Thursday, October 15, 2020

FILM WARS: Disney Officially Announces Re-Monopolization of Film Industry


    Our team has predicted this almost a year ago in addition to the streaming wars that have occurred with the release of Disney+ and other platforms.  If you missed my last article back in May about the history of how this impacted the film industry today, then grab a refresher here: FILM WARS: The Movie Thief and the Lost Monopoly

    Vertical Integration (or monopoly) was the ambition of the Big 6 in the early 1920s when the film industry was young and stupid.  Now over a century old, the film industry became old and stupid since everyone seemed to forget this particular golden nugget.  In a Hollywood Reporter puff piece released on Monday, Disney officially announced its move to restructure their company to focus purely on vertically integrating their content for their streaming platform, Disney+.

[From Hollywood Reporter]

Earlier this month, the activist investor Dan Loeb sent a letter to Chapek and Disney’s board of directors, suggesting that the company really embrace the "transformational opportunity" of streaming by eliminating its $3 billion annual dividend and investing it entirely in content. "[M]eaningfully accelerating DTC content spend will further broaden the divide between Disney and its traditional media peers — AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Discovery, ViacomCBS, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Fox — none of which have the financial capabilities to execute such a bold plan," Loeb wrote in his letter. In fact, Loeb argued that "with Disney’s superior tentpole franchises and production capabilities, we believe that the company can exceed the subscriber base of the industry leader, Netflix, in just a few years."


Follow the Bread Crumbs

    What "content" is Loeb referring to?  All Disney-owned content, making it the first major studio to truly re-embrace the vertical integration model in New Media.  Most all other streaming platforms license movies and series from other studios, which is exactly how theaters run their businesses as well.  Instead, Disney wants to restructure to build AND OWN from the ground up, essentially pushing out indie films and theaters completely.

    Does this sound like some sort of conspiracy theory?  Take a look at the timeline of only a handful of articles on the subject we've reposted just over the past 2 months:

  • After the 'Trolls: World Tour' fiasco, the one that started it all for Disney was 'Mulan'.  On Aug 4, Disney CEO, Bob Chapek, states 'Mulan' to release on Disney+ on Sept 4 and in select theaters worldwide (not in the US).  The Deadline article further clarifies, "Specifically, Disney will be releasing the film theatrically in certain markets where the studio currently has NO ANNOUNCED LAUNCH PLANS FOR DISNEY+ and where theaters are open (i.e. China)."  Their reasoning?  Allegedly "piracy" issues, as if piracy doesn't exist in any country where they don't have Disney+. [Article]
    • Furthermore, Chapek says, "We're looking at 'Mulan' as a one-off AS OPPOSED TRYING TO SAY THAT THERE'S A NEW BUSINESS WINDOWING MODEL."  And yet, here we are as they just announced a new business windowing model bypassing theaters.
  • Aug 10: Disney abandons physical media releases, essentially eliminating any 3rd party distributors to take any part of their sales. [Article]
    • A spokesperson claims, "There are no plans to discontinue releases in a particular format.  We evaluate each release on a case-by-case basis and pursue the best strategy to bring our content into consumer homes across platforms that meet a variety of demands."
      • That is the same rationalized logic Amazon tried to use against 'A Child's Voice' even though traffic for the narrative was on the rise (regardless of being able to search pretty much ANY movie on Amazon whether available or not).
  • Another Hollywood Reporter article on Aug 18 speaks of WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal refocusing on streaming content.  The article also mentions Disney but doesn't go into detail at all; just mentions them in passing like its no big deal. [Article]
  • Aug 20, Cineplex attempts to be the first theater chain to reopen for all Hollywood movies. [Article]
  • Sept 6, Indie Wire outlines how Disney tacks on a buy-in fee to watch 'Mulan' on top of their subscription fee on their platform alone, further testing their vertical integration strategies. [Article]
  • In an article by Anthony D'Alessandro posted by Deadline on Sept 16, he urges the union of exhibition and distribution over division to solve the financial crisis. [Article]
  • On Sept 23, some filmmakers speak out to tell audiences to NOT go see their films in theaters. [Article]
  • On Sept 30, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the Director's Guild of America, the Motion Picture Association, and other notable filmmakers warn Congress that theaters will "go extinct" without additional aide. [Article]
  • On Oct 5, major theater chain Cineworld announces its closure due to a "lack of studio product". [Article]
  • Just last week on Oct 8, Pixar (Disney-owned) announced their release of their latest animated feature, 'Soul', on Disney+ making sure it was clear the film would be available "at no extra charge" (except for the subscription charge for Disney+, of course). [Article]
  • Oct 12: Disney officially announces its move to restructure the Disney Company to prioritize its creation and distribution of streaming content in a puff piece by Hollywood Reporter.

    These monopolizing moves have been in the works ever since the Streaming Wars began.  With Netflix leading the charge in the early 2010s (as an independent, at first), other big studios watched carefully as they launched their own proprietary content with huge success - and no legal repercussions (because lack of New Media laws) bringing in the New Media Age of streaming content (NOTE: regardless, Netflix still buys and exhibits licensed material, not just content they create and own like Disney+).

What Does This Mean For Indie Filmmakers & Theaters?

    If you're an indie filmmaker or theater owner, and this doesn't piss you off, then you're missing how vertical integration (monopoly) further tightens its grip on all of us creators.  In a talk given by the former CEO of AVID Technology, he revealed storytellers and creators continuously got lower and lower pay for their creations.  Greedy studios pay pennies to the dollar on original work (scripts and films alike).  The whole WGA mess against the agencies last year was due to writers getting the shaft on pay by their agents, who took a sizeable percentage throughout the duration of the film process rather than on the sale, which is typical practice in other industries ("finder's fee" so-to-speak, but nobody likes calling it that anymore).

