Film History: New Hollywood – Timeline of Cinema Ep. 5


Hello everyone and welcome to our video series,
“A Timeline of World Cinema” I’m Bradley Weatherholt and I will be your
host on this journey through the history of film. In this episode we will discuss New Hollywood,
a period defined by the Film School Generation of filmmakers who grew up on television and
foreign cinema. These “movie brats” would go on to change
the world of cinema forever with the introduction of the blockbuster. The studio system provided a favorable environment
for established genres such as the western or the horror film. But it did not welcome films that went against
the formula, because they were considered risky. But because of the changing tastes in the
public, Hollywood was forced to adapt. Most of this change in taste came from European
cinema, particularly the French New Wave. Hollywood absorbed and adopted the practices
of European cinema, and began to reassert its power as the European film community was dwindling. Unlike before, when classical cinema only
accepted well-rounded, flat, easily-motivated characters, this new method of Hollywood filmmaking
began to accept characters who were confused and perhaps not as clearly motivated. At the same time, the classical method of
editing began to slack in favor of the new European style. Also, European films, which were much less
censored than the American ones, forced Hollywood and Washington to reevaluate the Hays Code. The MPAA loosened its rules. Allowing Hollywood
a new range of films to market to audience groups old enough to handle the amount of
sex and violence in the films. At the forefront of all this change was the
rise of television viewership. By 1965, almost 70% of primetime programming
came from newly converted television facilities of major studios. In a sense, television became a new way for
studios to control distribution post the anti-trust decision. The success of these theater packages on TV
led to a new product, the made-for-tv film. Many important directors of the time, including
Sam Peckinpah and Robert Altman, came up from television productions. Television eventually replaced radio as the
primary crossover medium to film. Rather than conquer film, as the popular misconception
goes, television developed as an interrelated medium with film’s mutual interests in mind. With the influence of television, came the
rise of a new type of filmmakers, who were producing a wholly different type of film. The first of these new films was Steven Spielberg’s
Jaws. Released in 1975, Jaws changed the entire
cinematic landscape. The film was the first major studio release
by Steven Spielberg, who like many other directors of the time, came up through television productions. Spielberg drew heavily on old Hollywood and
the Foreign Wave, citing the influence of monster b-movies of the Golden Age and Japanese
film Seven Samurai. Jaws thrilled audiences, becoming one of the
highest grossing films of all time. It assured studios that one successful gamble
could turn a poor year into a very profitable one. Released in June, Jaws cemented the summer
season tradition of high budget, high risk features The studio used a very aggressive marketing
strategy, and released the film on over 450 screens. The strategy proved profitable, and was often
repeated, making Jaws the father of wide releases. More than just a market success, the film
was a critical success as well. The minimalistic score and Hitchcock-inspired
shots continue to impress and scare viewers even four decades later. Two years after Jaws, Fox released Star Wars.
By this time, studios shifted focus toward these highly lucrative, high budget films. This left studios expecting regular, safe
income from secondary markets such as home media sales, merchandise, and television rights. Most of these films targeted a teenage audience,
a demographic that made up an increasingly larger share of box office returns. Teens resonated with the coming of age, or
also known as bildungsroman, narratives. These stories showcased young protagonists
who desperately sought acceptance from the adult community. George Lucas’s American Grafitti provides
an excellent example of this. The film, along with Lucas’s other work, is
a direct product of the period, and played a pivotal role in shaping the other types
of films that contemporaries would produce. However, if you are looking to find a man
who influenced other filmmakers of his period, it’d be difficult to find a man more influential
than Roger Corman. Throughout his illustrious career, Roger Corman
directed over 40 films, produced over 300, and launched the careers of over a dozen famous
filmmakers. Corman is mostly remembered for his low-budget
b-pictures, which he produced rapidly, efficiently, and profitably. In his autobiography, How I Made Over a Hundred
Movies and Never Lost a Dime, Corman revealed his anti-studio approach. This approach allowed Corman to produce an
astonishing nine films a year. Perhaps most infamous of these was the Little
Shop of Horrors, a film which according to legend, was shot in two days and one night. Besides his massive body of work, as well
as his American distribution of prominent films of the Foreign New Wave, Corman’s lasting
impact comes from his support of young filmmakers, who would become among the greatest of all
time. Under the tutelage of Corman, filmmakers such
as Ron Howard, Robert Towne, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Peter Bogdonavich
rose within the industry. James Cameron, another successful alumni,
called his period of study training at the Roger Corman film school. Because of his impact on these filmmakers
and his impressive body of work, Roger Corman will go down as one of the great figures of
cinematic history. In an era of war and political scandal, blockbusters
allowed audiences to escape. Star Wars sent the viewer back in time to
a far away galaxy, while Indiana Jones and Back to the Future provide a nostalgic spin
on the past. And if reality would not be fantasized, it
would be horrified. New Hollywood began to capitalize on a trend
that Alfred Hitchcock started with Psycho. Directors such as Sam Peckinpah and Francis
Ford Coppola sensationalized violence, in fact, glorified it. They provided outbursts on the screen that
corresponded to the social outbursts of the time. Look back on any political fear at the time,
and there is certainly a blockbuster which exploited it. Hollywood constantly upped the sexuality,
violence, and special effects of the blockbusters in order to engage an audience growing increasingly
desensitized. Studios would release these high budget, high
thrill blockbusters during the summer and use the proceeds to market more selective
pictures in the down season. This pleased directors since it allowed studio
endorsement for artistic and exclusive award season pictures. Studios had no problem releasing these pictures
because they were low budget and most of the buzz from the award ceremony would generally
market the picture for itself. Also during the down season, studios began
distributing the summer blockbusters for home release. In a sense, blockbusters were given a second
life with video cassette sales. What resulted was a mass distribution of American
films around the world, resulting in what is called “Americanizing” the globe. Employing the same tactics as before, this
New Hollywood acted remarkably similar to the old one. This trend is one that continues to take place
up until today. And we will discuss it further in the next
episode which follows modern cinema, the maturity of the blockbuster, and a new foreign response
to the exploitation of Hollywood.

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