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Meet Arthur Diennet of Diennet Productions in Beverly Hills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Arthur Diennet.

Arthur, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in the Bahamas. And I wanted to be an actor, damn it. But, nobody else was making movies at the time. So, the task fell to me to make my own.

Of course, nobody else wanted to make movies with me, either. This was before YouTube and the Duplass brothers, so the idea of making videos or films by yourself was outlandish and seemed foolish to everyone around me. Blair Witch Project was still seen as a non-recurring phenomenon.

My dad was a doctor and an open-minded guy and he saw how dejected I was, so he decided to help me make my film and be in my film.

We started making our first movie; If God Wants in the summer of 2005, a full year before YouTube went live. It took four years to finish it and along the way, loads of crazy crap happened that I’ll skip for now.

The movie got limited distribution in the South and was well-received as far as home movies masquerading as feature films go. And somebody from Fox saw it. They gave me another chance.

Helped us raise money to make another. Same thing as last time, me and my dad together. That one took WAY longer. Turns out, it’s pretty tough to make a movie in LA, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing. You’d think it’d be the other way around, but LA ain’t that kinda town.

In the end, it came out and was supported by the New Filmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival and a few other production companies and distributors who got it into the hands of Gravitas Ventures, who took a final chance on me and distributed it worldwide (with some help from Myriad Pictures.)

Now, the sky’s the limit. I think maybe that’s why it’s so hard in LA to make it. Because once you have the tiniest bit of success, people can reliably use that to gauge whether or not you’re truly reliable, truly to be trusted. Because if you can cross that finish-line the first time, you can probably do it again, much better and much easier…I hope forever.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has been a series of broken bridges over deep, dark canyons, gates shut tight and booby trapped causeways, all uphill and mostly navigated incorrectly by me, with ignorance, arrogance and naïveté. I’ve experienced police shutting down the set, I’ve experienced crew strikes, I’ve experienced actors breaking contract and demanding thousands of dollars otherwise they’re quitting the movie, leading to their replacement of another actor and subsequent reshooting of all their scenes.

A lack of leadership on a film set leaves a void of power that anyone will try to fill, regardless of logic, regardless of whether you are their employer and ESPECIALLY regardless of the fact that they were hired to make the movie in the first place. Of course, that may have been my poor choice of co-workers and it was certainly my inexperience and weak leadership at the time.

But, I’m glad it happened. In the end, I’m lucky to be able to say that it was all my fault and it all worked out. Not everyone can say that.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Diennet Productions story. Tell us more about the business.
Diennet Productions specializes in making my movies, or really any movies I can get made. One movie was hard enough but I’d like to diversify and make as many productions as possible. Exponential growth takes momentum and the company is finally gaining some. Ask me again in a year for I have many projects in the works, including my follow-up feature Clairevoyant.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think Hollywood has been in an ever-downward spiral since the turn of the century. And no, the culprit is not superhero movies. They’ve always been fantastical trends like sci-fi in the 90s, action in the 80s (with some spillage into the 90s), the huge musicals of the 60s that served as the last gasp of the big studio talkie trend that started all the way back in 1927 when people said “Talkies” (films with sound and dialogue) were a trend in and of themselves! Fads are nothing new and God damn it, they’re positively HOLLYWOOD.

In fact, I think superhero movies might be the only true continuation of proper Hollywood left. What do I mean?

As religion’s influence waned during the transition from the 19th to the 20th century, the Church’s function as the primary institution for the exploration of the human experience – of the human soul – shifted to the arts (which the Church had been co-opting all along, anyway!)

This massive existential responsibility was left at the feet of the novelists, musicians and, now, filmmakers. And they all took up the mantle beautifully, I believe. But, the filmmakers were my favorite.

From the very beginning, they sought to make people feel things and think things that they had never or could never think and feel. No longer did people have to imagine, they could see it right in front of their eyes. This allowed a level of playful reflection that many cultures had never been able to afford. Imagination became subtextual and voracious. I think it is no coincidence that the expansion of human imagination coincides on a one to one scale with cinema.

The explosion of science fiction and fantasy, the normalization of magic and dreaming, these are semi-off-limit concepts in the 19th century and earlier. You would not be persecuted for speaking of them, but, you would be thought an idiot to partake in the pagan sputtering reserved for the poor and simple-minded. Or, at least, that seemed to have been the consensus of polite society.

So, then…if I cherry-pick history and the broken, delayed progression of western art from the cave drawings to Plato to Martin Luther to Shakespeare to now…this current artistic lineage starts with Dickens, right? Then, HG Wells, then movies come onto the scene. Animation. That one film where the train is heading straight for the camera. Where the bandit fires his gun right into the lens. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and so on. Then, WWI. I think cinema’s reaction to World War 1 were these films that had SOMETHING TO SAY. They increasingly required six-reels of film or more to say it. These were big ideas. These were feature films like we’re still used to today.

These larger thematic narratives emerge to make sense of all this new living we’d been up to. A kind of living that was more complex than we were used to. Birth of a Nation, The Kid, Battleship Potemkin. These are no longer side-shows and “experiences” but stories. In the Classical sense.

Cinema was the closest thing to reality and the closest thing to dreaming that we’d ever had as an art form. Of course, we went to the moon the same century that movies caught on. I’d say it might’ve even been because they caught on. Could anyone have fathomed A Trip To The Moon if Georges Méliès had not done it first?

In the same way that Donald Trump’s space force logo looks eerily similar to Star Trek’s Starfleet Command Insignia, I believe Cinema has been a test-ground for societal ideas. An ethereal playground for the collective consciousness of humanity.

