Was it ever an industry?

Yesterday was the anniversary of Orson Welles death, who died when I was a nipper in 1985. I remember avoiding Citizen Kane throughout my A’ Levels and undergraduate degree and only saw it at the shamefully late age of 24 years old. And I immediately loved it, and saw why it is considered a classic. After the movie, most of my fascination was in the process of how he made it at such a tender age himself (he was 25 when it was completed). I still find it such a tragedy that he only got to direct 13 feature projects throughout the rest of his life, and this in turn stirred my interest in the production process and how it is such a flawed system. Here is a lovely interview with Welles on Parkinson, where Welles asked Parkinson “Do you think it is an industry Michael? I’ve always thought it was showbusiness.” He goes on to say that he thought the studios pretended to be factories but it was still showbusiness. I think you should watch the whole thing but this quote is at 25.45:

Whilst I’ve never advocated making features in 72 hours on a regular basis, I do believe we should have a system in place that lets people try and fail in a model that encourages fresh voices. The model that we currently have depends increasingly on the ability to deliver profit and success immediately, instead of having any form of continuous engagement and development. Designing this kind of model has been at the heart of what I’ve studying for my PhD. Today we developed a proposal for a business model that would see sustainable feature length production upon our campus on a yearly basis, with cash budgets of around £30k. Small fry to studios, but shit loads more that is currently floating around for indie filmmakers. Over the coming year I’ll be sharing more about how the model would work, but it’s early days. It would be fair to say that my attention recently hasn’t been upon one film per se, but the ability to continuously make films moving forward, and developing a way that means that incredible talents like Welles don’t leave this earth with much of their potential probably untapped.


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