by Steve Finefrock, founder Hollywood Conservative Forum
For the growing Hollywood Conservative movement, it’s useful to know how some of the ‘seeds’ of its genesis became planted. Lynne Cheney wrote a seething 1993 National Review essay about “Dave” being a betrayal of her expectations of Hollywood’s contractual terms with her. At that time, my response was limited in its reach, before the web made it a more friendly distribution model. Lynne’s complaint?
The film was based on her brief best-seller, “The Body Politic” for which Hollywood had bought the movie rights, leading her to believe it would reflect her novel’s original political/cultural point-of-view when it hit the big screen.
As is Hollywood’s style, regardless of political POV, the plot was ratcheted up from her VP lookalike protagonist [a conservative community organizer] to become the main man in the Oval Office. And of course, they FLIPPED the hero-villain balance. This was her volatile complaint in NR: Hollywood re-made her story into their propaganda. Doubling the insult, they did so with excellent implementation of all the craft of the art of cinematic storytelling. The Flip was an effective flip-off to her story’s original design, and her values.
Kevin Kline’s character, Dave Kovic, was originally a conservative hero, and his replacement for a vile liberal president was supposed to convey a POV from the right. My response to Lynne’s surprise and indignation, to a tiny audience, was:
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT, LYNNE?
IT’S THEIR SANDBOX.
IF WE WANT A SANDBOX, WE MUST BUILD OUR OWN.
That refrain, nay mantra, has been pounded off my keyboard and amidst frenetic recruiting for a decade-plus, to every conservative I could find, in HWD and along the Potomac, including some long-known Big Dawgs on the right who practice professionally in the political precincts. The Hollywood Conservative Forum managed to briefly tease the motto, Bringing The Potomac To The Palisades.
Now, BigHollywood is bringing multiple voices together, including Michael McGruther’s question, where’s the money from our friends in the power centers of conservative politics? Why can’t we make movies with our money, employing our ideas, for our audience?
McGruther reveals that he’s worked with a liberal writer thru the past election cycle, converting that artiste’s words into cinematic cash via his own creative capacities, and now finds he’s unappreciated upon being ‘outed’ as a conservative. Hmmmm, think maybe he might have been better guided by finding a contemporary Lynne Cheney property instead?
Along this tortuous pathway, my surprising discoveries included that 1) there are more conservatives in H’W’D [Variety’s frequent abbreviation] than I’d ever imagined, and 2) they need only find each other to then organize into making a contemporary Lynne Cheney property into a rightwing “Dave” that would suit her POV and the audience thirst for quenching entertainment. Then I found 3) even conservative creatives are remarkably clueless as to politics, business reality, and the dark-arts of getting-things-done.
Add #4: as many scoundrels and numbskulls travel unmolested among us as do among ‘them’ in this game, with as much mendacity, narcissism and ineptness as one might only hope would be unique to the typical leftwing artistes in HWD. One dream was dashed during a dash for political relevance for HWD conservatives, in 2003-05, as oodles of carefully gathered and nurtured political capital were invested in persuading the Potomac pros to take the Palisades seriously.
But, conservative coneheads in HWD reduced that hard-earned, precious political 401k account into a 101k, or less, and thereafter the recapitalization began, with a solo attempt which legitimized the HWD conservatives with the Potomac pros: a 2007 speech to the Heritage Foundation showed some insiders, both live and on Memorex [C-SPAN], that there are folks in HWD with conservative values and competence at the craftwork required to make ideas into satisfying entertainment.
My theme to Heritage Foundation patrons was:
HWD conservatives [HWC] need only a Moses and money [as quoted in The Nation magazine’s website that very day; oh, yes, they were monitoring their enemy, via HF’s life-video feed on its website], for the battalions of skilled, eager soldiers are already present in the bowels of the beast, working and earning and honing their craft. The fuel is there, but a spark of leadership and the oxygen of funding will complete that fire-triangle of conservative entertainment.
During my Captain Dreyfus reenactment in the summer of ’04, I’d lost my dream of a certain republican organization in Hollywood displaying political gravitas and moxie, working toward earning the right for a Christmas banquet and dance of luminaries, thus entitled to invite as our speaker and ‘prom queen’ the aforementioned Lynne Cheney. The dreamy goal was to gather a crowd of erstwhile, competent, committed conservative agents, producers, writers, directors, DPs, ADs, et al. And demonstrate that her “Dave” lament would never happen again to her intellectual property successors. No more ‘flipping’ of conservative intellectual material.
Alas, Hollywood Conservatives are not yet deserving of any Lynne Cheney as their prom queen. They keep pissing away political capital offered them, both by this belabored Captain Dreyfus and later would-be political players. Not that no one in HWD possesses sufficient gravitas to play the game. But far too many conservatives are as inane about learning that syllabus of gravitas as any we see in the person of George Clooney or Rosie O’Donnell. Not quite as crazy, but every bit as clueless.
McGruther notes “how the liberal grass roots movement has been well watered and cared for by rich caretakers who use their money, power and influence to invest in a future they desire, not one that’s best for all people. The media and entertainment world quietly vets and weeds out young conservatives so that we can’t disrupt the slow browbeating of the pop-culture addicted public with entertainment of substance that may awaken their better senses.”
Not all the weeding of conservatives, at least in HWD, is achieved by spades and herbicides wielded by lefties. McGruther also laments, “Truth is, we conservatives have no real backing other than core beliefs we know to be universally true. Where’s our David Geffen?”
