pop culture

When Kanyeing Becomes a Problem by Chris Weigl

I think we all remember where we were when it happened.  We weren’t all on the Twittersphere like we are now during awards shows.  When Kanye went off on Taylor Swift for not being Beyonce it was like any other national crisis.  People took sides and ridiculous debates ensued.  It was a dark time for all of us.  When the dust settled there was only one person who was hurt by this episode: Kanye West and he’s the only one who should have been affected by it.  No one else did anything wrong.  Kanye – for reasons still passing understanding – simply went after Taylor Swift because she wasn’t Beyonce.  Thank God he now has Kim Kardashian to put things into perspective for him. 

Kanyeing is a problem because Kanye blamed the victim at the VMAs and whoever you might perceive the victim to be we were all victims in that situation really.  We all had to watch on nervously as Kanye went off on a rant that made little sense.  This was different than Kanye’s first rant about how George Bush does not care about Black people because we didn’t share that same solidarity in our dislike for Taylor Swift as we did in our dislike of George W. Bush.  Let’s face it Taylor Swift is a much more likeable (and by all accounts better) person than George W. Bush.  So, Kanye’s first rant against the Bush administration was much more understandable than his rant against Taylor Swift.  Let’s be clear though: the lesson that should be taken away from these episodes is that hating on other people isn’t cool unless you’re hating on people directly in rap music.  It was cool when Biggie and Tupac did it, but that was mainly because they were both ballers and had serious clout.

The larger problem that Kanyeing has on American society is that it becomes acceptable for people to invest significant amounts of their self-worth in marginalizing others.  People actually feel better about themselves for putting people down.  If you feel like you can only feel good about yourself when you make others feel bad about themselves then you have a very toxic mindset.  This isn’t just toxic to you, it’s toxic to anyone who comes into contact with you.  This is a very LA mindset to have in many ways because if you live in LA then you must be the coolest person ever to walk the face of the Earth.  Hollywood is world-renowned for not just their snobbery, but their arrogance towards those who have not achieved exactly what they have achieved.  Are you doing an indie project that could change the way an entire genre of film is viewed for the next generation of movie-goers?  Well, you shouldn’t feel good about that as far as Hollywood is concerned because you didn’t do it there way and if you had it would have been so much better.  It’s not difficult to see just how toxic this attitude is.

The good celebrities are the anti-Kanyes.  They go out of their way to show their appreciation because they know where they’ve come from and they appreciate what they have.  The good celebrities realize that they’re adding value to people’s lives just by being in the same room as them and they don’t need to point that out to the world to show their self-worth.  The rewarding part of being in filmmaking is seeing how many artists believe in the rising tides lift all boats mentality.  There’s something to that positivity.  You never see indie filmmakers hating on each other.  Being in business is hard enough.  In fact if you look at the forums or YouTube channels of indie filmmakers they’re chalked full of helpful advice from people who’ve gone through a similar situation as you.  I think it’s quite telling that you can always find someone in indie film who’s willing to help, but in mainstream film they can’t wait to exclude you from the crowd and point out your deficiencies. 

In Hollywood it makes the elite feel better about themselves when they can tell someone how worthless they perceive them to be and this is why there are some folks who harbor a great deal of animosity towards Hollywood.  As a group they’re not interested in getting better they’re interested in getting ahead.  This mindset is toxic and it’s the reason that so many people who’ve worked in Hollywood start their own production companies and look for solutions outside of Hollywood for better solutions.  No one wants to be around the Kanyes of the world when they’re dragging everyone else down with their negativity and like Kanye’s rant against Taylor Swift many times these rants are pointless.  There’s no need to do this it’s just one man’s desperate need for attention.  In the end, the only people we’re accountable to is ourselves, but we also have an obligation to our future self to become a better person and understanding when we’re Kanyeing and differentiating that from making a principled point is crucial to that development.

Coming to Terms with Poor Results by Chris Weigl

I had a French teacher in high school who used to call on me first thing each class because she knew I didn’t get the homework done right.  It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried she just used me as an example to lecture the class about the necessity to study harder.  I remember thinking: “why doesn’t she get that it’s not a lack of effort on my part that is bring about these results?”  It was incredibly frustrating and I almost felt like I was being bullied in that situation because I knew she was going to do it to me and it was terrible.  No one likes getting called out when they genuinely don’t understand something.  They need help and you don’t go to someone for help after they just ridiculed you in front of your classmates.

It’s with that experience in mind that I reflected on my own sub-par film shoot this past weekend.  The shoot was energizing.  I felt good about how things went and I thought we got through it all right.  When I went through the footage I saw that what we were seeing in dailies were not reflected in the actual footage.  It was like freshman year French class all over again only this time I had to edit this material and watch it again.  I’m a big believer that you need to learn from your mistakes.  I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I’ve learned quite a bit over the years, but no matter how hard you try there are still times you’re going to come up short.  That’s what happened this past weekend.  I tried the best I could, I shot the scenes in a way that I felt would work and I just couldn’t execute my gameplan.  It happens to the best people out there, I know it because I’ve seen it.  My natural inclination is to toss my camera to the side or say something to the effect of: “well, this is why you’re a writer.”  That’s not going to fix my problem though.  I did a sub-par production, now what?  Now, we get back up and try again.  I wasn’t shooting a video for a client or I would have reimbursed them.  If we’re not satisfied with what we shoot we certainly aren’t going to charge our clients for material that is anything less than what they expect.  So, back to the footage I went and I combed through it as best I could.  There just wasn’t a lot to build off of.

As I thought about everything we did for the shoot, I reflected on what I wasn’t able to do that I wanted to do and that’s where I got an idea for a cool new shoot that we’re going to do next weekend.  I’m going to use a different approach and see if that works for what we’re trying to do.  It will either work or it won’t.  I’ve put enough effort into this where I know what I want and I have a very good understanding of what I don’t want.  The question is whether we can put the pieces together in a way that can unite the business side and the creative side and that is sort of like throwing a small mammal in my backyard when my dogs are out playing.  The chances are that one of the dogs is going to be fast enough to catch it, but if the mammal is smart enough and resourceful enough it will figure out what it needs to do to escape their clutches before it’s too late.  I’m counting on having similar resourcefulness and the cooperation of a team of professionals that can look past one shoot that didn’t go as planned and see the bigger picture.  All of this sounds much easier than it is, but owning your own business is not easy.  It’s an uphill struggle and it’s even worse when you’re the one who makes mistakes, but if you’re a true believer then you see the opportunity in the mistakes and the possibilities that come with failure.  Failure is just another chance disguised as something you don’t want to see.  If you look at failure in the right light it can be just as pleasing to the eye as success and will ultimately be more worthwhile because we tend to learn more from our mistakes than we do from success.

Ultimately, as artists we cannot be complacent nor should we be content to hold ourselves to the standards of the status quo.  We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.  We must rise above the level of mediocrity that has become commonplace in our industry.  We must show the world a new definition of what is possible and in order to do that we must raise the expectations of what is acceptable to us.  If we are to be successful - as businesses and as an industry - we cannot accept the status quo.  We must be willing to challenge it and raise the bar of what is possible in the world of entertainment.  The true worth of an artist isn't measured by the amount of money they make or even by the content they produce.  The true worth of an artist can only be measured by the change they inspire in the world.  That is what we are trying to do.  We hope that you will join us in our cause.