    With larger companies exploiting your naivety of business and reaping all the benefits for themselves, many streaming networks have opted for flat fees rather than basing your pay on the number of views.  Why is that?  So they don't have to report on their earnings per view and further show creators how little they actually earned compared to how much they do.

    The biggest surprise came from the lack of fight by theater chains.  Though the boycott on Universal films by AMC happened earlier this year, AMC opted to change their long-standing position on tentpole movies, which required a 90-day theatrical release before moving to a streaming platform.  Unfortunately, AMC caved and made the deal with Universal to only require a 17-day release window.  The idea of a longer, exclusive release to make ticket sales (pre-sold or otherwise) is what gave the box office such power against the Hollywood machine in terms of fighting against their moves for monopolization.

    This makes it seem like the theater chain owners have alternative stakes in streaming services they were meant to fight against.  Remember the US vs. Paramount Antitrust Case (Archive) began in the 1920s by Indie Filmmakers AND Theaters.  They banned together and embarked on an almost 30-year venture to finally uproot the stranglehold of the Big 6 studios of the film industry.

Where Do We Go From Here?

    My team and I have always pushed to educate indie filmmakers about distribution and marketing to raise awareness and build our own community to match, and eventually overturn, the Hollywood system.  With the entire US placed on hold, Hollywood continues to make power play moves to further tighten their grip on independent filmmaking in order to build the hegemonic belief that we can't make it unless we go through them - it's simply untrue.

    We're on the rise!  Multiple indie filmmakers have come together to brainstorm on how to fight against the menace of Vertical Integration / Monopoly of the film industry to stop them from ruling it all.  Disney, Hollywood, etc, want to own you, not help build you up.  We need to take power into our own hands and fight back to bring audiences to us again!  It's time for all independent filmmakers to ban together and build!

    We have plans on executing exactly that... but that is for another time in the near future.  If you'd like more information on what we've been working on to build a workhorse for indie filmmakers and wish to help with this venture, shoot us an email on our website: Hyde Hooligan Films, LLC to let us know.


Written by: J Hooligan

#disney #disneyplus #verticalintegration #riseup #fightback #monopoly #history #indies #indiefilms #educate #newmedia #film #filmnews

Monday, June 1, 2020

THE DIGITAL DEMON: The Lost Art of Retraction - When Ego and Hubris Reign

     During these tumultuous times, uncertainty seems to have reached a pinnacle in the midst of the pandemic, social media legislation, and the protests (and riots) spawned from George Floyd's unjustified death.  In one week we've gone from "we're in this together" and "support small business" to vandalizing and looting those same people.  Yet, in the midst of the righteous albeit emotional response to rise up against an unjust brutality, a new demon has arisen across social media which further clouds logical judgment: hubris.  Most of what I typically speak out against is the hypocrisy of soapbox warriors cloaked in faux altruism.  This tendency most knowingly originates from my need to keep myself ever vigilant against any of my own hypocrisies that may exist or manifest.  However, the prevalence of overly-emotional driven actions justifying crude, violent, and downright immoral behavior has become a massive self-sustaining problem with little oversight into any newer or improved future any time soon.

HUBRIS (noun): excessive pride or self-confidence


     I feel the need to point out that I am a huge advocate for those exercising their right to protest, even without a "permit."  However, I draw the line when protests compromise safety - vandalism, looting, igniting fires, attacking passersby, etc are all actions I won't condone.  Such activities are vastly counter-intuitive to the advent of promoting actual change.  If your conflict resides from a current mistreatment, then mistreating others in a similar (or even alternate) manner nullifies progress forward, including the altruistic fight for "equality."  But it is that "equality" which comes directly into question when protests turn violent.  The "eye for an eye" mentality is not a valid method of rectifying injustice when turned against innocent lives.
     But oh what a world we live in as social media becomes the proprietor and purveyor of propaganda while pretending to be unbiased.  As I mentioned before, my biggest qualm exists in the hypocrisy of those constantly projecting hatred and pretension.  Only a couple weeks ago, there were groups of people organizing protests against the state government over the mandates to wear masks and to continue with an extended shelter in place while people's livelihoods were directly jeopardized - they ended non-violently.  Most people against the protesters called them selfish and stupid as they "disregarded safety" due to the current pandemic.  However, many of those same toxic people are now the loudest advocates for the current protest for George Floyd.  This sort of flip-flopping becomes rationalized under the guise of faux altruism and only when aligning with one's own personal views.  Individuals facing the hypocrisy turn a blind eye as the brain defends itself (naturally) from the cognitive dissonance when they're called out on it.  This is exactly why most people almost never reply to such statements - their ego and pride become so entrenched into their own emotional beliefs that anyone with an alternate view or belief somehow becomes invalid, insignificant, and eventually inhuman in the eyes of the hypocrite.
     I've been countered with attempts to justify the violent tendencies yet none of them speak to the actual hypocrisy of calling earlier protesters of different values as violators of safety.  So which is it?  Either you see protesting during a shelter in place as idiotic and threatening the health and safety of others or you are an advocate for it?  The idea that both can exist but only in terms of what you agree with is a dangerous and bigoted view.  When the ego becomes the precedence of fairness and equality, it becomes ever clouded by emotion and hubris.


