So Michael Moore is suing the Weinsteins over their ‘creative accounting’ for his movie Fahrenheit 9/11.
It’s a familiar story. Hollywood film companies hide the profits from successful films so they don’t have to pay them to filmmakers. This is business as usual. The companies claim exorbitant expenses – in the case before the courts, the allegations include the hiring of a private jet to fly one person across the Atlantic. Film Executives live the high life at festivals in lavish hotels, including all of this as part of their ‘expenses’.
Few filmmakers dare to take the studios on. The chilling line ‘You’ll never work in this town again’ is one that has real power in Hollywood.
Peter Jackson took on New Line in the courts, and won a settlement simply because he doesn’t care whether he works in Hollywood – in fact he prefers not to.
As a writer I’ve watched over many years entire industries that exist on the back of the creative product of artists. Publishers and booksellers make a reasonable living – most writers do not. As a filmmaker I now watch as distributors and exhibitors make a living out of films, while no one else does. There’s something seriously askew here.
The reason they can get away with it is that there are so many aspiring writers and filmmakers, that existing ones are always vulnerable to the threat of avoidance. There’s a toll gate between artists and audiences, and those who control the tolls have all the power. True freedom comes for artists who accept the fact that exploitation keeps them impoverished, and decide not to play the game. Michael Moore is big enough that he doesn’t have to play, and I’m sure he’s making a doco on the side about his fight with the Weinsteins. Others of us are not so wealthy or famous. But we still have the choice as to whether to roll over and be screwed again, or to find new ways of doing things that bypasses the gatekeepers.