by Steve Finefrock, founder Hollywood Conservative Forum
Arguments are rising among concerned conservative artistes – some serious, considered, concerned arguments, aimed at those pending allies who may be Hollywood conservatives’ salvation. When a critical mass of talent, leadership and money form the long-sought ‘fire-triangle’ of combustion, there will be heat. And light. And Pain.
In my book – still aborning – dubbed “Right Turn on Sunset” a chapter is entitled, “Creative Differences Are Never Singular” – and is there never a truer truism to be found among my ‘allies’ in the ‘movement’ than that long-learned reality.
Izzy loves Denny – and Denny loves Izzy. Their heart-rending confrontation scene this week on “Grey’s Anatomy,” as she realizes his value to her sanity, as he’s returned to life of sorts, shows what art can be, what it does, what motion pictures [and TV] are really about. They are Emotion Pictures, on the big screen and the little one too – plus HD plasma flatpanels as well.
In ModernConservative.com and BigHollywood, numerous essays have given leading indicators of this fear, and its impact: ART MUST BE ART FIRST or it’s mere propaganda. Creatives with a bent to the right are getting bent about their potential allies – with money and leadership and political savvy – trying to force art into neat little propaganda piles of advocacy more suitable in Weekly Standard and National Review columns.
Nothing new to the argument: I’ve asserted that First Principle for over a decade, to individuals and pairs and small gatherings in many venues, starting with my small coterie in a monthly gathering dubbed Stage Right. Finally, after many agonies and a few minor ecstasies, I was able to bring it to an eager audience at the Heritage Foundation in September of 2007. Citing no less an authority than Frank Capra, as he revealed in his interview for Richard Schickel [also available in his book of interview transcripts for the PBS series], the reference pointed out to the political mutts that there already was one-third of that critical trifecta, working and earning a living in HWD [Variety’s oft-used abbreviation for Hollywood]. And I added that as Capra insisted, it must be art first, or it’s boringly propagandistic.
In one famous [or infamous] 2005 exchange on Libertas website, Jonah Goldberg was raked over the coals for his attitudes toward creatives – a pointless attack on one of our potential allies. Now Goldberg shares space with other creatives of both coasts – the Palisades meets the Potomac! – on BigHollywood. It took almost four years after that Libertas wrestling match – mud-match was more like it – to bring such right-lights as Goldberg into a big tent of two coasts joining forces and focus.
That exchange comes to mind on reading these recent postings. The fears then, and now, will become ginormous in our pending future-tense, once money and moxie meets talent and hope. To Heritage Foundation listeners, live and on CSPAN [it got four airings the next week, and two repeats in Thanksgiving schedules], the message was: WE’RE HERE, and also HELP US.
Not much happened among the ‘movement’ after that speech – save for a few favor-seekers suddenly adding me to their rolodex and e-mail address books [until they didn’t get any favors for their efforts, of course] – but things were abrewing. Eight months later, an earlier attempt – in late ’03 – to bring the Potomac and the Palisades together finally found traction, as HWD conservatives worked with a Potomac political pro to recruit some talent into the GOP 2008 convention. It happened in part with a little help from some Friends – FOA, or Friends of Abe worked with the convention’s program manager, and helped link a few folks, introduce some talent of both coasts, foster some handshakes.
Now, seeing the concerns that creative energy will be smothered by rank political propaganda masters, it’s time to remind everyone:
IT WON’T BE EASY.
MISTAKES WILL BE MADE.
EGOS WILL BE HURT.
CREATIVE DIFFERENCES ARE NEVER SINGULAR.
But like Moses’ agonies with the people of Goshen – which fact was observed by him, according to Muhammad, on the Prophet’s visit to the heavens, that them folks ain’t very strong, don’t trust ‘em too much, Muhammad, so said Moses – the problems in teaching the Potomac allies what art is will be matched with trying to teach the Palisades allies what politics is. Never a more challenging match attempted by a political yenta.