     One of the more disturbing transitive effects leading up to rationalizing violence (especially in areas with no significant hate crimes committed by police, like the Bay Area where I'm from) stems from the ego touted as social justice.  It's amazing to see otherwise logical, intelligent people in the area cheer on violent behavior rather than the protesting movement despite most everyone agreeing the actions taken against George Floyd were horrific and call for justice (most all police officers and government officials included).  Newscasters and social justice warriors constantly feed the narrative that people are "just releasing their frustration."  However, as mentioned, my own area is not known for such acts - it's known for its minority as the majority - so why are those volatile emotions turning up here?  Additionally, letting frustration reign over logic does not give credence towards justice when turning to violence, looting, vandalism, etc.  I wouldn't be able to bust open your car and set it on fire if one of my loved ones were murdered, especially when you weren't involved with it.  That's not how justice works and is a poor excuse for instant gratification that demotes forward progress.
     These dangerous grounds the masses tread indulgently derives from "what I feel justifies my [crappy/illegal/bigoted] action/response" regardless of relation (or non-relation) of the incident to themselves or to others.  The "gimme mine" mentality feeds the ego this sort of rage when there is little to no attribution of actual empathy or compassion towards others - mainly only talk of it (little to no action).  That sort of mentality disregards people as equals (the very root of the protests).  Furthermore, the move toward altruism alleviates the hypocrite from personal accountability, meaning their defense mechanism pushes to preserve the hypocrisy by justifying it by the abstract of "justice."


     Speaking of accountability, there is a lost practice which helps close out hypocrisy that is no longer done: retracting one's statements.  Among those that complained about their safety being compromised in a protest they didn't agree with, not one of them retracted their original statement in the light of the George Floyd protests.  Instead, the hubris within overpowers the need to shut down such a hypocrisy because they weren't "accountable" for their own misguided principles to begin with; it was purely reactive instead.  Reactions don't give enough weight to an argument when organized or premeditated actions such as protests take place instead.  It should be clear, though, that changing one's mind (especially openly) is a good sign of setting the ego aside to grow and include other people's views, and it is not the same when flip-flopping stances to push one's own egotistical agenda.
     In a not-so-distant past, journalists who preemptively take one stance would often issue a retraction of the statements if proven incorrect.  It allowed for humans to be treated as humans by recognizing the irrational, reaction-based emotions that fuel prejudice responses.  That practice, sadly, does not happen any longer.  The idea of infallibility has prevailed in even the most studious of people - it runs amok with politicians on all sides.  For example, it's fascinating to see people talk of "worshiping Trump" when those same people idolize Obama in the same manner.  I personally find idolizing people leads to a "do no wrong" mentality and further perpetuates blind allegiance instead of prioritizing individual discretion.  The sensationalism riding among the modern mainstream media runs thick without recognition among the people who become so accustomed to thinking less they accept it without question.


     Hubris prevents the individual from admitting failure as the concept of infallibility continues to rise.  In a previous article, I wrote about how current technological advances (i.e. social media, video games, etc) perpetuate God Complexes as we further disconnect from actual social harmony.  Bringing back the action of retracting one's statement may be but a simple step towards bringing the masses back to zero in order to move forward once again, however, it will most likely drown in the propaganda of social media anyway.  As someone who frequently uses the retraction (when warranted), I can only speak of my own positive experiences from the choice.  Whether or not it could have an impact on the hegemonic symphony of hypocrisy will only be seen in hindsight, granted if people actually follow it.  Remember: violence begets violence, not progress.  If we're truly in this together, then live by exemplary action, not diminutive emotional reactions, and treat each other as such.  Be safe out there.

Written by: J. Hooligan

#digitaldemon #hubris #ego #georgefloyd #protests #riot #pandemic #shutdown #covid19 #retraction #hypocrisy 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

FILM WARS: The Movie Thief and the Lost Monopoly

     Theaters shut their doors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hollywood, in the middle of its back-breaking workhorse, stalls in the momentous roar of silence rolling through the hills of a quarantined audience.  Out emerges Universal Studios, riding atop their noble steed: Trolls World Tour.  As they charge through success among theater shutdowns, the world is happy... or is it?  AMC rages in the wake of Universal's trophy - despite being the only platform to premiere as theaters remain closed.  In an act of prideful defiance, the kings and queens of AMC declare war against Universal, aided by their comrade, Regal Cinemas, and a new era of old cataclysmic whims reemerge.  Will this be the end of theater chains?  Will Universal double down and stream on their own platform?  Will popcorn inflation no longer be a problem of future generations?

     Although it's too early to tell, the future of theatrical cinema remains to be seen as the world slowly rolls out with new guidelines on how to "safely" return business to normal in a post-pandemic world, which makes the AMC-Universal debate somewhat odd for a few reasons.  It's all still up in the air.

The Studio and Theater Spat

     In case you missed it, Universal released a VOD premiere of Trolls World Tour; sponsored by Fandango.  One source touted the animation raised about $150 million domestically and $350 million worldwide.  Though those numbers are rough, Universal counted it as a success for the $90 million movie, and the media claimed outrageous titles such as, "Universal just told theaters they aren't relevant" and the like.  Enter AMC...
     Upon reading the news of Universal's success, AMC formally announced their refusal to play Universal movies from then on out, claiming their efforts to raise the caliber of tentpole movies are an important part of the release platforms studios (independent or otherwise) need in order to shine the light of their films' future so the world may view them in all their glory.  Though Trolls World Tour was not the first to do a same-day streaming premiere (there was a movement a few years back where theater and same-day VOD premieres released at the same time but didn't have much success), AMC took Universal's success as a personal blow to their value add on film releases, as stated in a letter released by the CEO.

[SIDE NOTE: There is a strict 90-day window clause built into contracts that state tentpole movies must wait 90 days from their theatrical release date before moving on to any streaming platform.  Since Roma was not considered a tentpole movie as an independent, it did not require the 90-day window in its theatrical debut, which pissed off a lot of the elites at the Academy when it went up for Oscars awards.  The rule to qualify a movie for an Oscar is (I believe) at least 1-2-weeks in theaters.]

