New Year’s Detox for the Industry
Producer: That‘s this damn influence of Buffalo* again! Always wanting to change everything!
Author: Yes, but he is right, isn‘t he? All I wrote in the beginning, it was so whimsical and romantic, – not at all like real life.
Producer: But people are romantic. They don‘t go to the cinema to see the everyday stuff they can get at home.
Author: Buffalo says that the audience is a lot more sensible than we think.
Producer: Well, let‘s hope he‘s right! (sighs) It‘s not that I enjoy producing schmalzy films…
* director‘s nickname
DIE ZÜRCHER VERLOBUNG (1957). director: Helmut Käutner. author: Barbara Noack, Heinz Pauck, Helmut Käutner. producer: Walter Koppel.
The Pasta Parabola
A works canteen is serving noodles every day: spaghetti or ribbon noodles, cannelloni, tagliatelle or farfalle, fettucine or maccaroni, ravioli, rigatoni or tortellini. One day with meat, the next with fish or with vegetables or salad. Noodles every single day. Hmmmm!
Other side dishes like rice, millet, potatoes, quinoa, couscous, french fries, dumplings, bread or papadam are never on the menu. The canteen is always full, the guests enjoy their meals.
Conclusion: If people prefer noodles there‘s nothing we can do.
19 New Year’s Resolutions: What if…
A lot of people make new year‘s resolutions, like cutting down on meat, alcohol or cigarettes, exercising more, learning a new language, using their smarphones and computers less (digital detox), buying more regional groceries, supporting local businesses instead of shopping online, trying out a new hair colour or a new pub, new stuff while breaking with old habits. Many resolutions are thrown overboard after a couple of days, weeks or months, some last the whole year.
Since my blog is mainly focussed on film and television, I‘ve spontaneously made a list of 19 detox-resolutions for the new year 2019 for these industries, that I am belatedly publishing today. I am looking forward to your comments and also your own (19?) suggestions, that you can leave in the comments section. Or you send them directly to the TV channels, producers or film funding bodies. And of course if you happen to be a decision-maker from the industry, how about trying out some of the resolutions in your area, for a week, a month or the rest of the year. Why not.
It‘s 2019. Time to take risks, and enjoy change and new ways. Be bold! That can be
fun and often leads to the best results. With no claim of being exhaustive, and no systematic order or in full detail, here are 19 Detox resolutions, followed by more details for some of them:
You can keep the detox phases short or long, just as you like it: a week, a month, a whole year. And here are some more elaborate thoughts to a number of points.
- There are a lot of talented and less talented authors who can write more than just crime stories, who want to tell stories without making a detour via murder and manslaughter, and without having a detective in the centre. In Germany, we see more people killed on public television than are actually murdered in our country. At the same time, the way in which violent crimes are depicted in the 8.15 pm cop dramas of the two big public broadcasting channels gets more and more graphic – without there being a warning for the audience before the film starts or a for sensitive audience or those affected by the issues in the film (like the do in the UK for example). Why doesn‘t this happen over here? Because the audience has become emotionally dulled over time? Then, current social and political issues are very often processed in Germany‘s top cop drama TATORT / CRIME SCENE, instead of being put into films of their own. Cop dramas, polices stories, thrillers! Which German city hasn‘t got its own TATORT version yet, which region doesn‘t have their own SOKO (another TV series, set in different German areas, SOKO = Sonderkommission = special commission), which population group doesn‘t have their own early evening police series yet? Please stop this, it can always be done differently. Put an immediate stop to new crime film projects. Give a chance to good television, varied storytelling and new formats. A series about the 1920s? Why not? But please, not another crime story with countless dead bodies and violent murders in close-ups? Take a one-year break – no new crime series commissioned or develeoped, neither for the main or the early evening programme. No new TATORT teams, no new TATORT towns. #CopDrama-Detox
- Let‘s talk about wage caps for actors and actresses! About reducing the status wage gaps between celebrities and unknowns in public television. A suggestion: the highest wage in the acting department of a film must not be more than 50 times that of the lowest paid. In numbers: if the actor or actress receiving the lowest wage, because they are a newcomer or they are paid a „special wage“ (i.e. less than their usual pay per day of shooting) of say 800 €, then the top earner must not earn more than a total of 40,000 €. For the more hesitant: pledge to the same resolution, only double it, meaning that from the acting people no one will earn more than the hundredfold wage of the ones with the lowest earnings. The latter very often have to reserve the whole time of shooting for their one or two days – whereas the colleagues plaing the leads have the schedule built around their projects so they can often work on more than one. This is no debate based on envy, but rather it‘s intended to prompt a long-overdue on fair payment of acting people (this goes for Germany, I don‘t know about the situation in other countries). #StautsPayGap-Detox
