Coppola on the New Creative Economy

Nice interview with Francis Ford Coppola in The 99 Percent on his three rules “1) Write and direct original screenplays,  2) make them with the most modern technology available,  and 3) self-finance them” and much more. Along the way he laments that cinema was so quickly commercialized and he makes this very interesting comment about the future of content creation:

We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

 

Rational Irrationality

A great New Yorker essay by John Cassidy essentially arguing that people who make money by making things are better for the economy — rather than people who simply make money by making money. In this case, the two companies being compared are Apple and Goldman Sachs.

Why Net Neutrality Matters

From a recent pitch made to the telecomms, with my apologies to all my conservative friends who may have been taken in by Rush Limbaugh’s misdirection on this — on this, I think Limbaugh reveals that his pockets are deep and they are lined with other people’s interests.

netneutrality

I have uploaded the complete presentation, which was released over the internet, to my Scribd account, but it may not last long there. If not, search for “final_slide_deck” for “openet” and “allot” — one company’s name is revealing and the other misdirects. (The file appears as “Final Slide Deck” in [my Scribd library](http://scribd.com/johnlaudun/.)

Scattered Leaves

Yesterday afternoon my wife came home with what I found to be a rather telling story about the local art scene here in south Louisiana. Her and a friend had taken our combined three children to a nearby small town, which has carved out for itself a small antique and art scene. (There are a couple of these now, and so my obfuscation does leave room for mystery.) The five of them had left a shop and were pausing for a moment to enjoy a courtyard that had a layer of fallen leaves. The kids, being kids, were making the occasional pile out of leaves. The shop’s owner came out to watch what was going on, sighed, and noted quite audibly that she really liked the way the courtyard looked when the leaves were simply scattered by the wind. As if realizing that she had perhaps rebuked the two women, whose children were undoing the scattering, she then described one of her favorite photographs to them: it is of a girl who has thrown leaves up in the air and they are now falling all about her. My wife’s response, and that of her companion as well, was, well, if she had bothered to wait a moment, she would have seen it in action.

Leaves scattered on the ground!

For me, the anecdote captures exactly the strange twilight world of the local arts, and even to some degree the local academic, scene and its relationship to the local landscape and people. The local arts organizations, are very fond of invoking “Cajun” and “Creole” as things that enrich the local arts. Painters and poets draw upon their Cajun roots, or they produce work with a Cajun sensibility, or they capture Cajun folklife authentically.

That is, local arts organizations make much use of Cajun folklife in various ways, but the Cajun they have in mind lives mostly in the pages of books, and most of those books are quite old. The Cajuns they have in mind still make their way about the world on boats, run small cattle ranches, and trundle about the landscape on horses, or perhaps Model T Fords.

When it comes to actual Cajuns, who still tend to be rural and working class, they really don’t have much truck with them. That the farmers and fabricators that are still the economic backbone of this region and who don’t go much for the kind of events hosted by the local art organizations and universities are seen as a kind of drain on how lovely things could be. It helps, of course, that the city’s upper classes hold much the same view, which makes sense because it is these folks who attend local art and university events. They pay top dollar for tickets to see Beausoleil play, and everyone believes that Beausoleil *is* Cajun music. And it is. It’s just that it’s Cajun music for a very small percentage of Cajuns in Louisiana. Out on the prairies, I have met very few people who listen to Beausoleil. A number of folks still listen to Cajun music, but the music they listen to is not an art form, but a dance form, a social form.

Don’t get me wrong. A number of my friends produce some of the most beautiful Cajun music I have ever heard. And it’s Cajun music in as much as they are Cajuns and they made it, but it is not Cajun music in the sense that a large percentage of Cajuns listen to it. Nor is it, sadly, entering into oral tradition and becoming the basis for other innovation — though I could be wrong here, and I really would like to investigate the Lafayette scene to see how the incredibly innovative work here may also have some traditional dynamics.

But the qualification to the above is that it’s the Lafayette scene. It’s bounded. The Lafayette scene is not the Louisiana scene, and the constant conflation of the two is used by local organizations for profit: they sell themselves or the things they produce as the thing itself when they are not. I am sure this dynamic is to be found around the nation, and it’s probably an acceptable fiction by both the local organizations as well as their various funding sources, who probably would hold the actual “folk” at arms distance as well.

As a fiction, it is worth further study, and perhaps that will be my next project. I can imagine something like “Cajuns, Creoles, Cultures, Commodities.” If someone else wants to take the idea and run with it, feel free. I suspect that I am too close to it all to do the topic full justice: I myself belong to the local university. Many of the people involved in both the local arts organizations and the local university are my friends, acquaintances. Some of them, if they ever read this post, will be disturbed, perhaps even upset, by what I have written here. To them, I note that this is meant as critique, in the sense of understanding the work, and not as criticism. I engage in this kind of critique in the firm belief that the local arts and academic organizations find themselves in a status quo which, in fact, undermines their very desire to grow and to become more relevant. If we can unchain ourselves from just a few conventions, then perhaps we can do truly amazing things. If you are going to renovate a house, sometimes you have to remove a wall or two from the existing house.

**UPDATE**: A friend wrote in to note that by my definition of *Cajun* and the logic I pursue above, “Cajun music itself is not Cajun, because, judging from record sales, dancehall attendance and airplay, most Cajuns do not listen to it.” All I have right now are questions — and, who knows, this may be the end of this ling of thinking for me. Questions like: what does it mean for a “folk music” not to have its “folk” base any more? Or not to have it in the usual way — it begs the question of what is “usual.” What is the relationship between folk music and its folk? What happens when the tradition and the group seem to run in parallel?

None of these questions are at all useful to people trying to make a living playing, performing, writing or to the groups — local arts and academic organizations — that try to support them.

And I should be clear: folk music is not my area of expertise. Nor is public folklore. My focus is on creativity, and my current work is with farmers and fabricators.

Louisiana at Risk if China Slows Down

Yeah, I had a *wha?* moment, too, but I came across the following information while checking out the [Business Insider](http://www.businessinsider.com/)’s [Chart of the Day](http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day). Economists speculate that as the Chinese economy wobbles a bit — because everybody else is wobbling — a number of U.S. states/industries are more exposed to risk than others. They have ranked the states that have the worst exposure to risk from any significant slowdown in China. Of the top ten with the most exposure, Louisiana is fourth, following only behind California, Washington, and Texas.

Here is the relevant info:

> 2008 exports: $3.5 billion
> Exports to China growth, 00-08: 230%
> Top exports: Crop Production, Chemicals, Processed Foods
> Potential loser if China craps out: Dow Chemical Co. (employs 1,700)
> Source: US-China Business Council

To see all the states at risk: here’s the complete (http://www.businessinsider.com/ten-states-about-to-get-murdered-by-the-china-slowdown).

The good news here is that it is far from certain that the Chinese economy will indeed slowdown, nor is it clear how much it will slowdown.

And, yes, I read business magazines. I read them all the time.