I want to take a slight detour from my Creative Insight entries and discuss an item linked to prior posts. The dialogue here is designed to address another facet, I feel, content creators have more control over than they realize; I will allow you to be the judge.
Let me toss out the standard Greg Current operating procedure (SOP) disclaimer, which stipulates my desire to avoid generalizations and/or stereotypes of those in the content creation business that hold most, if not all, decision making authority.
I am not a fly on the wall who has been able to take part in every conversation related to the fate of content we hold near and dear to our hearts. I realize once networks, studios and corporations get involved, the hands of those creators who truly mean well and want to tell a robust story truly reflecting respect for their chosen genre are quite thoroughly tied; mired in a business model, when questioned, simply produces indifference and shrugs as if to say, It’s just the way it is.
I have included a link to a Vox article from May 2017, written by Todd VanDerWerff, highlighting some of the thought processes around how many of our favored and not so favored, content fares over time. I am not going to regurgitate the finer points in the piece, so if you are interested, click on the link and read away. I learned a great deal but keep in mind it is only one article and the main premise of it should be fairly obvious – it is all about revenue generation.
The sticking point for me relates specifically to what I like to call the bastardization of content creation. This is a practice of taking a work; whether it be a book, script or an idea crafted by a group of people and isolating only those specific components networks and studios can cannibalize to generate cash flow. This bastardization I refer may very well be an actual method and my reference to it not so original. I certainly hope someone points it out if true.
The circumstances surrounding the network series, Shadowhunters which premiered in 2016 on Freeform, previously ABC Family, is a prime example of what happens when a concept is not thoroughly fleshed out. An adaptation of the book series The Shadowhunter Chronicles, the series pilot attracted the largest audience for Freeform in more than two years even though it had received mixed responses from critics. The series developer, Ed Decter exited from the show in 2016 citing creative differences. Although it has faired very well in the ratings, the last two episodes will air in early 2019 after three seasons.
How does a network series, who has been repeatedly awarded the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Teen Choice awards, end after three well received and healthy seasons? Based on what I was able to find, it appears the series producer Constantin Film lost its output deal with Netflix, which did not make the genre drama financially feasible at the Disney owned cable network.
In my February 24, 2018 post, Another Casualty: The Shannara Chronicles, I hinted to a similar practice Shadowhunters fell victim – the shopping around approach. In the post I did speak more to how the content was delivered but in the Deadline Hollywood Article linked in the post, the title literally read, The Shannara Chronicles Shopped To Other Networks For Season 3. The series began on MTV, moved to Spike for the second season and subsequently began looking to other prospective buyers for the third season due to Spike, which has evolved in to the new Paramount Network, declined to renew it. Alas, my research recently revealed the program has officially been canceled. As I mentioned in my article, The Shannara Chronicles suffered from a variety of content faux pas and a final nail in the coffin was inevitable in my opinion.
The wonderfully crafted Sense8, which I will cover in its own separate post, was afflicted with the same contagion. What makes matters worse are the stale platitudes and predictable blanket statements spewed from network corporatists who care little for what the content is about or what viewers really want to see. It is all good just as long as it generates cash to be stuffed into their pockets. Harsh you say? I say the reality of the situation is always a hard pill for some to swallow. Check your bias at the door and look at any given situation through the lens of intellectual honesty.
What we read, write and view has been so heavily commodified the mere act of thinking about it in any other way causes us to scratch our heads nervously like an addict wondering where their next fix is going to come from. Our network dealers are telling us what they think we need to read, write and view next rather than the other way around. Continuing to do business as usual due to it’s just the way it is points to a complacent and lazy mind.
Let’s circle back. What does this entire harangue have to do with content creators, you ask? To answer it, I feel a philosophical approach is warranted, however, before you set your favorite laser weapon to snooze consider how you would prefer your creation to be handled in the hands of a stranger.
As a writer who has worked on refining a universe, fleshing out characters, developing individual cultures while doing my best to respect a genre made possible by those long before I was born, I will answer my own question this way; no one handles what I create until it is confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt, I have the final say on what is changed or reimagined.
Laughable you say? I say if you truly care about what you create and want it to be the best version of itself, then stand firm and remain true to your vision. I am not saying we content creators should be inflexible but we should not rollover like a good little puppies when praised for doing a good job, while our hard earned work is taken from us and bastardized for the sake of the almighty profit margin.
In closing, I want to be clear about a fairly obvious point. I am certainly not insinuating networks or studios should not adhere to a business model focused on revenue generation. If we want to continue experiencing well-crafted content, although it may appear to be infrequent, an appropriate and respectable balance needs to be found.
A mentor of mine often said, It is all in the how. I feel if we content creators begin to spend more time on how we can strike a balance between remaining true to our craft while making enough revenue to help the business element reach its goals, we could rightly see a shift in how the content we truly want to create and view is conceptualized by everyone involved.
As always feel free to post your questions, comments or concerns. I will respond, if need be, when I able.
Shadowhunters Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowhunters
Shannara Chronicles Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shannara_Chronicles
Another Casualty: The Shannara Chronicles: https://www.gregorydcurrent.com/blog/2018/2/24/another-casualty-the-shannara-chronicles