Lessons for the Wine Industry By Way of Bad Filmmakers

poisonIf you are reading this and you work in the wine industry, then you understand what I mean when I say that we know how lucky we are. If you are reading this and don’t work in the wine industry, I hope you know what I mean when I say it’s great to work in an industry that gives you an opportunity to be involved in intriguing others.

The winemakers and their cellar crews get to raise up wine that will be sniffed, swirled, sipped and drunk, then discussed in earnest. They want that wine to be intriguing and interesting and satisfying.

The vineyardists and their crew get to prune, sucker, de-leaf, till, watch and harvest to the point of turning a grape into a source of something altogether different and they too want their fruit to be interesting and intriguing and meaningful.

The Marketer has the chance to tell a real story and to think about the customer and devise ways to introduce buyers and drinkers to something truly joyful when used properly and they want their plans and efforts to be effective and intriguing and captivating.

The retailer has a chance to fulfill desire by putting something with a real backend story into the hands of people looking to be floored and satisfied and justified and compelled.

The wine writer takes the time to carefully craft an explanation of meaning and place and history and efforts and wrap it all up in a package that joy seekers and drinkers looking for intrigue can bite into.

The point is that all of us in the wine industry should understand that we are in a pretty unique position to satiate those seeing to be intrigued and fascinated and satisfied and we really should have a central commandment: don’t waste that opportunity by disrespecting the chance you have to make a difference to someone.

This is what I was thinking after watching 12 Years a Slave a new film concerning the issue of mid 19th century American slavery. The filmmaker is also working in an industry where the object is to intrigue and soothe and uplift and compel their audience. They, like those of us in the wine industry,  have an opportunity so many others don’t.

So I couldn’t help but wonder why 12 Years a Slave’s filmmaker, Steve McQueen, chose to ignore this opportunity and create one of the most purely sadistic-minded pieces of shit I’ve ever been subjected to. This film was closer to a snuff film than a dramatization. Creating two hours depicting nonstop beatings, whippings, the carving  up of human flesh, humiliations, degradations and deprivations and trying to call it drama, let alone art, was Steve McQueen’s complete and total disregard for the unique opportunity people like him posses.

This wasn’t a case of a filmmaker mis-telling a story or just slightly missing the mark. It was a cruelty; a poisoning of the audience.

Try to imagine a winemaker who decided consumers needed to be exposed to winemaking that featured arsenic. Think through the idea of a wine writer who decided there was real value in penning wine reviews using primarily nasty and evocative racial slurs.  That was 12 Years a Slave.

When you have a chance to intrigue and entertain an audience that wants to be intrigued and entertained, it’s a happy situation. So here’s my tip of the day for people working in the wine (and film) industry: It’s not OK to poison your customers for their own sake.



7 Responses

  1. Doug Wilder y - November 19, 2013

    Maybe sleep on it, Tom? Little disturbing for Bessie-bye…

  2. Tim Gray - November 20, 2013

    Tom, while I certainly appreciate your thoughts, and I agree with your review of the movie, I think your premise is flawed. You cannot assume that the objective of every film maker is to intrigue, soothe and uplift. There is an entire genre of film making that makes money off of just the opposite, horror films. I too, felt that the movie 12 Years a Slave was over the top. Its graphic nature seemed horrifying. But filmakers have been making statements with film since it’s inception. Thought we may not agree with there view, idea or statement being conveyed, they are free to make it none the less.

  3. Tom Wark - November 20, 2013

    Tim, I wouldn’t argue the filmmaker isn’t free to make this piece of shit. And by “intrigue” the audience I would include in that idea horrifying the audience. However, this film had no story arch to speak of. It spent an hour and a half depicting sadism. Do I really need an our and a half of this to appreciate the horror of mid-19th century American slavery? And if you know the story of the protagonist, I’s pretty clear that what he did after removing himself from bondage is where the real story lies. The point is that some people have the chance to greet the desires of an audience or customers with something intriguing and real and satisfying. It’s a disaster when you ignore that call altogether and instead give them shit (even worse, then call it art).

  4. Clint - November 20, 2013

    Yes, next time they should make a movie about slavery without “beatings, whippings, the carving up of human flesh, humiliations, degradations and deprivations.” They could call it 21 Jump Street. Tom, what film did you watch?!

    12 Years a Slave is a great example of no-compromise filmmaking. We’d be better for it if there were more Steve McQueens of this world. He doesn’t let the audience off the hook – his single camera no-edit approach to at least a few scenes is excruciating. Truth. If you like your history watered down check out the film adaptation of THE BOOK THIEF – Nazi Germany with a Disney brush!

    This is easily one of the best films of the year. And the performances (lead actor, supporting actress) are just amazing.

    Maybe they should re-make JFK. And cut out the motorcade part. Because winemakers shouldn’t assassinate their customers cruising down Highway 29 in their 911 Cabrios.

  5. Tom Wark - November 20, 2013

    Clint, your suggestion regarding JFK would be apt IF, the entirely of JFK was spent exposing the audience to massive head wounds, dwelling the camera on Kennedy’s brain matter and closely examining the horror that Jackie experienced while picking her husbands brain matter off of her pretty suit.

    Where was the story arch in 12 Years? Where was the drama? Where was the anticipation? Where was the plot? McQueen wasted a good opportunity to tell and story, to intrigue his audience and to examine all sorts of issues concerning plantation life as well as issues of fate. Was the acting good? Sure. But I suspect that DeNiro could uplift the acting in a Porn film too. But who cares.

  6. Holly Evans-White - November 20, 2013

    Wow! What a conversation! And isn’t that what ALL art is about? (Am thinking Tom doesn’t want me to call this movie art, but there’s a lot of ugly art out there AND ugly wine – yeesh!)

    Thanks Tom for the SHOUTED head’s up about this movie as I would be unable to tolerate it (I still have moments where I pause over a few scenes of Deliverance I saw as a 4th grader, if’n you know what I mean) and don’t want to see anything with too much too-graphic violence. All slavery, round the world, present and past is abhorrent – I agree with what you said about not needing graphic depictions of seeing Kennedy’s assassination to get the gist of it and to agree it was devastating.

    Also agree, however, not quite sure really how this relates to wine given that arsenic would literally kill most of us, whereas viewing graphic gross-out violence will kill few.

    All that said, so good to see Tim Gray here! We miss you!

    Tom, thanks for this food-for-thought on this misty morning. We’ll be talking about it over some wine later today.


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