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Smart Hollywood: Not An Oxymoron, I Promise

Jonathan FuhrmanWelcome to my brand spanking new column. You may be asking yourself, who is Jonathan Fuhrman, why does he have a new column, and why should I care. It’s okay, I ask myself versions of that first and last question all the time (and I still don’t have a good answer). In any event, here I am, with the goal of sharing my take on the business that is show, and basically anything pop-culture related.

What makes me qualified to write such a column? How’s this: I am an entertainment attorney by profession and have been practicing since 2000, and I spent the past 3 years as a VP of Business & Legal Affairs at a movie studio. It is my hope that this column will stand out from the countless others on these Interwebs because I have actually spent the last decade working in this business and have seen Hollywood’s wheelings and dealings THISCLOSEUP. And I lived to tell the tale. But more than that, I think the qualification that matters most is my passion for the entertainment industry and all of the wonderful, not quite so wonderful and downright tacky ideas, fads, and mass-media influenced beliefs that make up that which we call ‘popular culture’.

etgertieI’ve had a passion for the business side of the entertainment industry since I was a teenager. In fact, for my 13th birthday I got a subscription to weekly Variety from my grandmother, and I’ve more or less had that same subscription ever since. (I like to say that because not only is it a sweet heartwarming story — straight out of a Hollywood movie no less — but more importantly, it’s basically true – although my subscription may have lapsed once or twice, but those people at Variety are relentless with their offers to re-up so those lapses never lasted long.)

Being that I was a child of the first generation to grow up with cable TV (sprinkle a dash of the magic that is 1980’s MTV over here, and a dash of the unedited, 24-hour pay TV movie heaven that is HBO over there), it’s not a shock that I became a pop culture junkie. Growing up I had a great passion for movies – many of my favorite childhood memories are those moments where I was sitting in a darkened theater with popcorn in hand, watching trailers unspool for movies that I would then become obsessed with and countdown on the calendar until they were released. From the original Star Wars trilogy to E.T., Indiana Jones to Ghostbusters, I marked milestones in my early years by what was dominating the multiplex at the time. And how could I ever have survived high school without the oeuvre of John Hughes (may he rest in peace). Okay lets be honest, I still wouldn’t be able to survive adulthood without the endless re-runs of those classic flicks on cable. Ferris Bueller is still my hero. What a role model.

As for my love of movies, I must credit my amazing mother – as many of my first memories as a filmgoer are of the Saturday afternoons during the summer when she used to take my brother and I to the movies for Saturday afternoon double features of Disney classics. This same wonderful mom who let me stay up to watch the Oscars for the first time the year that Rocky won best picture, and I’ve never missed an Oscars since. The rest I’ll save for Mother’s Day — but if you want an inkling of where my love for movies came from, I highly recommend you put Cinema Paradiso in your Netflix queue (or, gasp, go to Blockbuster and rent it, if anyone out there actually still does that).

Now to the “SMART” aspect of this column title. I realize that “Smart Hollywood” is a punch line waiting to happen (hmm, could I be intending that? Maybe, maybe not), perhaps the oxymoron of all oxymorons coming from an industry that has perfected the art of endless bad remakes of bad 1980s films and Alvin and The Chipmunk sequels (er, I mean Squeakuel – to channel the great Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler, a “SQUEAKUEL”, really – you couldn’t just call it ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks 2’ and let us get on with our lives, really!! — although I think I just proved right here how smart Hollywood is, because of that bizarre/annoying title the marketing wizards dreamed up, I just used more words talking about an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie in a column entitled “Smart Hollywood” than anyone in their right mind should). I may be stating the obvious (and if so please get used to that), but it takes a lot of smarts to survive in Hollywood and to navigate the ups and downs of this business. Though it helps if you are a Scientologist. My hope is that this column will also provide at least a little bit of insight into that world. Hollywood, not Scientology.

But more literally I’m calling this column “Smart Hollywood” because a) I hope my years in this business will yield some useful insights here, and b) I cant help but be a bit of a smart-ass at times (I mean, I am a lawyer) — and that will no doubt be reflected in the column as well.

ShawshankSo if you’re still reading this (power of positivity!), maybe you’re willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you? It’s Hollywood. (Bonus points for those of you who just felt a Shawshank Redemption flashback – I like you already). And after this self-indulgent introductory column, Hollywood, the iconic industry itself, and all of the various product it creates, is what I intend to write about. Pretty much anything and everything that has to do with the entertainment industry and pop culture will be fair game for this space. I would like to regularly answer reader questions on any related topic, so please feel free to email those questions to me at smarthollywood@gmail.com. Readers can also find me on Twitter at @smarthollywood. Yes, I realize I’m taking a bold leap to assume I might have more than one reader (hi, Mom!), but dare to dream. And to those of you who made it to the end of column numero uno, thanks for staying awake. I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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