New blog coming this week.

If you haven’t had the chance, get out and read Feck Perfuction by James Victore. I’ll be posting a blog about it later this week.

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Your Heroes are Dead – Steven Spielberg and Exclusivity of the Film Business.

Earlier this week, Steven Spielberg released a statement that he, and a number of other executives in the film industry, will be bringing up a specific issue with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Apparently Spielberg takes issue with films that are exclusively released in digital spaces and which are not released into theatres. He is proposing that the Academy should no longer honour the achievements of these films at the Oscars.

This issue stands in bleak contrast to the fact that Spielberg himself considered himself a trailblazer of the film industry when he started making movies in the late 1960’s. He cites that he is aiming to take a stance against ‘digital only’ releases as the theatre business has been tanking in recent years, and Spielberg has long been an advocate for putting butts in the seats and against digital film piracy. With several large theatre chains citing incredible losses over the last three to fives years (SOURCE) Mr. Spielberg believes that in order to qualify for an Academy award, a film must procure a theatrical release of at least four weeks.

Before we venture into the hypocrisy of Mr. Spielberg’s statement, let’s take a minute and use the recent, Netflix produced and released, Oscar winning film ‘Roma’ as an example.

Roma’s budget was approximately 15 million dollars for a film that was entirely produced in black and white and received the majority of its viewership digitally. Netflix is notorious for accepting pitches from independent filmmakers who are looking to procure a larger bankroll for their projects. Netflix is excellent for experienced filmmakers with a vision because they tend to be pretty hands off creatively (SOURCE). Roma actually did see a limited release in art-house theatres, which was increased from 300 locations to 600 locations world-wide leading up to awards season. (SOURCE)

To give you some perspective “Avengers: Infinity War” was released across 4000+ screens in the United States alone in 2018 (SOURCE).

So why? Why would Roma (a very well made and heartfelt film) and the Avengers (also well made, though certainly lacking in substance) have such widely different theatrical releases? Why should the theatrical release contribute at all to the quality of the art?

This isn’t a question of merit, worthiness or even how the film was received by audiences. What Spielberg is gunning for here doesn’t have anything to do with the ‘art’ of film. This move by Spielberg is EXCLUSIVELY about the bottom line.

You might be asking yourself: “Why on Earth does Steven Spielberg care if Roma has/doesn’t have a theatrical release?”

He doesn’t. But Steven is smart enough to realize that one of the great American pastimes of “going to the movies” has been replaced with “Netflix and chill”. As the co-founder and beneficiary of both DreamWorks Studios and Amblin Entertainment, making sure you keep going to the movies ensures that Mr. Spielberg will continue to add to his 3.7 Billion dollar fortune.

Mr. Spielberg doesn’t want you to continue going to the movies so that you watch a film that will potentially change your life. He doesn’t care if you watch Roma or go to watch Into the Spiderverse a half a dozen times. He wants you to keep going because he wants to continue to line his pockets with money movie theatres pay him to play his movies.

He wants to keep the tradition of ‘Going to the Movies’ habitual so that he will continue to make money from it.

I wondered to myself how much it would cost to secure a theatrical release for a film, so I did a bit of searching and ultimately found this answer on Quora by an independent filmmaker who distributed his film by himself (SOURCE).

He uses some pretty impressive numbers and knowledge of costs within the industry. For a film like Roma to have a limited release of 600 theatres worldwide, you’re probably looking at a figure of $1300 USD/theatre, so about $780,000 without marketing, and without marketing, you might as well be flushing all that money down the toilet. With limited marketing costs, you’re looking at at 1.1-1.5 million dollars for a 600 theatre release.

For a film like Roma, with a 15 million dollar budget, that’s 10% of its budget right there.

For independent filmmakers who are trying to put important stories out into the world, digital release is a great way to get your hard work in front of people who can appreciate it and ingest it in the comfort of their own homes. If you work hard on a film, if you employ gaffers and camera operators and actors and rigging techs and cinematographers, if you make films for people to appreciate and enjoy, that make people think and reconsider the world that they live in, then YOU are a filmmaker, and you deserve to have you art mean just as much as Steven Spielberg’s.

Mr. Spielberg’s decision to go after digitally released films is a testament to how much of a hypocrite he has become in his age. He doesn’t care about the art of the medium, unless of course it’s his own. He doesn’t care about the fact that large production companies don’t often option films made by people of colour, or by women (SOURCE) (and in fact, he hasn’t actually worked with many of them over his long and illustrious career) (SOURCE)

Let’s call a spade a spade. Spielberg used to be an artist. He used to make films that inspired young people across the globe. He was an incredible storyteller, and now he’s stifling others from doing the same because HE wants to get paid.

The way we ingest media is changing. We watch more Netflix and YouTube then we do television. In fact, just recently advertising spend in the digital world out-earned advertising for television (SOURCE). Steven was one of the people who told Hollywood it needed to up its game back in the 1970’s, and almost single-handedly (along with Coppola and Lucas) changed the very definition of blockbuster. It’s a shame to see him leaving a legacy like this for himself.

