The Hollywood Mythspiracy

This is a guest-post.  One of our underused media assets is Hollywood.  I asked my brother Nick, who co-wrote 'Fun with Dick and Jane', to chime in. I just saw it, and it's a very good smart film with a strongly liberal narrative.

Firstly, let's get the important stuff out of the way.  I'm Matt's brother, and I wrote "Fun with Dick and Jane." It's very funny and you should all see it.  I guarantee you'll enjoy it.  I've written bad movies -- this isn't one of them.  Go to moviefone now!  Buy tickets! Tell your friends!  OK.  Now that I've plugged my movie, onto political discourse.

While the conservatives may have cornered the market on cable news and AM stations, the Limbaugh conspiracy theory really is true -- liberal Jews run Hollywood.  Conservatives have to search far and wide to find sympathetic talent (ie. why is Ron Silver on the road to becoming an ambassador?  That's not even B-list talent.)

It's depressing, but unsurprising, that in terms of things political, us Liberal Hollywood Jews (LHJs) have such a limited sway over how the country thinks on important issues.  That's where the Limbaugh conspiracy breaks down.  Hollywood may be liberal, but in the end, does anyone care what Warren Beaty thinks?  Of course not.  Nor should they. He's an old, rich, horny fool.  I might think he's a good actor, but I roll my eyes when he protests the Governator.

"Fun with Dick and Jane" (which, again, you should all see) has a relatively overt liberal message.  However, that message has received none, or very little, mention in the press.  Creatively, I discovered something interesting.  At the beginning of the process, I was incredibly excited to fill the film with political message (like in Hal Ashby's Shampoo).  However, every Gore-Lieberman poster (the movie takes places in 2000) and Bush reference takes one out of the movie, distracts from the laughs.  Movies are supposed to be entertaining.  Anything that distracts from entertainment feels preachy and extraneous.

In the end, there is no intersection between Hollywood and the Democratic Party (or none that I have noticed besides that of fundraising).  This is a missed opportunity of gargantuan proportions.  There are hundreds of writers and actors and directors who are angry and who want to do something besides give money.  We are expert message machines offering our (generally overpriced) services for free and the Democratic Party does not use us.  We create villains and good guys, we write America's jokes, we create the narrative of America, the lines that are repeated by boys and girls, men and women, over lunch and the water cooler and we have been left completely un-consulted.

Why didn't Michael Bay direct an awesome action adventure ad where John Kerry singlehandedly blows up the terrorist insurgency with a solemn nod of his granite-chiseled chin?  Why weren't the writers of SNL and the Daily Show brought in to create hilarious, ruthless anti-Bush spots that would have been forwarded all around the internet?  Why wasn't James Brooks hired to create a touching, pull-the-heartstrings Kerry-Edwards-cares-about-the-voter commercial? This schlock works -- remember that 9/11 Bush ad where he's holding the crying girl?  With the Hollywood talent the Democratic party has at its disposal, we could have blown that spot out of the water, made it look like a mediocre episode of Touched by an Angel next to our sinking of the Titanic.   I don't care if you think "I am king of the world" is a cheesy line -- it made people cry.  Nothing Kerry said made people cry.   Except perhaps accidentally, out of boredom or pain.

During the 2004 election, Kerry's people had a brief meeting with the top writing talent in Hollywood and asked for jokes and message ideas.  Unsurprisingly, his campaign used none of it.  When the Democratic Party was thinking of their new slogan (A Better Choice, is that even it?  I can't remember, that's how good it is), why didn't they call us?  The Democratic Party has a lock on the hearts and minds of Hollywood and Hollywood has a deep understanding of how to create message -- so why not start using us?

Tags: Media (all tags)



Forgive me but...
"We are expert message machines offering our (generally overpriced) services for free and the Democratic Party does not use us.  We create villains and good guys, we write America's jokes, we create the narrative of America, the lines that are repeated by boys and girls, men and women, over lunch and the water cooler and we have been left completely un-consulted."

Is that why attendance is down? Is that why blockbuster after stupid blockbuster has underperformed this year? The message I get from the Hollywood message machine is condescending and self-important.

Perhaps this is a product of the PR firms and executives and you mean something else. I know that script-writers can have their work altered beyond recognition by the time it gets to the screen.

If so, I apologize.

Also let me add that I intend to see Dick and Jane, but why couldn't the studio have found someone BESIDES Tea Leoni? Blech! Even Jenna Elfman would be better.

by MNPundit 2005-12-29 06:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Hence the Warren Beaty point.  Of course there's enormous arrogance from Hollywood, and there's also tremendous talent that shapes the narrative of the country.  It's powerful.
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-29 06:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Beatty point reminds me of...
Don Henley. Freaking hypocrite goes and performs like a prostitute for that defense contractor's daughter's batmitzvah.
by Pravin 2005-12-29 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Beatty point reminds me of...
Don Henley also gave millions of dollars to keep the last bit of wilderness in Portland Oregon free from condos. So he's not all bad.
by peacemonger 2005-12-29 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Beatty point reminds me of...
Good to know.
So indirectly the defense contractor's money helps Beatty makes such donations. In a way, it's good to see some of the blood money being used for things right wingers can't stand.
by Pravin 2005-12-29 10:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
I think that he makes many valid points.  Yes, the dollars are down for Hollywood, but it still represents a tremendous talent pool.  Is it the final answer to all of our problems?  Probably not, but it certainly does not hurt to consult with "experts" of any kind.  The republican noise machine has made PR an "art" of sorts.  Why can't we fight back in kind, but with Holloywood?
by Mark J. Bowers 2005-12-29 06:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Daily Show
The least those overpaid hacks in Shrum and Co. could have done was pay the Daily Show for one of their Cheney lying montages and just aired them as is if they were too lazy to come up with their own ideas.
by Pravin 2005-12-29 08:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Daily Show
TDS consistently does a better job of advancing Democratic messages than The Democratic Party.  This is because of bad spokepeople in the party on TV, mostly.

When "King Kong" has its pressers and talk show circuit runs, do they send out the personality-free Key Grip to go on Letterman?  Does the dorky Sound Editor get to sit in a hotel and give interviews?

Fuck no they don't.

by Sam Loomis 2005-12-29 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Daily Show
I want to agree with you that "TDS consistently does a better job of advancing Democratic messages than The Democratic Party," but the more I watch it the more I see TDS writers resorting to the same cliches of Democrats as spineless and without a plan, and of Dean a nut.

I'd argue that TDS sticks it to Bush as well as anyone does these days, but they are more than willing to dump on Democrats for laughs.

TDS is a good thing, but they will resort to Republican talking points to fill air time.

I think your later point, that Dems need to learn from Hollywood how to promote themselves, is a better idea than learning how to do it from the Republicans.

by thief 2005-12-29 09:54AM | 0 recs
Re: you
Well, I think they advance our cause in subtle ways, not overt.  And i'm glad they bag on Dems sometimes.  When they do, it's usually needed.

But I can't tell you how many time I have read through a few informative blogs like ThinkProgress or this one, and then I turn on TDS and they are spewing a lot of the same under-the-radar info I just read that day.  And then I flip on CNN, MSNBC and see our elected officials totally clueless and unable to retort well, when if they had only done their homework they could do SO much better at fighting back.

I think that's what I meant to write.

As far as learning from Hollywood, my post below sums it up well.  Last weekend, Hollywood made my wife get very emotional and cry by showing her a fake monkey made from computers.  Now, if they can do that to one woman, they should be able to make a drip like Kerry or Bayh into a rock star.

btw, I read last fall that Bayh had actually hired some Hollywood speech coaches to buff up his public speaking.  Good for him, if true.

by Sam Loomis 2005-12-29 10:04AM | 0 recs
first and foremost, they are comedians.  they gotta get a laugh.  and dean as a nut, while not true, always gets a laugh.

tds does more to advance truth in media than anyone else, so i happily let the punchlines that don't adhere to progressive talking points slide, just as long as they get a laugh.

remember, as soon as they stop getting laughs, they are off the air.

by skippy 2005-12-29 03:53PM | 0 recs
Re: you
They did try with Kerry.  They failed.
by howardpark 2005-12-29 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
The Dems will not be overtly associated -- or even indirectly, if it can be "directly" traced back -- with the "Liberal Hollywood Elites" because republicans have made the Hollywood Liberal caricature toxic.  I can see the FauxNews segments now... and O'Liley drooling over his talking points and shit crazy commentary about any consultations between Dems and some sort of Hollywood PR workshop.

If Hollywood writes want to help Dems they are free to do so, just contact the DNC, DCCC or DSC as individuals with any advise.  Of course, the difficulty lies in finding someone within the DNC, etc, with the guts an imagination to put that message to work.

by bedobe 2005-12-29 09:24AM | 0 recs
The GOP is going to attack us as the party of Hollywood elites no matter what we do. We may as well make the most of it. They don't need any reality-based hook for their smear campaigns.  We all know this very well by now.  

Acting all fraidy cat just gives unwarranted credibility to their stupid smear tactics.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 10:05AM | 0 recs
So, we're in agreement -- that's my point, that the GOP and their surrogates will attack the Dems: 1) No matter what, 2) Will resort to their tired talking points re: "Hollywood Elites," 3) The MSM will serve as an echo chamber.  But this is all obvious, and that wasn't my point.  My point was that the real challenge would be to find someone in the leadership of the Democratic party would say, Fuck it! And creatively use the message crafting resources that are available in Hollywood and elsewhere.  But, lemme say it again, the real challenge is not what the GOP et al would do, the real challenge is finding the fortitude to go at them with all we got.
by bedobe 2005-12-29 10:26AM | 0 recs
I didn't get that from reading your post the first time. I do now.
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 11:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Sorry
PS.  To add to my point, as others are noting and as it's increasingly clear, re: using all resources available (in Hollywood and elsewhere (ie. MoveOn, Blogsphere, Peace activists, etc.)): what we have here is a battle between establishment insiders and the rest of us, outsiders.  An insider has to be flipped and then realize that the resonant messages are already out there.  Those messages can be found all over the blogsphere, in grassroots get-togethers all over the country and in the vocabulary of leading activists.  Those messages, of course, need to be distilled and collected into something that resembles a national platform, but the real question is, Will establishment insiders be brave enough to let go of control just enough to let some of the outsiders in?

At the moment I personally don't see any incentive for the insiders to let the outsiders in... outsiders just don't have enough clout at the moment, and the insiders are still figuring out the best way to use us (mainly as ATM machines, I fear).

by bedobe 2005-12-29 12:04PM | 0 recs
This Is Why It's Got To Be Such Bloody Combat
It's not that we want to do it, but the establishment is just not going to yield us anything.

