We live in a very strange time.
It’s a time where the idea of celebrity is so close you can practically snort it. A time where going “viral,” traditionally meaning something caused by a virus, is something we all strive for. It’s a time where we, as artists, are constantly told that we need to brand ourselves, that with the web, with YouTube, with Facebook, with Twitter, we’ve been given doorways we’ve never had before and we should sing and dance and claw and scream and adorable kitten our way through them before they close.
Because, like a brand, we all have something to offer.
And if we don’t, then we have to learn to peddle our lack of talent like masters.
On one hand, it’s amazing. If the entertainment business was a house, it’d be the White House, and any time anyone new tried to get in, they’d get shot by snipers. With the web and digital entertainment, however, the whole thing is slowly beginning to change and, if you’re talented, there are more and more ways to sneak in and meet the figurative President (hi, PRISM!).
On the other hand, the title of “artist” is being passed out like a flyer for prostitutes in Vegas. The idea of artistry is getting lost in the eternal race to get famous and it’s half the reason why digital media is still struggling to be legitimate and why Los Angeles is filled with droves of fame-hungry zombie douche monsters.
I recently spoke to an actor friend of mine who said a very, very smart thing out of his mouth — he said that actors he encountered in Los Angeles seem to be solely focused on success and fame, rather than on getting better at their craft. I’ve noticed that in not just actors, but filmmakers and artists alike. Hell, I notice it in me. It’s as if, in our orgiastic excitement over the freedom and potential of the web, we forgot what it meant to actually work at being good at something.
I encounter a lot of this mentality when I speak to people developing new digital series. It’s always a rush to shoot, a rush to get the cast, to meet the arbitrary shooting date they set for themselves that handcuffs them in doing the things they need to do – like writing a script that’s not just good enough to be on the web but that’s fantastic.
I am guilty of this kind of thinking as well. Instead of constantly writing to develop my skill like I used to do, I’ve started to write only when there’s potential for compensation. That’s not the way to get better. The real artists I look up to all write constantly, often daily. I try to do the same but – as you can see, it’s taken me a year to update this blog, so… it’s a work in progress.
The thing is, if we call ourselves artists, we’ve got a lot to live up to. Leonardo Da Vinci was an artist. Paganini was an artist. Shakespeare was an artist. Can we be as good as them? Probably not. But rather than spend every moment figuring out how to get famous, we should strive toward the heights that the masters achieved, no matter how lofty.
Yes, I badly want to write feature films and TV shows and digital series that star Kevin Spacey. Yes, I want desperately for people to know my work, watch my work, and love my work. But before I do, I have to earn that honor. I have to earn the title of artist – otherwise, like a miner in the gold rush, I’m just another person blindly rushing toward the Internet in hopes of fame and fortune, and frankly, we have enough of those already.
Now excuse me, I’m going to go and write something for free.