By the end of the 20th century, studios would blow hundreds of millions of dollars on movies whose sole purpose was to examine and expound on the human condition. Movies like Titanic, Fight Club, Scent of A Woman, Meet Joe Black were these epic in scope and scale (and budget) intimate portraits of human questions. They were important to the health of society at that time. Like exercise for your mind and soul.

And I think, for some subconscious reason, 9/11 ended that. America has become a society that, increasingly, cannot reconcile with the truth about what it has become and so has increasingly fled to the fantastical to cope. Hence why B movies became A movies and A movies died. But, this was in vain, for the fantastical is where much of America’s introspection has taken place since the Iraq War as, to misquote Thanos from a certain popular superhero film: “Dread it. Run from it…[it] arrives all the same.”

The creation of Superhero movies are as much a reaction to the disempowerment we’ve all experienced as a result of the new millennium as the creation of superheroes was a reaction to the disempowerment felt by those living through the Great Depression. A war that seemed pointless, followed by an economic crisis that seems meaningless? Sound familiar?

Iron Man came out exactly three months before the economic crisis. As if called into existence by fate itself. Did the desire for such a character come as a preventative measure from the collective unconscious? To preemptively stop social unrest by humanizing and endearing millions to a truly philanthropic billionaire who saves us all through self-sacrifice? One who earns his position of privilege on a level much deeper than a balance sheet? The satisfaction of this subconscious desire is giving me chills as I write this.

And when you write enough, you realize many of these ideas are not your own and you’re merely a conduit to a higher purpose. Even now as I’m writing this, I feel the aether shadowing my keystrokes, acting as a wind at my back. These superhero movies, I believe more than many other contemporary films, serve that purpose.

Now, for many reasons, very few movies are performing societal maintenance. Very few movies are upholding their end of the bargain. Hollywood accrued all of this wealth and power as a result of an unspoken agreement; this massive responsibility laid at its feet. “When I need to escape.” said the man in Iowa. “When life is unbearable and I don’t know where to turn.” Said the divorcée. “When my feet are too heavy to go on and I just don’t want to be myself anymore,” Said the baker and the housewife and the construction worker. “When I even go so far as to not want to exist at all,” Said all of us at one point or another. “I’ll turn to you, cinema, and you’ll help me forget and maybe help me understand and maybe even help me get back up again.” We all said unanimously as we handed the box office $8.

That’s why ‘themes’ are in stories at all. They help us. They’re good for us and they feel good to us. But, now, very few filmmakers share that view with me. I am often compared to an 8th grade English Teacher with my love of themes and messages, but, well, how did ignoring them work out for DB Weiss and Dan Benioff? Can anyone rewatch Game of Thrones now? Knowing how it ends? HBO’s scramble to snatch up the streaming rights to Warner Bros’ DC Superhero slate answers that question.

Besides, where do you think we got the idea that Hollywood is the moral center of America? Why do you think Social Media Influencers (arguably the closest thing to a replacement to Cinema in terms of a function) need to convince the public of this veneer of altruism, of being a down-to-earth individual who cares for the personal well-being of the viewer. That’s the natural tribal agreement. It’s the witch-doctor’s contract writ large.

Now that Hollywood doesn’t respect its responsibility to society, society no longer respects Hollywood. Viewers are voting with their dollar. Attendance is massively down, even with massive inflation ballooning box office totals. Fewer people go to see movies and not because of phones and TV and the internet and every other excuse that every executive has made to explain away their failings and keep their jobs.

Movies just kinda suck more these days than before. They’re, like, five really good ones a year…and that’s in a good year. There used to be tons and most 7/10s from 1989 are better than most 10/10s from 2019. This isn’t some weird phenomena where viewers are unwashed masses, ignorant to true quality and it’s a mystery why cinemas are dying. It’s ’cause they deserve to. They’re not good enough to survive. They don’t deserve the money anymore. So, there’s less money to go around than ever in a time when certain people are being paid more than ever? Sound familiar, too?

The trends and shifts are not looking good. The studios are more concerned with selling microwaves and parroting Corporate HR rhetoric than selling movies (how many times has a film touted its theme of ‘Family’ like a boss pressuring you into working unpaid overtime?) and the independent filmmakers (the real ones, not the stars masquerading as indies,) are stretched too thin, too stressed and too poor to ask those questions well and survive. At least, most of them. Hell, even Peter Jackson is STILL trying to sue for his Lord of the Rings royalties.

The studios make less money so they insert ways to sell more product into the films. Films increasingly become a tool to strategically raise stock prices and move merchandise, throwing their social contract to the wayside. Meanwhile, the public has increasingly realized that they’re paying to watch commercials.

In Dungeons and Dragons terms, the industry is in what’s called a ‘Death Spiral’, where being hurt just gets you more hurt. Where that damage you accrue weakens your abilities and it becomes increasingly unlikely that you’ll ever pull yourself out. But this is America. We’ve been making comebacks since 1776, haven’t we?

And that’s the real thing; Hollywood’s just a microcosm of the rest of American society. People came here for a dream. They stayed through unlivable wages and unreasonable treatment because they never forgot that dream. Their lives wouldn’t make sense without that dream. All that wasted time… And either they leave (like millions try to) or they think they might be the one who can change it? I don’t know. I might just be projecting.

TLDR: Comic book movies will wane, something new’s brewing. And it’s not more fantasy. We’re well on our way to seeing another studio collapse like in the 60s and 70s. And the thing that came out of that was the Hollywood Renaissance. The American New Wave. But the next collapse will be even bigger thanks to the semi-decriminalization of monopolization and I’m going to be at the forefront of it. I’m going to make sure we serve our function to society because it’s the only way the industry can come back from the very brink. We are the magicians of society. The warriors, the lovers and even the Kings and Queens need us like we need them.


Image Credit:

Chiara Dollak, Paul Smith, Chris Davidson, Charlie Sarroff, Steve Escarcega

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