We're going to have to defeat some of their candidates, before this is over.  They won't even start to take us seriously until we do.

This is not to say, however, that everyone in DC is "the establishment." John Conyers is certainly not, for example. Nor is Dennis Kucinich.  More generally, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus are generally our allies in this.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 12:12PM | 0 recs
Outsiders vs. Insiders
You bring up a great point with the insiders outsiders thing. So does thief, when he says that we shouldn't just assume that what works for neo-cons is a good idea for us.

  1. NeoCons want the world to be run by a cabal of super rich, super powerful theocrats whose whose rigid but brittle control hinges on the stasis of the status quo -- and that's how they run their party.

  2. A Liberal/Progressive worldview has no loyalty to the status quo so long as a better option exists. This is the essence of free-market economy, of efficiency, productivity, of fairness and all that good stuff. This is how the grassroots, the netroots, and progressives approach politics and ideas, sink or swim.

So given our party's unloyalty, or rather, non-loyalty towards the national status quo, why in the hell do the D-trip and the DLC (to name only 2) care so much about status quo and central authority within the party?

P.S. If this means there's a schism on the left by 2008, bring it on. I'm not a friend of the status quo and I'm not afraid of a war of ideas. Plus my side will win.

P.P.S. I would also like to take a few pages to agree with the vast majority of the other stuff in this thread, but I won't.

by msnook 2005-12-29 02:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
I guess the Clinton's very public association with the Thomasons was so obvious that the right never noticed.
by tib 2005-12-29 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
What do you dislike about Leoni so much?  I wouldn't call her a great actress, but she's pleasing to the eye.

Hollywood receipts are down quite substantially this year, but there are multiple reasons for that (not just the the product itself).  Considering all the technological and cultural change the movie industry has weathered over the past 100 years, I think they'll find a way to get over this bump in the road.

by Double B 2005-12-29 06:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Stoller's brother: "Hi, I see you're at war and you're losing badly, and it occured to me that we've got warehouses of rifles sitting around. Would you like some?"

MNPundit: "How dare you offer, and oh yeah, I hate your tie."

by thief 2005-12-29 07:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Hollywood plays another, more important and deeper political role: Hollywood is a tremendously powerful piece of the "liberal culture" which makes conservatives so apoplectic.  This culture is more powerful than politics, as arch-conservative Paul Weyrich writes.  It is the reason why, despite conservative control of all three branches of government, that gay rights have advanced, not retreated, in the past four years, through depictions on TV of sympathetic gay characters and gay celebrities.  Entertainment creates a narrative that transforms the popular consciousness, whether depicting a stable middle-class black family (as The Cosby Show did), or greedy CEOs stealing from their employees (as Fun With Dick and Jane did).

If liberals in Hollywood want to make a difference in the political climate of this country, they should think about ways to create a progressive narrative like George Clooney has with Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana.  It's great that Hollywood promotes tolerance, even unintentionally, by including varying people, cultures, and practices in their sitcoms and movies (just look at all the sexual subcultures demystified by CSI), but they also reinforce many anti-progressive messages, like the solitary action hero who survives completely by his own means, or glamorizing a car-oriented culture of conspicuous consumption.  

How many movies reinforce the value of public education, a social safety net, or protections against multinational corporations using child labor in poor countries?  Not many, but if liberals in Hollywood can think of ways to integrate these and other progressive messages into the national narrative, they can do a lot of long-term good - far more than just filming a hard-hitting TV ad for John Kerry.

by dbalpert 2005-12-29 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Hollywood's revenues are down because of too many retreads and tv remakes. 80s weren't the most original period, but the remakes weren't blatant. I can name a bunch of action franchises with new characters from the late 70s, 80s - Alien, Terminator, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Predator, Nightmare on Elm Street and one can go on. There are also many entertainment options available now.

What do we have now but sequels of those movies or remakes of tv shows from that era?

By the way, that reminds me of Shane Black. Nice to see him back in the biz.

by Pravin 2005-12-29 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
I take issue with your comment on "Tea Leoni" -- I simply love her (okay, love is too strong a word, but am definitely a fan).  I could do with  out Jim Carrey, though -- he's always the same character and, if anything, his presence in the movie is what will prevent me from paying $10+ a ticket to see the movie.
by bedobe 2005-12-29 09:16AM | 0 recs
Terrible taste (blech?!?)
What on earth is wrong with Tea Leoni? Funny in a smart way and tremendously cute--I predict that she and David Duchovney will have the best looking kids and the planet, and they probably won't be airheads either.

Oh, and as for Hollywood, the Dems funnily enough do listen and give them tons. Unfortunately, as your brother Matt notes, what the Dems give Hollywood is free rein to write our IP laws so as to strangle the public domain, which is not a good thing for anyone except for the ultra-wealthy big studio owners and investors.

So I suppose you're right that the Dems should at least get something back for this, although it would be even better if the Dems just tried to work out an IP policy that provided a better deal for small creators and for society as a whole.

by tameszu 2005-12-29 10:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...

Re: Tea Leoni, here's how my friends and I settle disagreements on whether we find a woman attractive:

Yeah, so, would you kick her out of bed?

Tactless, of course, but it settles any disagreements and smoothes things over rather quickly.

PS. Yeah, I know, this is not on topic and, certainly, not political.

PPS. I like her work, too -- she's a fine actress, as far as am concerned.

by bedobe 2005-12-29 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Come on.
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-29 12:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Feel free to delete if it "offends" anyone -- though I don't see why it should.
by bedobe 2005-12-29 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...

(assumes voice of a convict in a theatre)

... dew NOT delete this image. DEW NOT DELETE THIS ... IMAGE!

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
by bedobe 2005-12-29 04:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Just a man of constant sorrow..
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-30 04:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
Though I know that's not her head on that body, I still rated it super.  I'm a man.  I'm weak.
by Sam Loomis 2005-12-29 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
No worries -- am weak, too. Damn, being a man is not easy sometimes.

I do have one disagreement, though. That is her body... younger body, perhaps, but her body, see here.

Now, I'll grant you that there's some photoshop magic going on, and some posing technique going on (note the pointy toes to give the illusion of longer legs, yeah, am a photo hobbyist), but that is her.

Now, back to politics...

Dems should definitely exploit the talent pool in Hollywood and elsewhere.
by bedobe 2005-12-29 02:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Forgive me but...
If I'm a typical movie goer, I'd guess attendance is down because taking my familiy to the movies will cost me $30 for tickets and popcorn and then I've got some dumb ass talking on his cell phone in front of me and some kid kicking the back of my seat and some idiot who brought their four year old to a violent R-Rated movie.

The talent is in Hollywood. If the Right wants to say Hollywood is backing the Democrats, we might as well actually LET the talent in Hollywood back the Dems. You can't argue that there is a concentration of creative and talented people that are not being used to their potential.

by michael in chicago 2005-12-29 12:30PM | 0 recs
They Don't Listen To Anyone Else, Why Should They
Listen To You?

It's nothing personal, see. It's just that they know  how to lose elections. They've been doing it for years. They are experts at it. And you just write jokes and stuff.  They ignored you, just like they ignored Lakoff, just like they ignored everyone who urged Kerry to punch back hard against the Swift Boating--like he promised to. Like I said, it's nothing personal, see.

Now write a check and go away, so they can pay Bob Shrum another $10 million or so.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 06:20AM | 0 recs
Oh, come on Paul
What do we idiots on the blogs know? We need to get over our self importanct and listen to them. They are the experts who know what it takes to win elections. They know how the process works. We're just the local yocals who think our district is different and that we know sells and what doesn't in our neighborhoods. Silly local Democratic activists. Like this blog thing is ever going to catch on...
by michael in chicago 2005-12-29 12:40PM | 0 recs
Please don't suggest this again!
For the love of God!

The Democratic Party "leadership" is already a rather brainless cat herd that drifts aimlessly toward the sound of moneyed interests.

Does it need help drifting toward Hollywood?  Hardly.

Worse, does anyone really understand that to run in America you have to run AGAINST something?

2006 and 2008 are going to be about running against Washington.  You can't do that and align yourself with Hollywood, otherwise you're merely running with a different establishment.

If you're sincere: get out of Hollywood.  Go independent.  Build your ideological war machine and recruit your fellow writers into an anti-Hoolywood bloc.

Americans will love you for it.  Why do you think big budget films always end up in this near-death scenario?

Then some indy study revives Hollywood, and pretty soon the stupid sequel train starts rolling again and Hollywood dies again.

Even the current big budget boom isn't Hollywood's making!  

It belongs to Peter Jackson and WETA Digital, based in New Zealand of all damned places!

If Hollywood types want to contribute, they need to follow Peter Jackson's lead: build your own corner of the industry, and then tell the money men they can either invest in you or miss the train.

Same goes for politics.  Which, on a good day, is what the various bloggers and grassroots folks are doing.

This age offers an amazing possibility that everyone is afraid to seize: the realignment of power across the board to a broader class of people closer to the ground level.

Seize it.  Make it happen.

Sure as hell don't wait for Hollywood.  And don't tell anyone until you've already pulled it off.

by jcjcjc 2005-12-29 06:30AM | 0 recs
This Is Idiotic!
The argument here isn't for a public embrace of Hollywood. It's for the Democratic Party to actually utilize invaludable resources offered to it for free.  They take Hollywood's money, but turn up their noses at its unique strengths--pure, arrogant idiocy.

This has nothing to do with any of the other issues you've dragged into this comment. An independent political organization is no replacement for the Democratic Party itself getting a clue.  And it doesn't matter one whit to the average American whether "Hollywood" is in Hollywood, New Zealand or Mars.

p.s. Just to complete the list of disconnects in your comment, I should point out that "King Kong" is underforming, too.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 07:18AM | 0 recs
Suit yourself
I have to admit that sometimes, I'm really impressed about the way the left part of the Democratic Party completely disregards the views of most Americans.

[ And it doesn't matter one whit to the average American whether "Hollywood" is in Hollywood, New Zealand or Mars.]

Wanna make a bet?

The average American views Hollywood as purveyors of elitist bullshit.  Come to think of it, they're right.

It helps no cause to start telegraphing messages through a discredited medium.

The Hollywood types were damned visible in 2004 as it was.  The last thing we need is MORE.

And it doesn't matter whether you make a "public embrace" of Hollywood.  It will play that way.

I just don't think it helps our cause.

Skip the Hollywood, and toss a few more dollars and ideas into taking a good message to the public the right way: on the ground.  The GOP gets it done with direct mail.  DFA did quite nicely with the internet and small donations.

