Politics and Film: The Separation of Hollywood and State

This week, in an attempt to keep my blog current and up-to-date I searched the net and newswire for the most current rumors, rising trends and information regarding Hollywood and the film industry. I was shocked and surprised to find that most entertainment bloggers and writers were continuing to dedicate their columns and headlines to the changes going on in Washington instead of the changes taking place in Hollywood. This presidential election was the most publicized and entertaining race in history and the combination of media coverage with Hollywood involvement is why. Straight ahead journalism is lost, people now want to be entertained while they hear about the issues and the news. Hollywood is all too happy to oblige. I do not remember the past few elections exactly and whether Hollywood went as crazy after each but I am positive that our new rock star president will have a definite effect on the industry. In this post I will discuss the historical and current relationship of the ruling presidential party and the film industry.

It appears that many authors spent this week finding correlations between politics, specifically the presidential administrations, and everything else. Why not with the film industry and the box office? Through intensive research Steven Zeitchik of the Hollywood Reporter found some interesting and more surprisingly consequential connections. This relationship should have studio executives and all employees of the film industry smiling and more optimistic about the economy then most other industries. Over the past seven elections a democratic president has consistently resulted in a box-office upswing. “As an average, box-office spiked 6.8% after a Dem was elected but crept up only 3.2% after a Republican took office”. A direct cause and effect relationship is very difficult to prove; however, one theory is that under a Republican administration consumers tend to be more concerned about their finances and chose not to spend on non-vital expenses like entertainment. This is opposed to a Democrat administration that historically promotes creative expression and fosters a more movie friendly climate. I will admit that this is a loose tie however the numbers do show a visible relationship between the success of the film industry and the party in control of the nation.

Box-office receipts are not the only element of the film industry affected by the presidential campaign and the new presidential elect. Filmgoers can also expect an adjustment in the production slate of studios. For example, in case the nation and the media did not get enough of Barack Obama over the last couple months they can relax. Just days after the election HBO advanced Amy Rice and Alicia Sams a low seven figures deal for the rights to their documentary about the Senator’s presidential campaign. There was a substantial risk for investors of this documentary as no one could guarantee who would win the presidential election two years ago. After Obama’s win however, the investment is going to have big payoffs. Cameras have been following the campaign since 2006 after Edward Norton agreed to co-finance the film and secured Obama’s cooperation. The documentary team had been given close access to Obama, his family, friends, staff and volunteers and should offer an insightful view of the president elect and his journey to the White House. Sam Pollard, who has cut several other critically acclaimed HBO films and documentaries, will edit the film. Edward Norton has been quoted saying "We believe this film will capture a tipping point in American history… when a new generation of leadership emerged and old prejudices were finally vaulted over." This was a monumental race and is a story that wont saturate quickly. Consumers can expect many more documentaries, film shorts and features based on the president elect and the 2008 election.

Just as politics have infiltrated the film industry, I believe that Hollywood may be creeping into the White House. Nobody in the film industry expects the same star-studded White House parties that creative community remembers from the Clinton years; however, major studio heads are generally happy and optimistic about what the new president will be able to do for their industry. In one article I read I discovered an interesting tie between the top spot of the president’s new staff and the entertainment industry. Obama’s appointment of Chicago native Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff has caused some insiders to wonder if the White House will bear similarity to Endeavor talent agency run by Rahm’s brother Ari. Ari Emanuel is the immortalized Hollywood agent portrayed as Ari on the popular HBO show Entourage. Those who know the Emmanuel brothers agree that they share many similarities. Both are intelligent and fiercely motivated and both have been known to also be hasty and curt. One Endeavor client said, “The White House under Rahm will be like no other White House. It’ll be pure showbiz, but not about showbiz at all.” Perhaps this is exactly what our country needs, a White House that gets things done and looks good doing it.

1 comment:

Alexandra Holtzman said...

This is a very relevant post about what is going on in the past week. And I do understand how most everything lately has been about the election and our new president. What I found refreshing about this post is that it doesn’t have to do with just Obama but how he may be able to change something I don’t think too many people are thinking about.
On the note of political headlines, it would have been great to see if you think, or came upon, anything about Prop 8. Being in California, this is a major issue and definitely something very prominent in Hollywood, I believe. Is there a correlation? Will Obama have an impact on Prop 8 and with Hollywood as well?
I really enjoyed the sentence: “On average in an election year after a Democrat was elected the box office spiked nearly 7% and only 3% after a Republican took office.” I found that very interesting and I am glad you explained what theories you and others have for that. It would have been very nice to have maybe had an example of when specifically. Which president? Obviously, I am not old enough to remember past elections and know how crazy the entertainment went either, so from a “younger” standpoint, that would be an interesting fact.
Lastly, on the topic of the documentary of the election process, I wonder if the short would have taken on a differing view or something if Obama had not won. Do you think Edward Norton would have done something to put in his opinion? Do you think he has? Obviously, you have not seen it but it would be great to look for beliefs and political values that may be in this documentary.
I truly hope that Obama’s presence will help Hollywood, which may then even help other forms of art and entertainment. As “big” as it is here in LA, the entertainment industry (theater especially) could use a boost. Now with Obama coming into power and the prices of gasoline dropping, I suppose anything is possible!

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