“Life is like a box of chocolates,” according to Forrest Gump. Do you know what else is like a box of chocolates? The film industry. You never know what you’re going to get. Or do you? In this article, I’ll playfully address industry trends through metaphors of chocolate. This should make them, shall we say, slightly more appetizing. Let’s see how long I can keep the metaphors going!
First, we must acknowledge that every film set is a different box of chocolates run by a different chocolatier. Some boxes might include the same visionary nougat who follow us from one box to the next. We may, however, end up with some nuts and salty or bitter personalities. Let’s face it, the industry also attracts some rather, fruity, personalities who don’t always complement chocolate. Combine those flavors correctly, however, and you may yet end up with a gourmet box. In the end, the chocolatier’s job isn’t just making the chocolate, but assembling and overseeing box assembly. Sometimes they even have to find chocolate shops to sell their product.
Next, we must acknowledge that the film industry has had some, gluttons, of late. Money talks, and it’s easier and more profitable to churn out cheap chocolate for grocery store aisles as opposed to fine Swiss chocolates for connoisseurs. This leads to an environment encouraging consumption instead of valuing craftsmanship. This creates space for the power-hungry to rise to the top while those with a love of chocolate, or conscience, are steamrolled over.
That leads to the next issue. Chocolatiers are often at the mercy of their factory bosses. Some factory bosses let their chocolatiers have artistic freedom while others pick and choose which chocolates go into the box. Chocolatiers often never meet their boss. Then there are the bosses who answer to other bosses overseeing chains of factories, each with different brands. The challenge of the chocolatier in these conditions is maintaining their flavor while supporting (or surviving) the factory’s brand and demand while delivering their boxes in time for the holidays. Some factories make that easier than others.
These factories have also been dealing with changing business models. Some chocolate boxes are being sent out online as opposed to sold in chocolate shops. How we think about chocolate boxes, let alone how we consume them, is changing. Even though the package might be different for online delivery, there is still a factory standing behind every website. The split here is where chocolatiers are joining a new model which promises artistic freedom (for the moment, although it might become a new factory system in the near future) and those who are staying in traditional brick and mortar factories that sell chocolates in physical stores.
Chocolatiers going down either route have the same philosophical opportunities. Those joining the online culture can help to shape it as it forms while those sticking to the factories can choose to reshape their factory’s culture. We can choose to invest in chocolatiers and every member of our team. We can encourage those entering the industry and mentor them. After all, chocolate-making, like filmmaking, is collaborative. What if we created an environment encouraging each chocolatier to embrace their own flavors? What if we made chocolate simply to bring joy to audiences? What if these weren’t what ifs?