The Reality of Distribution: The Movie "Thief"

     On some level, AMC's claims of raising the bar of films is not unfounded.  For almost a century, movies with theatrical releases are regarded as the pinnacle of "silver screen" accolades whereas statisticians pull data of success (or failure) to prove the world's temperament against particular genre films, actors, etc.  Investors also look to worldwide numbers to gauge the success of any particular film (blockbuster or flop) they want to invest in - this is nothing new.  However, AMC's claims are somewhat askew.  For the first time in history, theaters shut their doors to the public for weeks.  Studios have been forced to change their theatrical release dates as the masses are ordered to stay at home.
     Movie deals are made for each individual movie, and there has been no talk on the wire of Universal making any sort of distribution deal with AMC for Trolls World Tour.  Even so, there are clauses in every deal that directly tackle emergencies such as this.  Should there have been an exchange of money, additional fees would have been incurred if Universal decided to back out on the deal.  None of these stipulations were addressed in AMC's letter, therefore, since it is not due to legal recourse, it is believed to be based on a "bad business" vibe that will forever echo across the film industry.  It appears to be a personal beef, and AMC comes off like a child kicking and stomping their feet because they didn't like that Universal continued to premiere a tentpole movie without them.
     In Universal's defense, they had a lucrative merchandise deal they wanted to adhere to for Trolls, as opposed to waiting for an unknown date for theatrical release to recuperate their money spent on making the film ($90 million).  From their standpoint, merchandise is a much better route based on an established date rather than an unknown one stuck in theater shutdowns.  Merchandise is how many studios make their money back - it's how George Lucas made his millions off of Star Wars (not from the movies themselves, but from the merchandising rights) - it's why Spaceballs pokes fun at it in the spoof.

[SIDE NOTE: George Lucas only allowed for the Spaceballs spoof so long as Mel Brooks did not sell any merchandise for it.  Obviously, he agreed.]

     So, if this is not a legal battle, who is in the right here?  Was Universal's actions so vile that AMC "had" to refuse showing their movies?  Or was AMC's reaction justified in the light of "bad business" and horrible dealings with Universal?  Either way you swing it, there is a hidden and much more daunting issue at play here now that this has occurred.

The Lost Monopoly

     On May 4, 1948, in United States v. Paramount, the Supreme Court ruled against the five major studios (and three smaller ones) stating the Hollywood vertical integration system violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and allowed for studios to monopolize the industry.  Studios at the time held exclusive contracts with actors and directors and worked together with theaters they owned to further extend their reach and control.  There were many fights for almost three decades between the major studios, the government, independent movie-makers, and theater owners.  Many studios participated in "block booking," where they forced theaters to buy a group of films in advance without viewing them first - the practice was deemed illegal in 1930.
     After the 1948 ruling, the studios were forced to disband their studio-theater monopolies.  They followed suit after Howard Hughes of RKO Pictures sold his theaters followed by studio giant Paramount.  It is believed this paved way for the success of television.

New Media Loopholes

     The idea of vertical integration gave control of movies, content, and personnel to the studios and further propagated evidence of the Hollywood workhorse as a monopoly.  Why is this important today and how does it relate to the AMC-Universal debate?  Enter New Media.
     New Media is roughly defined as media that relies on computers for distribution.  Although it does not technically include television and feature films, the line became blurred with the advent of Netflix's streaming option in 2010.  Netflix introduced their streaming service while they held DVD and BluRay rights of movies.  In 2012, Netflix began producing their own "Netflix Originals" - their own content - which they streamed exclusively on their own platform.  Since the Netflix platform of streaming required a computer (and membership) to stream, it was considered New Media and the old rulings did not technically apply to them.
     Less than a decade later, a slew of studios (both movie and television alike) have caught on to this loophole in the legal ruling, which Netflix circumvented for years, and began creating their own streaming platforms (i.e. Disney+, HBO Max, AppleTV, Peacock, etc).  As technology enhanced rapidly, external devices like the Roku and FireStick became somewhat obsolete as software was incorporated directly into "smart" televisions; the television acting as the "computer" on its own.
     With Universal's success on the horizon (despite it being a one-off in a time of crisis when literally no one could attend theaters), and AMC refusing to showcase any more Universal movies, the pathway to studio-platform monopolies becomes much clearer.  Studios still justify these loopholes as "legal" in terms of software integration, computerization over Internet instead of cable, licensing deals between platforms (exactly like they did between theaters but on an individual basis), and that platforms are not technically "theaters" as was defined in the 1948 ruling.  One may even question if anybody on the AMC board holds stock in any streaming platforms, and this is all just a strategized move on AMC to move from brick-and-mortar theaters and into the streaming world, but that's all truly just conjecture.

In Conclusion

     With the lack of legislation on New Media, the studios have reopened their chances to posture for monopolization of the industry once again, especially on the rise of a pandemic-spawned economic Depression.  Studio legal teams are much more adept at keeping them in compliance with the law these days, and the world doesn't hear too much about any litigation in film unless it involves sexual harassment or sexual assault.
     This should outrage me, yet the climate has altered my perception a bit.  Do I feel the industry needs to separate this new type of vertical integration?  To an extent, yes.  However, much like many issues and mindsets, the temperament of the overall culture of movie-makers has changed drastically over the years  This may also be in part that the studios control almost all of the funding for mainstream movies despite paying creators (independent or otherwise) less and less every year.  However, I do believe the legislation on New Media needs to be looked over once again from the standpoint of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.  As an independent filmmaker, I don't wish for indies to die out among studio monopolization.
     Will history repeat itself or will the studios retain their rights this time and finally win the battle of major rule over all?  Will independent filmmakers and theaters ban together again to fight against these monopolizing studios?  Or will everything fall to the wayside as creators continue to get the short end of the stick and disappear?  I have not heard anyone talking about this major piece of history, so I fear for the future of us indies.  However, as I said before, it's all still up in the air.

