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Hollywood Strike: Who’s to Blame for the Decline of Film and Television Art?

Last week, the Screen Actors Guild of 160,000 performers and the United Radio and Television Artists United Union (SAG-AFTRA) announced that their negotiations with the production company had broken down. Since then, the strike has continued to this day.

Almost all American dramas and movies being filmed will be stopped. The Hollywood film and television industry will be completely shut down for the first time in 63 years. It is estimated that the loss of the producers will be more than 3 billion US dollars.

Whenever major foreign events happen, the reports of the domestic media are always particularly interesting.

The qualitative media like “dire water and hot water” report that the end of Hollywood is approaching, which undoubtedly caters to the preferences of a considerable number of mainland audiences.

And some internal media regard this as the first collective action of human beings to resist the threat of artificial intelligence.

Is it true, as they say, that Hollywood will be the first victim of artificial intelligence?

Who the hell is killing Hollywood?

Don’t suffer from scarcity but from inequality

Marx’s ancestral precepts teach us that a strike is an act of collective refusal to work in protest.

In reality, strike demands are basically money-related.

In this strike in Hollywood, actors and screenwriters not only demanded that film and television drama companies increase the minimum wages and medical insurance standards for actors and screenwriters, but also demanded a new redistribution system in the streaming media era.

AI is just a marginal issue in the middle of this strike, and the unequal income distribution in the streaming media era is the root cause of this strike.

The so-called studios whose talks with the two major unions have broken down are the union of film and TV producers representing employers including Disney, Netflix and Amazon.

The demands of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are that actors, screenwriters and other film and television industry workers can participate in streaming media income dividends.

In the past when American families subscribed to cable TV, once a popular movie or TV series was rerun, screenwriters and actors could reap a lot of rebroadcast copyright fees.

And now, cable TV is in decline, and streaming has taken its place.

Viewers can order the movies or TV series they want to watch on streaming media anytime and anywhere, but the streaming media platform does not need to pay any additional fees to actors and screenwriters.

So the Screen Actors Guild of America proposed to replace past rebroadcasts with the broadcast volume, and pay a fee once the broadcast volume of a certain episode reaches a certain number.

The answer given by the Union of Film and Television Producers was, no money!

In addition, the number of broadcasts is confidential. Did you make it public when you said it would be public?

The worker is angry!

Fran Drescher, president and figurehead of the Screen Actors Guild of America, said angrily in a speech, “They use money as a cover and say money is being lost everywhere, while at the same time they pay their CEOs hundreds of millions.” Dollars. Disgusting. Shame on them.”

Sean Gunn, who has participated in films such as “Guardians of the Galaxy 2”, “Avengers 3: Infinity War” and “Thor 4: Love and Thunder”, mocked Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger on social media, “In the 1980s, CEOs made 30 times the salary of the bottom worker. Today Bob Iger earns 400 times the salary of the bottom worker.”

Sean Gunn raged, “Bob Iger, should you really look in the mirror and see yourself worthy?”

Hollywood value no longer?

Should screenwriters and actors get the traffic dividends in the streaming media era?

In many Chinese, it may mean:

“You bad screenwriters are also worthy of traffic dividends?”

At present, the film and television industry is undergoing a huge change in streaming media. From the perspective of the audience, there are more and more mediocre, mediocre and even bad movie sequels.

Let’s not talk about Hollywood dramas, many Chinese audiences can’t see them, but at least Hollywood movies are becoming less and less popular in China.

Judging from the box office in the Mainland in the first half of this year, the top three box office are “Manjianghong” with a box office of 4.544 billion, “The Wandering Earth 2” with a box office of 4.029 billion, and “She Who Disappeared” with a box office of 1.68 billion, all of which are domestic films. There are 5 movies that broke 1 billion, all of which are domestic films. In addition to the above three, there are “Bear Infested: Be with me “Bear Core”” and “Life is Unfamiliar”. The box office of the latter two is 1.495 billion, 1.184 billion.

Even if you look farther into the past three years, the only imported films with a box office of over 1 billion are “Avatar: The Way of Water” (1.698 billion at the box office), “Fast and Furious 9” (1.392 billion at the box office), “Godzilla vs. King Kong”. “(box office 1.233 billion), “Jurassic World 3” (1.059 billion). Among the Hollywood blockbusters released so far this year, not even one has exceeded 1 billion.

It seems that, at least in the eyes of Chinese audiences, Hollywood movies are becoming more and more boring, routine fast food is everywhere now, and the world has suffered from Hollywood for a long time!

