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Rhetorical Analysis: Pollack, The Way We Are

Madison Strasmann

University of California, Berkeley

College Writing R1A


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Rhetorical Analysis: Pollack, The Way We Are

Are films a form of art or should they just be considered products? Sydney Pollack is an

award-winning director of over sixteen films and has experience as an actor. In Pollacks speech

The Way We Are, he uses his vast experience to bring forth a point that films are the work of

artists but are financed as commodities (Pollack). As more films are being created, it can be

inferred that films are often start as potential works of art, but big corporate studios interfere in

the directors creativity by focusing on how a film will do financially and following a set formula

to achieve success.

Pollack introduces his argument by discussing the two essences of the film business: the

creators and the bankrollers. He claims, It takes two distinct entities, the financiers and the

makers, to produce movies, and there is a tension between them. Their goals are sometimes

similar, but they do different things. Financiers are not in the business of philanthropy. Theyve

got to answer to stockholders (Pollack). He similarly comments, Film studios are tiny divisions

of multinational corporations, and they feel the pressure for profits happens in any other

repeatable-product business. They look for a formula (Pollack). This statement corresponds

with the types of films that are being made and doing well in the box office. Furthermore, this

also can also explain why corporations interfere with a films content.

Pollack uses these ideas to affirm that films are products rather than works of art. By

bringing up the two entities of the film business and relating them to the top movies of this year

(2017), it can be seen that the interference of studio corporations in the film-making process not

only puts a film off schedule, but also tarnishes the art of the film. The top films of 2017 yielded

results that favor Pollacks view: that films are products.


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Currently, some popular film genres that the movie studios are pushing include

adventure, action, comedy, drama, and horror films. According to an article on the-numbers.com,

adventure movies have been making the highest revenue in North America from 1995 to 2017

totaling 45.67 billion dollars. In fact, the adventure film category yielded over forty percent of

North Americas box office in 2016 (the-numbers.com). Correspondingly, the top ten grossing

movies of 2017 are Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2,

Spider-Man: Homecoming, It, Despicable Me 3, Logan, The Fate of the Furious, Dunkirk, and

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017 Domestic Grosses). Of these ten movies, six of them fall in the

adventure (superhero) genre. This relates to Pollacks idea that, They [the major movie studios]

look for formulas (Pollack). For example, all of the top ten films listed above were directed by

experienced directors. These directors realize that in order to have the opportunity to make more

films they need to please the studio corporations. Pollack similarly states, If the people who

make the films get the money that is invested in them back to the people who finance them, then

theyll get to make more (Pollack). By looking at the top grossing films of 2017, it can be

inferred that big film studios (including Warner Brothers, Buena Vista, Sony, and Universal) are

allocating a large portion of their budgets into adventure films, and even more specific

subdivision: superhero films. This can be proven by simply looking up what films are being

released in 2018. Some of the more popular films coming out in the next year (2018) include

Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Deadpool 2, The

Preadator, Aquaman, M:I 6- Mission Impossible, X-Men: Dark Phoenix. These films are just a

few of the many adventure/superhero films that will be released in the next year. There are many

of these films being produced because the studios know that this is where they will gain the most
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revenue, which will enable the companies to keep making movies. Other than the box office

results, as these films are not always considered art by others.

David Cronenberg is a Canadian filmmaker, mostly known for horror films. Cronenberg

believes that the enormous budgets and famous cast members bring a great deal of studio

attention and that this damages the artistic integrity of a film (Puchko). He states, Anybody who

works in the studio system has got 20 studio people sitting on his head at every moment, and

they have no respect, it doesnt matter how successful [the director is]. Hes got a lot of power

relatively speaking. But he really doesnt have the power (Puchko). For example, Guillermo Del

Toro is a notable Mexican film director, who has won over 55 awards and has a lot of experience

in the film business. Del Toro complained, The people with the money are assholes. They look

back and they want to stay in a safe place, while the filmmakers want to go forward (Mintzer).

Del Toro is describing how the financiers of his films in the past have tried to make decisions on

his film that have gone against his artistic wishes. The financiers try to manipulate the directors

to ensure that the film will be palatable to the general public. This comes back to the two

essences of the film business: the makers and the financiers. It illustrates how there is tension

between the two and this affects the way a film is presented to the public. In order for the

director to keep his job, he needs to not only please the financiers of the project, but also create a

film that they themselves would enjoy. In an article written by Kristy Puchko, she analyzes how

the movie The Avengers did well. She notes that the director Joss Whedon had full support from

his studio, including the producers and screenwriters. This was evident in how they listened to

Whedons (the directors) instincts: shifting the focus to Loki and bringing back the Black

Widow, among other significant changes (Puchko). On the other hand, the upcoming Han Solo

film that is being produced by Disney, does not have the same circumstances. The studio
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recently fired their two directors (Christopher Miller and Phil Lord) due to creative

differences. Miller and Lord didnt have the support of their producer and tensions were formed

immediately when they began to shoot the movie (Kit). Without the full support of their team,

they were not able to create a film that artistically they felt represented how they saw the topic.

Furthermore, this just goes to show how the interference of the studio corporations only put the

film behind schedule and spending more money that they were not originally.

Ultimately film corporations interfere with a films potential to become a work of art by

focusing on how well it will do in the box office and by trying to follow a set formula. Although

it may start as a work of art, the studios desire for money tarnishes the artistic integrity turning

the film into a product. By drawing upon his own personal experiences and eliciting sympathy

from the audience, Pollack proves that films are products. This can further be proven by looking

into other directors personal experiences and recent top films (2017).
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References

Kit, B (2017, June 20). Star Wars: Why the Han Solo Film Directors Were Fired. Retrieved

October 21, 2017 from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-why-

han-solo-movie-directors-were-fired-1015474

Mintzer, Jordan. Guillermo Del Toro on Film Business: The People with the Money Are

Assholes. 17 October, 2017. Retrieved from

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/guillermo-del-toro-film-business-people-

money-are-assholes-1049497

Pollack, S. (n.d.). The Way We Are. Speech. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from

https://bcourses.berkeley.edu/courses/1465513/files/folder/Readings/U5%20Readings?pr

eview=71516729

Puchko, K (2012, August 15). David Cronenberg Says Superhero Movies Arent Art, Including

The Dark Knight Rises. Retrieved October 21, 2017 from

https://www.cinemablend.com/new/David-Cronenberg-Says-Superhero-Movies-Aren-t-

Art-Including-Dark-Knight-Rises-32501.html

the-numbers.com. (n.d.). Most popular movie genres in North America from 1995 to 2017, by

total box office revenue (in billion U.S. dollars). In Statista - The Statistics Portal.

Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/188658/movie-

genres-in-north-america-by-box-office-revenue-since-1995/.

2017 DOMESTIC GROSSES. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2017, from

http://www.boxofficemojjo.com/yearly/chart?yr=2017

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