Written by: J Hooligan

#universal #amc #trollsworldtour #film #filmdistribution #distribution #USvParamount #casestudy #business #filmbusiness #filmnews

Friday, January 3, 2020

THE GRIND: 5 Tips To Digital Networking For The Film Industry

     I'll be the first to admit that for a business owner, I'm absolutely terrible at keeping in contact with new connections on business platforms like LinkedIn, Stage32, and other film- and non-film-related networking sites.  To be completely honest, it's not that I don't want to connect and reach out to new people, but rather I am inundated with so many messages every day from writers, composers, and filmmakers throwing too much information at me all at once, I choose to be more productive with my own work instead.  Out of the last 50 messages, I have only seriously read about 3 or 4 of them.  "The Grind" is part of the entertainment business - I get that - but there are a few missteps trending, and I feel good business decorum is lost in the methods people are using to establish professional connections.  I wrote this for those looking to connect and pitch across networking sites when sending private messages for the first time.

Here are 5 Tips to Digital Networking for the Film Industry

1.  Keep Your Introductions Brief & Your Intentions Clear

     Out of all the first-time messages I've received, the most appealing were those starting with a brief introduction followed with their purpose for reaching out (i.e. professional connection, script review, collaboration, etc).  There's no denying that the events of your life have lead you to where you are today.  Your journey is intimate and is a major reason of why you are the way you are as a person.  That being said, you do not need to divulge your entire backstory in the very first message you send.  I've lost count of the sheer number of paragraphs I've skimmed through of someone's personal road they've taken in order to send me a message - and I don't ever finish reading them.  It's not that I'm not empathetic, but people don't usually do this to someone they just met, and, therefore, it does not belong in business unless asked.

     Additionally, I've come across too many messages full of paragraphs upon paragraphs of breakdowns and synopses for films waiting to be produced - I never read them.  Why?  Because I have no idea who you are or the work you've done.  You haven't taken the first step to good business - building a relationship.  Overwhelming a producer is a surefire way to get ignored or even blocked.  As a producer, I must be selective of the films I want to slate for production - that's a major part of my job.  However, many new writers and filmmakers start off with too much information before I even know who I'm talking to on the other end.  In this industry, your script / movie is secondary unless someone finds it through an distributor, agency, script house / website, or festival / competition, and they reach out to you first.  People first, product second - that's always been the rule.

2. Ask Before Sending Material Over

     I cannot stress this enough: do not bombard producers with breakdowns and synopses of your story in the very first message.  This is very different from sending query letters to studios where a secretary or reader will be your first point of contact, and you may not have the opportunity to expand on what you're offering.  If you send everything via private message on the first go, you will most likely be ignored.  Digital networking via private messages is similar to talking to someone over the phone on a cold call.  You don't just start breaking down your story right after introducing yourself; that's a quick way to get cut off before you can actually get to someone who can greenlight your project.  If you wouldn't do it in real life, then don't expect a different response over networking platforms either.

3. Don't Beg

     Lead with professionalism, not desperation.  As a business owner, my goal is to provide a quality product for consumers first - that is and will always be my main priority to maintain a business.  Begging for a producer to make your film or hire you as an actor / actress will lead you to be completely ignored if not blocked (I've received pleas from both local and foreign beggars).  Most business owners and producers won't want to hold onto someone who is desperately clinging to be let in while there are others taking the correct steps toward building their career professionally.  This is a business, and if you have a quality script / film / service, then you must show you can be a professional about it and let it speak for itself (with a bit of salesmanship, of course).  This is similar to panhandling a script outside of a studio lot for anyone who will take it in hopes of being discovered.  If anyone does take it, they won't take it seriously, so lead with your best foot forward with a great first impression.

4. Don't Send Group Messages

     With so many people on social media, one would think this is a no brainer for professional connections.  I am continuously added to long lists of people I don't know from new connections with trailers, crowdfunding pages, and requests for reviews of their projects.  Most every person on those lists, including myself, remove themselves from the group without ever going over the material or leaving a response.  That is similar to gathering a bunch of producers from various studios into one room and pitching the same pitch to all of them.  This isn't Shark Tank, and it's one of the best ways to get rejected before your pitch even begins.

5. Do Your Research

     One of the major missteps is the lack of research on a particular producer or company.  My narrative film company, Hyde Hooligan Films, specializes in Horror, Thriller, and Supernatural genres; it's all over our website and in the films we produce.  Regardless, I still receive multiple pitches to produce family films, heavy dramatic pieces, and even faith movies.  On top of that, I have also received multiple requests for financial backing - something we do not offer at this time and have never offered before.  Doing your due diligence on a company's / producer's former and current projects will ensure your own work fits best with them.  It will also help you to avoid companies that already have a similar film slated for release or distributed in the past.  This should be done before meetings as well since every person lowers their guard when their previous work is recognized; just don't patronize them in the process.

     There are many other faux pas to avoid when connecting across professional networking platforms.  Be professional, don't overwhelm your prospects with loads of information, build relationships first before selling your product / service, and learn to take rejection gracefully.  These are all part of the industry.  Most importantly, keep growing and refining your technique in both craft and in business because the moment you think you know it all, you're wrong.  Good luck!

Written by: J. Hooligan

#business #businesstips #tips #film #filmindustry #networking #digitalnetworking #linkedin #thegrind #dosanddonts 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Digital Demon: How Digitized Cultures Foster God Complexes

Photo by: Lmaoki

     I've been holding off on writing this for a very long time, and I figured the New Year was a good time to finally let it loose and start off with a clean slate.  I grew up in the digital cultures that are prevalent today - social media, gaming, video content creators, etc.  As humanity embraced technology and took to the Internet, nobody could have predicted the psychological shift that occurred as we moved into the Digital Age.  Technology expanded exponentially as companies raced to get the latest and greatest out on the market before their competitors; and the world of consumers ate it all up.  In Visual Culture, we study the impact of symbols, advertisements, and other artwork and how they influence us sociologically and psychologically.  It was here that I began breaking down how the digital world affected myself, the people around me, and the world.

