Academy Award Winner – Steven Soderbergh is not only one of the first 4K adopters, shooting more than 10 Hollywood movies in a row on RED digital cameras, but he is also one of the most inspiring and visionary contemporary filmmakers as well.
More than a year since his memorable “State of Cinema” speech on the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, his words still resonate with us today and raise a lot of questions.
What is really going with the cinema nowadays? Why do the Big Hollywood studios continue to produce more and more fluffy and featherbrained movies with enormous multi-million budgets with mundane and predictable plots, devoid of new ideas and full of prosaic content? For example, Soderbergh asks why don’t studios go back to their catalogs and find some obscure 50 year old movie, that’s actually good, and put some fresh talent on it. It may work. The problem according to him is:
“The sort of “executive ecosystem” is distorted, because executives don’t get punished for making bombs the way that filmmakers do, and the result is there’s no turnover of new ideas—there’s no new ideas about how to approach the business or how to deal with talent or material.
But, again, economically, it’s a pretty straightforward business; it’s the third-biggest export that we have. It’s one of the few things that we do that the world actually likes. [laughter]…”
Steven Soderbergh has made big-budget Hollywood films as well as art-house independent films. He has worked with “A-List” movie stars and complete unknowns. He’s directed adaptations and original material, both of which written by himself as well as other screenwriters. His versatility is also apparent with the genres which he chooses to film and his inter-changeable roles on a film set. He usually operates his own camera, and acts as his own cinematographer on some if his latest films (Contagion).
Soderbergh’s profound vision and mindset is really what makes the difference. His strong belief in the talented independent filmmakers with great ideas and great stories to tell is essential for his sentience and perception. It’s such a shame that the contemporary paradigm enforced by the big Hollywood studios has driven him to “retire” from film. Fortunately, he is still a part of the game and he always has something wise to share:
“So, whenever I despair I think, OK, somebody out there somewhere, while we sit here, somebody out there somewhere is making something cool, that we’re going to love, and that keeps me going. The other thing I tell young filmmakers: when you get going and you try to get money, when you go into one of those rooms to try and convince somebody to make it, I don’t care who you’re pitching, I don’t care what you’re pitching—it can be about genocide, it can be about child killers, it can be about the worst criminal injustice that you can imagine—but as you’re sort of in the process of telling this story, stop yourself in the middle of a sentence and act like you’re having an epiphany, and say: “You know what, at the end of this day, this is a movie about hope.” [laughter]”
One more time, a recall of the inspiring speech in HD:
State of Cinema: Steven Soderbergh from San Francisco Film Society on Vimeo.