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The hook in all of this, if you will, is that in conjunction with the film school, Mount and company are launching HollywoodBroadcasting.com (HBC), a loosely structured broadband studio or “internetwork” that shares office space on several floors and plans to stream 25 hours of live weekly content by Christmas. They have seven series in active development now, all of them featuring some take on reality-based programming, and just last week saw the soft launch of Schatz’s interview series, Final Cut, on which they were still working out the bugs.
“From the very beginning,” says Schatz, “it was conceived as this synergistic thing between the film school and HBC, two separate entities that have this crucial interdependence. The idea was to get the film school up and running, and then get HBC up and running.”
And, at least in the abstract, they provide perfect defenses for one another. The studio solves the film school‘s problem of placement: Where exactly will these graduates go to get jobs -- especially without the cachet of USC or UCLA? Now they can provide the manpower to bootstrap a global entertainment consortium. (Already, editing students are being paid to work one day a week at HBC.) And the school solves the problem faced by every Internet startup: What is the profit model? Even if finances are kept immaculately separate, 100 students times $20,000 will go a long way on paper toward reassuring fidgety investors or fiscal overseers of a revenue stream. The studio can subsidize the school’s shared equipment and facilities. And the students themselves can provide the enthusiasm and raw ideas that are the intellectual equity of any creative enterprise. Even if the school is currently running at half-capacity, or the technological challenges are proving more resilient than anticipated, even if some of the four-star faculty can‘t actually teach, and financial-assistance instruments and visa snarls are so far precluding the lucrative foreign market, the sheer proximity of these institutions makes for the sort of accidental synchronicities one would imagine the film business to be rife with, but which fear and greed have all but consigned to the history books.
Or at least that’s the idea.
In his career as an independent producer, Mount made Bull Durham and Tequila Sunrise, and gave Sean Penn his directing start with The Indian Runner. As the head of Universal, he greenlighted Scarface and Melvin and Howard and Missing and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, all of them valuable and intelligent movies. Maybe that‘s how anyone should ultimately be judged -- by his work. It may be a truism that “Those who can’t do, teach,” but that doesn‘t necessarily make it true.
“Filmmaking, finally,” says Mount, “is about a handful of people coming up with inspiration and passion around a single narrative idea and then, in an opportunistic fashion, combining a group of other similarly inspired maniacs and executing something in a way that is fresh and fertile and full of all of the possibilities of the moment. The minute you take that sense of gesture away from filmmaking and institutionalize it, at the very best you have studio product, and at the worst you have a giant number of film schools grinding out student films that are all equally unwatchable. Most film schools in America don’t teach film, they teach film appreciation. Which is a perfectly viable thing to do, but it‘s sort of like learning table manners. It’s useful in polite society, but it‘s not a requirement in life.”
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