The core question is, Where’s HWD conservative seriousness? Are HWD conservatives to be trusted with $50 million, or $150 million, or a half-billion of some dedicated conservative cabal’s hard-earned capital? Your every action, or inaction, or misbegotten errors, comprise a continuous audition to any prospective ‘Geffen’ of the right.
Then McGruther jumps to the chase, one raised by wee little moi for a dozen years: “I’m calling on wealthy conservatives everywhere to please step forward and donate to the grass roots of the Republican Party. Fund our version of websites like Media Matters and MoveOn.org. Let’s get a conservative movie fund going…”
Again, as in all HWD processes, one who seeks to play with the Big Dawg needs to impress the Big Dawg that the wee little dawg ain’t going to piss away the Big Dawg’s capital – be it political, intellectual, artistic or fiscal. Just as with earning any greenlight, your prior box office indicates your likely future performance.
The ignored truth, a genuine inconvenient truth to those who inflicted the French Army General Staff practices on a conservative Captain Dreyfus, is that already six Big Dawgs on the Potomac were watching the “movement” during an opportune period of late ’03 thru the election of ’04. The HWConservatives pissed it away. They displayed gargantuan pettiness, astronomical minimalism in gravitas, and brutal insensitivity to the Rules of the Game. Their patron saints are Henry VIII and Robespierre.
Soon, a Hollywood Conservative may arise in the political firmament, and that leader may be the focus of HWC enthusiasm. Will this come about? Might there be a “300” of committed combatants? Maybe. BigHollywood recently expressed some ambitious demands upon the Potomac conservative professionals – not all that bright a slam-down, but indicative of moxie and ambition, in a coda ‘yes we can’ proclamation. And every “300” contains the makings of Ephialites: the ambitious, narcissistic hunchback who betrayed the 300, since he was denied what his own selfish pride demanded. Self over group, ego over Cause.
The question to ponder, as such an opportunity may come about, is simply: WILL HWC BE AS STUPID AS BEFORE? Does HWC understand the first rule of politics, the Latinate quid pro quo – and its more modern derivative, Dance With Them That Brung Ya To The Dance? Plainly some of the Soros klan, the focus of McGruther’s piece, seem to grasp these classic rules [as featured in Chris Matthews’ instructive political guidebook “Hardball”].
So far the answer is, No Way, No How. In the coming political cycle, the stakes are bigger than helping reelect Dubya. It’s crucial to stop the Socialist Juggernaut, and even in California there is a role for conservatives, including those in HWD. But dissing Lynne Cheney’s cousins in the political professional ranks ain’t no way to persuade her to attach her gravitas by accepting the crown of prom queen. Ya want Lynne as prom queen? Then start acting like you got your ducks in a row.
More Leonidas, less Ephialites. Or to apply a remarkable political movie’s apt metaphor, aka “Charlie Wilson’s War” [funded by a Soros peer, Jeff Skoll]: More Gust, less wind.
Starting with not insulting the professional political ducks already in a row, who would eagerly help HWC, but are hesitant to throw good capital after wasted capital. If you aspire to swim among professional political capitalists, act like one. So far, HWC has been a toxic asset, or a playpen reeking with too many toxic asses. And the ass is supposed to be the symbol of the democrats.
If a leader rises, who shall support him or her? A Hollywood Conservative who plays the rules written along the Potomac will need Palisades conservatives who know those rules, and honor them relentlessly. And reliably. Maybe the stakes are higher this time, and there will be less Captain Dreyfus and more Winston Churchill.
But you do remember the ‘gratitude’ the Brits displayed, once Winnie saved their tiny little island from Nazi invasion? They turned him out of office even as the ashes were still smoking in defeated Berlin. As our godmother, Clare Booth Luce famously uttered, as her mantra: No good deed goes unpunished.
That kind of HWC mental state will leave McGruther writing the same column, with the same question, and the same endless frustration, for year after year after year – until he tires of promoting liberals’ property and converting them into piles o’ cash. Will HWC learn how to herd ducks? Play by the rules of ducking? If so, the pros on the Potomac will reconsider directing their examining gaze toward the Palisades.
Want Lynne? Better get busy – at this slow, but accelerating, rate of earning your spurs, making your bones, proving your mettle, Lynne will be a dottering octogenarian before that invitation is deserving of acceptance. Here’s a step toward gravitas, starting with McGruther: Sign up intellectual property with a conservative spin that deserves your talent and contacts. Spend some of your OWN political and professional capital to advance the cause.
Curse the cold, weary political darkness in a liberal HWD? Sure, that’s okay – some Yiddish wag claimed that mankind developed the capacity for speech in order to express a deep inner need to complain. Most political ‘discourse’ [and dramatic dialogue] is endless kvetching. But we need to move more toward the model of Fox News Channel – decades of kvetching about media bias didn’t change the reality, until money, moxie and Moses recruited the pre-existing journalistic talent that already leaned right.
So, complain as you feel required – and light a candle.
Stop The Flip.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, of not spending your professional capital to help lefties convert their talent into cash. Want those mysterious conservative bigwigs to invest in HWC? Start by investing your own risk-capital, in your own kind, for your own property. Put your own skin in the game before yearning for others’ hard-earned greenbacks.
Then, just maybe Lynne will listen. And I hear she’s a great dancer. But don’t wait until she needs a hip replacement.
copyright 2009 Steve Finefrock
Finefrock is founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to “Bring the Potomac to the Palisades” on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called "A State of the Union"], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA's Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation’s capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters. Finefrock is proprietor of PhoneBooth: The Smallest Space in Hollywood…