What Is A God Complex?

     According to Vrinda Varnekar of, a God Complex is a personality flaw rather than a mental disorder but is closely related to the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  More specifically, it is "a psychological illusion... a personality flaw in human beings, especially those with great power, who perceive themselves to be omniscient and omnipotent, and treat others as mere mortals."  Though it may seem far-fetched to equate the digital culture to feeling omniscient and omnipotent at first, there are actually many overlapping layers that contribute to promoting the behavior.  Varnekar continues by outlining 5 characteristics of people with God Complexes possess, listed below.

Extremely arrogant: People having this complex are arrogant to the point that it becomes very annoying for others. These people believe they are the best at everything, and everyone else is très inferior to them.

Judgmental: This complex makes people very judgmental. They constantly scrutinize others' actions, and label them as bad, or not up to the mark. They cannot stand from not judging everyone and everything apart from themselves, and this judgment is almost always negative.

Cannot tolerate criticism: Similar to narcissists, people with a God complex are absolutely allergic to criticism. They cannot tolerate anything that even mildly contradicts their beliefs or actions.

Need to influence: These people feel the uncontrollable need to influence people, and any given situation. As a result, they are shrewd and manipulative, and feel free to "use" people as and when they please.

Addicted to power: More than often, people with this complex are those with a lot of power over others. They feel the ever-increasing need for more power, and to exercise that power in every way possible. They cannot bear to relinquish control, in any situation.


     Are these traits starting to sound a bit more familiar?  So many people talk about how social media platforms, like Facebook, are wrought with the arrogance of perfection and infallibility.  It has snaked its way into our every day lives, and we, as a relative newbies to the digital world (albeit over ~35+ years), have fallen for its guise AND ACCEPTED IT as the norm.  Outside of a lack of personal accountability, the prevalence of propaganda as a whole has driven our politics into vast polarization.  Although I tend to shy away from political speak, there is no doubt that this Digital Demon has found a comfortable home within social media and gaming platforms.

Other Signs Of A God Complex: A Journey Of Self-Reflection

     Some other characteristics of a God Complex expand from the above mentioned characteristics.  Many of these were from my own personal experiences I noticed were inhibiting my growth psychologically and sociologically.  Through honest self-reflection and time I was able to see how the digital world created fertile ground for the growing negativity inside myself.


     One of the biggest telltale signs that triggered a red flag was an uncontrollable abundance of anger and frustration that seemingly leapt outward in bursts.  Although this usually arises from excessive negative stress, the digital world only increases these frustrations.  The very nature of playable characters in video games is that of playing a "god" of sorts.  Our avatar jumps when we tell him / her to jump, they shoot when we tell him / her to shoot, and they practically never refuse to obey our orders unless it doesn't move the story forward.  What happens when the character does not accomplish what you set it out to accomplish?  You lose the game or have to start over, which often leads to angry outbursts.  Gamer "rage quits" and explosive reaction videos have become notorious points of humor regardless of many people experiencing them.  This sort of behavior is not exclusive to just games either.  Social media platforms are also notorious for abusive outbursts among users across even the most harmless or well-intentioned public posts.  This happens for various reasons related to subconscious objectification.


     As previously mentioned, gaming avatars give us godlike abilities in controlling avatars in the game - the nature of gaming.  However, social media also creates the same type of outlook on a much more real level.  We subconsciously see others as profiles, not people, which makes it easier to "go off" on them when they disagree with our point of view.  It also allows us to hide behind a digital wall and gives us an "out" in terms of personal accountability - you can talk to a wall all day and still feel superior to it when it doesn't do what you want.  Many of the negative outbursts and verbal assaults would almost never happen to a person face-to-face due to the Immediacy Factor (those in your immediate, physical space).  This point, though, has become debatable considering there is an entire generation that has grown up exclusively in the Digital Age with many who have moved away from physical, social interaction.  School, sports, and community events were ways to help condition people on handling social situations (optimistically with grace and poise), but these are now replaced with Instagram models, meme wars, political propaganda, etc.  As people are choosing to spend time online today more than ever before, these last few generations are lacking practical social interaction and understanding.  As we are social animals (it's literally built into our systems), we've lost touch of what it means to actually interact with each other in real life like civilized humans.

     As we treat more people online like avatars and profiles rather than actual people while hiding behind a digital wall, we lose a huge higher brain function: empathy.  Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person.  As we are born egocentric, empathy is considered a higher brain function afforded to those that have their basic needs met (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, etc) as well as other areas of human life (i.e. spirituality, finance, career, physical, social, etc).  The majority of people with a social media presence have their basic needs satisfied.  The "social" portion of the pie, however, is vastly unbalanced and fills the world from an easily-accessible digital standpoint; and the other aspects of growth and fulfillment suffer in its wake.


     With regular objectification and a lack of empathy paving a darker path on social media and gaming, the God Complex is fed on a daily basis; a profile can never be smarter than a living, breathing "me".  If any person has an idea we even remotely disagree with or does not align with our own beliefs, we often deem them "negative," "unworthy," "a waste of time and space" - let alone people that hold beliefs on the opposite side of the spectrum from our own.  Should someone say something we don't like on one of our posts, we can immediately delete their response, unfriend / unfollow them, and block them from ever being present again in our digital, social life.  This doesn't happen in real life, which is why people have become more socially awkward than socially present, and the control becomes more appeasing to our senses and supposed sanity.  Intolerance is defined as the unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from your own.  It should be noted that "acceptance" does not mean "agreeing with" other views but rather that you merely accept that alternate views do exist logically and wholeheartedly.  As those responding are considered "profiles" and not "people" (on a subconscious level), many of us take solace behind any sort of digital wall and do not treat other digital beings as actual, equal human beings.

