It was sometime in the 1970s when I first saw Gone with the Wind. It must have been on TV as we didn’t have a VCR. The moment I saw this film it quickly became my favorite movie. The story, the actors, the sets, the music, it all worked on so many levels. Since that first viewing, I’ve watched it on laserdisc, DVD and streamed it. This afternoon I’ll see Gone with the Wind as it was intended – in a theatre.
What I always liked about the Gone with the Wind story was the sheer ambition of how it was made. From the “Search for Scarlett” to endless script rewrites to changes in directors, the production was fraught with issues. But in the end a masterpiece was created winning 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture. If you want to learn more about this epic film, I highly recommend the book Scarlett, Rhett, and a cast of thousands: The filming of Gone with the Wind.
There’s no question in my mind that Gone with the Wind inspired my interest in this industry. What I’ve always been particularly drawn to are the “movers and shakers” behind the camera. In the case of Gone with the Wind, it was producer David O. Selznick. For every film made there’s one person you can point to that is responsible for its existence. Oh sure, the actors and crew are vital, but they wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for the producer—that one person who sees the vision and takes the risk.
Selznick International Pictures produced another one of my favorite films, Rebecca. It was Selznick who brought director Alfred Hitchcock over from England. That one decision that Selznick made led to films such as North by Northwest and Psycho.
While the opening sequence references “A Civilization gone with the wind,” another civilization that is long gone is the studio system that made it. Yes, Selznick International Pictures was somewhat independent, but it was the studio system that made Gone with the Wind possible (MGM provided half the budget).
As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of this iconic picture, I look at the modern world of filmmaking. Although Selznick’s company disbanded decades ago, MGM is still around along with a literal handful of the legacy studios (sadly 20th Century Fox has been acquired by Disney). But the one thing that now prevails is the independent filmmaker. We chart our own course against a sea of seemingly endless possibilities and to destinations sometimes unknown.
When I attended the American Film Market this past November presenting First Signal and my other projects, I couldn’t help but think of the ambitions of so many under one roof striving to present their “motion picture” to new civilizations.
Tomorrow, is today.
Since my last post, the response to Justice is Mind has been nothing less than tremendous from interested directors and crew both here in the United States and in Europe. Frankly, I don’t think putting together a production has changed since the industry’s first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was produced in 1906. Someone still needs to direct the “moving picture” actors are still required (even though they can be created digitally) along with a host of crew – lights, camera…action!
I remember reading some years ago a book titled Scarlett, Rhett, and a Cast of Thousands. The entire production process of Gone with the Wind has to be one of the most daring in Hollywood history. An independent filmmaker by the name of David O. Selznick leveraged himself almost into insolvency to finance what is arguably one of the top 10 motion pictures ever created. It was only when the legendary Louis B. Mayer and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer rescued the project by “loaning” Clark Gable and putting up $1.2 million to secure 50% of the profits for MGM with distribution rights being awarded to MGM’s parent company Loew’s, Inc. (now AMC Theatres) did the world see those great actors of yesterday portray some of the most memorable characters ever created in cinematic history. And let’s not forget the publicity Selznick achieved with the “Search for Scarlett.”
While Justice is Mind won’t have a cast of thousands, what every independent filmmaker hopes for now is “viewers” in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Cynthia Almanzar over at Film News Briefs really said it best this week echoing some of my commentary in my last post “it’s obvious that digital evolution won’t stop. Everything is getting engulfed. Studios and filmmakers understand this. So, instead of trying to stunt its growth, it’s time to grow with it.”
Having just finished a great two year plus run of First World on Hulu, I can assure every filmmaker that digital distribution is the next great step for the industry. Like magazine publishers that refused to embrace the web, filmmakers (especially the independents) that don’t jump on this technology will be left in the DVD dustbin.
Like digital distribution, film finance has also seen some new assistance come online in the way of crowd funding. With Indiegogo and Kickstarter leading the charge, the ability to raise production cash by fans and supporters is critical in the economy we are in. Of course some creative incentives will help such as a $1,000 donation will enable the donor to participate as a member of the jury in Justice is Mind. Having a “Jock” Whitney or two involved wouldn’t be bad either.
I think someone like Selznick would have embraced all these new technologies. But I can picture Mayer just shaking his head in defiance.
But “After all…” things in this industry “…tomorrow is another day.”