Pushing a Hollywood line of attack reverses much of the progress we have made in the last few years.

by jcjcjc 2005-12-29 08:30AM | 0 recs
Total Red Herring
Obviously you have no objection to my argument, since you've ignored it totally.

The issue here is not embracing Hollywood. It's getting Hollywood talent to do effective marketing for the Democratic Party, instead of the gang of loser media consultants who couldn't win with Jesus Christ against Ghengis Kahn.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 08:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Suit yourself
     Dude, the point wasn't about a "public embrace" of Hollywood. There was nothing in this diary about having more Hollywood types on podiums, no Barbra Streisands or Ben Affleck's stumping for candidates. His point was that there are writers and directors in the industry who are Democrats who would be willing to use their talents in creating a winnable PR strategy and we keep blowing them off. Asking for their money, but blowing them off. That's just stupid. Michael Deaver would've killed to have access to the talent pool we have, but never use because we're so goddamn beholden to the same political consultants that never do shit for us.
by Lokileague 2005-12-29 09:28AM | 0 recs
I Almost Forgot!
The average American views Hollywood as purveyors of elitist bullshit.  Come to think of it, they're right.
America's Top Model. Fear Factor. Cops. Married With Children.

Real elitist stuff!  No wonder advertisers never wasted any money on them.  Nobody watches that stuff.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 10:10AM | 0 recs
Take a day trip
Go out into a few of the redder counties, and just ask that question: "Does Hollywood push elitist bullshit?"

If you really think making preachy shows and movies gets it done, you will be rudely surprised.

by jcjcjc 2005-12-30 04:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Please don't suggest this again!
The Republican party has used ad agencies for years to figure out how to target voters.  Big business has spent lots of money figuring this stuff out and they give it to the Republicans, who save them lots of money.  
Why should we turn our back on an industry that has figured out what average Americans want to hear?  Political Commercials are now, where movies were in the 1970s.  What if our 2006 DCCC commercials were the Godfather, instead of Rio Lobo (nothing personal John)?  
by Robert P 2005-12-29 10:03AM | 0 recs
great post
This post isn't talking about "aligning" with Hollywood, but rather USING the expertise of expert communicators.
The reason you haven't been used in the past is that the Democratic national campaigns are apparently weighted down with "communications consultants" and "public relations experts" and "campaign strategists" who haven't actually won a national election for the Democratic party for the last decade, and will not permit anyone else to win them either.
Better you should focus on individual Senate and House races around the country -- they aren't high profile enough to attract the national do-nothing consultants, and they will likely be grateful for your help -- MyDD knows the races that would need you.
by CathiefromCanada 2005-12-29 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: great post
Exactly.  Thats the way that I saw it too.  In almost all respects it would be like hiring a PR firm!?!?!  
by Mark J. Bowers 2005-12-29 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: great post
Thank you to a friend from Canada for articulating THE problem with our party today - as a political consultant that none of you has ever heard of i can concur that the problem lies with the "experts" who are running campaign after campaign into the ground with only their bulging wallets to show for it at the end of the campaign. and trying to move in on their turf to get these top tier races is about as likely as moving in on Boss Tweed's turf.
i stay focused on state and local races because if we don't build a farm team and continue to build a farm team, the party will be have even less choices than we do right now for viable candidates for statewide and national office.
and since this post is dead on as to the deaf ear the "experts" have maybe that is the place for Hollywood to play. I can imagine the impact it could have on a state legislative race for example - and there are plenty of state legislatures in need of rescuing right now as the impotent state party structure has decimated so many state parties (florida immediately comes to mind!).
i for one would welcome the imput and would be happy to continue getting good Democrats elected at the lower levels even if my pockets don't bulge quite like the Shrum's of the world at the end of the day.
by mudslinger72 2005-12-29 11:35AM | 0 recs
Re: great post
hey slinger, here in the deep south some of these yokels actually got paid to have people run on gay marriage.

they lined up their big fat pockets with republican cash, so that the democrats could get pigeonholed into the turtleneck liberal elite set, class warfare  rural vs. city -

Then they turned around and got paid again by the gay activists who thought they were doing everyone a big favor. There are still places in Atlanta where people think Gay marriage is a great issue to run on down here, its that bad.

At the polls, the vote was 86% against.  

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:12PM | 0 recs
Dick and Jane
Your brother wrote that?  Can he offer any advice to an aspiring comedian?
by kydem 2005-12-29 07:09AM | 0 recs
Be public...occasionally near a mic?
by thief 2005-12-29 07:12AM | 0 recs
I do stand-up, sketch, and improv.  I have a great movie idea.  Okay, quite a few.
by kydem 2005-12-29 10:16AM | 0 recs
Re: thanks
Don't be afraid to make your own short movies.

Digital video can look really good and be somewhat affordable, especially if you have any Public Access resources handy.

Once you have something in the can, you're already tapped into a great place to cheaply advertise it: blogs.

Vlogs are also an promising place to show self-produced material.

by thief 2005-12-29 10:30AM | 0 recs
This is important
For years, the Republicans have been nominating superficially likeable personalities and attacking the Dems on their character.  The typical Dem response is spout off a laundry list of issues in which the public is more in tune with the Dems than the Republicans, and attempt to innoculate themselves against charges of being too liberal.

This doesn't work.

The Dems need to learn that the voters elect people, not issues, and they are not necessarily concerned about where someone is on the political spectrum if they like that person and trust them to do the "right thing."  We need to nominate candidates who can talk to the public like they are real people, not professional politicians.

What Hollywood does best is create good feelings that connect characters to people.  I think there's reason to believe there is talent in the entertainment industry that can help Dems send the right message.  

by danielj 2005-12-29 07:15AM | 0 recs
Intersection of Hollyood and Politics
Part of the problem, as I see it, is that Hollywood shouldn't sit around waiting for politicians to let them help.  Sure it would have been great if SNL writers had worked with Kerry to create a bunch of hilarious anti-Bush, viral films.  But why wait for Kerry to make the first move?  Why not just make a damn funny movie and release it on the web?

Similarly, making liberal (or just political) films shouldn't be about sticking campaign posters in the background of a scene.  It should be about making films that reflect political values.  In the 70's, Dirty Harry was a great Republican film character.  If you wanted to know what conservatives thought about the Warren Court, you could just go head down the the local movie theater.  You didn't need a poster of Ronald Reagan in the film for it to help Reagan at the polls in '80 and '84.

Kudos to George Clooney for making films like Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck.  Movies that are not overtly preachy, but do raise important question.

While I would encourage all Democratic politicians to use the talent in Hollywood during campaign season, Hollywood should not wait dor the phone to ring.

by space 2005-12-29 07:26AM | 0 recs
Dems don't use Hollywood creative...
talent because "media consultants" get paid to do the job badly. Hollywood is no help from their point of view; it is competition to guys who already have the monopoly. Most of those guys had one good idea once and went on to peddle it over and over, becoming less and less effectual. Think Bob Shrum.
by janinsanfran 2005-12-29 07:54AM | 0 recs
Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton used his Arkansas Hollywood connection which produced his convention film, A Man from Hope, for him.  I think it was the couple who did Designing Women (Linda Bloodworth Thomason and Harry Thomason, IIRC).  That is about it.  Meanwhile, the Reps used lots of SoCal talent (usually the second string) in the Nixon and Reagan campaigns.  Hmm... Morning in America ... Bring Us Together ... The Silent Majority, etc.  Somebody crafted the Compassionate Conservative and time to end the partisanship in Washington shit that Shrub used so effectively, maybe it was politicos?
by David Kowalski 2005-12-29 08:21AM | 0 recs
Hollywood and Communications and Corporate behavio

Someone in the comments above raised the question about Hollywood losing money. And what does this have to do with using the liberal voice in Hollywood to affect the tenor of political discussion and action in the US?

First of all, I don't know that I'd like to see the Democratic Party use any media quite the way that the right wing has done. Just look at the moral and intellectual corruption of our media as the product of the right wing message machine. Is that what you really want?

Second, why do the liberals in Hollywood - writers, etc., - have to serve the Democratic Party directly? It seems to me that their voice would be stronger by being independent and could bring changes about in the Democratic Party as a result of being independent.

Except for one thing: Hollywood isn't making money. People are not coming out to the theaters in the numbers you need to challenge the vast public's political and economic thinking.

I realize that I'm harking back many generations, but people used to go to the movies in droves and frequently. Why have they stopped?

We can point to the ease of television, and it's true, the convenience of tv being there with no more effort than pressing the on button and sifting through channels has a big influence on people's habits.

But it's more than just the convenience of tv, it's the entire corporate business model that Hollywood has fallen for hook, line, and sinker.

Going to the movies is expensive. When the ticket price didn't bring profits, what did the theaters do? They raised ticket prices. They charge an arm and a leg for refreshments. They limit the number of showings.

When that didn't work, they started showing ads on screen. At first it was just a slide show of local businesses, but then they added corporate advertising of the kind you see on television.

Now,I don't know about you,but one of the reasons I used to go to the movies was to get away from tv commercials. I wasn't best pleased to be paying to see advertisements. So I limited my movie-going to once or twice a year and saw the movies I wanted on DVD.

Hollywood has become too corporate, and they follow the insane business behavior of corporations: "If a business action is not resulting in profits, we must not be doing anough of the action."

Therefore,they do more of the action instead of really taking a look at cause and effect.

So question 1 is: How can movie going be restored as a major American pasttime?

  • Maybe by going against corporate practice?
  • Show a movie as many times as possible rather than the faux "theater" scheduling that's done now.
  • Lower the prices - all of them.
  • Get rid of the advertisements.
  • Add short features to the show at no extra charge.
  • Stop catering to the awards and schedule the showing of good movies all year round.
  • I'm sure other people can add more ideas.

Unfortunately, the above scenario is not likely to happen. The financial infrastructure of the movie business has become too entrenched and the people who make their personal millions off the business are not going to go quietly.

The above statement counterweighs what my instinct tells me should be done: get rid of the stars, get rid of the agents, especially get rid of all the hangers-on. I'm certainly not for the financial exploitation of workers. Hardly! But what we have now is exploitation of another kind. In fact, that vaunted "free market economy" isn't working.

So what's a realistic answer? The recent grass roots showing of the movie about Walmart maybe a viable approach, but it can't always be that type of movie. There has to be a way to bypass the current business model to get inexpensive entertainment to the public.

