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A Hollywood Gratitude Journal
For Thanksgiving: 10 reasons to at least fake grace in these challenging days
Well, Hollywood has a lot of reasons to feel like the gods have abandoned them this year. And we've had a lot of those years lately.
When it comes to giving thanks, there's going to be more than a few who would like to take the turkey platter and hurl it at the nearest passing Lexus.
But for all the cause we've got to gripe, this giving-thanks exercise must be done, just once a year. And then we can go right back to taking it out on our marketing team. So although our hearts may not be in it, consider this a cheat sheet. Should you be called on to express a little gratitude ’round the holiday table, here are a few things any citizen of showbiz can use.
The worst may still be ahead, but until it comes, we could be in worst places. Here are your 9 Reasons to Still Feel Grateful this Thanksgiving:
1. RIP Strikes of 2023
Hey, remember that time Hollywood was shut down for half a year by two simultaneous strikes and nobody could do anything about it?
Ah yes. Back in the golden days of a few weeks ago, it seemed like the end really was at hand. The writers and the actors guilds had both gone on strike. (Technically, the actors still are). The studios were run by penny-pinching plutocrats who would sooner drive the studios off a cliff than yield an inch to the working people. The Guilds were run by crazed Trotskyites too high on their commie cosplay to ever see the light of reason. The broadcast year was going to be gone! The last shreds of the film world up in flames! After all we'd been through, this really looked like the end for Hollywood.
And yet, here we are. Out of the most acrimonious divides Hollywood has seen in 80 years, we've got a deal that both sides seem... pretty much okay with. Gripes pop up here and there, but not anything that anyone wants to re-litigate particularly.
To be sure, this was another wrecking ball to Hollywood finances, corporate and personal. And the fallout from this may yet turn out to be the precursor to the great, long-feared consolidation.
But it hasn't happened yet! The big theme of this list is "___ lives to fight another day." And after the predictions of apocalypse, Hollywood walked away from the smoldering embers of the Strikes of 2023. Let's raise a glass!
2. The Hits Keep Coming
Maybe not the old ones. Maybe not the ones that Hollywood had banked on being hits. But in its dotage, we still showed the ability to get lots of millions of people to leave their homes and see Hollywood storytelling.
No, they didn't turn out like they were supposed to to the latest installments of Mission Impossible, the MCU, the DCU, Fast and Furious or Indiana Jones. Which collectively is a lot of hundreds of millions we'll never see again.
But they did show up in 2023 to Super Mario, Barbie, Across the Spider-Verse, Oppenheimer — not to mention Avatar 2 and Guardians 3. Which is not a terrible list.
Some rough weeks there, no question. But that's a lot of hits for a supposedly dead industry.
Now if it can just make it through 2024.
3. We Haven't Returned to the Dark Ages
Prior to 10 years ago, Hollywood effectively had not changed what it did or how it did it since… ever.
The Helms of Film and TV making were the provinces of aging white men who behaved however the hell they wanted without fear of consequences. Like it was 1914 and they were Cecil DeMille stepping off the train in untamed wilderness that they could rule as medieval warlords.
With the reckoning of the last decade, the walls were broken down. The screens suddenly saw all sorts of people playing all types of characters in all kinds of stories. And off-screen for the first time in Hollywood history, members of the leadership began to be held accountable for their behavior, up to and including going to prison for their crimes.
Now still miles to go before we sleep here. It's not like any of the tippy-top of studios or agencies are run by people who aren't white men yet and there have been signs lately that the tide is turning on some of the changes of recent days. But the notion that we'll regress to the status quo ante, where harassment is anybody's party and studios can put forth all white slates without a second thought — that doesn't seem likely to return anytime soon, if ever.
4. Comedy Lives
On the other hand, we seem to have stepped back from the excesses of just a couple years ago, when it seemed not a week passed when someone's career was torn limb from limb over a careless Tweet or insensitive remark from their distant past being resurfaced. (For those who still persist in thinking this didn't happen — yes it did. Apply within for details.)
Those hourly furors have not consumed lives as they did just a year ago, when many openly wondered whether it was possible to still make comedies in Hollywood.
We seem to have settled down into a pretty happy place where within the confines of respectable Hollywood people avoid saying vile and disgusting things (mostly), and other people stop calling for a different person to be run out of town every afternoon (mostly).
5. Other People's Money Still Flows
The greatest mortal threat the industry could face isn't strikes or the streaming crack up. It would be if billionaires from around the world stop having the bright idea that what they should really be doing with their billions is producing movies and going to Oscar parties.
