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Kill Hollywood

The battle between old media and new media is becoming interesting. Y Combinator, the famous firm that invests in early stage companies, has issued an RFS (Request for Startup) that they are looking to fund companies that can help (in their words) kill Hollywood:

Hollywood appears to have peaked. If it were an ordinary industry (film cameras, say, or typewriters), it could look forward to a couple decades of peaceful decline. But this is not an ordinary industry. The people who run it are so mean and so politically connected that they could do a lot of damage to civil liberties and the world economy on the way down. It would therefore be a good thing if competitors hastened their demise.

That’s one reason we want to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV, but not the main reason. The main reason we want to fund such startups is not to protect the world from more SOPAs, but because SOPA brought it to our attention that Hollywood is dying. They must be dying if they’re resorting to such tactics. If movies and TV were growing rapidly, that growth would take up all their attention. When a striker is fouled in the penalty area, he doesn’t stop as long as he still has control of the ball; it’s only when he’s beaten that he turns to appeal to the ref. SOPA shows Hollywood is beaten. And yet the audiences to be captured from movies and TV are still huge. There is a lot of potential energy to be liberated there.

Successful entrepreneur Marco Arment wrote a similar post on his blog, calling for people to fight back against Hollywood’s influence in Congress. As he puts it “the real problem [is] MPAA’s buying power in Congress. This is a campaign finance problem.” If Hollywood studios are swept away by some new thing, Arment won’t shed any tears:

The MPAA is a hate-sink, a front to protect its members from negative PR. … The MPAA studios hate us. They hate us with region locks and unskippable screens and encryption and criminalization of fair use. They see us as stupid eyeballs with wallets, and they are entitled to a constant stream of our money.

A few years back I was the CEO of a company that worked with the entertainment industry. If anything, saying “The people who run it are so mean” is a massive understatement. In addition to “mean” I would add “vindictive”, “spiteful”, “petty”, and for some of them “congenital liars”. I saw people do things that cost their own company millions of dollars just because it allowed them to bully some other company, and the other company was one that was helping them, not a competitor. I will never work with the entertainment industry again — it has become the opposite of free enterprise.



  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I don’t know who you are (and that’s fine) but I like your style.
    Thank you for being a thoughtful person & clear headed thinker.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink
  2. Arthanyel wrote:

    I can attest to the banality of Hollywood from my own experience dealing with them.

    Maybe it’s time to start our interactive storytelling company – how many people would want to have holodecks instead of TV?

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  3. I’ve done a bit of fast thinking about the idea that Hollywood has peaked. I would guess that there are two threads potentially here: that movies/TV shows as an entertainment technology has peaked and that story telling in visual/audio formats with a passive audience has peaked.

    Those…are actually two different threads, both of which may, or may not have, peaked.

    My gut instinct is that passive, multi-person audience entertainments have peaked. If we’re alone, many of us prefer to read, play interactive games, do hobbies and such. If we’re with others or wanting to be with others, we want entertainment that enables interacting with the people we’re with: shared hobbies, shared games (WoW demonstrated this thoroughly), and such (given that assumption, why is the music in bars/restaurants still so loud that we often can’t hear each other speak?)

    I don’t think the technology of sound/video story telling has “peaked”: video games, some web comics, and such successfully use such technologies and have been modifying/advancing them to benefit their story-telling.

    What’s peaked, what I think has so many people in the older generation scared, is the idea of the “passive audience”. We’re not just sitting here doing nothing while we have entertainment shoved at us (the classic scene of a silent family gathered around a shared TV). We want to interact with the entertainment, or, even more often, with each other.

    And an interactive polity has some people running scared. An interactive polity is *exactly* what a successful citizenry is. For too long, politicians have been able to not think about the citizens, because we had been trained to sit back and watch. In silence, even when we are sitting with other people.

    And we’re not merely watching now. We want to interact. We expect interaction.

