Heads of major corporations and legions of their minions deny the harms of cigarette smoking, or the possibility of making safer cigarettes, and millions die as a result. And this is only one of hundreds of similar stories involving every product you can think of and more. How many of these stories were first revealed in the pages of the New York Times? Not to say it hasn't sometimes happend, while other times stories are known to have been buried for years, often until after elections or other events that made them less timely.
World leaders, heads of major corporations, to some degree even the majority of people alive today contribute to Global Heating, a human caused change which may eventually destroy civilization, dooming the lives of billions, and most non-human species as well. Even if the outcome isn't quite that bad--it's going to be increasingly horrific for the next few hundred if not thousand years. This story does get covered, but is often underplayed, and not taken even as a problem by a substantial number of people including the US President himself.
And I could go on with with stories of vast preventable death and destruction which continues every day. The world we live in is terrible beyond belief when you stop to think about it this way, just looking at the dark sides and threats. In many many ways, including especially cheerleading for war--which may include inaccurately demonizing heads of other countries--major media outlets are themselves helping to make many of these problems worse. Those wars do continue often pointlessly killing thousands of people every year, and injuring and terrorizing virtually everyone.
But what story gets the best placement, the most attention, the most followup, in the well fitted pages of the New York Times? Of course, the touchy feeley ways of a movie producer noted for producing dozens of the more establishment challenging documentaries and independent movies ever made, helping to mint dozens of related stars and starlets, and in many cases bringing important issues to the attention and understanding of millions better than mainstream media did--perhaps saving millions or billions of lives in the yet to be written future.
My first thought was that it seemed like a waste of space which could have been used to cover more important issues. Scandals and shootings, just like my local rag. My second thought was--what made the Times run this story now? Was Weinstein about to start on a documentary of abuses of all sorts at the Times itself? Or maybe some of the issues that the Times forever gives short shrift. That would surely be more damning.
A Hero Sometimes
But what really got me off my chair was reading about how Harvey Weinstein essentially saved the most popular documentary of all time, Fahrenheit 9/11, from the evil clutches of the Disney Corporation led by Michael Eisner, who was determined to kill it (not even having seen it) probably for political reasons.* It is not a simple story. Michael Moore began making the movie with Mel Gibson as his producer. But Mel Gibson decided to sell off the movie to Miramax, which was the original Weinstein company. And, as the time, the Weinstein brothers were trying to sell Miramax to Disney for a cool $80 million, while supposedly retaining control over the company as well. This was The Big Time for the Weinstein brothers Bob and Harvey, who had started producing rock concerts in the New York area in the 1970's, then rolled their money into producing relatively low budget independent films and documentaries. They are often credited for bringing such movies into widespread distribution on the biggest screens all over the US. In the 1960's, you could hardly see such movies at all, by the 1980's they were available in very select artsy theaters. I remember such a theater very well, I enjoyed many movies there...but it had issues too.
*Fahrenheit 9/11 showed how Bush used the 9/11 incident cynically to further his plan to wage war in Iraq. This is a story now that we all take for granted. But at the time, many of the scenes in the move were a revelation to viewers, and might still be today for some. Moore released the film in early 2004.
Harvey fought Eisner primarily through subterfuge. He held off Eisner until the documentary was produced, and when Eisner found out how he had been deceived, he was furious. This quite possibly was the beginning of the end for the Weinsteins at Disney. Within a few years they were gone and had started their own company, The Weinstein Company.
Now, much later, Michael Moore sued Weinstein for not getting the agreed share. So maybe everything was not necessarily flowers. But Weinstein produced several more Moore movies, which I think are all gems.
A Hands On Producer
The 9/11 production shows what the bottom-of-the-moneypole producer like Harvey Weinstein did. He first job was keeping the bigger money people happy. His second job was keeping the production people going...in some sort of way that would keep the bigger money people from demanding even more sacrifices to the gods of commercialism and plutocratic politics.
It's not hard to see that this kind of middleman must try to maintain both love and fear, in the people on both sides. With the hugest egos in the world on both sides, and not lacking in the middle either.
It's has to be a very tough job, even for a very extroverted big and physical guy who used to produce rock concerts.
I'd always envied the kids who were thesbians in High School, and actors in College. They got to live vicariously through the imaginations of the greatest writers. I hardly went to plays or movies, and had a solitary and often boring life. I often wanted to talk to pretty girls. But most often all I could do was talk to my equally nerdy and introverted friends, about fear and other nerdy stuff.
So it's hard for me to imagine exactly what it's like, and yet, such is the human imagination, that I can.* A movie production is like a whirlwind, that lasts a few years, and any one person may participate for any certain length of that, not necessarily the whole, and then be off to another just like it, or something different.
(*Which is actually, one of the principal points of this essay, and to which I shall return.)
The Harvey Weinstein producer is there for the whole deal, but also doing other movies at the same time. This is the guy who never gets off the phone, or out of the last meeting, because there is always another. So, when does he take a bath?
Now Harvey himself has never been an actor, though he's probably played soft or tough quite well, as the situation demanded. Really, he just loves movies, and loves the fact that he's become one of the ultimate movie moguls.
More than anything, he wants to be the center of the production "family." The sugar daddy, alternatively creating love and fear, but in the end, everyone walks away getting most of what they wanted, and sometimes scoring beyond their dreams. It's high risk, high drama, and high tension.
[to be continued...]