- How do you assess if a film, an episode were successful and met the expectations, e.g. of the commissioners? Let‘s get rid of the ratings! Public broadcasters should set up their own criteria for measuring the qualifity of and satisfaction with a production. The alleged, projected audience numbers are irrelevant for a number of reasons (also read The Standards for Public Broadcaasting and For Heaven‘s Sake, Look at the Ratings!). So, der public TV commissioners: declare a month as a ratings-free period, and also don‘t read any ratings‘ evaluations in that time. For the Brave: delete all information irrevocably. For the Fainthearted: begin with a ratings-free week. #Ratings-Detox
- Look to the future, not the past! Don‘t commission stories that have been successful in the past. No copies or endless repeats, no remakes, but rather let‘s get new film stories. Has the creativity of screenwriters already been exhausted? I don‘t think so. So let‘s take a risk, and don‘t serve „the audience“ who may like a lot more than just noodles. On a side-note: Some years ago, Klaus Pierwoß, former general director of Bremen theatre (quite big, with theatre, opera and dance) conducted an audience survey (or ordered it to be conducted), and afterwards ignored the results, because the audience‘s number one wish were light theatre and operettas. His theatre was still very well-attended. So is your project new, original amusing and exciting? Wonderful. Good luck! #Duplicate-Detox
- New Faces – try out a different hiring policy! What about these “channel faces“ (we have in German public television)? Who says that the audience cannot deal with more than a handful of actors and actresses in leading roles? Is it because otherwise they wouldn‘t know what channel they have tuned into? Or they will switch off? There is not just one audience and just one audience‘s taste. And there are more than 20 actresses and more than 40 actors in Germany that can play important roles (call my agent!). #ChannelFaces-Detox
- Equal pay for equal work of women and men, on and off screen, in theatres, in recording studios, radio stations, broadcasting corporations, orchestras and dance companies – everywhere. #GenderPayGap-Detox
- Show women who are alive! No more films that start with the brutal murder or rape of a woman, and certainly not with a violent crime shown in every detail. One of the bigger disappointments in 2018 was a TV cop drama (from the 90 min. series Polizeiruf 110 in the main programme from public TV ARD) written and directed by arthouse director Christian Petzold that showed two murders of women in great detail, an execution-like murder of a woman at the beginning of the film, and the shooting of a female police-officer from close distance, her dead, shot face shown from close distance afterwards. The shooting of a murderer was only shown from a distance, with no close up to his face or body afterwards. Natalie Portman went one step further in her speech at the Power of Women luncheon of Variety Magazine: Variety Magazine’s Power of Women luncheon last October „Tell a new story. What if we took a year off from violence against women? What if for one year everyone in this room does everything in their power to make sure that all the entertainment produced from this room doesn‘t depict a rape or murder of a woman. In the projects you write, produce, direct, act, package, market, do not harm women this year. Let‘s see how that goes.“ (here’s the video, it’s from 12:56 to 13:25 min). Yes please, do try it, use your influence, follow my suggestion or hers, for a year (at least). #Femicide-Detox
- We need new models for funding and new guidelies for productions that will ensure gender balanced film teams, with more wonen in positions of power across all departments. One way – of hopefully many! Is my proposal #2v6pN, according to which two of the six departments directing, script, DoP, sound, music and editing should be headed by women (and also the NEROPA method should be applied). This would mean that a series like BABYLON BERLIN wouldn‘t have been produced in the way it was with its three male directors, three male writers, three male producers, two male co-prodcers, three male DoP and two male sound mixers, two male composers, two male (and one female) editors… (this text unfortunately only exists in German, but you can get an idea when you look at the images: Two German Series: BABYLON BERLIN and CLASH OF THE FUTURES), and that also there would be more female DoPs and female sound mixers in German top cop drama TATORT (2018 each with 0 %) and more female writers (5,5 %). #MaleProductions-Detox
- Stage: new plays, gender balanced plays, contemporary plays. Does theatre need to tell men‘s stories all the time? Commission new plays. And how about a season with Goethe, Schiller and Shakespeare? In many of their plays there are roughly 20 male to one female role. OK, maybe sometimes there will be two, a young girl who is in love with the protagonist and possibly dies of a broken heart, and someone like an old governess. Give the classics a break (see also A Flower on the Stage). And for the less bold, just halve the numer of classical performances in a season and produce some female biased plays instead like THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA and DANCING AT LUGHNASA). Clear the stage for change! #Classics-Detox
