Hollywood is dead. At least that’s the language lately around the movie industry telling us the Golden Age of film is over. Too many superhero movies, too many reboots, remakes, reimaginings of movies made 20 years ago. A phrase I hear often is that there just aren’t any new ideas anymore. While I find that hard to believe, people who do have those new ideas aren’t finding a seat at the table. We all know the world has changed, and Hollywood is just another industry still learning to navigate new terrain. The Golden Age of Hollywood may be over, but I believe another, new, better kind of age is just ahead.
Growing up, I had limited access to film and television, but one of my first introductions to the film world was when I was 17 and saw “The Matrix.” It was fitting, really, that the film depicted a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality. For most of my early life, I was unknowingly trapped inside what you might call a simulated reality. It was a world where movies and television, among other things, were condemned. I grew up in a small, nowhere town in Tennessee in a sect of Christianity that had very particular rules and ideas about the world and entertainment.
When I found them, movies were a portal to catching up on what I’d missed of the rest of the unknown world. These stories about people I’d never met before, living in places I’d never seen, reminded me not only of just how vast the lived human experience can be, but they also made me realize that on some level we all live through, suffer and derive joys from a lot of the same things. Stories unite us, remind us that we’re not alone, that someone out there knows what we know about what it feels to feel what we’re feeling.
For me, having access to other people’s lived experiences through film and television helped formulate the ways in which I saw the world. In a scramble to keep up with the ever-changing demand of streaming services and the current audience’s movie theater not residing at the local cineplex but in their living rooms, the industry has focused only on box office numbers and forgotten about the power they wield in people’s lives. But what if we looked at change not in the context of all we may have lost, but rather through the lens of all the opportunities we have to gain?
The film industry is a business and films are very expensive enterprises, so it makes sense that the incentive in moviemaking through the traditional studio is profit-driven. But what if we all bet on a different future? One where those profits are distributed in a way that makes the entire process of moviemaking more equitable. A future where the people actually involved in bringing movies to life — from the writers to the actors to the boom-mic operators — are compensated accordingly.
There is an entire movement underfoot utilizing technology to democratize the funding, financing and distribution of creative projects. Specifically, Web3 technology like blockchain and smart contracted assets, coupled with social and community enhancement, are poised to significantly expand the market pool. By letting fans invest in a project early, we can invite more capital into the process and share equity with the people who are actually creating the project from day one. In this model, everyone in the filmmaking ecosystem wins — from the producers and actors to the technicians and distribution partners.
Connecting to more people who have a mutual interest in the creative process will revolutionize the entertainment industry. But this means we need to rethink the business model, which means changing the way we do business. We have to balance people, purpose and profit in a way that not only ensures the right people are allotted their fair share of profit but also promises the work being produced is about more than just a bottom line. We’re seeing that shift in other industry sectors, with pioneers like Yvon Chouinard who recently gave away his company, Patagonia, to protect the land his company enabled people to better enjoy.
In Hollywood and elsewhere, leaders talk about making the world a better place, but I think it’s time we actually put our money where our mouth is. As business leaders, we’re entering a phase of empathy capitalism which means the work we’re doing needs to reflect the benefit of the greater good. We aren’t alone in anything we do, what we create has the power to change the way we think, feel, see ourselves and the world around us. It reflects back our experiences, our strengths, our weaknesses, our joys and losses. And, above all, it entertains.
The media may change, but the power of storytelling will never die. As long as someone is sharing their experience for other people to connect to, we need to make sure there will always be a way for that story to get told and a place for it to live. Let’s not yearn for the Golden Age of Hollywood, but rather be the pioneers of the Brave Age of Hollywood, one where we’re known not for the concentrated coffers of the few, but rather our courage as a creative collective.