Maybe it’s just my opinion, but Spielberg is losing touch with audiences in more ways than I can count. His last several films have missed the mark with young audiences. “Ready Player One” was expected to be one of the best screen adaptations in years, and audiences ended up walking away disappointed. Now he’s making a last ditch effort to save the theatre business as if he gives a shit at all.

In fact, Shia LaBeouf had this to say about working with Steven Spielberg for the cinematic classic (*giant eye roll*) IJ4: Crystal Skull.

“I grew up with this idea, [that] if you got to Spielberg, that’s where it is – I’m not talking about fame, and I’m not talking about money. You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of. You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a fucking company.”

Shia LaBeouf (This quote is literally on Steven Spielberg’s Wikipedia Page)

Now, I grew up watching Jurassic Park on repeat. It was actually the first movie I remember watching in theatres. I was six. I was terrified. It was amazing. I think I wore out our VHS. But… there’s something gross to me about watching a so-called “artist’ whine about saving the theatre business, when the reality of the situation has far more to do with his self-interest.

Films in the digital space deserve the recognition of their peers and of respected critics. People who pour their life into their work deserve to have it seen. If Mr. Spielberg wants to stop art from being seen, than I ask he turn in his ‘artist’ card, because he has officially sold himself out to the point of no return. He’s a conman who got you to separate from your money ticket by ticket at a time. Which brings to mind a quote from yet another blockbuster film.

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”

The Dark Knight – 2008, Dir. Christopher Nolan

Wanna support movie theatres? Go buy a $15 bag of popcorn. Concessions are literally the only thing movie theatres make money from. They have to hand all those ticket sales over to the production companies. They don’t see a cent of it. So, you see Mr. Spielberg’s claim that he was to reinvigorate the movie industry is just a thinly veiled attempt to get your butt in a $15-$30 seat for a couple hours where you’ll actually be worth something to him.

So quit sneaking in your M&M’s, or maybe let’s just allow the theatre business die. Doesn’t matter much to me.

I’ll be at home in my underwear marathoning Will & Grace on Prime.

There Goes The Neighborhood – how modern society is desecrating the legacy of Fred Rogers.

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Fred Rogers. Image Courtesy of Focus Features

At the end of his life, Fred Rogers – completely distraught over the attacks on 9/11 – was losing hope. Sensing the divide within his nation and facing a fatal illness, there was very little left for him to do besides look back and contemplate; had his life’s work been successful?

I don’t know what Fred’s answer might have been, but when I watched the recent documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I was struck by one very solid conclusion: Fred Rogers’ legacy of kindness and acceptance is being defiled by the very society he looked to improve, mostly via social media.

His message is and has always been the same: love yourself and be kind to others. But in this technological age where you can hurl the deepest, darkest insults at anyone from behind the relative anonymity of the computer screen, how long does it take for those words to become feelings or actions?

We’re seeing it more and more; people airing out their opinions like dirty laundry, as though the world is hanging off their every word. Worse yet, it seems that this unlimited freedom of expression has gone hand-in-hand with a divided political climate, and the exhausting vitriol of endless Twitter threads is beginning to leak out into the real word.

There are hundreds of videos posted to social media every single day of the racist, misogynistic, homophobic, ablest, classist, acts being perpetrated in the big-wide-world. And while there may always be an outpouring of support in the comments, they are merely the “thoughts and prayers” of a generation who fails to put into action the way they truly feel.

Thought Experiment: When was the last time you were kind to your neighbours?

The thing is, the neighbourhood is bigger than it ever was. There are more than two billion Facebook accounts out there, one for every three people on the planet. There are 6,000 tweets sent out every second. YouTube says there’s 300 hours of content uploaded to their server every minute. Instagram claims 95 million photos and videos are uploaded every single day*. In these astronomical numbers, our media have become strategic experts of finding exactly what you are inclined to watch, listen to, consume and share just so you will do exactly that. And just as the news has often appealed to this macabre sense of negative bias, we too have become entangled by the minute to minute dramas that crop up on our own personal, algorithmically generated dashboards, conveniently located in every single pocket in America.

*Statistics taken from THIS Website and are indicative of social media usage as of January 2019.

Thought experiment: Social Media, as we know it, has been around for 16 years. Has this uninhibited expression of our thoughts and feelings in a safe digital space made us more cruel? Tell me why or why not in the comments.

The thought leaders amount us – which is to say those who find themselves squarely in the “prime adult” bracket of 25-55 – grew up watching wholesome children’s television that was rife with positive and educational characters, imagery, messages, lessons, and music. We grew up watching Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, School House Rock, and of course, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. And yet while reflecting back on our P’s and Q’s, it’s kind of easy to see where it all went wrong. All the lessons we were taught by Fred Rogers fell on deaf ears.

We all got older, and while Big Bird, Elmo and yes, even Mr. Rogers were telling us to be kind, and be curious, to ask questions and listen to answers, the rest of the world was training us to be quick to react, quick to anger, and quick to ignore.