For the first rule by me, to every conservative I’ve agitated to Get In The Movement over the past decade, is ENTERTAINMENT FIRST, MESSAGE SECOND.
But to my ‘creative’ allies, it must be noted: THERE IS ALWAYS A MESSAGE IN ALL ART.
Izzy Loves Denny. Denny Loves Izzy.
Behind every ‘art’ expression is a set of assumptions, attitudes, presumptive viewpoints: the POV, or point of view, of the writer, then the director, and all the other endless litany of ‘creatives’ who make the page go onto the stage. It’s well-shown in this week’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” demonstrating why we love so much of that show, and why the writers are so valuable, and where the role of the actor comes, as well as the cinema work.
It’s about EMOTION – and presumptions: who is good, bad, ugly, nice, plain, pretty, competent, crazy, idiotic, vile and beatific. Izzy so loves Denny, and Denny so loves Izzy, that he comes back to her from his death two seasons ago, with a ‘message’ for her emotional survival. Several death-returns have entered that show, but it is more than a technique. It shows we join the show’s audience, because of the message:
IZZY LOVES DENNY – DENNY LOVES IZZY – WE LOVE DENNY!
One actor put so much joy in a single ‘day player’ role that “Grey’s Anatomy” writers and producers had to repeatedly bring him back for us to enjoy again. Coupled with the intensity of Izzy, we get to see two people, played by actors, engage in a love reborn, if only imaginary, that draws us into the story.
Which comes from TALENT.
Which gets down to the question, and my answer: How can HWD be less hostile to conservative values? The ‘HWD’ of today can not be converted, transmogrified, remade – they are who they are, always will be. BUT:
There can be a PARALLEL HWD, a parallel universe, for at least a fourth of HWD is conservative, but oh-so-silent [see my opening paragraph in the ‘The Other Hollywood’ video at www.heritage.org ]. There are writers, and actors, and directors, and editors, and producers, and cinematographers by the bucketload, who lean rightward. A quarter of HWD is well more than enough to make our message, to give our ideas, to convey our emotions in emotion-pictures on the Big Screen and the HD screen as well.
And now they have a major web-voice, as the Potomac and the Palisades are finding common cause, or common expressions. And the fears of the creatives are valid, and will come to pass, as they fear it will.
Not any more than before, though – through HWD history, there’s been a continual tension between those who wanted a message and the others who wanted it to just be entertainment. “Ya wanna send a message, call Western Union” famously bellowed one studio boss. And there is constant tension between the ‘biz’ and the ‘show’ of Show Business. Creatives in HWD, as throughout art’s history, seek a pliable patron to pay the bills and shut the hell up, as the ‘artiste’ paints, sculpts, composes, writes, acts or edits as he or she sees fit.
“Amadeus” opens with the juicy moment when the Emperor advises Mozart that his composition has too many notes! There we see the classic contempt of the artist for the audience, the ‘creative’ disrespect for the talent-free zone that includes the financial sponsor. Mozart smirks, as he avoids telling the royal cretin what he really thinks!
Ditto with portrayal of these conflicts in “Shakespeare In Love,” and even “Singing in the Rain” – that film’s director, Stanley Donen, hated the title, preferring “Hollywood” instead, for that was what the story was about. Indeed, in a light-hearted way, “Rain” does give a peek at the clash between business and art, ego and sanity.
Though I was brutally blunt in the ModCon essay, and starkly abrupt at ‘Breit-eyes’ in a review published at exilestreet.com, the theme is unvarnished, and not new: WE GOTTA WORK TOGETHER, and appreciate each other’s role and work and contribution. As Ben Franklin urged, we must hang together, or surely we will continue to be hung separately. Keep to a minimum, for a while at least, scenes such as seen in “A Star Is Born” and “All About Eve.”
