There's a disconnect between what people think of as creativity, and what they perceive to be commerce. Some writers, artists, and musicians are sniffy about the idea of creating with an agenda of supporting themselves, while wishing to support themselves with what they create.
There's wiggle-room here, of various sorts. I went to one art show opening, got talking to an artist there, and asked how he got by financially. He looked askance at me, and without ever uttering words involving money implied that he survived on funds raised from arts grants of various sorts. Which is fair enough - I'd rather public money was spent on arts projects than nuclear weapons for instance.
Really, what that means is the artist in question gets his money by filling forms in and having a good relationship with the people reading them, or at any rate an additional layer of paid bodies who exist to go between them. Pretty much like being on welfare, only with the possibility of higher sums being involved. And where there's a distinct skill in using words to suggest that the art you create is somehow aligned to whatever buzzwords a funding body is attracted to. Sometimes it's 'engagement' or 'participatory', and you can never go wrong with 'community'. Nothing wrong with any of that if the actuality bears out the claims.
My background as a copywriter for ad agencies, and subsequently as a freelancer, makes me rudely practical about money. Monthly mortgage payments aren't covered by assertions of the inherent worth of my scribblings or claims that they benefit others, it turns out. And that career history also gives me a different take on creativity than some.
I create work for audiences. And for me to do so, I need to have some sense of who those audiences are, and what else they already like. Fortunately, I like genre storytelling in various forms, and one advantage of genre is it connects creators to pre-existing audiences who've enjoyed stories that share commonality with the ones I want to tell. Well, that's fine by me, and I am of the opinion that work created in genre is as worthy as any non-genre stories, a view which isn't shared by some of those who create work for - as Spinal Tap described their declining fanbase - more specialist audiences. Sometimes book publishing persists in such delusions, as when Martin Amis was given a deal considerably larger than would ever be recouped in sales of his books, because of their willingness to collude with providing his need for a sum matching his self-image. In the media that I'm attracted to - television, film, and comics - the idea that you'd get more for doing something with a smaller audience would be viewed with disbelief.
Part of my experience in Britain has been that some of the gatekeepers to television have a precious view of its value, and feel that their status is high as a result. What I note is that the UK industry is very small and consequently has little scope for real competition, while being convinced that digital would sooner or later disrupt the scene in ways that would be beneficial for people like me. And that's what's happening.
I had a tentative exploration of the online world for filmed material with a web series that never got anywhere. Hey ho. And since then, the digital scene now means Netflix and Amazon Prime, both creating content that audiences are lapping up, and without the need to involve fusty broadcasters and their schedules and watersheds. Instead, audiences can watch what they want, when they want, as often as they want.
One of the interesting things about the emerging landscape is how responsive to audiences it is. The superb Amazon Prime show Mr Robot was commissioned for a second series on the basis of response to the trailer for its first. Result - a show that feels like now in ways that an institution like the BBC isn't equipped to produce. I love some of the BBC's output, but a show with such a distinct sense of the now would be next to impossible to create there in a timescale where it still mattered. And I'm much more at home creating work for an actual audience than dealing with gatekeepers who speak on behalf of one, or whose agenda is concerned with the institution they're part of.
The scene is changing, irrevocably. Joss Whedon made good money as Marvel's director for the first Avengers movie. Yay, Joss. Now the interesting bit: he made even more with a project that he made with friends, Dr Horrible, just for the fun of it, and got a fraction of the audience of the Marvel franchise. And that gave him the confidence to go ahead with his black-and-white take on Much Ado About Nothing. What Joss has done, others can and will do their equivalents of - you can do the Martin Amis thing and get more with a smaller audience if you're more involved with the production process, and paying for any costs yourself.
All of this should round off with an account of my current adventures in new media with some fascinating partners who in addition to -
- only, I can't say anything about that at this point. Except, I've embarked on an amazing adventure with an incredibly high-calibre international team. We have plans.