Sorry for the rant, but this issue pushed a lot of my button.

by workingclassanna 2005-12-29 08:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Hollywood and Communications and Corporate beh
People are watching Hollywood's content, on DVD or in the theaters.
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-29 08:33AM | 0 recs
Fun with Dick and Jane SUCKS
I would just like to say that your movie sucks so quit trying to act like it's entertaining. It has a horrible 31% rating on the tomatometer here:

That's 66 rotten reviews by real movie critics and only 33 positive ones. Your a douche for trying to get us to waste 8 bucks a pop on your movie that's not even an original concept. It's a fricking re-make of a 1977 flick of the same title starring Jane Fonda. Maybe Democrats don't want to use fools like you because you can't write anything fresh.

Your little plug failed to mention that the number of movie tickets sold this year will finish at the lowest level since 1997. The Hollywood liberals are the official party of no ideas, not the Democrats.

by news 2005-12-29 10:26AM | 0 recs
So, you're saying you didn't like the movie?
I'm not sure I'm clear where you're coming from.

Did you inhale any glue before writing this?

It can make people a little vague.

by thief 2005-12-29 10:43AM | 0 recs
Re: So, you're saying you didn't like the movie?
WHOA HEY wait a minute here. I am a big time collector of movies, so let me be clear about Rotten Tomatoes, in defense of Stoller.

The tomato is good to read what critics are really thinking, for example Lars Von Trier's " DOGVILLE"
got a 69% and my uncle's film, "Blue Crush" only got a 54%.

Dogville is a fetid sprawling example of filmmaking. True collectors do NOT use the tomatometer to gauge whether a film is good.

In general, You should hunt down guys like Pete Travers, of Rolling Stone. He's usually able to find the good film. READ the comments.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 11:23AM | 0 recs
MoveOn ads were better
One problem: people like Bob Shrum in the party.
Democrats need to be recruiting fresh talent. My theory is they were afraid of what the "crossover" voter might think of attack ads. Well they forget unsubtle attack ads worked for the Bushies.

Why no one thought of countering the Kerry flip flop ads with a flip flop ad of Cheney's and Bush's words over the years is beyond me. I know I never saw one on TV even if one was made somewhere. Why no one in the Kerry campaign made an ad about the lack of enough money being spent on our soldiers despite lip service is mystifying.  

by Pravin 2005-12-29 08:28AM | 0 recs
Re: MoveOn ads were better
When you counter ads, ad money goes over the counter.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 11:20AM | 0 recs
Just what we need Hollyweird doing our ads. NOT!! Stick to doing what u do best movies.  Message isn't the D's problem at this time. The D's need a spine transplant.
by Blutodog 2005-12-29 09:07AM | 0 recs
First you use fucking rightwing language. Then you give us Booman's brain-dead false dichotomy.

Having a spine doesn't do a damn bit of good if you can't communicate it.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 09:19AM | 0 recs
false dichotomy
You are right about a false dichotomy. However, having more of a spine would help Dems with or without any improvement in their message skills. Obviously, both would be preferable.
by miasmo 2005-12-29 10:11AM | 0 recs
Amen To That! n/t
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Amen To That! n/t
Doc Dean is doing a pretty good job with the new spinal transplant, he's going to need all the post-op he can get with Sen. Harry Reid.

Overall, Americans win, when senators speak truth to power. I can't think of anything more inspiring that seeing Mr. Smith go to washington again.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 11:19AM | 0 recs
two things
offering our (generally overpriced) services for free

that's why they aren't being used. can't make a commission on free. (though low-profile races that can't afford media consultants would probably be more receptive to help, maybe?)

Why weren't the writers of SNL and the Daily Show brought in to create hilarious, ruthless anti-Bush spots that would have been forwarded all around the internet?

didn't Will Ferrell make a couple of anti Bush spots? i seem to recall at least one.

by tatere 2005-12-29 09:07AM | 0 recs
Thank you for posting this!
What an excellent post and important topic!

Last weekend, my wife went to see a major product from Hollywood, and she left the theater feeling very, very sad and crying for a computer-generated monkey.  Now, I'm not a smart man, but I think you are on to something here.  If Hollywood can make me gasp in excitement over a fake monkey clobbering three imaginary Tyrannosaurus Rexes, then they should be able to take even a Herman-Munster looking guy like Kerry and make him seem like a valiant, fearless leader.

More posts by Hollywood Nick please.

by Sam Loomis 2005-12-29 09:41AM | 0 recs
Image is everything
Meanwhile, REPUBLICAN John McCain gets his life story made into a gauzy TV movie, he parties at Rock The Vote's anniversary, appears frequently on MTV during election seasons, and has been reported to be seeking to hire all of Bush/Cheney 04's media and PR masters to work on his campaign.

This REPUBLICAN knows the value that having a good image can bring, especially to mask the far-right votes and views he holds from all the nut-sucking liberals who just think this guy is the greatest thing since Lindsey Graham.

by Sam Loomis 2005-12-29 09:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you for posting this!
Ya, but the GOP got the majority of Americans to vote for a wired chimp...
by michael in chicago 2005-12-29 12:42PM | 0 recs
How dare you disrespect the President??!
How DARE you suggest he was wired!  That's so Summer 04.
by Sam Loomis 2005-12-29 01:47PM | 0 recs
It will make more money than Fun With Dick and Jane.

First scene. Jenna Bush in the middle of a gangbang at a bar in NYC which is taped by some guy. She raises her butt to Da Butt dance.  Some christian right wingers complain to the Bushies that they don't care what Jenna does, but keep it quiet as they dont want to be exposed as hypocrites. Jerry Falwell jacking off to the Jenna gangbang tape which circulates. Meanwhile as the Bushies get rid of the complainers by patronizing them with false promises, they reminisce about their college days where Laura and George are having one hell of a sex and drugs party.

Clinton gets a hold of the tape and proceeds on a mission to seduce her. As Clinton shmoozes with Bush Sr., he steals quiet moments with Jenna at the family resort(which is the real reason he is being friendly with Bush Sr these days).  End of the movie has Bill pounding her from behind and all the right wingers heads explode in fury.

Epilogue: As pressure mounts on the Bush kids contributing to the military since their dad asks others to sacrifice for the war, the unemployed Jenna reluctantly volunteers as the older twin manages to find a teacher job and uses that as an excuse. Jenna then proceeds to get gangbanged by her unit in exchange for their agreement not to put her out in the field.

by Pravin 2005-12-29 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: How about a JENNA BUSH PORNO
Ok, this is disgusting.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 11:20AM | 0 recs
I'm Nick Stoller, the guy who wrote this
Thanks for your comments.  You make a lot of good points.  

I just want to clarify one thing.  Whether it be through movie ticket sales, television, spin off products, or DVDs Hollywood makes a lot of money.  The entertainment we create is one of America's major exports.  The decline in movie theater ticket sales is related to a closing DVD window, the rise of home theater systems, and a whole host of other issues.  You might not like the crap we peddle, but a lot of people do.

We tell stories for a living.  I know a lot of my fellow writers and directors would like to donate our story-telling services (rather, or in addition to, our money) and have no outlet to do so.  That's the only point I'm making.

by nicks 2005-12-29 10:20AM | 0 recs
Hey Nick --
Thanks for posting this.  I've been frustrated with the Dem Party's malaise that's been dragging on for a decade (since the Repugs "Contract with America" and the ensuing majority of Congress).  We Dems are in the middle of a cultural shift, though, going through a lot of growing pains.  We are shedding what doesn't work and trying to acquire what does, but we're losing infrastructure as we do so.  The infrastructure that made this party work was based on backdoor deals between insiders as well as a lot of consultants; although some of this worked well, it's not a far cry from what the opposition has used to attain their majority status (as well as their current state of overwhelming corruption).  We are now in need of new thinking and new tools.

Here's where I think we're going and what I think we need for it (and I'm sure I'll catch flames for it, bear with the ensuing fall out - I'm trying to be constructive since you asked earnestly for a chance to be constructive).  Our entire society is moving towards a more direct representational democracy, founded in the immediacy and transparency that the internet and supporting technology offer.  We don't want backdoor deals any more; we want to operate in a democratic (little d) environment where everyone gets to have a vote and everyone can see what's happening.  Look at polling online and how bloggers/readers view its use; they are beginning to expect the same kind of immediacy and transparency from government (heck, look at how intimate and immediate the feedback is about movies in this thread...).  

We Dems are also many things coming together for the first time as we grow and change our culture.  We are fiscally responsible, socially progressive, environmentally conservative, globally and locally interdependent, community-minded and technologically friendly -- earlier iterations of Democrats weren't all these things at the same time.  We now have NO branding developed around this current generation or iteration, hence no message.

And this is where we need help, with brand development and with messaging.  Lakoff got us started on the road with an introduction to framing; this is the beginnings of building a brand.  But we need to flesh it out, and we need to do it in a way that's democratic (little d) and not Democratic (by which I mean old-school Dem).

How do we integrate what you and the rest of Hollywood has to offer?  I can tell you that more than ever before, we are working from the grassroots.  Take a look at the DNC's 50-State Plan; you'll see that we are consciously working on 10 votes here, 5 votes there, in each and every precinct, across every county and parish and state in the country.  I can tell you that the average person at grassroots level doesn't "get" marketing or branding or messaging; they recognize a good one just as they recognize and reward good programming, theater or movies, but they can't tell you what goes into making it.  It's kind of like teaching people who've only eaten the stuff how to make's not pretty.  And yet this is absolutely essential to building the new infrastructure and the new majority; we have to teach folks at grassroots how to win school board seats and dogcatcher's office, how to support local city council incumbents and state office holders, teach them how to develop and use messaging that is authentic and local, to persuade their neighbors to vote Dem or Green or Independent, as long as they vote for a progressive who supports the same progressive values.

I can tell you the tools we have are tough to come by; DFA is booked up with field training through the next six months, for example, and I'm sure the DNC is too.  There are vast numbers of local activists who need training NOW, as soon as they can get it, with emphasis on messaging but with additional much-needed curriculum on developing media plans, candidate forums, fundraising, campaign financing, canvassing, more.

Here's what I'm wondering: can folks in Hollywood organize a 527 or a 501(c)3 that can rapidly create a training program that can be rolled out and delivered by CD or webcast or podcast to the field?  Can you create a co-op of willing folks who can help local organizations quickly respond to local issues with appropriate messaging and media plans?  Let's say a website was set up, where a community activist/organization could drop in, leave a specific request, and folks from Hollywood or the 527/501 would respond as convenient with suggestions or tools on how to do this or that messaging/ marketing/ branding/ story-telling thing?

