6 Degrees of film: The Future of Film series

Mary Lee Johnson
8 min readFeb 16, 2023

The Future of Film

6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film

The future of film is one of the topics discussed in6 Degrees of Film,’ the book I wrote ten years ago. There have been some dramatic shifts in the paradigm for Hollywood filmmakers within the last few years. The Pandemic has certainly accelerated the growing trend of streaming vs the movie theater in terms of how people watch movies in the 21st century.

But there are some ‘green shoots’ that give those of us who love film some hope. There is a strong future for film-makers who want to tell the stories of how we live and work and create art in the present and into the future! They include creators who write and produce independent films; plus there are young film-makers using different methods of shooting films and even the process of viewing a movie has been rapidly changing in recent years.

From Friday Flix: Some ideas about the Future of Film

Here’s some topics we have been talking about at Friday Flix in recent weeks…

What did Orson Welles tell young filmmakers?

Orson Welles, in an article in Far Out Magazine, spoke to an audience of young French film-makers back in 1982 and said this, “The more virgin our eyes are, the more we have to say. The most detestable habit in all modern cinema is the homage. I don’t want to see another goddamn homage in anybody’s movie. There are enough of them that are unconscious.”

Welles was talking about they type of films that Quentin Tarantino has made through the years. Many other film-makers, including Spielberg, have also made the type of films that Welles found so distasteful!

The point is that there is room for those who can hearken back to another era and bring something new to a tried and true method of film-making. George Lucas was influenced by the serial film series that ran as shorts before the main feature! And that led him to the most widely successful genre in film history-Star Wars. Indiana Jones was also based on this concept.

Stanley Kubrick developed a new type of camera to shoot subdued lighting while making “Barry Lyndon.” And we all are familiar with the most successful director in box-office history, James Cameron, who spent years developing new techniques to film the latest sequel of Avatar-ten years in the making!

In summary, let’s concede there is room for both theories and analyses regarding the art of film-making. And that almost all great film directors past and present have cast a jaundiced eye upon the current era of comic-book sequels with never-ending origin stories and re-telling of the same tale over and over again!

Editing film: Does it change our perception of time?

This was an interesting piece talking about the psychological effects that film and watching film has on our perception of time. The illusion that films create when they cut scenes in different ways may contribute to the way we perceive time.

The article talks of a famous study done in the 1920’s by a Russian Filmmaker. Called The “Kuleshov Effect,’ the director found that by changing the content of an image that followed a character’s face, the viewer perceived different inferences of what was going on in the character’s mind!

By looking at different ways an editor may edit and cut a scene, to make it flow or to use a ‘continuity cut,’ the person viewing can have an altered perception of the flow of time. There is a new emerging field called ‘psycho-cinematics’ which eventually may contribute to developing a deeper understanding between the arts and science. These are just a few of the different fields that we are hearing about that may eventually enhance the future of film-making in the modern era.

The New Hollywood: What is the quiet revolution?

What is happening in Hollywood? In recent years, the way that films have been made has created much controversy surrounding the rather formulaic approach that major studios have taken. It’s a ‘safe bet’ to film and then re-tell the stories that everyone knows and the characters we are familiar with!

The idea of a “New Hollywood” began actually in the sixties with some of the directors who shaped their own visions onscreen. The new breed included independent filmmakers and directors like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The big-budget films they created and oversaw were the dominant force for the latter part of the 20th Century. But in recent years, the advent of streaming and the Pandemic that forced theaters to close have also re-shaped the future of film…

Here’s a summary of the idea of a “New Hollywood” movement:

We are calling for a change in the stories we consume, and in turn, storytellers are calling for a change in the society we live….This very relationship between art and society is what gave rise to the New Hollywood film movement — as it did many other movements around the world…”

. “Film movements have their place in cinema history. They hold a mirror to society, and, in some ways, society holds a mirror back to cinema. The tides of filmmaking are always shifting….In the meantime, it is important to remember that we have the power to influence the output of the industry as much as its output has the ability to impact us. This is one of the most valuable lessons we can take away from the New Hollywood era.”

So we can glean from this the fact that we are living in a changing time for the motion picture industry and much of the future of film lies in the influence that the audience will exert over the films that are made as well as those that become successful!

The Future of Film: Excerpts from ‘6 Degrees of Film

6 Degrees of Film

In celebration of the ten year Anniversary of publication, we are setting up a series of discussions from some of the main topics that were discussed in the book. Here’s an excerpt from a section on “The Future of Film” from “ 6 Degrees of Film”

The Juvenilization of the Movies

In 1961, playwright and screenwriter Clifford Odets is reported to have said to a young Peter Bogdanovich, “You know, it’s all falling apart as we speak; it’s ending. The industry is going to fall into the hands of people who are not movie people, and when it does that, it’s really going to be in trouble.”…

The 1980s introduced the Brat Pack phenomenon, a series of hit movies featuring a group of attractive and much younger individuals. Bogdanovich’s theory seemed to be holding: There was a definite juvenilization of the movies taking place. The question was why?

The Auteur Theory in Film

Film critic Andrew Sarris heralded a new theory of film in his landmark book of the sixties, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929–1968. His notion was that the authorship of a film was primarily the product of the film’s director; that is, only film directors were the creators or authors — the auteur of the film.

Their personal styles emerged intact even in Hollywood’s dehumanizing, formulaic, and profit-hungry machinery. With this scenario, the studio bosses became the heavies. A few dozen heroic directors emerged to blaze the trails in cinematic art. Therefore, the director was seen as the sole purveyor of film art. The author Thomas Schatz, who wrote The Genius of the System, disagreed with the auteur theory and said that the directors who made a difference were the ones who produced their own films. He cited John Ford, Howard Hawks, Hitchcock, Capra, and others, acknowledging their visionary talent and drive. But Schatz believed the genius of the system ultimately lay in the hands of the producers, who had all the power and pulled the strings.

Perhaps screenwriter William Goldman explained it best when he said, When attribution is given to a film, as in “Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple

“… It’s madness. It would make perfect sense if there were a bunch of other ‘Color Purples’ and you were trying to be precise as to which one you were talking about, like whose performance of Beethoven’s Fifth are we talking about. But to give attribution to a director as if he wroteit is looney-tunes time and anybody who’s ever been around a movie set knows that the director is at the mercy of the star, at the mercy of the studio, at the mercy of the cameraman — everybody’s at everybody else’s mercy in a movie. And to single out anyone, whether it’s the director or the star or the screenwriter, is foolishness. Basically, movies are a group activity but no one wants to know that. We all want to think the stars are cute and the directors are terrific and make up all the visuals.”

Talking about the Future of Film

In summary, the top directors who had been trying to internalize and perhaps predict what was happening in Hollywood finally all came to the conclusion, as William Goldman put it: Nobody knows Anything!

It is much the same as writing a best-seller. Really, no rules apply when you have an original script, or a new idea, or a great story to tell and a lot of talented people working together to create something new and exciting. It is the same with films. And in recent years, there have not been too many movies with original plots and storylines. Perhaps the Pandemic had made producers and directors more timid in their creative capacity. Time will tell if the future of film brings some bold new creative ideas to the screen!

Next: Surprisingly, the comments and predictions that the directors and producers made over a decade ago are still quite relevant! The Future of film series will continue with some recent thoughts from famous directors as well as excerpts that were originally a part of ‘6 Degrees of Film.”

Next up: The Future of Film: Part II

6 Degrees of Film

--

--

Mary Lee Johnson

Author of five books, & blogger at 6 Degrees Writer…