And right now, the juicy opportunity that is arising risks an orgy of misbehavior, even while Moses treks up the mountaintop. A disintegration is possible, as money may come to HWD-c [HWD, conservative fraction], along with some political players from the Potomac, giving edgy fears to the Palisades HWD-c contingent.
For the HWD-c residing near the Palisades, note this crucial piece of strategery: there will be no ‘movement’ of any meaning, until others who aren’t quite so ‘creative’ as thee may be, who start to take notice, add their political capital, and round up fiscal resources.
For conservatives operating on the Potomac who want to join HWD-c, know that it STARTS WITH ENTERTAINMENT and only then do you enclose a message. Did ya hear the First Principle? Repetition is the soul of pedagogy, so let me repeat: First is art/entertainment, then the message.
IZZY LOVES DENNY, and DENNY LOVES IZZY – and we love ‘em both, not just because Izzy is about the hottest piece of stuff on TV in its history [testimonial to acting talent], but because we EMBRACE THEM and wish for them the best. And amidst all this joy and love and rage and passion and EMOTION are assumptions by liberal show writers, producers, directors and actors that are subtle, but always LIBERAL.
It is THEIR SANDBOX. We can’t expect them to change it.
We must build our own sandbox – and to the Potomac allies, my message is still that we need your help, But realize, that truly ART COMES FIRST. But to my HWD-c artistes, note that there will always be creative differences. For there always were, even among liberals.
After all, the writer’s creed includes the dictate, Good Drama does not exist in the village of happy people. And the writer’s most vital victual of intellectual weight: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.
Ditto for acting, directing, producing – no one eagerly invests their emotions and talent in a project they find appalling. Thus, if HWD-c allies and Potomac allies find certain traditional values being slighted in “Grey’s Anatomy” and so many other shows, the solution is to MAKE OUR OWN ART.
But remember that in all our conservative artistic journeys, we must first make the audience LOVE DENNY, and also LOVE IZZY – and after that emotion-picture quality is achieved a show can advance certain values [or lack of them], and portray political, social, theological messages.
First we must cry and laugh and share EMOTIONS – which is what art is about. Then, we imbed – very, VERY CAREFULLY – our assumptions, values, attitudes, prescriptions for fixing America.
Conservative Hollywood, your fears are well-taken, and well-grounded. But buck up, grow a pair, and get ready for bonding with the Potomac, to join into the free-for-all, as creative differences definitely become very plural, as a pluralistic conservative movement takes root near the fertile Palisades.
And be nice to Jonah Goldberg’s ergonomic chair – he’ll ultimately ‘get’ it about creative control. After all, those op-ed writers hassle with editors all the time. We can ‘educate’ the Potomac to understand the Palisades – well, perhaps at least bring them partway to an ‘understanding’ of sorts.
It took me a half-decade of slumming in HWD, and finding that HWD-c was at least a fourth of working HWD. And another half-decade convincing at least a few Potomac conservatives that it was a worthy goal to bring together the two Right-coasts into one movement.
The fire-triangle will bring heat and pain, as the talent that is already in HWD-c eventually acquires leadership and money to make a ‘movement’ that brings those ‘above the line’ quartet of producers, directors, writers and actors to make projects in a ‘packaging’ that rivals that done today for liberal projects.
Money. Talent. Leadership.
Can you feel the heat beginning to glow? Maybe just smoldering now, but that fuel of talent is soon finding the oxygen of money and the heat of leadership. One or even two don’t make a triangle. For this ‘movement’ to achieve self-sustaining, meaningful ‘heat’ requires a testy, trying triangle.
The talent-third must prepare for many creative differences – for without the triangle, and its inherent conflicts, there will be no fire. And HWD-c will continue to exist in the current cold misery of liberal boycotts.
Which will it be, HWD-c? Heat and conflict, or cold calm of the current status quo?
Me, I look forward to the Dramatic Village of Conservative Combatants – anyone issuing invitations?
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…