We could use this NOW; I've got 100 folks right now who could use training TODAY, are going to be on the phones 07-JAN talking with voters.  You may see a lot of naysaying here in this thread; they're thinking big picture, 50,000-foot-level stuff, as far as I can tell or they're thinking off-topic (about your movie versus what you have to offer).  Don't let it put you off.  I'm an American citizen who wants her country back; I'm betting you are, too, and that we can somehow work together to do it if we think of this like eating an elephant.  Right down here in the grassroots, one little bite at a time.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Nick --
Let's say a website was set up, where a community activist/organization could drop in, leave a specific request, and folks from Hollywood or the 527/501 would respond as convenient with suggestions or tools on how to do this or that messaging/ marketing/ branding/ story-telling thing?"

That seems like a very realistic and useful thing that I know I would be psyched to be involved in (given it's loose time constraints).  I'm pretty sure I could get some of my friends involved as well.

by nicks 2005-12-29 11:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Nick --
Please do. And thanks in advance. BTW, we could use you in IL-06...
by michael in chicago 2005-12-29 12:46PM | 0 recs
Food for thought
Nick -- I've already pointed these out offline to Rob Laurent/, but you might want to take a look at these.

Check out the Democracy for America website and the resources they currently have posted:

You can see they are booked up for 6 months and they're not going to have training available on line for some time; I think they will have it up before fall, but there's no guarantees.  We need materials NOW.

You can also find the materials they have in print on line:

It's a good start, but it's a bit formal for folks who've absolutely no experience in marketing or organizing.  Think about the average blue collar manufacturing worker who's been on the production line most of his life...not exactly the kind of person who's going to take to using these printed materials readily.  This person will rather have DVD or webcast.

This is where I see some folks with skills and resources in conveying messages and teaching organizing through entertainment media being able to make a real difference.  Feel free to pop me a reply if you have any questions, I'll keep my eyes peeled.

by RayneToday 2006-01-01 07:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Hey Nick --
I just wanted to give support and ad an idea.
Instead of using DVD's, the content could easily be streamed directly from a webpage with supporting material (links, comments, etc.).  People would get their training on their time and participate in a conversation around it.
A person or group of people fresh off a good progressive campaign would be all fresh and ready to go for this.  What do you think?
by Rob Laurent 2005-12-29 12:00PM | 0 recs
Realistically, we need multiple delivery formats.  A substantive majority of folks in this country still access the internet via dial-up -- and many of them are in fly-over country which is purple-to-red, the very location where we need to expend the effort.

Think, too, like older folks in these situations; they're more skeptical and also more technologically challenged.  Popping a DVD in their player might be easier for them.

Also need to consider venues.  As an example, we've temporarily arranged to borrow meeting space comfortable for 50 attendees at a location without internet or phoneline, has power and a television, can set up a laptop, but no projector.

But by all means, webcast is good, anything downloadable, too; will help enormously over what we have now.

And Nick, if you don't have to reinvent the wheel, don't, we can't spare the time; you might want to go right to ActBlue or DFA or MoveOn and see if there's a way to plug in stealthily.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 12:29PM | 0 recs
Taking a peek at your venture, too, cool idea!  Would love to see this kind of outlet gather steam, replace traditional media outlets.  Emerging technology (Google "xG Technology", for example) will completely change accessibility of the internet as well as broadcasting; could take advantage of that coming wave.

Wonder whether you aren't already part of the way towards the vehicle that some folks need for organizing -- your post 14-NOV post, for example,  Tells me we're on the same wavelength.

Between you, Nick, and at least one other contact I've got, you might be able to get something going.   DFA also has materials published, furnished as resources on some of the topics you mentioned (ex. developing a media plan, launching a candidate forum); we need some way to put it all together into a single location with multiple delivery formats.  I also know DFA's been working on something called "Night School", but it's not far enough along yet and it might need help with distribution.

Maybe part of the problem is lack of a single, cohesive vehicle to organize and distribute products as well as identify and create materials that are missing from the mix...

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 02:52PM | 0 recs
I'm going to give this some thought tonight, send me an email and we can talk more and get this rolling.
upstarttv at
by Rob Laurent 2005-12-29 06:33PM | 0 recs
One more thing
Good gravy, how could I ever forget about the money???

We had to resort to a virtual coup d'etat in our local county party in order to see the books; we'd gotten pushback over funding for a new goal, lots of obstructions.  The goal was simple: open a permanent local party office to the tune of $150.00 a month for rent.

That's it, we're operating here in fly-over country on a frickin' shoestring, literally scrapping over a few measly bucks, eating our own young in the party because entrenched older members can't see the value in scraping up one hundred and fifty bucks a month for an office.  Meanwhile, the local Repugs own all the local businesses and are fielding wealthy attorneys and doctors for political office while we scrabble intra-party for chump change.  If you can put money together, it can make an enormous difference here out in the field.

I'm going to suggest that Hollywood folks seriously consider "adopting" local party and activist groups.  Find groups in a highly populated area that's on the verge of going red or blue, put some money and resources to them.

If you do this, don't get flashy.  Don't be obvious.  Be as subtle as possible about it, hence the 527/501; we're in guerrilla warfare here, fighting against an opposition who is closed-mouth and secretive about their proprietary methodology.  We should be, too; tipping our hand clues the opposition to counter-attack and lay even greater money down.  There are campaigns where we want them to expend their cash, ones where the terrain is quite red and we don't have much of a chance; this is where you can be overt, even use it as a testbed, try out some mega ad-buys in these the whole process...otherwise, be stealthy.  You know how that works in Hollywood, use it for us and with us.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 12:13PM | 0 recs
Nail. Head. Whap! Whap! Whap!
This is really where and how it all gets won, IMHO. Use the technology and the talent to train and empower grassroots activists.  The whole top-down, order-taking, money-raking model is sooo over.
by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 12:43PM | 0 recs
Story-Telling Is SOOO Important!
This is so central to the problems we're discussing, because the Democrats' main problem, it seems to me, lies with their fumbling of narrative.  

Lakoff has presented some very good ideas in terms of how to talk about issues. But this is something different, though related.  Story-telling is how most people understand most things.  And Democrats consistent fail to understand this, while folks in Hollywood can never forget it.  

Remember how Arianna Huffington wrote about Kerry's compelling narrative?  Remember how Kerry never came within that with a ten-foot pole?  That is so completely typical of what's wrong with the party. And because Kerry failed to craft his own compelling narrative, it was child's play for the GOP to craft one against him--even if it was rather shoddy and fragmented.

It's not just candidates who need narratives, either. Policies need them as well--even if the narratives are sometimes pretty thin or abstract.

For example, the whole idea that "Social Security is an industrial, mass-production age program, and now we need something new for the post-modern age, but Democrats are hanging onto the past, just like GM is trying to do"--that's a narrative.

It doesn't make any sense if you take it apart analytically, because Social Security is automatically portable, making it the exact opposite of the problems that badly-run companies--such as GM--have with their under-funded pensions, and all companies have with our totally dysfunctional health care system.  But it does work as a narrative.... unless you've got a counter-narrative to trump it with.

These counter-narratives are out there.  Folks like Frank Capra have made oodles of movies with them.  But somehow our lame-brained Dem Party strategists just can't seem to get the message.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 12:33PM | 0 recs
The story may be local
The example you picked might be tougher in this area; I'm in the heart of Rustbelt Country, near Michael Moore's stomping grounds.

We know here that GM's pension plan is actually well-funded; it's Delphi that's a problem, as well as Congress messing around with workers' right to organize and negotiate compensation and benefits.  We also know that the REAL problem, for both Delphi and GM as well as all other manufacturers in the US, is HEALTHCARE costs.  No manufacturing business can compete globally with companies that don't have to pay healthcare.  And no manufacturing business should really be in the business of providing healthcare, at least not in today's climate.  It's a conflict of interest, pitting the corporation's goal of profitability against the workers' need for health security.

This is exactly why -- as I said way down below --  I reminded that politics are local.  Easy to gin up a message in Hollywood, but will it play here in the grassroots?  You need to know your market before you can flesh out the brand and the message completely; it's why I suggested "adopting" local party/activist groups.  They know the lay of the land; find a way to work closely with them in "hit teams" or on an "on-demand" basis.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: The story may be local
Sorry, I was writing in a hurry. Which is also why I didn't bother adding more context and links. Not to disregard your point--which I agree with 100%--but rather to clarify what I was trying to get at.

There was a discussion of this very narrative (GM is going down the tubes, because it's not adapting and making products people want to buy, and the Democratic Party, with Social Security, it just like then), promoted by Matt Bai, at Talking Points Memo about two weeks ago.

I then wrote about it in my diary, "NYT's Matt Bai Cannot Think (But You Can!)".  I was focused on the generic features of this narrative non-argument, rather than the specifics (though I did specifically mention healthcare as a different sort of problem from pensions generally).  And I think it's absolutely imperative that we work to handle both.

You're absolutely right that a message has to resonate locally and be true to the facts that people know first-hand.  But it also has to have a deeper generality, a "portability" if you will.  Neither side of this equation is more important than the other. They are both essential.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-12-29 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Story-Telling Is SOOO Important!
Yeah -- its like they're saying "Quick, to the zonk-mobile -- lets print a thousand copies of another issue paper on health care and stack them in the lobby for passersby to pick up."
by CathiefromCanada 2005-12-29 12:54PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm Nick Stoller, the guy who wrote this
I saw the movie a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it. The bit right before the credits caught me completely off guard, and I sounded what could only be described as a "barbaric yawp."
by hoose 2005-12-29 02:54PM | 0 recs
A well-run political campaign is a narrative. Bush had a great one (good vs. evil). Kerry's was...honestly, I'm not sure. And that's why the worst president in American history (literally) won in 2004.
by LiberalFromPA 2005-12-29 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm Nick Stoller, the guy who wrote this
Any advice when it comes to writing sketch comedy or even for the big screen?
by kydem 2005-12-30 11:10AM | 0 recs
more Aaron Sorkin moments
Okay, first of all, Hollywood isn't losing money this year. They are MAKING LOTS of money, just less in movie theaters than last year, but MORE in foreign sales and DVDs. But people forget that we had some INSANE BLOCKBUSTER YEARS with Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter AND Star Wars all coming out. This year, not quite as much. So that's a myth right there.

SECOND, you can't just do ads for free for the democratic party. It doesn't work that way, thanks to McCain/Feingold. I tried. I had lots of talent set up, but it doesn't work that way. So what happened is people did ads for 527s and such. Will Farrell did his great internet ads. And besides that, the Democratic Party DID use the some of the best advertising minds in the business. I just think they got it wrong.  Many people now think Hollywood was TOO involved, and there may be evidence for that, too....

Having said that, I wish John Kerry had watched a few episodes of West Wing or re-runs of American President after these swift boat ads came out, and then let rip an Aaron-Sorkin-style consequences-be-damned don't- you-dare-tell-me I'm-going-to-speak-from-the-depths-of-my-heart speech.

by Hollywood Liberal 2005-12-29 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: more Aaron Sorkin moments
Please elaborate on this:
"SECOND, you can't just do ads for free for the democratic party. It doesn't work that way, thanks to McCain/Feingold. I tried. I had lots of talent set up, but it doesn't work that way."

