WHAT THE FILM INDUSTRY COULD LEARN FROM MONEYBALL .
So that headline is probably a bit deceiving.
Just a warning: this post is actually about feminism, and equality and creativity so why I’m even referring to Moneyball might not seem clear at first, but I promise I will eventually get there!
But in the meantime…
I recently saw a few articles about a clip where Matt Damon made some comments about diversity. These got slammed online and he has since apologised to a degree.
The gist behind the clip of Matt Damon from Project Greenlight was that you should cast for diversity in front of the camera, but not behind.
Matt Damon’s come out to say how much he believes in diversity and that it should be something we are all talking about, but I couldn’t help but feel that there’s still an idea that quotas or crewing up with diversity in mind gets in the way of creative standards.
Screen Australia and the Australian Directors Guild have both put out press around bringing in quotas of late and I’ve seen the comments start up on how a person or project should be chosen on their creative merit alone and that quotas would interfere with this.
But here’s the thing: when creativity is completely subjective how you can you argue that there is ever a best person for a job or a way to objectively pick out the best project based on talent alone?
You can decide on who you want in that role based on what your own individual gut feeling is, and what the group feeling is, but let’s not kid ourselves, our own history and preferences decide who we think is the best person for the job or what we think has merit.
It’s going to be swayed by our upbringing, personality, chips on shoulders, sense of humour, who we like to hang out with, music taste, whose attitude rubbed us up the wrong way, who we find attractive or what we’ve heard about said person or project. Whether you’re male, female, transgender, gay, straight, Muslim, Catholic, atheist or from god damn Timbucktoo or any of the things — it’s going to be a personal choice based on who you want in that role or what you like and there’s absolutely nothing objective about that.
I don’t think you could honestly say with a straight face that in a world without quotas, that all projects that receive funding are chosen because of their creative merit alone.
So if we want equality, if we really feel seriously about that being an important part of our culture then I’m sorry but I think we should be thinking about diversity all the time. Quotas and crewing up with diversity in mind are a way to ensure the stories that we are telling and the voices that we hear are still talented, and creative, but will come from all sorts of people and places.
And here’s another pretty simple point…
For years the majority of people who have decided what is ‘good’, who’s the best person for the job or who’s the most entertaining in the film industry, have been white men.
They have gone on to make content starring white men and with a white male audience in mind. And then when the majority of people seeing their films have turned out to be white males they’ve gone on to argue that this meant young white males were the biggest audience.
So basically they made a size 10 shirt and then argued that all the people that it didn’t fit, don’t like wearing shirts… And I do believe this has affected our idea of what we think a good shirt is. Hands down.
But look, I know things are changing and thank Christ we’re finally living in a world where women, minorities, gender roles, and every kind of stereotype and pervasive inequality we’ve had to endure, can be questioned.
Yet there’s still these common fallacies that just won’t seem to go away.
Like if women were really any good they’d be getting the top directing jobs, wouldn’t they? But maybe they’re just better at things like production…
(See earlier point about what we think is good, and of course all the great female directors proving that one wrong).
Or there’s that idea that you can’t have a gay lead actor playing a straight character because people might not believe in their performance?
(Wait a minute… Stop everything… you mean what happens in the movies isn’t real?)
And of course there’s still this stagnating idea that the main audience for films (and games for that matter) are young white males.
(See above point about shirts and if you don’t buy that one then how about these apples: 50 Shades of Grey, Twilight and The Hunger Games… I couldn’t tell you the exact stats on who the bulk of the audience was for those films which have raked in so much money it’s not funny, but I could hazard a guess).
So here’s where I finally get back to this idea of what we could learn from Moneyball.
While I’ve only seen that film once (and I thought it was pretty good) I believe the gist was that a numbers guy came along and said, “Hey, instead of thinking that the only baseball player you need is the one who’s the biggest ‘star’ or the biggest hitter, how about you look at the stats and work out all the other qualities you need in a team and mathematically work out the best mix?”
So what if the film industry thought about enforcing some quotas to bring in diversity behind the camera, and mathematically made sure everyone was represented, and that the films were made for all kinds of audiences? Audiences who are all happy to spend their money on films if they’re actually the target audience?
I really think it shows how ingrained and problematic our ideas are surrounding equality, that even when the money is clearly showing the industry that there are other audiences out there, it gets ignored. However, at least we can say that when we’re in the age of the FBI investigating Hollywood for inequality in pay, and with quotas being talked about by funding bodies, things might be changing for the better.
So in summation, as Cate Blanchett put with far more grace and skill, “The world is round people.” And as Moneyball shows so clearly… it is in fact all about the numbers, so I say why don’t we start putting them to good use.