- Let‘s introduce pay transparency at theatres and also appropiate pay. Stop with this weird custom (at some German stages) that an actress or actor who has already worked at the theatre for a while is put on an entry position, to save money and get someone more experienced at the same time. #WageObscuring-Detox
- More democracy in film and theatre associations! Many at the top of these organizations work well for and with the members, others think of them as ,the masses‘ and as a source for financing the association. Your members are your supreme good? Then show it, let them decide, listen to them, let them participate not just nod through your ideas. Be inspired more by Switzerland and less by Turkey. #Autocracy-Detox
- Adequate age differenciation and representation on-screen. In our society, indeed all over the world, you find not only young women and men of all ages, so why should it be different in films and non-fictional programmes? (also see Cleverer Girls and Are They the News: Old Men and Young Women). The same applies off-screen as well of course. #YouthObsession-Detox
- New images, new breakdowns of the scenes for the camera. No more violent crimes being filmed from the perspective of the perpetrator. How often do we have to see a close-up of a woman under attack, her frightened eyes, her frozen face? Wie see where the perpetrator gets his kicks from, a victimized woman he can sexually assault and dominate. Turn it around, show the man seen from the perspective of his victim, or show the crime from a neutral position, but please don‘t force us to have to see it through the eyes of the offender. #PerpetratorPoV-Detox
- Let‘s develop more female characters, we also need a quantitative gender balance of the characters we see. How do we get there? One step could be applying my method NEROPA in your next production, or link it to film funding, to commissioning of TV productions (with the second step – NEROPA Finetuning – you can afterwards encourage a cast that is diverse in every sense of the word). Have it introduced at film schools, try it out when you start on your next script, so that eventually there will be more and more diverse female characters. More ideas welcome! #MaleRolesBias-Detox
- It would be so nice to work in the creative industries and at the same time have a family life, with children or older relatives, and see them all regularly, maybe even care for them. There are some promising working hours models, that help with combining a film job and family, let‘s have a look at what European neighbours are doing. So try out something new in your next production, for example organize child care on set, not only for the child of the leading actress or director, and have the working hours during filming no longer than ten hours maximum for all. Not possible? Why not? #FamilyHostility-Detox
- Let‘s have more ethnical diversity on- and off-screen, on- and off-stage, more internationality! We are Europe, we are a part of the world. We can all just benefit from that, within the industry, and as members of the audience. #WhiteMonoculture-Detox
- Support female talent in the so-called male departments, encourage women in film and stage music, women behind the camera in the truest meanung (yes, they do exist in Germany, have a look at the Cinematographinnen – page available in English), women at the mixing desk, at the recording device – because yes, they also exist. #TechnicalMensStuff-Detox
- It’s the year 2019. Please let’s not have stereotypes from the 1950’s in modern stories any more. #OutdatedStereotypes-Detox
- It‘s always quite fascinating to see how sports-mad German public television channels are but at the same time how very few sports event they show (or like?) that don‘t involve men. On to new shores! Every other month, show as many reports on women‘s sports competitions as you showed men‘s sport the month before – and then as few sports reports on the men as there were on women. Of course the main news on ARD and ZDF (the two major German public channels) can continue to deliver the results of the Bundesliga / football league and of the European football competetions, but again, every other month only those of the women‘s championships. This sounds too much for you as a first step? Then think of slower change. For example 50:50, per day or for each week. Have you actually ever seen a handball match on public TV, but with women‘s teams? On Sunday night, Jan. 27, there was a nearly 4 min. sports slot on the main news (Tagesschau, always on from 8 to 8.15 pm). They reported on handball (men‘s), football (men‘s) and winter sports (men‘s), with footage. Talking of winter sports, German Laura Dahlmeier won her 20th world cup title at the Biathlon mass start race in Antholz on Sunday, 2nd was Marketa Davidova (CZ), 3rd Vanessa Hinz (Germany). And this I don‘t know from Tagesschau (but from Melanie on twitter, thank you!). #MensSports-Detox
Speaking of winter, it is getting really cold now, even though some places are still without snow. Think of those that don‘t have a warm place to stay and help where you can. If you haven‘t read But Baby, it‘s Cold Outside yet, here‘s my text with some practical suggestions.