I'm a videographer (and film gaffer) and I'm donating my time and technical expertise to a local Dem Congressional candidate.  I had considered myself like a volunteer who phone-banks or stuffs envelopes.  Why can't you "just do ads for free?"  Is it different for above-the-line personel?


by BigDuck 2005-12-29 11:16AM | 0 recs
Re: more Aaron Sorkin moments
Campaign Finance Guide

"A contribution is the giving of money or anything of value - subject to certain specific statutory exceptions - to a federal candidate or political committee for its use in influencing a federal election.
Contribution Limit

Federal law limits the amounts individuals and PACs can give to candidates, political parties, and political committees. These limits regulate both specific contributions and aggregate contributions by individuals."

Your professional services are a "contribution of value" based on the market value of those services and must be reported. This is federal regulation, however, and state and local regulations are different. You should check the regulations for the campaign you are working on.

by Hollywood Liberal 2005-12-29 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: more Aaron Sorkin moments
I just re-read your post. If it's Congressional, this applies to you.
by Hollywood Liberal 2005-12-29 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: more Aaron Sorkin moments
Thanks.  At the web site you referenced, I found this page:
which goes into greater detail about what is and is not a contribution:

"Activities not subject to contribution limits:
--Volunteered time and personal services not reimbursed or paid for by a candidate or political party
--Use of an individual's home and living expenses
--Use of a community building if the building is regularly used by community members freely for noncommercial events, regardless of political affiliation
--Personal websites to discuss political issues without expressly advocating for or against a candidate so long as there is no coordination with a candidate
--Personal e-mails about candidates and political issues"

"Activities subject to contribution limits:
--Event invitations, food and beverages
--Travel expenses related to a party or candidate activity
--Cumulative value of vendor discounts to a party or candidate"

So, my time is not a contribution, but if I use my camera and lights without charge, perhaps I'm giving a "vendor discount" to the campaign, which would then be subject to a $1000 exemption, and then a $2100 contribution limitation.

I believe that a few days with a DV or digital still camera would be fine, but a film commercial with a full crew would go over the limits in the first few minutes!

Probably time for a chat with an attorney...

by BigDuck 2005-12-29 01:36PM | 0 recs
More homework
There's quite a bit to learn about the ins-and-outs of campaign finance, but it's not rocket science and hardly tougher to wade through than many contracts.

One of the big lessons you'll need to get a grip on is the difference between PACs, 527's and 501's; they have limitations on whether they can work for a candidate or for an issue, on whether they can work at local-state or state-national level.  Party groups also have different accounts -- state and federal -- which have different kinds of restrictions, like which can pay for operating expenses and which can pay for campaign-related expenses.

But none of these restrictions should be seen as barriers; it just means you have to learn the many ways to skin this cat.  A state party might organize a 501 to operate properties, while using their state account to pay for operating expenses and federal account to pay for campaign expenses.  Just needs good bookkeeping.  Always err on the side of transparency and you'll be fine.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 03:06PM | 0 recs
One more thing
Of course, I'd expect you to verify this tidbit I learned.

But did you know that it only takes two people to set up a PAC?  Any two people??

And a person can be a member of as many PAC's as they like?

I found this fascinating and extremely helpful when I learned it...heh.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 03:28PM | 0 recs
The Hollywood Mythspiracy
Yes please hire all of Hollywood to create new and better messages. That way Republicans can keep winning elections. You are all to much in love with your own talent to notice your transparency.

Try this: Why not actually have candidates that announce their principles and positions on all the important national and internation issues. State the same message during primary and national elections (instead of far-left position in primaries and center pap for national elections). If that is what the people want then you will get your candidate elected. Of couse they don't need your help to do that, they need help covering up the real positions they hold.

You think you are in the center, but you are not. By a wide margin most Americans lean toward conservative values, but for the vote of conservative Jews and Blacks the current Democratic party would not win an election anywhere. When your party scorns Joe Lieberman (the only current Democrat I wouldn't mind as President)you are lost.

Forget the 'message' get your party back, or get marginalized!

by JTinNC 2005-12-29 10:29AM | 0 recs
Nice Idea But...
Nothing is for free...and that's the problem.

Democrats have turned to Hollywood for ideas and help producing commercials in the past but the problem, as I see it, is that politics and Hollywood are not the same.

There are different constraints in the political world.  Namely, time and money.  In politics you don't get the opportunity to spend $100,000 on lights alone.   And you don't get three months to produce the ad.

I think it could be great if more Hollywood writers and directors wanted to get involved but they would have to operate in a completely different world.

Last year, ACT did turn to Hollywood, and an SNL alum specifically.  Remember the Will Ferrell ad?

by kojo 2005-12-29 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Nice Idea But...
In TV (especially late night shows), we produce stuff for that night with very little money and prep time.  A video camera and some basic editing equipment is all that's needed to produce a man on the street Conan or Letterman spot.  

Obviously feature films cost a lot of money to produce (and that kind of production value is unnecessary in political ads), but there are a great many of us who have been trained in fast, cheap production.

by nicks 2005-12-29 10:39AM | 0 recs
I humbly disagree with the author here
The author's premise here, seems to be twofold. First, he is stating that there is support amongst the hollywood jetset for liberal initiatives. Second, he decries the lack of real connection of those initiatives, to that jetset (apart from some elements of fundraising).

A boy behind us turns the dials on a radio, and lets go back into time a little bit.

Hollywood started out in the sunny climate of LA because silver that was used for the process of developing film set up better there, and the process for the old black and white, buster keaton movies was therefore cheaper. Nothing else.

Now, with nearly 6 earthquakes above 6 on the richter scale last year on the indian plate, and the asian plate sliding ever faster down towards it, this town on the san andreas fault is going to hell in a bucket. Movies are turned out left and right based on demographics. The verticals are sliced and diced, punched up and sent out there. I for one am going to see Syriana, or Narnia.  Fun with Dick and Jane is a movie that would make my list, but you hire Jim Carrey because some accountant somewhere said that Carrey makes people laugh, and then they all guess how many will laugh at what, and when, and time it all out and before you know it you've got another formula movie.

I am, of course, an avid collector of film and will, in all likelihood either rent or see the flick - simply because Carrey is, in fact hilarious.  But look at "A series of Unfortunate Events". That movie really broke some ground, it was very daring - Carrey is hardly that funny in it, and the guy gets away with a segway on the set as well...

The author is dead=on correct when he says that you can't go out there and splash gore/lieberman posters all over a movie. Who wants to pay to read yard signs from their neighbors?

But by the same token, to say that we Americans seek to strike political accord by fashioning a link from the unreal world of Hollywood to the real world of Politics is akin to saying that actors make good presidents and bodybuilders make good governors. That worked once, not twice. And only because everyone worked together.

Politics is a family phenomenon, its a mother, and a father and a brother and a sister. Not a Television set or a DVD player.

Film, is the highest form of art - a beautiful medium and very clever and bright people working in it, like Matt, and Carrey and DeLaurentis, and the guys who made "Primer".

Art is there to provide us with insight. Politics is the maximum utilization of scarce resources to a common aim.

Josef Goebbels would have loved the idea. I don't. Hollywood thrives because it really isn't all that political however much the liberal fantasy is that they are. Rush Limbaugh moans and complains only because he couldn't get it up, even with special drugs - when he had to, to break into the town and ended up in Sakto buying cheap stuff out of a convenience store with his credit card while he was drawing down welfare when it dawned on him that he could complain loudly about the very person he'd become, and win friends and influence people. But when he made up his little story about hollywood he had no help from a nazi.

Rove, on the other hand, would welcome it. His grandfather was the contractor that helped build Dachinau.  Rove would love to see a world where Americans remain: The most entertained and least informed people in the world.

The ideas are good. The corollary it sends, should be taken out in the back yard and shot in the head.

And yes, you should go see a movie with Carrey in it. But first, go to Rotten Tomatoes and read up on how cool the writing is, because without writing a movie is nothing.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 10:39AM | 0 recs
Liberals who work in Hollywood are still Liberals.
Great post.  You seem to have a great perspective on this.
What would you think the reaction would be by those in your sphere towards more independent media sources?  We have setup a scoop-powered blog, the same engine that runs Mydd, that will focus on video instead of text.
It's a work in progress at the moment, but the goal is to get top quality - as good if not better then TV - shows and series created.  Real independent news shows.  
U hate to seem like Im plugging, but let me know what you think.  I agree that there is some serious power in the Hollywood message machine, we just have to use it right.
by Rob Laurent 2005-12-29 11:04AM | 0 recs
agreed - the "experts" are the problem
Thank you to a friend from Canada for articulating THE problem with our party today - as a political consultant that none of you has ever heard of i can concur that the problem lies with the "experts" who are running campaign after campaign into the ground with only their bulging wallets to show for it at the end of the campaign. and trying to move in on their turf to get these top tier races is about as likely as moving in on Boss Tweed's turf.
i stay focused on state and local races because if we don't build a farm team and continue to build a farm team, the party will be have even less choices than we do right now for viable candidates for statewide and national office.
and since this post is dead on as to the deaf ear the "experts" have maybe that is the place for Hollywood to play. I can imagine the impact it could have on a state legislative race for example - and there are plenty of state legislatures in need of rescuing right now as the impotent state party structure has decimated so many state parties (florida immediately comes to mind!).
i for one would welcome the imput and would be happy to continue getting good Democrats elected at the lower levels even if my pockets don't bulge quite like the Shrum's of the world at the end of the day.
by mudslinger72 2005-12-29 11:36AM | 0 recs
Hear, Hear!
For two reasons: Management and Creativity.

I've often been awestruck by how amazing the management is in even small-budget feature films -- just watch any DVD extra "making of" featurette and compare that to the usually lame political stagecraft...

And just like the Dem establishment is uninterested in utilizing the creativity of the grassroots, they do indeed seem equally uninterested in Hollywood talent... Are any political speechwriters (except Barack Obama) capable of pulling off anything even close to Aaron-Sorkin on bad mushroom trip?

Note to the Democratic Party: Look around you! There is plenty of sympathetic talent in this country that would be willing to offer their services -- even for free in some cases.

by Vermonter 2005-12-29 11:38AM | 0 recs
Everyone seems to be forgetting...
...the great Spielberg-assembled/Morgan Freeman-narrated bio clip on John Kerry that was broadcasted for the Democratic Convention.  That was pretty good stuff right there.
by HellofaSandwich 2005-12-29 11:43AM | 0 recs
Bush Impression
I'm a Hollywood progressive and I do a great impression of George W. Bush on the Late Late Show on CBS. Seems like a useful talent for the Democrats running in 2006, eh?