We have almost completely stopped listening to each other, and the world responds with frustration, at the rate of 6,000 tweets a second. Instead of using the tool of social media exclusively for good, the vast majority of users have had to deal with some form of cyber-bullying in the last few years, centering around social issues (like race, religion or economic status) or politics* 

*Source/Reference

And this is where we all fail. We live in a time now where social ignorance is screamed at, rather then educated; where people who have been twisted by a crumbling educational sector or inherited the intolerance of their family, has given license to every progressive to incite a screaming match. Now we punish those who didn’t have a Mr. Rogers’ in their lives by finding their employers, getting them fired, sometimes even having their children taken away before leaving them to rot in the aftermath. As it turns out, feeling hated or being ostracized by your own countrymen only pushes intolerant or ignorant people closer towards radicalization and extremism.*

*Source/Reference

Fred Rogers – whose own children never even saw him get angry – preached tolerance, and gentle reeducation against intolerance. As an overweight child, he understood bullying all too well and did his best to get people past their misconceptions to see the truth. That kid you pick on in a wheelchair? He was a baby when he contracted a disease in his nervous system. That African American man you won’t let swim in your pool? Mr. Rogers got in a pool with him. He even acknowledged the misplaced frustration and anger that we all sometimes felt, and for many was an introduction to mindful meditation by explaining breathing techniques in ways children could understand. 

Despite all this, he himself was filled with doubt about how to mend moral division plaguing the world today. I believe the answer is simple in theory but far too difficult in practice. 

We need to stop talking. We Need Silence. We need to listen more. We need to calmly communicate to get to the root of the problem. We need to stop being so quick to anger. We need to state our case. We need to use empathy. We NEED NEED NEED to start respecting the people we share our world with.

If we can manage that, then maybe there’s a place for all of us in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” premiered on PBS 51 years ago, today! Here’s a great video of some of his most heartwarming moments. Today, make an effort to be kind to your neighbour, in honour of Fred Rogers.

Why I Decided to Stop Branding Myself.

I’m not a commodity. I am not consumable. I am an experience. There isn’t just one thing about me that you should appreciate. Sitting here and curating my thoughts and activities to appeal to that consumption was something that made me entirely uncomfortable. Self-branding truly made me feel like if I didn’t present myself as a ‘product’, that I would not gather the attention that I wanted. Trying to ‘brand’ myself only further fed into this egotism, forcing me to redefine my identity as a product, a presentation, and fulfilling not just your expectations of who I am, but being constantly disappointed in failing to reach those expectations for myself.

As a result, I became incredibly depressed.

I was watching a reality television show, that was kind of a Japanese rendition of “Big Brother”, where a bunch of different people live in a house together (As a subplot to this story, I’ve been learning Japanese for the last couple months, but more on that later). Upon being asked by one of her ‘outside’ friends, one of the housemates described every other resident of the house by explaining their age and the profession, but not by their name, and not by any of their other interests, features, or distinguishing aspects.

This gave me pause. I sat and thought about how I present myself to the world, and how I see others. It’s so easy to determine our self-worth exclusively within our job title, or our marital status, or even one of our public hobbies.

Thought experiment: What did you last buy your parent for their birthday?

My Stepdad loves golf. Over the years he has received thousands of golf balls, ball markers, driver socks, beer caddies, collared shirts, and baseball hats, that now, whenever his birthday or Christmas rolls around, I freeze up completely. I live in fear of buying him something golf related, because when I hand it over to him it says two things, one positive, and one that terrifies me.

Positive thought: I thought about you and as a result, bought you something.

Terrifying thought: Despite the fact that I have known you for 25 years, I don’t know anything about you aside from the fact that you like and play golf.

Knowing that my Stepfather enjoys playing golf does not in any way solidify how I feel about him. Failing to get him something I know he will like and enjoy makes me feel like I’m missing out on a big part of who he is by scaling him down to the simplest of terms.

That girl you follow on Instagram because you like the way she dresses? That’s not a relationship.

That person you retweet on Twitter because you enjoy their political commentary? That is not a relationship.

That YouTuber who takes you on their travels around the world, and who eats all the delicious food you want to try? That is not a relationship.

The internet has made it easier then ever to compare yourself to others who impress you and offers all the resources you need to give people a reason to love you. But turning yourself into a product to be consumed is not going to get you any closer to loving yourself.

When I started this idea in the middle of last year, I was convinced that if I could show people the truth behind who I am and what I do that I could get everyone to love me. I was looking for that validation. Instead, I forgot about the reasons why everyone I know loves me in the first place. The result was a highly edited attempt to grasp at the straws that I believed made me an individual.

I hated it. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t what I wanted people to see when they looked at me.

So no more self-branding. No more analytics. No more strategics to pull in more viewership. I’m done trying to impress people. I’m done being anything other then my true self.

If you like me, follow me. If you don’t, have a marvellous day.

I’m just going to keep talking and writing until someone decides to listen to me, and then I’m just going to keep talking and writing.

Reflectionships Episode Six Show Notes

Check out Aalia here on her website: http://relationshipsunsugarcoated.com/ where you can pick up a copy of her book.

Also available via Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle.

Follow Aalia on Instagram @aalia_unsugarcoated

If you are a woman who is a victim of domestic abuse, please click through to these links for resources to help you escape your situation.

Canada: https://crcvc.ca/links/
United States: https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/state-resources