_Beasts of No Nation_ was snubbed because Netflix made an historical move that will change the face of how artists can tell stories they care about and remain completely free of the corporate system that is Hollywood. For the first time in history, a streaming company released a feature (bypassing the film festival circuit) and paid a director TWICE his budget.
**THAT NEVER HAPPENS...**
Usually indies like Beasts do the festival circuit, Sundance, Sony or Focus pick it up and do a small release and pay the filmmaker almost nothing for his work, but then those studios eat up what money the film makes. The filmmaker just gets a great credit and hopefully future work. So, the artist making an indie film is making it, not for the money, but because this is why he is here: to tell stories that remind us of the fragility of human life, that act as a society's consciuous....
Independent film is just that. It is made with no intention of making money. It is made with the story (not widespread appeal and money-making potential) as first and foremost. It's a kind of pure form where someone who has figured out what they're supposed to be doing in this life can do their work without interference from studios.
But Netflix has changed that. Netflix bought the film after it was made, as is and paid the director upfront with no idea if they were ever going to get their money back.
Do you understand what that means for people in this business who want to tell stories because that is their life's work and not just about making a buck?
It means for those of us brave enough to step into our purpose, there's finally a place that may actually pay us a livable wage.
Hollywood snubbed Beasts because Netflix is sending a message: we can make important films because we have some Hollywood studios don't: a subscriber base.
With the advent of all these other platforms, Amazon, Netflix, artists can begin to write stories and create films that have meaning that speak to the reason we became story tellers to begin with.
Oscar & her friends, whatever, they see the handwriting on the wall. Great films can be made and make money and Hollywood studios may never see a dime of it.
We should be celebrating any advent in technology that frees people up to work at what they love, what is their purpose, the reason they are here.
So, how about we reframe the Oscar snub as not personal, but rather a business move. A business move that is going to free up a whole lot of filmmakers who will no longer rely on some Hollywood studio to decide what film gets released and who gets paid. With the new streaming, for the first time in history, independent self-producing artists (this includes the stars who get producer credits in the films) are finally going to get fucking paid for work with integrity behind it.
Anytime, life kicks you out of one structure, it's because you're supposed to be doing something else...
Life is creating space for you to step into your own personal grace which is why you're here.
The internet gives us a business platform that is free. You can run a business from your laptop, you can self-publish, you can go to college or design school and create a business that provides a service that we all desperately need, but no one has thought of.
Snubs, rejections are huge opportunities for you to step upto the plate. So, next you want to rage over some perceived snub or rejection: check in with your lists of what you love, what makes you happy.
Does this rejection set you up for a kind of unimaginable life you've only dreamed about?
Time to start thinking about what that life will look like, so when life creates a vacuum, you have something to fill it with: your heart's desire, your dreams.
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson