Jeremy Pikser Pulls no Punches in his Breakdown of the Film Industry
By Clifford Michel
Aspiring filmmakers hung onto every brash word that came out of Jeremy Pikser’s mouth on November 11 in the Williamson Theatre. He dished out insider information to the inner workings of the Hollywood then advised on how to make it in the film industry.
Pikser, an accomplished screenwriter, paid the College of Staten Island a visit during a screening of his most well-known film, “Bulworth.” Pikser held a Q-and-A session with CSI students, the majority of which were Cinema Studies majors.
Pikser spoke at length about the importance of not writing strictly to make money.
“That’s the worst way to think about it as a writer or a creator,” said Pikser. “You have to write about what you care about.”
Pikser also told the students that a lot of aspiring screenwriters are seeking jobs in cable television due to a lack of stability in film and that they should expect to hold a day job while pursuing their dreams.
“Right now it’s a bad time to go into screenwriting,” Pikser said.
Students and other attendees were excited to talk to Pikser and felt that they received a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to work in film.
“It’s always an honor to meet people in the field, get an insight and see what it takes to make it,” said Russell Aiello, a Cinema Studies major. “As we heard before it’s a very hard field to get into and there’s a lot of politics played.”
“Of course it’s disconcerting to hear the fact that everything is about money and how it takes away from the artistic creations, but it gives more depth of field to those who are new to film,” Aiello continued.
Pikser had several back and forth conversation with students about the struggles of writing a film in Hollywood. The academy nominated screenwriter referenced the difficulties he faced with 20th Century Fox executives, who forced Pikser to add a love story into the script for “Bulworth.”
The event was set up by CSI’s Department of Media Culture, which regularly tries to introduce students to media professionals and co-sponsored by Student Government, which provided refreshments afterwards.
“It’s important that students have exposure to the real world so that they can get a sense of what kind of knowledge and what kind of experience will benefit them,” said Dr. Ying Zhu, Professor and Chair at the Department of Media Culture. “It also makes us proud, this is CSI, this is our department, but we do solid work and we do produce well accomplished graduate students.”
Pikser graduated from Richmond College, one of the three colleges that merged to become CSI, where he studied to become a teacher. He broke into film due to his extensive knowledge of the Russian Revolution. He is now planning to write a novel about his time at Richmond, which he remarked as “one of the craziest, wildest times of my life.”
“People had so much hope, there was much that they could do with their lives. Things really mattered to them, it wasn’t about a career,” said Pikser. “People did it for the love of it.”
Bulworth is a 1998 political satire about a U.S. Senator named Jay Bulworth who begins to truly speak his mind about the state of politics right before Election Day at his own expense.
The movie concludes with Jay Bulworth being shot after the people begin to believe in his populist ideas.
“That is what happens to people who tell the truth, they do get slaughtered one way or another,” said Pikser.
Pikser commented on the film’s relevance today as the New York Times reported last year that Obama often references the movie in private, saying that he wants to “go Bulworth.” Pikser also mentioned that the film still has cultural cache today as it focuses on issues such as health care and the influence of money in politics.
“When this film was made it was harder to use money in politics, I think that’s what happened this year, they just bought the election, they can buy any election,” Pikser said in reference to the 2014 midterm elections.
The Department of Media Culture said that other media focused events are in the works.