Late Late Show:

Windows Media Reel:

by mildewmaximilian 2005-12-29 12:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush Impression
That's you?  Wow!  Please email me at stoller at
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-29 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush Impression

Pretty good except for one thing. Bush has a tendency to sort of drift. This president bush is exact, and hard hitting. Sort of like a cross between pres. bush, and  derrick waltrip.

Pull this president impersonation off to a kind of
rambling sort of answer..  and very, very important - make some grammatical mistakes..

Please refer to this ground-breaking documentary:


by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush Impression
You are right. My live act in L.A. is totally better. I write it.
by mildewmaximilian 2005-12-30 12:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Bush Impression
I'm an aspiring comic here in KY and plan to study improv/sketch comedy...
by kydem 2005-12-30 11:09AM | 0 recs
Basic problem with post
Look, how about the idea that people in Hollywood aren't used so much in politics because, without significant experience, they're no damn good at it?

Is it really plausible that someone who has never learned the ropes of speechmaking, or political public relations, would be immediately fabulous at it? Don't you think it the height of arrogance to imagine that people from Hollywood -- who surely do believe, and rightly, that there's something THEY were obliged to master to become good at screenwriting -- would, without any training, be a vast improvement over people whose entire professional lives may have been devoted to political speechwriting?

Now, I have no doubt at all that there are a whole bunch of people in Hollywood who'd create great political speeches and jokes and stories IF they spent the time to master the relevant art and discipline. But, unless you propose some way that that talent might get that training, your idea is going to be laughed off stage.

Take even Al Franken, for example. A fine comedy writer, without a doubt. And now, I think, a pretty good political talk show host. But I think he'd be the first to admit that even something that seems as dumb to us all as political talk radio is one hell of a lot harder to do than he had imagined, and that he had a great deal to learn even to get good at it. And, I think, political talk radio is not as hard as political speechwriting, because constraints on it are not nearly so great.

The point is, as someone in Hollywood wrote, a man has to know his limitations. Do you people in Hollywood know yours?

by frankly0 2005-12-29 12:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Basic problem with post
Just to follow up a bit on my post, I think the real rub lies in the necessity of some sacrifice in order for even a talented individual to get good at political speechwriting or PR.

The question is, how much would "talent" in Hollywood be willing to give up, in money and status, in order to become good at promoting their favorite political causes?

My guess is, not much. Narcissism, not ideology, is the True God of Hollywood.

by frankly0 2005-12-29 01:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Basic problem with post
god money not concerned about the sick among the pure
- the poetry of trent reznor
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:18PM | 0 recs
Speak up then
I managed a Congressional candidate in Orange County in 04. We would have loved to have "big name" Hollywood talent help our campaign. As it was, I had friends in the biz create a series of commercials, FOR FREE, that still had to get airtime on TV, which meant MONEY that no one wanted to give us, because we were deemed a lost cause by the CA Dem Party and the DCCC. Aside from that, we were never contacted by "Hollywood" even though it was pretty clear we were the only candidate running against the incumbent Republican. Dems and the Dem Party does not necessarily mean Presidential and Presidential alone. There are plenty of down ticket candidates that could use help and coaching. Someone just needs to offer their services. We're easy to find. Look us up.
by Lemonsquare 2005-12-29 12:28PM | 0 recs
Extremely important point
The locals are the ones who should be making the determination as to the suitability of a local candidate, not a state or national party; same at state level.  All politics are local, are they not?

We have the same problem here in fly-over country; we rely heavily on annual dinners and special events with keynote speakers to provide funding for our day-to-day operations, not just election functions.   We couldn't get a decent keynote this year, can't afford speakers' fees, might be able to put together airfare and/or accommodations only.  Having a "big name" keynote for us would have made an ENORMOUS difference to the local party, could have helped us fund at least (5) different competitive races and saved us many months of fundraising effort that we could instead direct towards direct candidate support.

If you scroll down this far, Nick, this is another place "adopting" a local party or activist organization could help.  Have a "big name" offer to make a keynote at a dinner.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Speak up then
This is really important. Just like the farm leagues for Baseball, the local and state candidates are where we need recruit from for federal elections. The GOP get this. They have a good farm system. We don't.
by michael in chicago 2005-12-29 12:50PM | 0 recs
Heh. Good one.
Yeah, the opposition has a good farm team SYSTEM.

I can't say much for what's come out of it, though...Rove, Norquist, Abramoff, for starters.

We definitely need yet another vehicle that's tightly focused on creating a farm team, on birthing the next generation of progressives who'll step up and step into public service for the greater good.

by RayneToday 2005-12-29 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Speak up then
Regarding local involvement -- I remember a few very big celebrities stumping for Kerry in their own hometowns, which I think was a brilliant idea; it's hard to paint Brad Pitt as part of a Hollywood-elite monolith when he's speaking to the people he grew up with. I like the idea (explored in earlier comments) of Hollywood talent farming themselves out to important local campaigns, but it'd also give me the warm fuzzies if L.A. and N.Y.-based talent found a way to volunteer their services in their hometown districts.
by larala 2005-12-30 01:21PM | 0 recs
Thanks Nick - three thoughts
  1. Fun w/ Dick and Jane was pretty good, but I'm biased. By the way, it also made 30 million last weekend and figures to make a solid profit on the reported ~100 mil cost - notwithstanding the Hollywood naysayers in here, people still make a lot of money off of movies.

  2. Democrats need to nominate likeable people, especially for President and for offices in which purple electorates are represented. "Likable" means that a strong majority of uninformed voters (aka MOST voters) see the candidate on CNN Airport TV for ~3 minutes while listening carefully to maybe 20% MAX of what the candidate is saying, and likes him/her. In the past quarter-century, the Democratic Party has nominated precisely one immediately likeable candidate for President.

(2b - Point 2 is one of many reasons why I fear a Hillary Clinton candidacy.)


by TomGilpin 2005-12-29 12:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Thanks Nick - three thoughts
Point 2c - Carrey is freaking hilarious. The guy is going to be the next jerry lewis if he can figure out how to find his groove. He's just not started yet, he gets into fits and starts and he's good but he is NOT consistent nor has he perfected a kind of universal, sustainable schtick like the nutty professor.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Thanks Nick - three thoughts
Carrey did variation of his Living Color characters in his early movies. Even his serious movies seemed like muted performances of his wild persona. However, he really delivered a performance nothing to do with his earlier performances in Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind.

As far as his early comedy, the one movie I do love is the one movie that got a bad mainstream reception - Cable Guy. Too many classic moments. Beats crap like Liar Liar.

by Pravin 2005-12-30 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: More like 29M over 6 days
It made about 14M over the 3 day weekend ,21M over the 4 day weekend.
by Pravin 2005-12-30 07:02AM | 0 recs
Artists and Politics
I grit my teeth when I see (most) artists and entertainers getting political. Generally speaking, outside the context of "Politically Incorrect", most of them come off sounding like idiots (on both the left and the right). Face it, few of them have the necessaries to discuss these issues in public.

However, if those artists and entertainers were to actually use the skills they are good at (making art and entertainment) and infuse them with a political spirit, their impact would be much greater (and more beneficial) than any number of appearances they make on Larry King or Bill O'Reilly.

I think George Clooney gets this, which is why he devotes most of his political activity to his films ("Syriana" and "Good Night And Good Luck"). On the other side, Mel Gibson does a comparable job with his work.

Use the talents God gave you people!

by Chris Andersen 2005-12-29 01:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Artists and Politics
Persons of the year: Bil and Melinda gates, and Bono.

Bono is a bloody punk.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:21PM | 0 recs
Don't limit yourself or your creativity...
specifically to the Democratic Party. As one of the comments addressed above, McCain-Feingold places limits on in-kind contributions.

Rather, work on helping to shift the entire paradigm (i.e., move the midpoint of the self-description of the populace from center-right to center-left) by communicating the importance of ISSUES--the candidates (i.e., Democratic candidates) will follow.

The reason progressives are struggling is that the entire political spectrum has shifted to the right because the GOP message machine has been so effective. It took them 30 years of carefull tweaking to demonize "liberalism," make "taxes" absolutely evil, and turn a candidate's supposed "values" into her/his most important "issue."

I agree with Nick's basic point--Democrats are perceived as lacking focus, purpose, and/or real beliefs. We all know that's a flawed premise--we win on the real issues. The problem is that the Dems have allowed themselves to be defined by the opposition. And during this process, they have relied on hackneyed messages and hack advisors, and generally have allowed themselves to be driven into the ground.

If leveraging behind-the-scenes Hollywood talent is the answer to making America realize that we are in fact a LIBERAL democracy and that the average person is at heart and in mind a Democrat, then I'm all for it.

BTW, Nick, check out to sign up with a group that has this mission as its purpose. Let Ariel Hauter know that Sarah (Payam's girlfriend) referred you. Your talents and personal beliefs will perfectly line up with this group.

by ProgressiveDemFromOC 2005-12-29 02:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Don't limit yourself or your creativity...
The term progressive sucks ass. Try American instead.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:22PM | 0 recs
That's grassroots baby
Perhaps Hollywood liberals are from the old school, they don't go where they're not invited.  I wouldn't have thought that, but from your posting it appears to be that way.

Why does anyone need to be asked to participate in our democracy?  Were young people asked to protest against the war in the sixties?  Did civil rights marchers only show up when they'd received their invitations?

Each one of us who sat at home and watched others protest the war on our television share the blame in where we're at today.

You'll be sitting a long time if you wait for an invitation to get off the couch and on the streets.

by Thom K in CA 2005-12-29 03:32PM | 0 recs
Oh Please Yes
As a conservative Republican I truly truly hope the Dems let people like Matt Stoller take over and run the message machine.  Whenever Republicans stumble Howard Dean just, well, rescues us.  Or the New York times.  The average American who learns what the whole wiretapping story is really about is going to say what my moderately liberal Demo voting friend said about the patriot act-- they can listen to all of my conversations they want to just so long as they prevent another 9/11.  And Syriana?  That's really playing well.  It would be a Republican dream come true-- the people who don't believe in hiring any screenwriter over 49 because they don't want to lose the youth audience running the democratic campaigns where a large percentage of the swing vote is over 50.  Oh goodie.  Except to bad there will be no intelligent political discourse.  Just fantasies that win the hearts and minds of the Greens and the New Left.
by conservative witch 2005-12-29 03:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh Please Yes
As Turnerbroadcasting, I get to grab you by the hair, and ride you like a horse.  I accept your vote for matt stoller, and second the nomination for you to cast your spell.

