Richard Linklater is reflecting on how Hollywood has changed for the worse with the rise of streaming.
The “Hit Man” writer-director told The Hollywood Reporter that perhaps the “last good era for filmmaking” has given way to the need for algorithm-friendly content with films just becoming “advanced delivery systems for advertising.”
“It feels like it’s gone with the wind — or gone with the algorithm,” Linklater said of the art of cinema. “Sometimes I’ll talk to some of my contemporaries who I came up with during the 1990s, and we’ll go, ‘Oh my God, we could never get that done today.’ So, on the one hand, selfishly, you think, ‘I guess I was born at the right time. I was able to participate in what always feels like the last good era for filmmaking.’ And then you hope for a better day.”
The “Boyhood” and “Before Sunrise” filmmaker continued, “But, man, the way distribution has fallen off. Sadly, it’s mostly just the audience. Is there a new generation that really values cinema anymore? That’s the dark thought. I have a film society and I run into so many young, cinema-loving kids who have the Criterion Channel and they watch all kinds of amazing movies. But I know that, culturally, that’s an exception. I fear that there’s not enough of a critical mass in the culture to sustain what was. But who knows? I don’t think I have any deeper analysis than anyone else would, and it’s not in my nature to make huge statements about whether it’s all over. I just feel we’re all treading water and hoping we don’t drown. Challenging times are certainly here.”
Linklater pointed to the “changing culture and changing technology” as to why Hollywood has lost sight of quality films.
“It’s hard to see cinema slipping back into the prominence it once held. I think we could feel it coming on when they started calling films ‘content‘ — but that’s what happens when you let tech people take over your industry,” the “Dazed and Confused” director said. “It’s hard to imagine indie cinema in particular having the cultural relevance that it did. It’s hard to imagine the whole culture is going to be on the same page about anything, much less filmmaking.”
The “Merrily We Roll Along” helmer added about the culture as a whole, “We can be self-absorbed and say it’s just about cinema, but it’s really all of our modern cultural life. You could say the same things about reading books. A lot of young people can’t really read a book, because they’re just on their phones. Some really intelligent, passionate, good citizens just don’t have the same need for literature and movies anymore. It doesn’t occupy the same space in the brain. I think that’s just how we’ve given over our lives, largely, to this thing that depletes the need for curating and filling ourselves up with meaning from art and fictional worlds. That need has been filled up with — let’s face it — advanced delivery systems for advertising. It’s sad, but what can you do?”
Linklater concluded, “I also don’t want to go through life thinking our best days are behind us. That’s just not productive. So, in your own area, you just have to persist and do what you can on behalf of the things that you believe in. You have to believe that everything can change and that things can go back to being a little better. Isn’t that what we all want for everything these days, from democracy on down? Can’t we just go back to being a little better?”