Tuesday, May 31, 2016



Yes, you!

Wake up!

You're in DANGER!

From Virtual Reality!

It's coming for you...

...and the narratives you hold dear.

That's what Steven Spielberg thinks, in any case.

He actually used that word 'dangerous'. Like VR would sneak into your home at night and kidnap your family.

Mr Spielberg's concern is what you, the audience, will do with the power of choice. That you will ruin the artistry of cinema. Choosing where to look takes control from the filmmakers and places it squarely into the eyeballs of the viewing public.

This is where we have come to in our paranoia over technological disruption?

Is turning away from the story action (then having to rewind) really that new of an idea? Clearly Mr Spielberg's television follows his eyesight wherever he gazes. Must cost a fortune.

There are so many infinitely larger challenges facing filmmakers and artists, that the growth of VR should barely warrant a bemused shrug.

Forget virtual reality problems, the real world has all the difficulties artists can handle.

In Australia, funding for the screen arts keeps facing cut, after cut, after cut. So much so, that thirty-year-old filmmaker resource organisation 'Metro Screen' was forced to shut down at the end of 2015.

Is it any wonder that 'Median earnings for a visual artist are $25,800 from all sources; half earn less than $10,000 a year from their art, according to a 2010 Australia Council study.'

How would you respond to hearing the news that artists in Australia can barely afford a biscuit?

Take the biscuit, of course.

Or perhaps you would decry this new reality for the modern artist. Uprise in an arcing rage, and stand in unison with the vocal critics of the current Federal Government Arts funding armageddon shouting:

'The emasculation of the arts sector...that began under Tony Abbott’s administration has continued seamlessly under Malcolm Turnbull. While arts communities easily cast Abbott as a villainous Philistine and held out hope that his more urbane successor would put his money where his artistic patronage was, Turnbull has just been more of the same with nicer manners.'

Alas, the obstacles are not only limited to Australia.

In Hollywood, noted luminaries like Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Soderbergh, and Spike Lee have all commented on the virtual extinction of the mid-tier budget film. It's either a 'Disney-Marvel-Warner Brothers-DC-Pixar-Universal-superhero-animated-sequel-blockbuster', or the budget has to be less than $2 million. Neither one of those scenarios leads to a golden age for screen culture.

At Cannes 2016, aside from Amazon swinging their gigantic...chequebook...around to make an identity statement, the film market was reportedly very quiet on the sales side.

Which leaves Netflix, the touted saviour of all screen storytellers. Unfortunately, the Netflix rescue fantasy conveniently leaves out that the company operates on extraordinarily small profit margins, in an increasingly competitive global business. Sort of like your knight in armour showing up on a three-legged horse.

I could go on.

But I'll boil it down for you: living the life of an artist is hard.

There's doubt.

There's rejection.

And there's the constant hustle for resources.

Even Orson Welles once said:

"I would have been more successful if I'd left movies immediately, stayed in the theatre, gone into politics, written, anything. I've wasted a greater part of my life looking for money and trying to get along, trying to make my work from this terribly expensive paintbox which is a movie. And I've spent too much energy on things that have nothing to do with making a movie. It's about two percent movie-making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It's no way to spend a life."

The least of our problems is the emergence of a new storytelling technology. Only a very comfortably wealthy artist, part of the billionaire elite in fact, would consider the growth of VR to be anything more than 'uptown problems'. Outrage from a gilded perch.

No, the real "danger" of our present era is for the audience.

You are under siege. Encircled by a pervasive monoculture, run by wealthy corporations that want to homogenise your stories. To starve out the diverse artist ecosystem for their profit. And worse, this blockade is run, in collusion it seems, with the outdated 'trickle-down' economic ideologies of the current political class.

This should make you mad.


Imagine your world without movies, television, music, books, paintings, sculpture, dance, theatre, poetry...

Correction: this should make you furious.

We artists don't want much. We know it's hard. It's meant to be hard. But, as Orson Welles said, in the other half of that quote:

'I think I made essentially a mistake in staying in movies but it’s a mistake I can’t regret because it’s like saying I shouldn't have stayed married to that woman but I did because I love her.'

We're in this for life.

We're fighting to create stories for you that will enrich your existence.

Will you fight for us too?

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