Is Harvey really to blame?

Yes, he is. But there’s also a whole lot more at play…

I woke this morning and, as in every day leading up to this one, Harvey Weinstein is in the news.

And now, as you may know, Roy Price, the head of Amazon Studios, has resigned as a result of a sexual harassment firestorm that’s come out as a result of women in Hollywood finally feeling like they can have their voices heard.

Much has now been said on a culture of harassment in Hollywood, and the complicit behavior that goes along with it. BEAUTIFUL GIRLS scribe Scott Rosenberg articulated it clearly in his ‘everybody knew’ letter you might have seen on Deadline. In it, Scott paints the picture of Harvey as ‘a goose laying golden eggs’ that everyone coveted (and therefore kept their mouth’s shut even though they knew what was going on).

What I want to address is how the ‘old’, centralized Hollywood model created the inevitability of all of this.

When so much power resides in the hands of a few select people – the power to make (or break) a career, the power to greenlight (or kill) a project on a personal whim, the use of implied (or explicit) threat that results in 1000s of voices forced into silence (over decades!) – bad stuff is going to happen.

Actors feel like they have to endure unacceptable (and in some cases illegal) behavior lest they not be able to fulfill on their dreams and calling.

Writers who give ‘voice’ to so many great and inspiring characters, don’t use their own voices to speak up since the career they worked so many years creating could be taken away in an instant.

And studio moguls like Harvey and Roy live in their own bubble supported by the system– they keep making movies, they keep making money, everyone still wants their ‘golden eggs’. They lack a feedback loop from colleagues and friends who are willing to stick their neck’s out and say, ‘Hey man, it’s not cool what you’re doing, and you’re hurting yourself and a lot of other people. What’s going on with you and how can I help?”

As John Dalber-Acton remarked, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

If you want to know how and why this culture of fear permeates the ‘traditional’ entertainment industry, look no further than the industry itself. The studio system (and the corresponding talent agency power centers) are highly centralized. It puts power in the hands of the very very few. And everyone else is paying homage and providing tribute to these elites.

I think the story of Amazon Studios is most tragic. They started with an incredible intent and a decentralized model to use the crowd to create entertainment, a similar mission to ours at Voyage. Unfortunately after a couple short years of struggling to make that work (even with the vast fortunes of Amazon behind them), they pivoted to a traditional model – throw money at the biggest projects from the biggest talent from the biggest agencies. I don’t fault them for the pivot since, as such a large business, they ‘had’ to compete with Netflix and quickly capture as many subscribers and market share as possible.

There was inevitability to the Amazon Studios story. It’s simply what happens within a system of power centralization.

Many industries with this systemic centralization problem have already fallen – the music industry, the book publishing industry, the taxi transportation industry. Entertainment is taking longer to fall because of the volume of money and number of people/stake holders it takes to create a movie or TV show. Creating filmed content is more complex than producing a song, or writing a book so the entrenched power web is more difficult to untangle and deconstruct.

But it’s happening. The Weinstein uproar is indicative of that. A death throe if you will.

Unlike many, I’m optimistic about the future. I’ve learned to embrace death and know that great things emerge from endings.

It’s time for our industry to decentralize. It’s time for power to transfer to the hands of the filmmakers, artists, producers, writers, and storytellers. It’s time for a heart-centered process to emerge – one that honors the magnificent sparks of inspiration from which all this work we all do to share stories with the world actually originates.

I’m calling on members of our industry to create a new compact with storytellers and a new set of commitments to the creative process:

•We challenge the status quo and alter the way the entertainment industry does business

•We lead our industry further into its heart and are reminded of the original inspiration of why we’re playing this game. We are a beacon to other industries of what’s possible and we elevate people’s connection to the source of inspiration in their lives

•The ‘Original Spark of Inspiration’ is heard and nurtured – all stories are welcome and given every opportunity to find their home

•We create a free flow of access and information between the market and ‘Original Voices,’ so inspired stories can come forth in an easier and friendlier way and in the absence of fear

•We create pathways to get projects financed and produced more easily than they’ve ever experienced before

•We feel free to do our best work, are fulfilled in our creative expression, and we love doing business together

•We honor gratitude and generosity and everyone has a path to creating income and wealth

Sincerely,
Nat Mundel
Founder & CEO
Voyage Media

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