It has seemed in recent times like the town was hell bent on scaring the thought out of anyone's head that they should spend money in Hollywood. But last week, we get a sign that the century old tycoons mambo line to the Hollywood coffers is alive and well as Atlanta's Domain Capital extended its slate deal with Warners Disc (previously set at $700 million) for a new undisclosed amount.
6. Awards Live
In the tumult of the last decade, the industry often seemed determined to kill off our awards shows, the biggest advertisements the industry — or any industry has — and the living testament to the glamour and spirit of Hollywood at its best (if not its most au courant).
Last year, however, Oscar ratings reversed their seemingly irreversible slide and ticked up a couple notches. The Academy also announced it was empowering an experienced television producer to produce its television show, which is so crazy, who knows it might just work.
Meanwhile, the SAG awards are moved to Netflix which one can dream will pull that show out of the inexplicable doldrums its festered in.
About the Emmys — the less said the better. And as for the Penske Media Frankenstein Mashup Cotillion, formerly known as the Golden Globes — who knows what the heck that's going to be by the time they're done.
Losing Oscar as a force would be a devastating statement for this industry. I know it will always exist, its not going to shut down, but if diminishes to the point where say, the Emmys are now, it would be a sad emblem of lost glamour for all to scorn.
But still, the sector whose death has long been foretold, remains, somehow, afloat.
7. There are Still Stars
Some! Taylor Swift to name the example right in front of your face.
They may do things their own way and may not reign on the same scale in the days of the monoculture (what does?) but they are still out there, flogging their brands in social media, with the studios currently desperately fighting for their time to get projects rolling again right now.
The ball is in Hollywood's court to provide roles that can enhance an actors appeal and enlarge their presences, but the players remain on the field.
8. We Are the World
For all the talk about the global cinema and our global competitors, still no one is building anything to rival Hollywood and no other language group has established a standing global presence like English-language productions out of Hollywood.
Various nations however are building followings in different genres and niches, and combined that could well end up biting off a good chunk of our business over time. But for the moment, we should count ourselves lucky that no full-service, international direct competitor to Hollywood in film and TV has stepped forward.
9. Silicon Valley On Our Side
The incursion, maybe the imminent absorption by our techie neighbors gives us plenty to keep us up at nights. Their ways are strange and suspect to us. Their works elsewhere in their empires often make us shudder.
But in one big they are not the legions of doom we could have had. For all Netflix, Amazon and Apple might see the entertainment process differently than we do, what they make isn't a galaxy of make-up tutorials and Mr. Beast monologues. What they've been making are things pretty cognizable as traditional movies and TV shows. You can argue about the relative quality of this streamer vs. this legacy studio, but there is nothing destructive about the genres they've gone into. Which there easily could have been.
In many ways, they are not that different than... the latest billionaire come to town to get into the movie business.
And so, as much as it would pain many to admit it, in the great battle for the future of entertainment, in many ways, we've got tech on our side.
Bonus! My personal one…
10. The Ankler Community
If you’ll allow me the floor. For another year, it fills my black heart with joy to be able to write for and with such a vibrant and intelligent community. The Ankler audience pushes me to stretch myself further and further to search for meaning in these days of confusion. Getting to write this newsletter has been the most satisfying experience of my career by a mile and every year gets more and more fulfilling.. I thank you all for taking this journey with me and giving me the chance to live this life at this subscriber-supported project. (And btw, if you have any thoughts about what we can be doing more of, less of, what we could be doing better or differently, I always love to hear from you at email@example.com).
And for another year, I’m not doing this alone, but have been joined by a team with whom we have grown this project while making it even smarter, more insightful and hopefully serving you better and better. To Sean, Lesley, Elaine, Peter, Andy, London, Rob, Matthew, ESG, Aimee and of course Janice — thank you all for taking this ride with me. Couldn’t have a better team of sledmates in this holiday season. Much gratitude for you all.
Happy holidays everyone!
Now that wasn't so hard, was it? I know, the caveats fall like rain from an El Niño atmospheric river. More tumult awaits. But at this moment, it could be worse. Much much worse for any of the reasons above.
So this week, take a few minutes to enjoy your meal, enjoy your cousins and out-of-town relatives and know that for all our troubles, any one of them would kill you in a heartbeat to get your job.
If you can’t afford The Ankler right now? If you’re an assistant, student, or getting your foot in the door, and want help navigating the craziness of this business but don’t have the money to spare, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll work it out. No mogul or mogul-to-be left behind here at The Ankler.