Tuesday, 23 December 2014

7 Things I Learned from the Sony Hack

Bay Bridge - old and new

by E. Amato

It's not like this is my first rodeo, but the entertaining leaks from the Sony hack have thrown some things in relief for me. The attitude shown in the exchanges between Pascal and Rudin are not new and not isolated to the upper reaches of the industry. Belligerence, rudeness, and selective ignorance have been a general tone for decades from top to bottom. There are tiny dictators at every level, and there's always someone ready to throw someone else under the bus. (There are good folks, too, lots of them, but, you know, they don't get much press.)

Still, there's something interesting in both the leaks and the response to them that has made me see the world anew.

Here are the things that rose to the top:
  1. No matter the level of bile Pascal and Rudin are slinging, both are placing content out in front. As audience, we often feel that the studios have lost sight of the importance of the script and the need for quality projects. Both of these players are defending the script and the process from what they perceive to be threats to the quality of the project. This is good to know. Bad movies can happen to anyone, but at least there are still people fighting for good ones. Contentiousness can be a huge barrier to creativity, but there's not enough in the emails to know how they handle the production process. Track records say Rudin knows how to let creatives create - he's made a ton of great movies. Whether we agree with their process or not, they are placing projects first, to their credit.
  2. I don't care about The Interview and I don't think getting global, talking terrorism, and citing censorship work here. Look - The Interview seems as though it was something that should have been nipped in the bud. (Pun intended.) It seems like a racially insensitive romp at the wrong time in the culture. It was ill-considered on the part of the studio. Sony pulling it at the point they did was bowing to market pressures more than capitulating to terrorists. No one would show the damn movie. Weekend box office tanks if people won't step inside theatres. When was the last movie worth going out to in the winter, let alone potentially dying for?
  3. It's still 1984 in Hollywood. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? These are the people Amy Pascal reached out to in the wake of being labeled racist for her emails about Obama? Why not call Spike Lee like it was 1994? Or Oprah, like it was 2004? While it shouldn't be surprising that an executive who trends zeitgeists for a living is horrifyingly isolated from the zeitgeists trending - WAIT, what does she do? It's her job to know who is important in the world, who is part of the dialogue and who the leaders are culturally, politically, and socially. This misstep shows why we should stop expecting relevance, response, or immediacy from the Hollywood structure - they clearly have no idea what's going on outside their buildings, their fundraisers, and their premieres.
  4. We have no sense of humour, aka proprotion. Perhaps I knew this, but the self-importance of so many throughout this episode is instructive. It seems in the US we can take nothing with a grain of salt. A little humility would have worked wonders here. There are real threats resultant from this hack, but sensationalism and blame are keeping our eyes off the prize. We seem to answer every "scandal" with an ego parade, instead of looking at the core problem. And yes, it's far too late to be hiring real-life Olivia Pope to help you out of this mess.
  5. It is and isn't white male patriarchy that keeps women out of Hollywood. For decades many women, myself included, have felt ourselves under the thumb of an old, white, male Hollywood. We've written about lack of equality, lack of parity, lack of opportunity - with ever-increasing statistics to back us up. I've come to a new realization. They don't keep us out. They can't keep us out. We keep us out. Why? Because the majority of women who want to make movies, create television, or shepherd films do not want to behave like old, white men. We want to behave like ourselves. We are not willing to trade fucks with Scott Rudin, we are not willing to succumb to an attitude of dismissive privilege, we envision films and shows that make the world a better place - more interesting, more diverse, less black and white. Not every woman in Hollywood behaves like Pascal, but for a long time, that was how you got powerful. But if you use that method to get power, you get stuck being that person and creating that kind of product. We want different.
  6. It's time to build a new industry. Just like they built the new Bay Bridge - side by side - we build our own industry in our image of collaboration, cooperation, creativity and play. I swear making movies used to be fun. Once we've got ours built, the other one collapses under the pressure of its own weight.
  7. It's all related: Sony hack, Cosby, Ferguson, black lives matter, I can't breathe, feminism, fracking, privilege, racism, occupy - there's a thread running through every hashtag and it is this: it is 2015 and we have left 20th century thinking and modes of action behind. Those who haven't are being shifted over to the wrong side of history in this moment. We have changed how we think, how we participate, how we build, how we vision. There is such a strong sense of momentum right now; the click inside that says it's time to stop struggling, step over the unhelpful and start building. This century got off to an icky start - one that was misused by many and misconstrued by more, but that's over. We are fifteen years in and we have seen our shared future, prepared for it and are ready to start pouring the foundations. There is no room for the kinds of behaviours we have been calling out in our new community. The last six years have shown us the debilitating effects of antiquated choicemaking on populations. There is a world in need of fixing, and we know how to do it, have the tools to do it, the ingenuity to do it, the desire to do it, and the will. We are already here. All these events, together, separately, show the corruption of hoarded power and the imaginary obstacles they place in the way of progress so they can maintain dominance. It is validation for the path the rest of us have already chosen - to share, to be kind, to model gratitude. It is a call to move away from the culture of fear to one of love - not just for what we do, but for how we do it, who we do it with, and who we do it for.
Maybe this last-minute funky release of The Interview is significant in some way, but it doesn't seem so to me. Maybe it's all been a huge P.R. stunt with North Korea laughing heartily and accepting the blame for the chaos, cause - wouldn't you? 

Zestyverse Editor/Publisher E. Amato has woven a creative life that moves fluidly between words, stages, film, and practical activism. She was a member of the 2011 Los Angeles Slam Team and has competed at Poetry Slam Nationals and WOWps. In 2010, Zesty Pubs released her first collection, Swimming Through Amber, her Kindle book 5 in 2012, and her second poetry collection, Will Travel, in 2013. In 2007 and 2008 Down Home traveled to the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, garnering 5-star reviews consecutive years – a rare honour. She recently produced Homeless in Homeland, Saria Idana’s solo piece, which received 4 stars at the Brighton Fringe 2013.