantic lights that are raised to imitate the heat of the sun.  But such glory was not for Roman.  Roman was on the run from the ponytailed fancy men, who on their razors and skateboards chased him through the streets of the neighborhood, yelling at him to get away from their stuff: they were shooting a movie!  So Roman went down the Tribeca Film festival for his fix of star action and to see if he could get something for free, but goons in sunglasses chased him out of there as well. What the hell?  It’s mean streets out there in Tribollywood.

Then, Roman thought, as is his egalitarian tendency—truly, the man rarely thinks of his own discomfort, nor the disruption of his laissez-faire lifestyle, nor the social abuse he so often suffers—“Fuck these dudes and dudettes. Fuck them all. The world would be better if we stopped making movies.” We don’t need anymore anyway.

Alas, you may ask, what about the economic impact if the film industry were to collapse?   It is industry after all and we need industry in these hard times. And it seems that making movies has taken the place of making steel or making cars in America.  In fact, it one of the last American industries with any growth potential.  But growth, as we hobo economists often say, is not the path to human salvation. Indeed, it seems that his kind of monstrous movie making event is growing all over the globe, like a parasite or fungus, usurping real life.  Films multiply and real life declines.

And, if that is not enough of an insult, what about the long strings of sub-movies filmed to go along with the movies? And I am not talking about the numbing parade remakes and sequels. I’m talking about the movies about making movies. Herzog did this in The Burden of Dreams in which he documented his own making of Fitzcaraldo, effectively getting two movies out of one. But Herzog was trying to show the catastrophe of the creative process. Little did he know the real catastrophe is the spawning of yet more cinematic trash. Nowadays it is standard to make a second film about the making of the first. This “second film” is not necessarily a feature to be played in theaters, but an addition to the DVD along with the endless interviews about how great it is to work with so & so, and how so & so is such a consummate professional, and how we all love each other here in our priviledged bubble world of “people who pretend to be other people.” This “film class” sucks up public face-time, as if the light can never shine upon them enough.  In this they starve the common man of light and oxygen, because god forbid there should be moments when we are not looking at the stars. Indeed the stars even pretend to be us!  That’s the final insult.

Of course this spin-off crap goes on and on. There has to be a movie about making the movie about making the original movie.  And there have to be interview clips, interviewing the people who interviewed the stars, and then interviewing the people who interviewed them.  There are even shows produced (TV and Internet) in which sub-sub-sub idiots are shown to follow around interviewers and interviewees alike trying to perform mini-interviews.  Let no rube stand uninterviewed in this life—it should be written into the constitution.

Look I don’t mean to seem like a crotchety asshole, although Roman is precisely that, but really how much of this crap do we need. There’s already ten new relaeases every week, and that doesn’t include the constant “anticipation releases,” you know all the advertizing about movies that you think are already in the theaters until you realize they won’t even come out for another month or two. Then there’s the film festivals which seem to multiply along with the population of the earth as it moves to the cities where new festivals can be born, like stars in clouds of gas. I was once passing through Desmoines once, on the railroad tracks on the shady side of town, and I noticed banners for the Desmoines film festival.

Roman actually likes movies if they are good. Problem is they are not, most of the time.  In the meantime, what Roman hears is the cosmic suck of power drained directly out of the earth to fuel these ridiculous events. there’s a website for green film-making which indicates that not only is the industry aware of its wasteful and ridiculous excess, but it has every intention of pretending to care about it:  “in watching film – or television – it is easy to overlook the sprawling industry that lies behind the scenes, bringing entertainment to life. Even less obvious are the environmental impacts of filmmaking, which involve energy consumption, waste generation, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and physical disruptions on location.” They then offer some high priced solutions to these problems.  But that’s just a smallest part of the destruction and extravagance.  There are thousands of hours of splicing and editing and coloring and adjusting and promoting,. Hell, the promotion of the film itself creates a thousand new little films, each one tailored to a specific demographic.  Think about the construction wasted: whole cities are built to look like cities that already exist!  Then they are torn down. (Roman and his pals could live in such cities!) Giant machines are manufactured that are used only once! People are forced to travel all over the place from location to location, from festival to festival, from film to film, for no reason at all, burning up jet fuel and yacht fuel and semi-trailer diesel and bus diesel and generator diesel, all spewing pollutants in the air. The temperature of the earth got a tenth of a degree warmer just putting out yet another piece of crap. Then, if the new movie doesn’t pass the box office test on the first weekend it is off to DVD release and gone from the headlines.

So I say stop! Stop making movies. Please! Stop going to movies and forcing these giant palaces to air-condition or heat the hell out of your brain so you can stand to be enclosed in the make believe world instead of the real world. Stop the projectors burning thousands of hours of electricity for the soul purpose of numbing your mind and making you forget how your politicians are robbing you blind. Stop the lines (well only new Yorkers are stupid enough to think its cool to stand in a line)! Stop making the damn things altogether! Or, if we have to have some movies, limit it to a lottery, twenty movies per year and you have to enter a lottery for permission.

Bloomburg thinks its good for the economy so he allows these carpet-baggers to shut down New York neighborhoods so the rich and the servants can have a little circle jerk party and make you pay 12 dollars to watch it later on. No one complains either, people seem overjoyed to have their streets taken up by, they get a certain vicarious thrill, maybe they will see a star, , of maybe someone will spot them and say, “Hey you, you’re perfect, want to be in a movie?”   And as the dream factory would have you believe, you might then be able to quit your boring job as a flunky and “live large,” becoming a resource waster yourself.

Humans need their stories, this is true. But it used to be that we were happy with just one or two—a creation myth that was all about us, and a national myth of our “people”: the great so &so who did such & such. We retold these stories by firelight on special occasions. Now, with the degradation of those old foundational stories, we have a vacuum that must be filled. So we fill it with increasingly meaningless drivel.  Maybe it is all just the cosmic iteration of the narrative impulse filling the voids in the universe, maybe it is all the same story retold and retold— the “monomyth” as Joe Campbell used to say. If that’s the case, think of the energy we could save just sticking to couple of stories, why remake it over and over again in a time of limited and rapidly depleting resources.

And yet, like a juggernaut the film industry continues to grow as it rolls over, sucks up and bowls over everything in its path. Cities become “film versions” of themselves. Literature makes itself in its image. Music tries to get into films. People remake themselves to the movies image. They start to act like the people in movies are supposed to act. They try to have “personalities.” They start to believe they are on a perpetual “audition.”   Hey look at me,they shout,  see how “cool,” how “authentic” I am, give me a part!   Daily life becomes performance art. (Indeed, the idea of a life of thought or contemplation seems absurd these days.) Your own friends probably aspire to be star behind your backs—all their idealism falls by the wayside the minute Hollywood winks its beady little eye with the promise of visibility.

Maybe Hollywood is God. And we are just trying to be “seen” by God. Like Vladimir at the end of Waiting for Godot says to the boy messenger, “Just tell him that you saw me. You did see me didn’t you? You won’t come back here tomorrow and tell me that you didn’t see me?”

Barry Sonnefeld is the director of MIB3. He directed the previous MIB II. In his early career he did photography on Blood Simple for the Coen Brothers.

Roman Stoad is the director of (TBA). In his early career he did very little. He is now running for President. Vote for Roman Stoad in 2012. If anyone can stop the end of the world it could be him.

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