     Intolerance has grown to be the new norm across social media and is often hidden behind faux altruism (making decisions based on a false sense of global / universal benefit over personal gain; often expressed outwardly) and "open mindedness".  In place of dealing with intolerance directly, people have reverted to their defense mechanisms instead; particularly projection.  A psychological projection is a defense mechanism where one subconsciously projects undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else rather than admitting to or dealing with their unwanted feelings.  As the God Complex is a daily occurrence and is not being dealt with, many people knee-jerk a projection of their own insecurities as if others are the ones committing such negativity.  This is similar to racist people regularly calling others racist.


     While anger, objectification, and intolerance are protected by the self-defense mechanism of projection, people move even further away from personal accountability and growth on a personal level.  "Spiritual" is personal growth through internal reflection; it does not necessarily mean "religion."  Religions were initially created to give people a system / community to develop and mature as humans, which was eventually corrupted by human greed and used as a system of control.  Still, the original purposes are not entirely lost and still hold self-reflection as the forefront of personal accountability.  Those that are caught in a God Complex often feel they do not need to grow as the rest of the world has something wrong with it while their mindset remains the infallible truth that needs to be replicated among the masses.  Hidden behind faux altruism, a typical response may, in fact, be that they are "not perfect" nor have they ever claimed to be; however, they have no desire to expand their consciousness, correct fallacies, or even admit they are or were ever wrong.  This is often difficult because people don't believe what they do because they feel it's "wrong" or "incorrect."

What Can Be Done About It?

     As social media, gaming, and digital content prevail as the forefront of building God Complexes among the masses, the only real way to overcome this type of psychological pandemic is on a personal level via spiritual growth - an admittance and acceptance of one's own human fallacy and movement to better oneself.  The majority of the world has moved away from spiritual growth and has focused on material belongings and fabricated joy via short videos and movies - it's about time to return to personal growth.  Prayer / Meditation, acknowledgement of errors (sins), acceptance, forgiveness of others and self, etc remain the leading methods of building oneself spiritually without having to force supernatural doctrines (i.e. God or gods).  There is much more to spiritual growth and self-control / self-growth than New Age occult beliefs as well.  As Mohatma Gandhi once said, "be the change you want to see in the world."  In order to do that, though, we must put in the proper work into ourselves (continuously throughout our lives) to achieve it.

Written by: J. Hooligan

#digitaldemon #godcomplex #socialmedia #games #gaming #videogames #intolerance 

Monday, December 30, 2019

WTH Happened to 2019??

     No really, what happened to the rest of 2019?  I feel like so much got fired in the latter half of the year so much was lost to the wayside.  Life inadvertently shifted work efforts into a variety of directions we never thought possible.  So here's a quick recap of what happened to us in 2019.


     Between Master Classes and Audio Books, Hooligan V and I have consumed over 2 dozens courses and books this year.  We've always pushed education as the forefront of growth, and we're not stopping.  There are still more Master Classes to tackle and audio books to complete.


     One of the biggest lessons we learned the hard way this year was to set harder boundaries among filmmakers.  Outside of a horrible (and ongoing) experience with a dictator-like filmmaker, the rest of our time on set was well placed.  We helped create a new and exclusive Business Owner group focused on the creative industry.


     Both Hooligan V and I did a run for a script competition through a major studio in what I'm calling a Writer Fellowship.  We both wrote a feature script each in less than 3 weeks as well as a Treatment for a new feature idea.  This was a major accomplishment for the both of us, and we spent the past few months fine-tuning our writing ability and process.  We now have 4 slated scripts we're working on both spec and original.


     A lot of our time was spent following one of our hooligans, Doc, on the Appalachian Trail as he traveled over 2,000 miles on foot in a kilt.  He accomplished this amazing feat with many tales and photos, and he's gearing up for Round 2 of the Triple Crown.  If you'd like more information, please visit:

     Overall, this year was full of life, lessons, and a lot of love poured into our families and films.  We weren't able to push for a narrative feature, but we're prepping for this upcoming year.  With some newer filmmakers on our roster and some up-and-comers making some headway, we're looking to make 2020 our year back into production.  Have a fantastic New Year!

Written by: J. Hooligan

#endofyear #2019end #whathappened #newyear #production #film

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

[SPOILERS] Avengers: Endgame - A Hooligan Review

     After 11 years, 22 films, and countless epic visual effect-laden battles, the MCU journey has come to a head with Avengers: Endgame.  We didn't splurge for opening weekend tickets, but we saw it today instead.  Wow!  What a ride!  So here it is - our Hooligan Review of Avengers: Endgame.  You are warned as there are...


     After taking some time to reset our feelings to zero and giving ourselves props for not having to get up to pee for 3 hours, Hooligan V and I were finally able to think about some of the major points that is Endgame.  There are so many great things about the movie that it would take WAY too long to go over them all.  We're still buzzing over the extraordinary story they've built for us to enjoy, so we will be going over just a few of the best ones that stuck out to us as filmmakers, and some of the worst ones as well.


     Endgame has a great structure in that it calls back to many of the previous Marvel movies by nature of story rather than forcibly injecting fan service (as what Solo felt like).  My particular favorite was seeing Stan Lee again looking so very lively and energetic in his cameo.  It was so fitting to see him one last time in the end.  He'd be proud to know fans aren't knowingly spoiling his decade-long plan for the sake of being assholes.

