Grain of Salt - The Death of “The Filmmaker Farm System”: Examining the Implications of the Fringe-to-Franchise Pipeline

(Originally published 12/1/17)

Every aspiring filmmaker has a fantasy of how they would like their career to progress. Even those who wouldn’t admit it to their colleagues or family members have still spent hours daydreaming about directing an elaborate crane movement across a sea of costumed extras, delivering an inspired creative note that unlocks the potential for a brilliant performance, accepting a prize at Sundance or Cannes or on the glittering Oscar stage, fame, wealth, legacy, immortality... Wannabe filmmakers (even those with fiercely independent aspirations) who claim to have never visualized their own successes are, at best, lying to themselves. And while his name has become synonymous with a certain kind of mainstream, studio fare it would be hard to argue that Christopher Nolan’s career path has been anything but the Platonic Ideal of a creative and commercial Hollywood success story.

Nolan rose to prominence at the turn of the 21st century- “breaking through” with the kind of low budget fare that exemplified the spirit of the grassroots independent film movement of the 1990s. His perfectly-executed hopscotch from obscurity to golden boy anointment might be the most elegant example of the transition ever performed. He cut his teeth on the black and white, Super 16, DIY, shoestring, genre lark, Following when he was in his mid 20s. Following led to Slamdance, Slamdance led to industry attention, industry attention led to financing, financing led to Memento, Memento led to Sundance, Sundance led to studios, studios led to Insomnia, Insomnia led to movie stars and budgets, movie stars and budgets led to Batman Begins and so on... In less than seven years Nolan went from spending his weekends single-taking 16mm short ends to rebooting a superhero franchise with Oscar winners in the ancillary roles. And while the legend of Nolan’s rise to prominence is inspiring in its trajectory, it wasn’t necessarily uncommon at the time. Few careers have been as consistent or distinct as Nolan’s but there are scores of filmmakers from Linklater to Bigelow who dutifully climbed the ladder from indie ghetto to mainstream success to awards recognition to the holy grail of artistic autonomy.

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288: Present Tense - Reckoning with ONCE UPON A TIME ... IN HOLLYWOOD and Tarantino's Complex Legacy

 
 

Roughly three or four times a decade we declare a national cinematic holiday in honor of the man who’s been reinventing the rules of mainstream cinema for the last quarter century. Regardless of how you feel about Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s “9th” (mmm, “10th”?) feature film as writer/director is one of the most hotly-anticipated and hotly-debated films of the year—nay, the 2010s!

Join us as we do a deep-dive into the career of the provocateur, demarcate the three[ish] phases of his career, and take a long, spoilerrific look at his newest period epic.

Whether you’re floating in your Hollywood Hills pool, drinking a whiskey sour from a beer stein, or hanging out in your trailer, eating macaroni and cheese in the lowlands of Panorama City, this episode has a little something for everybody…

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284: Present Tense - Questioning Existence with TOY STORY 4 and Hand-Wringing About the Summer Box Office

 
 

On our triumphant return to the present tense we sound off about the wild, weird, and existentially-conflicted fourth installment in one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed film franchises of all time.
We then turn our attention to another subject that weighs heavily on our minds and is also experiencing a bit of an existential crisis of late- the summertime box office.
The mercury’s rising and the box office numbers are dropping. What does is all mean..!?

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280: We Like TV - GAME OF THRONES Wrap-Up

 
 

It’s been a long time since we’ve dipped our cinematically-inclined toes into the television pool. But what better reason to do so than the conclusion of the most cinematic show ever to grace the small screen?
Join us for a break-down, wrap-up, and maybe even a defense of the wildly divisive final season of HBO’s beloved and reviled 73 episode experiment in long form storytelling.

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Grain of Salt - The Midnight Ride of the Monoculture: Excavating the Confluence of Avengers: EndGame of Thrones Weekend

Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything, take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy

You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that you break out in tears
Please don't be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn't have known you all these years 

Something remarkable happened last weekend. Something that is unprecedented in the history of popular culture. Something that may never happen again. Something that quite likely signposts the end of an epoch or more likely signals the beginning of another. The confluence of events occurring between Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 when Avengers: Endgame opened in most countries around the world (interestingly enough, the United States was one of the last countries to open the film–two days later–perhaps inadvertently acting as reminder that it’s no longer the dominant global box office force) and Sunday, April 28th, 2019 when HBO aired the Game of Thrones episode “The Long Night” (in which the much-heralded Battle of Winterfell finally played out over the course of an epic 82-minute “telefeature”), may someday be remembered by historians as the last time that a true “monocultural” media event took place. And one in which the two dominant forms of mass entertainment–cinema and television–reached the maximum number of viewers and achieved the apex of their own cultural relevance in the same watershed weekend. Movies and TV may never again be this individually impactful–co-existing simultaneously and autonomously–as they were over the five day stretch in question.

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278: Present Tense - Podcasters Assemble for an Epic AVENGERS: ENDGAME Roundtable

 
 

Marvel superfans and friends of the podcast, Anders Dahl and Ryan Julio join us this week as we lightning-round the 21 previous installments in the MCU’s Infinity Saga before digging deep into the franchise’s victory lap- the three hour emotional rollercoaster known as AVENGERS: ENGAME. A lot of personal growth, unexpected revelations, and soul-searching goes on in this episode so be forewarned- there will be SPOILERS not just about the film in question but also about your hosts. We could do this all day…

Skål Beer Hall (Anders’ Norwegian gastropub)
The Greyhound Bar and Grill (Ryan’s sports bar)
ETA (Ryan’s cocktail bar)

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274: Present Tense - Nominating Our Favorite Baseball Movies, Overthinking US, and Legitimizing THE BEACH BUM

 
 

We’re catching it up and breaking it down this week with a veritable smorgasbord of scintillating topics:
-Celebrating the beginning of the season with our favorite baseball movies (00:03:00)
-A SPOILER HEAVY litigation of the various interpretations of Jordan Peele’s US (00:14:20)
-A preemptive defense of Harmony Korine’s latest ode to hedonism, THE BEACH BUM (00:26:56)

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