Blast From the Past: Sustainable Ideas & The Challenge to Create

Chicago, Illinois • 6/24/13

*Blast from the Past *— previous writings of mine that I feel inclined to share. This blog was written in Chicago on June 6th, 2013.

The Quest for Sustainable Ideas & The Challenge to Create

For hungry filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers alike, it’s no secret that television is currently the hottest chick in the bar. She has a creative longevity that films can’t provide, and the potential to financially sustain a company for years on end. Television is an ever-evolving beast, one that is constantly judged, rated, and reviewed throughout its lifespan. It is perceived as a form of sustainable and predictable success, rather than the ever-difficult, feature-film business that is currently overrun with studio executives trampling each other to create the next Iron Man franchise.

But that’s an interesting parallel, is it not? Our modern day filmmaking industry is moving towards sustainable ideas. Both in feature-film franchises, and longer-form TV shows, today’s Hollywood landscape is one that, more often than not, deduces the quality of an idea based on the longevity of it, not the inherent excellence of a single script.

This proposes a rare and unique opportunity to the television screenwriter who does his homework. As has always been the case with narrative and long-form TV, no one can simply define a character based on plot points and character arcs in a set, 90-minute period. One must create a character that can last for 10 seasons — flaws, complexities, DNA strands and all.

Both a blessing and a curse, this is an aspect of pilot creation that is often lost in the shuffle. So often I hear someone say, “I have a great idea for this web series,” and my first response is, “Great. Who are your characters? Where are they going to be in 10 years? Why should I care? And 90% of the time they don’t know the answer.

Technology has instilled an infectious “do-it-yourself” mentality, which consequently encourages filmmakers to do rather than to create, think, or plan. It’s unbelievably easy these days to pick up a camera, get together some actors, and shoot something. My challenge to you would be: define the bigger picture. Define the longevity and long-term goals of the project, whether it is for film or TV, before spending that extra $200 to rent a camera lens. There is so much mindless content out there for audiences to choose from, why should you add to the pile? Of course, putting out your own YouTube video has its own merit, but if you want to create long-form, narrative television, spend the time to create it. Don’t merely focus on executing it. Get together with your writing friends, spend long nights with whiteboards and note cards and bottles of wine, and think it through.

Half a century ago, people were looking for physical execution. Nowadays, audiences are looking for entertainment with creative integrity, and they have the ability to choose it, pause it, and replay it as they see fit. Challenge yourself. Strive for that. No one’s going to care about your fancy reel if you don’t have the creative ingenuity to back it up.