Big business and audiences need to stop sucking the creativity out of entertainment

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I’m feeling in a ranty mood today. Mainly because of all those tweets Notch did yesterday, mainly because I’ve been dwelling on some of the points raised in episode one of BeefJack’s Button Bashers when we discussed crowd funding.

Why a picture from Bleach? Well, while sorting out the Birthday present for a certain someone today, I remembered that the anime had been cancelled the other month. Viewing figures were down and it had been going on for ages.

I use to like Bleach, yes I did. But not after starting to watch the second season. It stopped having variation and just became more of the same.

Now I could just say that it’s only Japanese media that’s been having this kind of stagnation. But it’s not. They’ve just had it going on longer than anyone else.

What do I mean by stagnation here? The repetition of the same old storylines and plot devices. Yes, I’m aware of the post-modernist arguments that suggest that nothing can be original – what I’m saying is that creatives aren’t even being allowed to use the full range of story formulas that they could be and that media companies and audiences are partly to blame.

A company takes a small creative risk. Audiences seen to latch onto that risk and then keep wanting more of that same thing. Other companies see that thing (I’m now having Harvey Birdman flashbacks now) is popular and endeavour to make more of the same. And with a recession on, this effect is amplified as companies steer away from developing media products that may not sell.

Eventually, audiences finally get bored of a particular media fad and that’s when engagement begins to drop off. But the companies that have been following audience trends still have stuff of the previous fad in the works and so they’ll still push it out and perhaps win back some of the bored audiences or a few newcomers may become interested. This causes the fad to come back just as companies were considering something else to do.

But it didn’t use to be like that. It use to be that media companies were always on the look out for the next big thing to shock the system into life. Now there’s hardly anyone left at tv or film production companies who are charged with reading through script slush piles.

The risk is gone. Everything must have an already proven business case before it can be made.

And so our media stagnates: adaptation after adaptation, clone after clone, remake after remake, sequel after sequel. Our collective tastes in English speaking countries at the moment are rather dull.

But then the indie scene across various mediums and crowd funding are beginning to shock the system once more. Giving creatives the chance to prove whether their ideas have a business case or not.

Yet what I fear is that media companies will rely on creatives – even more – to prove a business case for a text, before swooping down and gobbling it up. Of course indies could refuse to work with companies, but I’d say the partnership is tempting for two reasons: 1) There’s still a glamour to not being self-published 2) It gives creatives the time to actually work on what they’re good at – being creative. After all, it’s rather taxing to source funding for a project yourself when you’re meant to be creating the project.

Of course those that stick to their guns and don’t join up with other companies will have the chance to try things that aren’t being tried at the moment. If one trend with crowd funding can be shown is that people are funding projects that don’t fit in with what the big media companies are pushing out at the moment and go against the mainstream of audience expectations.

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2 thoughts on “Big business and audiences need to stop sucking the creativity out of entertainment

  1. I would generally agree with this. Though I think it also has a knock on effect. People are polarized into liking either the next sequel or arthouse media (or more accurately anti-Hollywood). From my experience, it’s rare to find somebody that likes Pulp Fiction as well as My Beautiful Laundrette.

    Though I think the wider issue is the future of commercialism in film and media. You have films like Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer that are actually Hollywood-like in that they’re cathartic, the villain and the hero are clearly defined and use digital effects. What this says to me is that there’s a split in the creative industries of all cinemas, and that there’s in general two types of film – one built for the audience (designed to make them laugh, make them afraid, make them feel good) and then there’s the films that are about the filmmaker – designed to push their perspective on the audience, designed to be an outlet for the filmmaker and circling around the experimentation of the filmmaker, regardless of the audience expectations or wants. That’s not to say that arthouse cinema is inherently bad, just that we need a balance between filmmaker and audience.

    Because surely creatives get bored doing adaptations of other peoples works and sequels to their own hits as well. Surely creatives have other films and avenues they wish to pursue…

    • I’ll agree with your points.

      Obviously audiences should have the chance to be entertained, but then, as you said, creatives need an outlet too.

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