Is this point of view correct?

Of course you are.

If you count the top 10 highest-grossing movies in Hollywood as of 2022, it is not difficult to find that, except for a few original works such as “Avatar” and “Titanic”, they are basically IP adaptations or sequels.

After all, compared to higher-risk originals, adaptations or sequels are less risky creative methods.

Even if the box office of an adaptation or sequel is not as high as that of the hit original, the IP can be expanded to operate theme parks and consumer goods peripherals, further expanding the company’s profitability.

Hollywood’s original ability is gradually disappearing.

So, is there any film and television production company that insists on originality?

Of course there are, like Netflix.

For a long time, the on-demand income obtained from the long tail effect of popular works has been an important source of profit for film and television companies.

For example, in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022, Sony s Entertainment’s operating income increased by 172% to $1.67 billion, and revenue increased by 55% to $9.5 billion. In its earnings report, Sony attributed this to increased licensing revenue from film/TV titles from digital streaming services.

For streaming media platforms, their monetization channel is the increase in the number of subscribers.

The hot broadcast of popular historical film and television resources cannot generate additional income. If the streaming media platform and the film and television production company do not have an exclusive exclusive agreement, it will not bring a visible increase in the number of subscriptions to the platform.

Therefore, top streaming media such as Netflix have always insisted on using original gatherings that no one else has as the biggest selling point for the growth of subscriptions.

The increase of original works, isn’t this a good thing?

It would be wrong to think so, although there are many popular original dramas such as “Squid Game” on Netflix, as well as classic cases such as “Cyberpunk: Edge Walker” that make the game IP rejuvenate.

“Cyberpunk: Edge Walker” video screenshot

But mediocre or unfinished, streaming media like Netflix is ​​still the norm.

The Fall of Film and Television Art

With the mediocre “big production” and the bad reputation of infinite sequels, audiences tend to blame the screenwriter immediately.

Is this the screenwriter?

My lord, times have changed.

In the era of streaming media, to expand profits at a lower cost, expanding the number of subscriptions has become the main way, rather than producing high-quality goods. The prevalence of streaming media has not only changed the distribution channels of film and television works, but also changed the production methods of the film and television industry.

Under this guiding ideology, the best way to expand the number of subscribers is often a large number of low-cost productions that cater to the preferences of the public and film and television dramas that score above the average score in film reviews. By collecting keywords that cater to the preferences of the public through big data, and making a fuss about the subject matter, you can achieve a score above the average.

Many film and television dramas full of gimmicks on themes are often anticlimactic, and it is becoming more and more difficult for TV dramas to not end unfinished.

The benefits are all obtained by the employers, and the low-level film and television workers are responsible for the infamy. Such a “good thing” cannot last long.

There is a problem with the production method, and the new adjustment mechanism under the new production method has not yet been implemented. This Hollywood strike is a manifestation of the concentrated outbreak of contradictions and conflicts.

In terms of AI demands, the demands of the trade unions are also based on improving the rights and interests of low-level film and television workers. The capital side cannot use actors’ images and sound modeling for free in movies.

In the final analysis, it is not that AI is against people, and behind AI is still capital.

At a news conference announcing the strike, SAG negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said: “They offered to scan our extras for a day’s wages. After that, the studios Having scanned documents, images and likenesses of extras, the company can use them as it pleases, without extra consent or extra money.”

The basis for the existence of the Internet, big data, and even AI is the crystallization of wisdom displayed or created by today’s human society. AI’s imitation and plagiarism of low-level human workers is just another cheap means for capital to exploit low-level workers.

so what? Is it time to sue the evil capital again?

Capital is profit-seeking.

Think about it, if the content products produced under this production mode are not popular, why would capital do unprofitable things?

Although streaming media has passed the stage of rapid growth in recent years and the growth rate has slowed down, it is an irreversible trend to replace traditional TV business.

In the first quarter of 2023, among the subscription streaming businesses of the industry’s major companies, Paramount’s Paramount+ grew the most subscribers to 4.1 million, while Netflix, Warner Bros. Discovery Channel and NBCUniversal’s Peacock Channel The number of users has also exceeded 1 million.

Judging from the revenue of Disney’s various departments today, the streaming media business has surpassed theme parks to become the most important segment of its revenue.

Market demand determines content production. Even film and television works customized with keywords collected from big data are a true reflection of public preference.

In this world, there has never been a real mass art.

All the public needs is entertainment and entertainment. When art takes the initiative to let go of its posture to cater to the public infinitely, it is not far from death.

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