This week, I attended the Academy’s Visual Effects ‘BakeOff.’ It is an invitational event where ten films present to the Academy in hopes of receiving Oscar nominations for best Visual Effects in a film for the year. It is an event about innovation, technology, and this interaction applied to the arts… or at least, that is what I thought.
I was asked to attend by a film VFX supervisor who has worked on films that have presented in the past. He talked of the event showing behind the scenes work; a 15 minute documentary presentation to the member’s of the Academy on how these magical illusions built with cutting-edge technology were made (before and after shots, etc.). I was ecstatic. What a great way to present to a judging panel made up of actors, composers, past directors and producers, who are most likely not familiar with the way this technology works (myself, for the most part, included).
Yet, to both our surprise, the event no longer works this way. The Bakeoff had reverted back to the old model. Arguments, lobbies, and a vote later, films were now presented by showing a ten minute edit of the film (no behind the scenes, no depth to understanding what goes into the technology to make these scenes). Now, we presume that the Academy has seen these films, as it is part of their job. Is it just a refresher? It seems almost as archaic as their voting method. They are to rank the films in order from one to ten, in order of best to worst. There are no questions of why? No psychologically calculated mix of questions bringing about underlying subconscious opinions, experience with the technology, or basis reasoning. Nope, just one to ten based on your feeling at that particular moment. No relation to special effects, just one to ten.
I couldn’t help but compare the archaic event of Hollywood to SOPA and PIPA. A fear of change, a fear of technology, and a fear of decades of innovation in every industry that Hollywood interacts with, and most notably a fear of sacrificing their precious bundles of money. No one explains it better than entrepreneurial professor at Stanford, Berkeley, and Columbia. and author, Steve Blank, when he wrote of these fears in relation to SOPA and PIPA on his blog.
The only innovation Hollywood has gracefully embraced is ‘innovative accounting,’ the magic of the books. It is practically a title of a Disney movie it is so widely known.
Rather, the innovation of technology and the changing landscape it has created has been nothing but positive for Hollywood. New and wider distribution has brought in a lot more liquidity for films. Easier access to content has opened film to more eyeballs. Theaters still create an experience, but the internet has allowed the art to last. Perhaps if they embraced this, they may be able to create an even wider film audience through the internet with more opportunities for advertising, genres, and cultural memes.
Like the Academy itself, it is not always the young and adaptive making the calls. Sometimes a system gets in place like concrete and just gets to ‘stuck’ in their ways to even open their eyes to a new generation quicker to accept adaption then they will ever know. By the words of Seth Godin, “adapt to survive,” it is only natural.