Steven Soderbergh’s State of the Cinema Address

Steven Soderbergh talks very fast. Trying to take notes, I found myself trying to remember what he said three sentences back. He talked primarily about how the industry works, and why it's getting harder and harder to make cinema, which he described as work with a real, unique point of view. This is as opposed to a movie, which is made by a committee.

A few comments:

He talked about a guy sitting in front of him on a plane. He had a laptop or a tablet, and he was watching action sequences from multiple movies, skipping all narrative. “Mayhem porn,” Soderhergh called it.

He talked about Present Shock (there's a book by that name). The problem is that information and entertainment is coming at us all at once. “If there's no linear time, how can we tell what's going on. This is effecting how movies are made.

He worries about the whole purpose of art. “If the works of William Shakespeare can't stop genocide, what is art for?” But he also realizes that that “art is simply a given. We need to tell stories. To pass along ideas and make sense of all this chaos.”

He didn't talk much about technology, but he did say he was glad that films are becoming cheaper to make. He quoted Orson Welles: “I don't want to wait on the tool. I want the tool to wait for me.”

The big problem, in his view, is that it costs $60 million to release a movie, even if it's a low-budget independent movie. That means that even artful cinema has to be really popular.

He doesn't think well of studio heads. “Cinema is on attack by the studios. You'e got a trajectory that is very difficult to stop. The meetings have gotten pretty weird. There are people running studios who don't watch movies.”

He didn't talk about his decision to stop directing, but his reasons were clearly between the lines.

He left suddenly after talking for 45 minutes. There was no Q&A.