There has recently been a huge influx of mind-numbing movies circulating on our cinema screens. From the endless, exhaustive stream of superhero movies to the ‘trying too hard to be funny’ comedy films to the Hollywood ‘too good to be true’ glorified endings. Artistic approaches to story telling have been thrown out of the window, and replaced with formulaic structures that are proven to make cash and ultimately large profits. Financers have created a model that has stunted the growth of creativity in the movie industry. This is not to say that the financing of a project is not an essential part of any movie project – it is the gears behind the system that help make an idea possible – but the message of the story should be the focal point of the project. The story should speak to us at a personal level. It should explore our deepest emotions to vibrate or resonate these emotions in our mind, body and soul.
As a Finance student at University I sat fascinated listening to a man who formulated financial models for a large production agency. The idea of the model was to find a popular genre of film, and analyse what made that film popular – in essence what made it profitable. From there the model was built around profitable elements of the popular film. The model would only then allow for films to be produced if they met the criteria of the previous popular film. These financial models were a revelation, and helped create stability to the movie industry.
However, these models were not just adding to the stability of the movie industry, they were helping extract the most money from a particular project. These models were designed with the core value of profit maximisation, and made financial sense, but sterilised human creativity. This was disturbing. Capitalism had its fangs in Hollywood, and corporate culture was infecting the avenues of creation and art.
Again I must stress the importance of finance in the movie industry or indeed in any industry. But when these models are applied, they created a certain criteria that a film must adhere to. What then followed was an era of mind-numbing movies – superhero movies that shadowed a hero whose feats were unattainable for us all; Romantic Comedies that painted the perfect picture of falling in love, creating the illusion or setting precedents to the rest of us that love may only occur in the same manner. Hollywood endings where the Protagonist achieves it all – love, success, fame – suggesting that happiness is only present once all these are achieved. Again I stress that these films make financial sense, but they are dangerous because they not only drown out other creative ideas, but – more importantly – create unhealthy perceptions of what success looks like to a generation who cut their teeth on these movies.
Yet, there is one recent movie that highlights the changes the film industry needs. Yes, it has made large profits at the box office, but it has done so because of the message it imparts. That movie is “La La Land.” The story follows two Protagonists down on their luck, struggling through the maze of life when they unexpectedly meet and fall in love after a series of annoying and provoking meetings. What is so powerful about this movie is that it does not follow the structure of a Hollywood film based on this financial model. It explores ideas of love and ultimately focuses on the failure of love and the other pathways love can take.
Love gives us so much, but it can take everything from us in one moment. In this movie each of the Protagonists’ ambitions and dreams create a diverging path from one another. Life and the choices they make ultimately drive them apart – not catastrophically – but in a way that demonstrates their awareness of the situation. They admit self-defeat in their love to pursue their dreams. What is so poignant is that you realise it is because of their love for each other that makes these Protagonists successful. Their love is like a burning phoenix that rises from the ashes to create a scenario where they can both achieve their dreams.
The movie’s message is one that resonates with the same mutual experiences all people go through on a day-to-day basis. People constantly experience endings and beginnings. Even though those endings can sometimes cause heartbreak, they are just as beautiful as they allow for beginnings to grow and prosper in a now fertile environment. It does not mean that we cannot remember the times that brought us joy, but what we have to understand is that endings and beginnings are everywhere. These ideas pull on our heartstrings. “La La Land” makes us aware of what life really is – a constant cycle of endings and beginnings and the process of adapting to change.
The movie illustrates the importance of creativity and the significance of art in our society. Art is beautiful. Art has a hidden message. Art creates an ambience where we can access hidden emotions and hidden opportunities. It is not an avenue that greed should be allowed to circumvent. It is an avenue for the expression of shared ideas and messages that help us all along our own paths.