Date: Sun, 4 Jun 1995 10:16:59 -0500 From: "Steven Mintz, U. Houston" <SMintz@UH.EDU> Subject: Query: Appeal of U.S. films in Europe
In HOLLYWOOD IN THE INFORMATION AGE, Janet Wasko reports that American films dominate the European box office, receiving no less tha 58 percent of box office revenue in any EC country. She also notes that approximately 80 percent of European films never leave their home country.
I would be very interested in hearing your opinions about why this state of affairs exists. Is it a matter of Hollywood's control over marketing and distribution? Is it simply a matter of a "dominant" or "hegemonic" society exporting its culture? To what extent does it have to do with the kind of films that Hollywood produces--and if so, why aren't an increasing number of European filmmakers producing comparable films? Does this reflect conflicting conceptions of what a film should be (involving the relationship between film and art or between culture and the state)?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
Date: Sun, 4 Jun 1995 19:19:57 -0500 From: "Steven Mintz, U. Houston" <SMintz@UH.EDU> Subject: Re: Appeal of U.S. films in Europe
From: IN%"firstname.lastname@example.org" "Philip Farha" 4-JUN-1995 15:09:27.61
Aside from the local specificities of European film (language, culture) the dominance of Hollywood in Europe is also due to a European "rejection of commercialism", and "ignorance" on behalf of filmmakers, producers, governments and just about everyone, except the audiences.
Personally, I am thankful for that, because it is responsible for a varied output of films that do not always follow Hollywood guidelines. But that is not the question.
Because of the strong role of govermental support in European films, the role of state and art is at the front of the topic. Coming from a Swiss filmmaker, the state has two major purposes when it comes to the funding of films (and theatre, etc.)
Now the problem is, that these two points run exactly counter the way in which films in Hollywood get made, because they are often anti-economical, and the influence of the government trying to fulfill its two roles is a hindrance to a commercial film.
In addition, there is an underlying sentiment among filmmakers in Europe that entertainment is "yucky," that there enlightenment is more important than enjoyment and I sincerely believe this is not only a Germanic thing. One of the major problems in German film and theatre is a refusal on behalf of the filmmakers to make popular films. Again, I am thankful for this because the output is less homogenous, but it's also a reason for why people will prefer "Die Hard MCMXXXXV". Whenever filmmakers do make popular films, like "Der Bewegte Mann"in Germany, or Roberto Benigni's "Il Mostro", they are successful and will beat out the Americans.
However there is a problem. Unlike America, there is no standardized industry engine to keep talent moving, once they have some sort of success. There are no qualified story analysts, the development departments are undersized (as opposed to oversized in the US) and the scriptwriters are often undereducated with regards to story structure and plot/character development. For all it's other rigidity, Europe still doesn't provide film schools that put out a consistent set of screenwriters, capable of writing formulaic Hollywood pictures.
When an American director makes a hit, the industry jumps in. Agents try to put deals together and the next possible film will get done, for better or worse. In Europe, many name actors still have no agents. Directors certainly don't and producers don't either. The industry of Hollywood that provides a steady flow of standard fare, product so to speak, doesn't exist in the same way in Europe.
Things are changing though. UGC, Channel Four and others are trying to implement competition to standard Hollywood fare. Films like Four Weddings...Shallow Grave... The Professional, etc. are sizable successes that take out large bites of cash from UIP (the European distributor for American major studios). In addition the many European students at American film schools are prone to return to their homelands and reshape the system. Lastly, governments are becoming less likely to support any sort of obscure film without regard to its potential success. As long as the Europeans don't film in English, they will always have more difficulty abroad, but nationally they will start competing more adeptly, if they can continue to afford making films.
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