Brace yourselves. I’ve been thinking.
Mostly about media and the artist, the marketplace and the marketer, the dream and the dreamer.
Friends of mine have for years been commenting on the fact that the media – publishing, television, films, theater – have increasingly come under the ownership/umbrella of a small group of corporations, and recently The Nation Magazine devoted most of its pages to a discussion of what it calls Big Media, the five corporations who own almost every major national and international media company, whole or in part.
The Nation’s point is a political one. It exposes and then deplores the fact that most of the United States gets only the news that Big Media wants it to get, pointing out that the reportage is geared toward two agendas. First, advertising, as in “all the news that will attract the demographic our sponsors want to sell their products to so we can get top dollar for the ads.” Second, the advancement of corporate goals, where money is secondary to growth, because with increased growth comes increased control and increased power.
I am not a political person. I am not a journalist. I find myself greatly upset by the lack of diversity in journalism, and by the skewed worldview the news media present. In a sense, they are creating a world and then forcing the public to live in it, by presenting it as reality. For example, I grew up believing that the United States was almost entirely big, crime-ridden cities populated by an intelligent ruling class and a violent underclass. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I discovered that small towns were real, and that the folks there were, well, real people too.
But my main concern throughout my life has been art and its creation. Learning how to write for print and broadcast and then doing the writing. So what worries me most is what BigMedia is doing to art. To culture. Publishing, whether it be books, magazines, or newspapers, is now just an adjunct to production. The two work together, Disney-style, creating synergy so that one sells the other – and the message that they sell is no longer that of an individual artist but of the corporation that owns them. The purpose of art has become the same as the purpose of journalism: Attract the right demo for advertising; advance corporate growth. Culture is now pop culture. Once upon a time there was an acknowledged difference between best selling authors and recording artists and “serious” authors and musicians. Now there are only best-sellers, or those attempting to be best-sellers.
Because there is no market, no venue, for anything else.
For many years I’ve gone along with this, with a certain degree of success. Now, however, I find myself sharing the feelings of Howard Beale, Paddy Chayevski’s spokesman in Network: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Over the past fifteen years, as I’ve concentrated more and more on working with new talent, I’ve seen more and more creative injustice. More and more writers and artists and actors and musicians with great talent who can’t get anywhere because the BigMedia gatekeepers don’t think they have the right earning potential, or that they’re giving out the right message. By earning potential, I mean earnings for the corporation. By message, I mean the corporate point of view.
When I created TVWriter.Com my purpose was to provide whatever help I could to writers who wanted to make it in mainstream television and films. In short, to recruit for BigMedia. In this regard I’ve had another degree of success. But it’s time to move on, to take this vision of educating and starting new writers to the next level.
What I’m envisioning is a two-pronged attack. The first element is to continue as I’ve been doing, teaching online, holding workshops in various cities, and providing other resources for those whose hearts tell them that creating the next great TV series or writing and producing the next great feature film is the way to go.
The second element is to create an alternative to BigMedia. To find a way to make art personal again, to create a cultural milieu that exists for the sake of the elevation of the human spirit instead of to sell deodorant. This is a tough one because it means breaking the corporate stranglehold on both the media and distribution (BigMedia owns most of the book, magazine, film, and television distribution companies in the Western world), and expanding the mindset of both artists and their audience. By expanding the mindset, I mean opening up the horizons of an audience that has become so accustomed to reading, seeing, and hearing only major productions, promoted by major advertising, that it has forgotten that smaller work can be as worthwhile if not more so, and banging the heads of artists until they too remember that their original goal was to express themselves and communicate their version of truth and beauty to others, not simply become rich and famous and have their weddings and divorces covered in BigMedia’s People Magazine.
In order to accomplish this a climate of cultural incubation must be created. New television networks, new film distribution companies, new publishing houses, record companies, art galleries, theaters, you-name-it, must be nurtured into existence. A dedication to artistic expression and involvement must be the basis of these new facilities, with sharing the creative vision being the true end, and profit, which of course is highly necessary, as just one more means to that end.
Establishing these facilities will be a time-consuming and expensive process. To help the artists, I want to bring newcomers together with older, more experienced creators, many of whom are ripe and ready for the challenge of teaching and co-creating because they have been cast aside by BigMedia’s current love affair with youth (created only because it’s easier to sell to younger people because their minds can be changed more quickly by what they see and hear).To do this, I will be working with TVWriter.Com and any other entity that has the wherewithal, either creative or financial, to help this movement grow.
My plan is to continue and expand my teaching. If what I have said makes sense to you, if the sad state of BigMedia “art” makes your blood boil, or run cold with fear for what our posterity will have to endure as entertainment, then I call on you to help me by working your creative asses off, learning all you can, and contributing your talents to the world on whatever level you can.
Sell a series to NBC! Become CEO of Showtime! Get yourself a Board seat at Rupert Murdoch’s right hand! Start your own publishing company! Post your work on the Web! Pool your resources and record your own productions and sell them out of the trunk of your car! Rent a storefront and present your own play! Record from your garage! Give your ability, or a couple of bucks if you can spare them, to those who are trying to do Something New.
The Chickasaw Indians have an adage: “Do everything you do as though your seventh generation grandchildren are watching and all they will know of you is what you are doing right now.” We have a responsibility to our descendants to give them a legacy of enrichment and beauty. And a responsibility to ourselves not to fail.
In the words of Bono on Shake, Rattle, and Hum: “Am I bugging you? I mean to bug you!” Because this can’t be done alone. It’s got to be a collaboration, like film making. If you’ve got any suggestions for how to walk this road, or if you want to walk it with me, let me know right away. I promise to keep everyone posted on our progress.
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