    So, I’m not seeing how going after Hollywood really, in the end, matters. (Nor do I see Hollywood as a dying industry, though it will be if it continues to refuse to drop this notion of a passive audience: they could turn story telling into other modes and be fine.) And, though I applaud Y Combinator for its motives, I think it’s missing the broader, and more valuable, context.

    We’re leaving behind passivity. Make a RFS for those technologies that encourage interactivity and interactive entertainments. Such technologies support a healthy citizenry, which we may yet remember how to be.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink
  4. Richard wrote:

    I’m ashamed to say that my old Senator, Chris Dodd sold out (long ago) and is part of the problem.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  5. It should be pretty clear by now that government runs on legalized bribery.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  6. IL-08 wrote:

    My liberal training kicks in immediately and I think ‘NO! WAIT, Liberal Hollywood is on OUR side!!’, but the more I think about it, it just another greedy corporate entity trying desperately to squeeze every centime out consumers.

    The problem is cost and availability and as long as hollywood can keep availability low, they can keep the cost high. Hell, there are weekly columns on what new crap is available this week so you’ll rush out and spend 10 times as much as something is worth just to have it. They continually scrape the high end consumers to spend inflated amounts and couldn’t care less about the average consumer. So when average consumers band together to find ways in our digital age to acquire entertainment at a reasonable price, the reaction from the poor corporate giants is to scream foul and squash all resistance with a sledgehammer.

    Why not find ways of making the content available at a reasonable price? People are much more willing to pay for things at a price they think is worth it. Otherwise, shut up hollywood.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thought Dancer, what you want is exactly what Y Combinator was asking for.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 1:10 am | Permalink
  8. Ah. I was going from your summary: the thoughts did come at me that fast.

    If Y Combinator is willing to accept RFS’s that are also political documents, excellent: that seems healthy for the body politic.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  9. Dirty Danger wrote:

    My experience viewing movies is that Hollywood makes many progressive, thought-provoking, intense movies that have a profound positive influence on our society.

    My experience making a movie with Hollywood is that they are liars for the sake of lying, exactly as if acting talents are a mandatory part of the executive producer skill set.

    During various negotiations, I was convinced (in person) by the apparent sincerity and charisma, yet screwed over, hosed down, and treated so shabbily *in fact* that I literally began to lose my hair from the stress.

    The seemingly needless lies, the difficulty in dealing with liars so gifted in seeming truthful, the mental pain caused by people who say one thing and do another, the impossibility of negotiating an honest contract, the… the…

    I have never ever EVER dealt with such horrible, rotten, shitty excuses for human beings.

    Any alternative to Hollywood, and I will put my creative work behind it. Thanks for posting this. LORD KNOWS we could also do without the world-control pretentions of Hollywood. Other countries do not like nor deserve Hollywood’s throat choke on entertainment.


    Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink
  10. Dirty Danger wrote:

    PS Subsequent to my own personal hell, I saw the movie we made go through hell itself due to more infighting and dirty disgusting politics. From my peripheral-insider view, I do believe the corrupt unethical petty stabbing goes through-and-through. My personal hell was just a minor part of the big f**k of makig a movie.

    I’m such a nice, honest person, and I crave honest, ethical, well-meaning business connections. Fight about what’s the right direction? Please! Backstab over baffling minutia? Please don’t.

    The fact that the creative process triumphs in this environment is a victory of nature over nurture.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Apparently it is not just Americans who are getting screwed over by Hollywood.

    Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  12. David wrote:

    You guys should think about supporting candidates who respect freedom and the integrity of the Internet and privacy. Ron Paul supports individual liberty and freedom, and has fought against SOPA and other censorship bills. He believes in American ingenuity, creativity, and innovation. Big corporations and Hollywood are trying to destroy him. He needs help. It takes a million of us little people to equal one big corrupt corporation. This needs to change. More money does not equal more free speech, and corporations are NOT PEOPLE, my friends!

    Friday, January 27, 2012 at 2:09 am | Permalink