     Hawkeye made his return in the very beginning as we witnessed "the snap" kick-start the most prominent character arc of Endgame since most of the other characters are just themselves adjusting to the loss.  Clint quickly goes dark side after being away from the events of Infinity War and begins cleaning up the world of the left-over evils lingering behind.  As soon as the opening scene ended, we already knew it was going to be emotionally heavy as we watched Clint's family disappear without him even understanding what was wrong, forcing him to figure out what happened - we all saw that remnant of familiar dust lingering in the wind that he didn't even recognize.  It wasn't until his ownership of his faults while fighting with Natasha for the right to die (properly) for the Soul Stone that brought his redemption and weight of sacrifice back to the light.  It also made his payoff so much more heartwarming when the call came in before the final battle and moved aside to create headway for the massive wrecking ball of "I... am Iron Man."

     As the rest of the Avengers are dealing with their loss to Thanos' snap in their own ways, each one of them had something to gain by recalling the emotional moments of their pasts; the most notable being Tony Stark, which has overshadowed him and everyone since the end of Infinity War; it's also why Tony is the second Avenger to appear in the movie, and rightfully so.  The 3-hour time limit didn't feel like 3 hours, which is a great sign that the multi-plot took hold very well.

     The last point I'm going to note here is the little callback at the very end of the credits.  There was no post- or mid-credit scene, but there was an audible that signified the true end.  The clanging of a hammer from the very first Marvel movie that started it all with Tony Stark creating the very first Iron Man suit in a cave.  It felt like a proper bookend to this long journey, and was one last, great signal to show it really is over.  As Thanos alluded to, there's huge potential that lies ahead even though there are those of us stuck in the sorrows of the past.


     Out of all the great components thrown into Endgame, there are bound to be some bad parts to it as well.  One of my biggest qualms is with the story's predictability of major plot points: Captain Marvel saving Tony in the beginning, one must die for the Soul Stone, the moment when all the Avengers assembled to fight Thanos and his army, Captain Marvel coming back to save everyone in their time of need, Cap staying in the past, etc.

     The second biggest aspect that didn't really sit well with me was the Bulk (Bruce + Hulk = BULK).  It was reminiscent of the drastic character change of Thor in Ragnarok (not that I still didn't like the movie, I just didn't feel he had enough motivation to change).  I digress, but it just felt strange and diminished the weight of his conflict from Infinity War with a simple "scientific bypass".  Brushing it aside after making it such a huge deal in Infinity War just felt dirty.  The Bulk became the least empathetic character the moment they reintroduced him and became one of the most uninteresting leads from then on, which is truly unfortunate.

     Going back to Captain Marvel... I felt they missed a huge opportunity to utilize her so much more than just a random trump card that saves the day just in time whenever it's convenient for their purposes of story.  I wanted more of her considering she's supposed to be the strongest Avenger.  Yes, they tried to show that when she went head-to-head against a fully-stoned Thanos, and he hits her without phasing her at all... but then she can't seal the deal??  How??  Overall, it always had to be Tony that finished it, but it felt like another huge throwaway for no apparent reason.


     OK, now to the nitty-gritty of what's been bugging me about Endgame: Time Travel.  I felt like it ended up being explained away as just wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff.  I understand the need for making any sort of science as "quantum physics" to explain away plot points for the sake of fictional, artistic license, HOWEVER... the rules of the Universe must remain consistent to that which you have built, and the obstacles they encountered do NOT adhere to the rules they set up for themselves.  I can agree that their future selves going back into the past is technically maintaining a linear time experience that doesn't change unless they interfere with their older selves... but Cap, Tony, and Ant Man did exactly that!  Loki got away and stole the Tesseract, which means it's NOT on the same timeline anymore.

     Some have said that Cap going back and returning the stones to their original times they were taken from would essentially return the timeline to its original form (e.g. Thanos snapping half of existence away)... but when Loki got away that was no longer the case.  That moment was NOT the same moment that the Avengers took the Tesseract.  Tony and Cap traveled back in time to right after Captain Marvel's story when Nick Fury was still young.  So, returning the Tesseract way back then does not return Loki escaping with it in their first attempt.  That also means that Thor does NOT return to Asgard with Loki along with the Tesseract, Ragnarok does NOT happen with Loki there, and Thanos does NOT attain the Tesseract from Loki at the beginning of Infinity War.  Those timelines are now in alternate timelines and the new "snaps" that took place are essentially in vain.

    Even if you believe the new timeline didn't change the future, there is still another HUGE factor that does not make their theory work, and that is Thanos traveling forward in time from 2014 before he has any of the stones.  If the "future" Avengers can travel in the past and not change their timeline, that does not hold true for their past selves traveling forward.  In that case, Natasha, Gamora, Vision, etc, could have all been saved and brought forward without a problem (Gamora possibly surviving the final snap is proof of that as Quill is searching for her on his screen before Thor and Rocket board).  Also in that same scenario, returning the stones wouldn't make any sense to "maintain / return the timeline" since the past Thanos had already been killed in the final battle in the future of Endgame; that timeline wouldn't be touched regardless.  It's one huge problem in making it all truly complete for that Universe and subsequent Universes / timelines to actually make sense.  Even if Cap was planning on using time travel for one last chance to find happiness back in his own time, he could have done that without returning the stones at all since their timeline / future happened regardless.


     Despite the strange, conflicting nuances of time travel for the sake of a compelling plot, Endgame was still a fantastic piece in the MCU.  I am still down to watch it again and relive the emotional roller coaster that it took me through.  The wrap-up of it all, the bookend of Tony Stark / Iron Man's iconic journey, the last time we see Stan Lee in a cameo... it all came together in one wonderful piece.  All good things must come to an end, and this end played it the only way it knew how - in one epic finale.  Whether you enjoy superhero movies or not, there is no way anyone can deny the impact Marvel has made on the world over the past decade.  Others have tried, but these will definitely survive the test of time.  Thank you to all who helped make it happen!

Written by: J Hooligan

#avengers #endgame #review #film #movie #moviereview #filmreview #hooliganreview