You are the witch who came from the sea.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 04:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh Please Yes
Thanks for the comment, Susan D. Salisbury.  Interesting that you are both a member of the Republican Lawyer's Association and apparently a wican!  What an interesting combo.  Do drop by here more often and flame liberal comment boards.
by Matt Stoller 2005-12-29 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Oh Please Yes
Oh i love how you demonize Dean. Take Dean's statements on the Iraq war and compare them to Cheney's and tell me who comes across like a fool.

Paraprhasing both:
Dean" Saddam was a bad man. But we are no safer now than we were before Saddam fell. "

Isn't it funny that a republican senator or two were voicing the same sentiment a year later? Are we really any safer now?

Cheney"We will be greeted as liberators. Flowers and a la lalala"
"Doesn't expect war to last more than a month"
"Insurgeny in it's last throes"

Another "crazy" dean statement:"This war is not winnable"

Compare that to Bush
"I dont think we can win the war on terror."
during one of his weak moments last year, I think it was the time he was being badgeered on Osama.

Or compare that to Murtha who is not liberal
"We are not winning the war. We are feeding the insurgency with our presence"

The only other "crazy" Dean moments " his yell. Well watch f911 for a bunch of silly Bush moments the mainstream press won't make fun of.
 Or his statement about "white repubs and never worked an honest day in their lives".
Everyone knows that was a rise up the base internal political speech Dean was giving.
If that's the best you can do when Dean gave many speeches over the years, that's pretty sad.

And even for that I can find republican counterparts who used as bad language on democrats " Bush made disparaging references to New England liberals as if the state of MA was lesser than the good ole southern states and liberals were  ripe for making fun of.
What bout Cheney and Bush questioning the patriotism of many americans. Is that the way for a pres and Vp to act? Broad statements about an entire segment of the population?

Yeah, and you say Dean is crazy.

by Pravin 2005-12-30 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: I think that liberal films can happen
The passion of christ is a story about the power of mankind, and of god in man. It is the story of America, if you listen.

Christ rode into judgement on a donkey, not an elephant. He suffered but did not wear his suffering on his sleeve.

Rome did not decide his fate, christ spoke for the great multitude. The pompous religious politicians stood up and declared their position as if it were the lord's , all the while, a dark faced , sallow - transvestite satan stood with them - as they called for our lord to die upon the cross.

Pilate washed his hands, and sealed the fate of our lord. He stood back, not accepting, nor understanding the conflict. He failed to listen to his family, to his wife, who felt the divinity of the lord christ. Who drew to the power of a message not of twisted, karl rove hatred - but of love.

Christ never drew a line in the sand for the woman who was stoned.

But he did live a life that only a fool would believe, would be anything other than righteous. And that ability, that courage, to stand for what is right - to do humbly, what must be done.

That is the job of the lowly donkey.

Not the proud elephant.

Think for a second in Mel Gibsons movie - how much more powerful was christ, and his deeds than were the actions of Pilate. Think how christ was representative of the people, and how the temple broke when he died. How the religious televangelist fool ripped his shirt.

We are talking about a film who clearly shows that the way to heaven is not through blind edict but to be a true servant of the people. To connect with them deeply. To understand what needs be done without consultants.

To heal.

Sounds a bit like the Democrats could work with that, in my book.

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-12-29 05:04PM | 0 recs
Grassroots=Decentralized planning
"...want to do something besides give money.  We are expert message machines offering our (generally overpriced) services for free and the Democratic Party does not use us"

You dont have to wait for the Dem Party to ask you.  Just do it on your own.  That is what grassroot/decentralization means.

by jasmine 2005-12-29 05:30PM | 0 recs
Hollywood contribution
I signed up just so I could make this post.

Way back in 2002 after the bad mid-term election, I wrote Barbara Streisand a letter and suggested that Hollywood use its talents for the Democrats instead of just sending money by making Democrat friendly movies. I have quit contributing to campaigns and spend money locally after being totally disgusted at how campaigns spend money.

I would like to think that the Reagan movie, that was severely trounced by the right wing, was a product of my suggestion. We all want to feel important and our ideas perfect, right?

I suggested that they could make movies favorable to Democrats and if it didn't make much money, at least they would get some money back to make another movie.

I would like to think what happened to the Streisand's is comparable of the Dixie Chicks. The first one out takes the heat but it gets less each time another person does it.

Yes, Hollywood, please use your talents to help the Democrats, I appreciate it. I never was so sick in all my life when all the movies about Clinton were degrading.

There is a definite market for mature audiences, those that have been ignored by movies makers since that age group quit going to movies. With all the new technology in distribution, this market is hungry and can be tapped.

I haven't been excited about a movie season in a long time with "Good Night, and Good Luck", "Syriania", and "Munich". We need and will pay for more, just not going to the movie theater.

Speaking of movie theaters, how can anyone stand the new crackerbox small screens. The movie theaters of my youth were at least 3 times larger than the current multiplex theater. Get me that DVD at a reasonable price and I will reward you!

by Jim Beard 2005-12-29 06:10PM | 0 recs
Don't get me started
on theaters. I took my kid to the local Loew's to see Harry Potter and after spending $20 for 2 tickets, was subjected to 23 minutes of ads and trailers before the film started! It put us so far behind schedule we had to leave well before the end. Swell evening.
by RobLewis 2005-12-29 06:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Hollywood contribution
Also studios and distributors don't care about theater quality. They will not reward a theater for maintaining superior projection and sound quality over  a neighboring theater. They will just do allocation of movies on an equitable scale instead of giving preference to a top theater. No wonder, theaters are not as driven to amp up quality. Still, it's the theaters that ultimately will be destroyed if they don't take the initiative regardless of studio indifference. Studios will find other ways to make money. All theaters have to freaking do is use a bright projector bulb. I hate dim images. Also how tough is to maintain quality digital sound.

The decline of 70MM in an era where IMAX for mainstream movies is doing well (and is not really bigger than a typical 70MM projection considering you don't take advantage of a full IMAX screen for scope movies) is a shame. Regular 70MM is cheaper than IMAX(which is on 70MM stock but different perforations)  and is almost as effective in delivering a huge quality picture.

by Pravin 2005-12-30 07:08AM | 0 recs
Simple Example
You know all those anecdotes about how stupid and clueless the government is that constantly circulate around the Net? Even my sister, who is sympathetic to progressive causes, forwards them to me because they're "funny."

Well, where are the funny anecdotes about how stupid and clueless big corporations are? Things that make a point but are sufficiently entertaining that Joe Sixpack will forward them to his buddies?

Hollywood writers should be able to churn these things out by the dozens. I'd be surprised if the Repugs don't have people collecting salaries to keep their propaganda-disguised-as-humor circulating.

by RobLewis 2005-12-29 06:53PM | 0 recs
If anybody is going to Sundance
Check out Pete Ashdown while they are in Utah.  He is running for Senate against Orrin Hatch.  While one would think that "the liberal Hollywood elite" would not like Hatch, check out his financials at  "TV/Movies/Music" are his #6 contributor with $56,318 just this cycle, and over $300k since 1989.  This probably because of his ridiculous copyright stances.
However, Ashdown has some great ideas, as has been noted on MyDD before.  So, Mr. Stoller, Sundance is a perfect testing ground for your ideas, if you wish.  Get in touch with Ashdown; his contact info is on his website,
by brett 2005-12-30 07:23AM | 0 recs
I've read and re-read your post
While you bring up some interesting points, I'm not sure how in touch you were during the Kerry campaign and checking your credits on, I see that you don't have a whole lot under your belt, to be speaking in terms of someone who is "connected" per se, in the Hollywood liberal set.

You questioned whether anyone cares what Warren Beatty thinks? Warren Beatty has spent most of his career being a well informed liberal activists. There's a host of liberal activists in Hollywood that have been involved in Dem party politics and causes for decades and no doubt there will continue to be. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening standing up to Arhnold resonated with many before the special elections here this November.

Nothing Kerry said made people cry? I beg to differ. And so would many others. I attended many Kerry events in the L.A. area as well as in NH during the primaries and there were many, many times I saw people moved to tears. There were also many Kerry supporters who shared there experiences of being moved to tears, on the Kerry blog through out the campaign. He may not have made you cry, but you don't speak for the entire Dem party, nor for that matter do you speak for the bulk of the Hollywood liberals who no doubt have far more experience than you as being active Hollywood activists.

George Clooney recently said in an interview about Syriana, that as much as he would have liked to be more involved with Kerry's campaign, he knew it would hurt him.

Kerry listened to many advisors during the campaign, including some from the Hollywood liberal sect. Do you know categorically that he did not use any of their ideas? Unless you were inside the top eschalon of the campaign structure, which you were not, you are surmissing. He may not have used ideas that came from the sect of Hollywood liberals you know, which could be what you are basing your statement on, but it could be because those voices weren't all that experienced in Hollywood.

Hollywood can and does do a lot to elevate the message. There's a fine line in what they can accomplish. For decades, people outside of Hollywood have equated the Hollywood elite with being out of touch with mainstream America. The average American is not even aware how many liberal activists there are amongst the Hollywood liberal set.

Sure it would have been great if Hollywood pitched in with help for commercials and more, but would it have really resonated with all of America and for that matter, do you categorically know that those involved with making Kerry's commercials were not connected with Hollywood? I doubt it.

After over a year now of reading posts around the liberal blogosphere about what Kerry should have done, don't you think it's time to think about what can be done in the future? There's so many in the liberal blogosphere who bemoan kerry, most of whom were supporters of other candidates during the primaries. You don't here this whining from the sector of the blogosphere that was with Kerry during the primaries. And yes that sector does exist, although many in the liberal blogosphere prefer to ignore it or simply not acknowledge it.

There's one production company in Hollywood that is working on bringing voice to the issues through film - Participant Productions. With their apparent success hopefully more will follow suit. But politics does not drive Hollywood, selling movies and TV does.

Use your skills as a Hollywood writer to shape the future, Nick. Now that you have 1 big film under your belt, liberal politicians looking for new ideas might listen.

Note - I have lived in L.A for 16 years. I have a good idea how things work here, though I am not involved directly in the industry, most of friends are. I also wrote as the only volunteer writer with credits to my name for the Kerry Blog from August '03 through the election.

by Pamela 2005-12-31 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: The Hollywood Mythspiracy
"...want to do something besides give money.  We are expert message machines offering our (generally overpriced) services for free and the Democratic Party does not use us"

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by 123asd 2006-05-31 04:29PM | 0 recs


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