The media gins up doomsday interpretations about the year 2012, as the “new year 2000.” The format in television hamstrings content providing “bottom-line” sound bytes of what I say without the background. Let us face it, folks, television is a business. It needs to make money and the majority of you prefer to be entertained rather than enlightened. Thus, more time is given to fantastic and fatalistic slants than alternatives.
I understand a television producer’s dilemma perhaps more than most guests on their shows. I was born in Hollywood California. My mother was an MGM dancer and my late father, Harold Austin “Bud” Hogue, remains the youngest studio grip on the union ledgers. (He looked 21 when he was 13 years old.) Bud Hogue worked at every Hollywood studio you have ever seen stamped on the black and white or color movie credits of over 200 films produced in the movie-classic decades of the 1940s and early 1950s. He built interior sets for Orson Welles in The Stranger and ran klieg lights over Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse “dancing in the dark” in my favorite MGM musical, The Band Wagon. I got to know the business through my parents from both sides of the studio lights.
I also once wrote for network television. I co-penned a second-season opener for the Sci-Fi comedy series “Quark” staring Richard Benjamin back in the late 1970s. (By the way, a planned second season was cancelled a week after our script was warmly welcomed with what I recall was the producer yelling, “Where were you guys last year?!”)
My point is this: I understand what producers, directors and writers of prophecy documentaries go through when adapting complicated topics into 48 minutes-per-hour of show time. I have also gone through the gauntlet adapting my books for the documentary TV genre. Every producer, director and writer hiring me in my dual role as guest and expert consultant has heard some of the following observations.
We live in a period of unprecedented caution in the liberal arts, especially in print publications and television documentaries. As funding shrinks, corporate heads necessarily retreat to known, tried and true dogmas of ratings formulae and it is often very hard to get them to come out of that boxed-in mindset even when the evidence begs for going in new directions. Take for example Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and James Cameron’s Avatar. Both films go against most corporate dogma about what sells. They are solid stories with multi-layered characters in very long movies where special effects where not only new and untested innovations but only used to move the story, not the other way around.
Do you wonder why you do not see more movies like that? They certainly made a lot of money and that rightfully is the bottom line for every corporate media head, to go ahead making more solid story movies, because they make a lot of money, right? Lord of the Rings made $3.5 billion and Avatar by itself as of today (11 May 2010) earned a whopping $2,727,946,415.00. Yet, these blockbuster franchises go against the grain of the known. You only need to read what Cameron himself said about years of fights and resistance to Avatar’s originality met at every stage of production.
Rather than being viewed as a litmus test, proving that audiences hunger for intelligent story telling, Avatar and Lord of the Rings are still viewed by a very conservative — not liberal — arts business as risky gambles that got lucky.
I have my own direct experience of this mindset being a guest and expert consultant on over one hundred television productions since 1987. There is almost a wired-in, programmed resistance to move the Nostradamus and prophecy TV genre beyond the familiar cliché of unbalanced doom and gloom sensation. Although a number of my suggestions influence productions over the years — Authentic Entertainment’s 2006 production for a History Channel episode in the Decoding the Past series, entitled, The Other Nostradamus comes closest in the last decade as an example of the direction — I would like to take in this genre beyond the media mask on Nostradamus.
If you want to see some inkling how Nostradamus can be presented unfiltered and balanced with each point backed up, watch this one-hour documentary drawing a comparison between the famous 16th-century prophet and American 20th-century seer, Edgar Cayce. The Other Nostradamus earned the distinction of being History Channel’s highest rated show in 2006 and is still frequently in reruns. It was the first of a series of successful History Channel Nostradamus productions. In my opinion, that measured documentary presented the best example of sensational entertainment balanced with alternatives to doom backed up by facts and evidence. We can go a lot farther than The Other Nostradamus did, too.
Know this — all of you who are freaked out by these doom-laden docos. I will soldier on, respectfully pressing my counsel to production companies and TV execs and no doubt face editorial disappointment for your sake. I will go on helping them hear what you say you need, despite the final cuts mostly likely presenting the antithesis. I will celebrate my small victories for your sake when a byte or two of the real subject can be seen in the final cut of future documentaries.
There have been improvements. Despite the even more lurid and fantastically sensational elements of History Channel’s newest hit prophecy series, The Nostradamus Effect, the producers do let me say albeit too briefly what I really think about the Lost Book of Nostradamus and the overblown significance of 2012.
It must be remembered that our Liberal Arts often lead the way to change. Deep down, television artists, directors, writers, and even their producers are natural risk takers. Conservative and cautious habits cannot hold them down forever. The law of supply and demand must be followed. Even the corporate heads of the television industry when faced with the oncoming revolutionary times must adapt to what you demand on your TV, iPod, iPad and blackberry screen.
Write, tweet and text to them. They do read your tweets and emails and want your business. Give them the business about being one-sided negative concerning prophecy themes. Help me from the outside, give them your feedback while from inside, in the studios, I make your case to the producers. Let us help them supply what you respectfully demand.
(11 May 2010)
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