Do you ever think about the creativity that was clearly present in the 1960s, 70s and 80s? The creativity that inspired the movies, songs and books that we all remember and think of fondly? Remember all those John Hughes movies? What about Ron Howard? And what about the movie stars we all remember – many of them are still around, but obviously getting older. Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Eddie Murphy – I could go on and on. Names we all know.
How did Harrison Ford start out? He certainly didn’t just begin making millions of dollars as an actor. In fact, it appears he began as a pretty average guy. There’s no doubt now that he’s Hollywood royalty, the elite.
Where did Tom Hanks begin? It seems he started out pretty average also. He was certainly not a millionaire.
Some of these actors I have mentioned have gone on to become the super elite – very powerful in not only Hollywood, but the entire world, even expanding into being able to shape popular opinions and make incursions into the political world. On the other hand, some have been blacklisted, and pretty much badmouthed globally. You’ve gotta wonder sometimes, who decides who is worthy of praise these days? Who controls who gets to work in Hollywood and who doesn’t and what is the deciding factor? If someone of elite status decides they don’t like you for whatever reason, do they get to destroy your career?
Not too long ago I was talking to a colleague and she opened my eyes to some interesting information about the entertainment industry. The two largest talent agencies in the 1980s were William Morris and Creative Artists Agency (CAA). CAA was started by defectors from William Morris. At first glance, I would never really associate entertainment industry professionals with political figures. But, it seems they are very connected.
In the 1980s William Morris apparently had more of the moderate and conservative-leaning talent. The ones who defected and started CAA apparently leaned a little more left, as we would say today. Former White House Chief of Staff and former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s brother, Ari, worked at CAA. He ended up leaving and formed another company called Endeavor. Endeavor then took over William Morris. With this takeover came a housecleaning and consolidation of all the talent – to include sports figures, actors, actresses, directors, publishing, musicians, you name it. Other consolidations like this were previously shut down because of monopoly concerns, but this one wasn’t. Ari then took over IMG – the largest sports talent agency. What does this all equal? Pretty much complete control in one company of all media, sports and entertainment. And guess what? If you are a small agency, owner of a sports team or whatever, you probably better fall in line, not think for yourself and certainly do not question the accepted narrative, or you will no longer find work for your talent. See how that works?
If it seems like this might stifle any new creativity, that’s because it DOES. Have you noticed that in the past, say 10 years, or likely more, most of the movies that come out are all remakes of old successes? Take a look at what is out in the theaters now. Do you see many truly original new ideas? What about TV shows – sitcoms? Any new creative ideas out there, or mostly remakes of old ideas?
It’s not that I think remakes are bad. I just wish some new creative ideas and people – unknowns – would be granted entrance through the gates. I wonder how the new Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford or any other very popular star from the past could possibly be found in the current atmosphere of stifle. You’ve got to let new ideas – even ones you may not agree with – in or you muffle creativity.
Anyone who has tried to get an agent or have their book traditionally published, for instance, knows the struggle. If you are not a known quantity, it is not likely the gatekeepers will give you a chance. In fact, they will probably just shut the gate in your face. They don’t want to take a risk with an unknown quantity because they could lose money. But, if they don’t take a chance on new talent, how do we get new creative ideas out into the world?
How do we open the gates?