Why Not Be a Part of the Paradigm Shift?
So, what does killing zombies have to do with rebuilding a new thriving entertainment industry, you might ask? Well, what are zombies? Something that was once alive, subsequently contaminated and now dead or dying, yet walking around as if alive and causing all kinds of grief for those who have not become zombified: Sounds a lot like the current state of the film and music business.
Residing somewhere between life and death, they feast on the brains of the living.
Well folks, WE are the BRAINS they feast upon: the creatives, fans and consumers. We are the visionaries. We are the brains, heart, soul, body and ultimately the resources and funding of the entire operation. Without the artist, there is no art. Without the art, there are no fans. No fans = no consumers = no money = FACT.
Despite that fact, there is a commonly held illusion (amongst many independent musicians and filmmakers) that portrays the ‘Entertainment Industry’ as a big ominous ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ scenario, antagonistic towards, and exploitive of the artist and the arts. Unfortunately, there are (far too many) cases that support this belief. The “industry” however, is not a monolithic entity ruled by some terrible evil overlord in a dark tower (even if there are those who aspire to attain that position). Sounds like a premise for a great film though, doesn’t it? (I think Peter Jackson got there first!)
From another perspective, one could argue that WE (the artists/creatives/filmmakers) are the zombies, wandering hopelessly searching out our next meal, seeking even a scrap from the very ‘Empire’ we supposedly distrust or even (in some cases) revile! You’ve seen it, probably felt it too; I know I have, but that is precisely the problem we all need to overcome! Recent and emerging technologies have helped artists get beyond many previously seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and some of these ‘illusions’ have been revealed for what they are, yet old habits and beliefs die hard.
Crowd-funding and social media platforms have allowed a uniquely powerful and direct connection between the artist and their potential fan base. It isn’t as if any of this is freakin’ news at this point; it is common knowledge you’ve read in a hundred articles by now, but the full potential of these tools has yet to be tapped. There are new websites and platforms popping up daily, touting different ideologies and promises. Some are legitimate, some are dream vultures, and some (however well intended) will fail for one reason or another. At the end of the day, all of these are, in a way, only a substitute for our previous bogey (‘middle’) man, ‘the industry’. Most of these tools will eventually be assimilated by the embers of that waning industry (and inevitably misused to all our chagrin), but this is the very thing that will allow the new independent artist to shine. With appropriate use of these tools, legitimate community building between creatives and their fans, and creatives and their colleagues is possible, thus circumventing an awful lot of middlemen along the way.
There is of course a price to be paid. A lot of time is required to research and get a handle on appropriate and effective use of these new tools. Artists will need to take it upon themselves to truly engineer their own career path and develop entrepreneurial and business skills they may have neglected in the past. Illusions that some record label or film studio will come along and spend mega-millions to propel your career or your brainchild are just what they always were, reasonably unlikely, unless you’re already ahead of the curve on your homework, business savvy and perseverance.
Through his iconic comic book creation, Spiderman, Stan Lee propelled the famous quote “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I would add that the inverse is also true: “With great responsibility, comes great power!” Now is the time. The conditions are ripe for an overhaul of the previous rules of the road and ‘conventional wisdom’. The new entertainment industry is right there waiting for US! We have the technology, we can rebuild it. Even more exciting, we have the power to reframe the character and redirect the misguided priorities of an industry that has been spinning its wheels on unchallenging and unoriginal remakes and franchise overkill for far too long (Not that a good remake can’t be splendidly entertaining).
In the end, all businesses need to make a profit. Investors need a return on their money, and hard work and creatives deserve their due accordingly. There is no reason these need to be mutually exclusive clubs. We need to ask ourselves some serious and insightful questions. Is fierce and desperate competition really the most productive approach to a business that revolves around creative individuals? What if ‘the industry’ opted to produce ten 15 million dollar films, or fifty 3 million dollar films rather than one 150 million dollar film? (Not that there isn’t a reason for 150 million dollar films;Who wouldn’t love that kind of budget?)
Let’s face it; producing quality film or music that achieves a significant level of artistic AND commercial success has never been easy. The filmmakers and artists who we admire most, and who have achieved some level of success in the industry, will have very few tales of how simple it all was! If we take responsibility, we can steer this ship in a direction that can expand a working ‘middle class’ of creatives, while enhancing the culture with films and music born of the heart and soul of artists, and not merely demographically engineered vehicles for product placement amidst a small pool of familiar ‘stars’. The “New Creative Industry” will be as honest and inspired as WE can make it. It is up to us to create a new paradigm where artistic integrity and profitability do not have to be embroiled in a civil war. So turn off the auto-tune, stop trying to meet the latest trend, and write an original script! If there’s gonna to be a new Sheriff in town, it might as well be US: passionate filmmakers and artists dedicated to their craft! And if that is the case, then that is precisely what we need to be doing: living breathing and expressing our passion honestly and without ‘filters’ that dilute and homogenize our art.
I recently ran across this excellent related article/video blog via Twitter By filmmaker David Paul Baker.
Even as I write this article, there are many positive signs (like the one above), that there is movement in the right direction for our industry, but before we can get there, we may have to kill a few zombies along the way.
Special Thanks to @davidpbaker for his excellent blog posting on the subject! David is currently hard at work on his latest production, an expansion/remake and official global release for his “Mission X” project.
And of course, Thanks to Film Courage’s David Branin and Karen Worden for welcoming me on board as a guest writer.
Please feel free to comment! Join the conversation. Tell us your ideas and methods for rebuilding and/or navigating this exciting new era in the history of Independent Film and the creative/entertainment industry in general. Special bonus points for anyone who can name all the movies I made some sort of reference to in this article;)
T. Reed – Composer/Music Producer @TAOXproductions © 2010
Please contact author for reprint permission.