Welcome back, filmmakers of Stage 32! Most of you know me by now, either for my achievements or for my infamy, so I’ll spare you the branding prologue. If anyone needs a little reassurance that I actually do know what I’m talking about, I can tell you I’ve written two screenplays since my last blog and that I was paid to my satisfaction for both of them. If you’d like to check my receipts a little more thoroughly, I’ve got a brief bio and a list of all the articles I’ve written for Stage 32 at the bottom of this page.
“Let’s talk,” he said with a misleading twinkle in his eye, “about what it takes to ensure that our immaculate and undoubtedly superior artistic vision is protected from the corrupting influence of all those collaborators, executives, and audience members who all want their own little piece of the creative process.”
If you’ve read my article on AUTEUR THEORY, then you already know I believe very strongly that the most fertile soil for the creative process of cinema isn’t inside one person’s imagination. Instead, a film grows to its fullest potential when it’s nurtured by the relationships of all the people responsible for making it.
Any filmmaker who is so locked into their creative vision that they can’t make room for the creative impulses of the people helping them has, at best, two great films to offer the world. Every other film they make will be a lesser version of one of those two movies, for the simple reason that the human brain isn’t built to contain whole worlds. Rather, our brains are built to exist within them.
What I’m saying, just to make sure we’re all starting this discussion on the right foot, is that anyone who’s making a movie to “see their vision realized on the screen” is in this business for the wrong reasons. Artists can paint for themselves. Writers can write for themselves, because the craft that drives excellence in these endeavors is solitary by nature.
Our work depends on one another, more than anything. Bringing out the best in one another should always be at the forefront of our creative intention. Otherwise, the best we can offer Hollywood is just to tell other people how to do their jobs. Great leadership comes from a more selfless, less egotistical place than that.
Yes, I admit that I was baiting the edgelord manchildren in my readership when I promised a battleplan for defending our precious artistic purity against the creative vampires in our midst and in our audience… but that doesn’t mean that some creative visions aren’t worth seeing through.
When we build a project that specifically gives our cast and crew a platform of support on which to surpass their creative potential, that’s always a project worth pursuing. When we give the audience content that gives them a piece of culture in common that naturally leads them to achieve things together or support one another to a greater degree than they currently do (I talk a little about how our culture works HERE), then that’s always a vision worth realizing.
In showbusiness, our creative vision is always at its strongest when it’s not about us as filmmakers, but about the needs of those around us. Glorifying our own imaginations is a hollow goal, when we’re bringing together thousands or millions of people for a shared experience. Using our imaginations as a tool, so we can bring those people together for something that specifically enriches them in some way, is always the superior approach.
So, let’s say that we really, actually do have a project that’s well and truly necessary to our community and our audience? How do we find someone willing to give us the resources we need to make it happen? How do we prove to the industry that we’re here to help?
Telling other people how to do their jobs is never any way to lead, my friends. If we have a plan for what this industry should be doing or how this industry should work, then that’s only the first step in actually improving things for our community and our audience. Seeing that plan forward, and finding the people and the resources to make it work, is our responsibility. Be the change.
On every project, someone needs to ultimately be accountable for the success or failure of the team to achieve the goals that were set before them. Whoever is willing to assume that responsibility, that’s the person we all need to be supporting. If that person needs the creative direction of the project to change, in order to accommodate any risks they might be dealing with, then it’s one thing to make sure they understand the other risks they might be exposing themselves to by making that choice. It’s another thing entirely to foist our agenda on the production.
If their creative plan has an impact on the quality of the project, for example, that’s something they need to know. Trying to take away that person’s creative authority, just because we have something we want to express, is both inconsiderate and unprofessional. Use your creative tools to support that person in their goals. Whether you signed onto the project on a work-for-hire basis, or whether you sold them the idea in the first place, that selfless work is exactly what the show needs you to do.
If you know what this project needs to be successful, then you’re the person who should be assuming responsibility for the project’s success or failure. Don’t try to sell people on your vision for the project. Don’t sell them on ideas, because everyone who works in a creative discipline has a surplus of ideas. Nobody needs to hear what movie they should be making. Everyone’s got a film they want to make already.
What people do need, and what people will always need in this industry, is support. Help. Work. Create those things for other people. Finding a way to give people what they need, instead of just trying to demand what you need louder than all the other people who need those same resources, is the essence of leadership.
When we use our ideas as tools to give other people the money, support, and opportunities they need to achieve their goals, those ideas take on value in the eyes of the industry. Our leadership becomes a commodity, because people begin to understand that having that leadership will take them where they want to go. When studios and streaming networks start using creative control as some kind of bargaining chip, and when content creators get offered the license to pursue their “vision” by larger corporate superstructures full of competing interests and competing egoes, this is why.
Learn to put aside the notion that an aesthetic or narrative concept is more important than the people who use that information, either in their work as professionals or in their lives as audience members. Let the marketing people obsess over whether an idea is good or bad, because any idea is good when it’s been implemented with the appropriate level of craft. Any idea is bad, when it’s poorly executed. Focus on how you’re using your ideas for the good of other people… and if you believe those ideas are necessary to the well-being of our community, our audience, or both, take personal responsibility for finding the money, people, and tools to bring those ideas to life.
Doing that work certainly doesn’t mean that people won’t try to inject their creative agenda into your work… but whether or not you let them is entirely up to you. Just remember that creative focus and creative ego are not the same thing. Do what’s right for the production, for your collaborators, and for your audience. Keeping that focus won’t make your brand any less distinctive, I promise you. What it will do, actually, is make your brand more compassionate and inclusive.
Tennyson E. Stead is a master screenwriter, a master worldbuilder, and an emerging leader in New Hollywood. Supported by a lifetime of stagework, a successful film development and finance career, and a body of screenwriting encompassing more than 50 projects, Stead is best known for writing an edgy film industry satire called Making the GAMP for director Michael Wohl, as well as a dark future gladiator tentpole film called Atlas Uprising for Endgame Entertainment. In collaboration with producer Lucinda Bruce, Stead is writing and directing a female-led, sci-fi heist movie called Quantum Theory. When Stead is not writing and directing feature films he’s doctoring screenplays, working in the Los Angeles theater scene, developing content for gaming and transmedia, and blogging for Stage 32
Let's hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Got an idea for a post? Or have you collaborated with Stage 32 members to create a project? We'd love to hear about it. Email Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's get your post published!
Please help support your fellow Stage 32ers by sharing this on social. Check out the social media buttons at the top to share on Instagram @stage32 Twitter @stage32 Facebook @stage32 and LinkedIn @stage-32
|‘Insecure’ Writer Mike Gauyo And Stage 32 Reteam For Black Boy Writes/Black Girl Writes Mentorship Initiative|
|Connecticut-Based Screenwriter Options TWO Scripts Through Stage 32!|