Film is an art form that many people enjoy and appreciate but it seems as if over the past twenty years the industry has slowly become more about the money rather than the art. In this time span Hollywood has produced many films that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars a piece with the sole purpose of gaining the money back with a hundred percent plus interest and the quality of films has suffered as a result. We live in an age where the studios dominate the industry, where the business men control the way the films are made rather than the actual film makers and the art and creativity of it is suffering. The current studio system is an art killer that results in films of lower quality and is a process that needs to be revised in order for actual film makers have control over their films.
But it wasn't always this way. In the early years of film making it was almost always about the art rather than the money. Many of the studios were family owned and the communities of film making were very tight groups where everyone knew everyone. This however changed in the late 20s-early 30s when business men took over the industry and began an era known as The Golden Age of Hollywood and was turned it into a moneymaking industry rather than the art form it was. It was an era that was, for the most part, dominated by big studios that employed The Hollywood Studio System. In this system, the executives kept tight grips over the productions of the films and managed to fool their employees into thinking that they were just workers for the studios rather than artists.
This system could only last for so long, however as it slowly began to collapse in the fifties and made way for the New Hollywood Era that began roughly around 1966. By this point the film industry was suffering. Box office performances were no longer as good as they once were and interest in films was starting to shift towards television. To counter this, the studio heads did what was probably the best thing done in the history of film making. They hired new young filmmakers with little to no experience in the industry and more or less gave them free reign to do whatever they wanted in their movies. These directors included some of the greatest film makers of all time, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. The results of this decision were some of the greatest films ever made that were not only successful at the box office but held wide spread critical acclaim. Some of these films included Jaws, Star Wars, The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now! It was an era truly made for artists with little studio interference and spawned some of the greatest films and directors of all time.
However, this era ended in the early 80s and the studio heads began to take retake control of the film making process and it has suffered as result. By the time the 90s and 2000s rolled around studio control over the films was almost complete. The increased control led to films with bigger budgets and more commercial appeal but with less intelligence. They were films that treated their audiences like idiots, assuming that if you showed people a bunch of explosions, a lot of action and a lot of one-liners they would automatically love it. Examples of these kinds of films include anything made by Roland Emmerich, (although to his credit he does at least try to make an intelligent film every now and then), Michel Bay, and the various superhero movies that emerged during the 2000s. While many of these films were hits but it’s obvious that they were just made to make money and reek of studio head influence. They just don't have much, if any, intelligence to them and it really shows that the modern studio system isn't in this for the art at all.
Now compare these films to other films like Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, Requiem for a Dream, Memento, District 9 and The Hurt Locker and you see a vast difference in quality. These films often have better writing, more memorable characters, better plots, and, in some cases, better special effects. Why is this? Well, most of these films were made on low budgets with little to no studio interference, and were often independently produced. These kinds of films are almost always better than their hundred million dollar budget counterparts and they really show that the less studio interference one has in a film the better the film tends to turn out.
The best example of how little studio interference is best is when you compare the low budget, independently produced film District 9 with the three hundred million dollar Fox produced film Avatar. In District 9, you have a film with great writing, memorable characters, great acting, good action, great special effects, some of the best written alien characters ever, and subtle themes that address racism, prejudice, and the evils of huge corporations and allowing them to become too powerful. Avatar on the other hand, was just the opposite with a huge budget and lots of studio involvement. The plot was nothing original and ripped straight off Dances with Wolves, the characters were very forgettable, the acting and action was mediocre, the CGI looked cartoonish in comparison, and just shoved in your face that bigotry is wrong and corporations are evil with no subtlety whatsoever. While both films were successful at the box office, it was ultimately District 9 that got the better reviews and seemed to leave a more long term impression on its audience. It just goes to show that a tighter budget and little studio interference can be crucial to making a great movie.
As I mentioned before, studios kill creativity and treat it more like a business then an art form and are starting to treat filmmakers like employees rather than artist. A good example of this is when you look at films that were never made due to the current studio process. The purest example of this is when you look at director Guillermo del Toro's attempts to get a film adaptation made of At The Mountains of Madness with Universal. As I've mentioned before, what ultimately killed it was that the studio wanted to restrict how much control del Toro had over the film. There were many aspects of the project that didn't appeal to the studio heads and the plug was finally pulled over the “R” rating that the film would probably have had. It just goes to show that these studios are in it strictly for the money, not the art, and will kill any project that they feel wouldn't earn them 500% interest return on their investment.
In conclusion, modern film studios are art killers. For them, it's all about the money and not about the art and they continue to produce dumber and dumber films with bigger budgets. Lower budget/independent films show this to be true and that intelligent films can still be found so long as studios and business men keep their claws out of the production of said films. For now, all we can do is hope that audiences expectations will change and it will lead the way for a second New Hollywood Age with films that can mix the huge budgets with class, intelligence, and little studio meddling. And the sooner this new age begins the better.