Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Twisted Confessions and Atramentous Musings of A "Broke" Writer (The Balance)

I haven’t written one of these in a while. Life gets busy what can I say. “The Balance” is the most important thing to understand as an artist. Of course learning and mastering your chosen craft is instrumental in capturing success, but that expertise is nothing without knowing and finding “The Balance”. Besides the typical internal bullshit, you know doubt, self-loathing, fear, blah, blah, we artistic types have to go through another fight that I've found to be the most important during the creative process.

ALL creatives serve "The Balance". We have no choice. Even if you don’t think you do, you do. BeyoncĂ©, Martin Scorsese, Tom Ford, Jennifer Lawrence, Aaron Sorkin, or whoever else you can think of all serve these three masters. If these people have to respect "The Balance" why shouldn't you?

Whenever I pen anything, I always think about the three factors that make up "The Balance". In no particular order it goes something like this; executives/producers, fans/consumers, and artistic integrity. Again, you can put them in any order you’d like, but as long as you know them you’re on the right path. I don’t put a single letter on the page of a script, treatment or whatever without thinking about these three things. Think of them like the three branches of our government. Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Each branch is equally as important as the next and no branch is more important than the other. It’s all about checks and balances.

1. The executives/producers means thinking about the bosses when you start a project. These are the people that "give the money to MAKE the money". You have to think, "Is this going to make money?" Because if you are trying to pitch something that isn’t, going to make money or lead to money, you’re NEVER going to get it off the ground. There has to be some kind of dollars involved. Remember this is a J-O-B. People have car payments, overpriced pre-school tuitions, mortgages and mistresses. No one is doing this for "love" or for "free". They want to get paid now and if they do work for free, the project has to pay off one day. Sad, but these are facts.

2. Fans/consumers are the lifeblood of this and every other business on the planet. You have to know whom you’re trying to reach. "Who’s going to watch this show?" "Who’s going to listen to this song?" "Who’s going to buy these jeans?" We, artist, do this partly for the feedback. No one wants to perform in an empty Madison Square Garden. Or have a film that’s seen by no one. Good or bad, as an artist you are/should always be looking for a reaction. And if you're not creating with the consumer in mind you're already in a bad spot.

3. Artistic integrity. "Do you the artist, the creator, love your creation?" "Is it something you can be proud of?" "Does it speak to who you are and the message you want to get to the masses?" Or does it make your skin crawl? Do you wish the project never existed? These are the things you have to ask yourself when you are thinking about this part of "The Balance". Because art is forever and you want to be sure that it's something you can live with. 

You can’t do anything without thinking about those three things. Is this going to make my bosses money? Will an audience connect with this? And does this satisfy me creatively as an artist? Making a project that successfully and completely speaks "Yes" to all three is “The Balance.”

Sometimes artist make the mistake of letting "The Balance" get out of wack. Take Kanye West’s Yeezus. This is the example of a project completely serving the artistic integrity of the artist and not his fans or his investors. It sold like crap, by Kanye's previous standards anyway, it had zero marketable singles, and fans hated it. Music, much like film, first and foremost NEEDS to be entertaining. As in, it has to be sonically pleasing to your ears. That doesn’t mean you can’t say something deep/thought provoking. Imagine, What’s Goin’ On, A Change Gon Come, and Like a Rolling Stone are examples of just a few songs that have profound messages, total artistic freedom, but remain enjoyable listens and hit songs. 

There are songs/films/projects so "corporate" they literally sound/look like commercials. Sometimes you as an artist would love to grow, but expectations from the fans and executives forces you to create something that’s more of the same because they (the executives) know they’ll (the fans) eat it up. It’s a real struggle at times to find “The Balance". It’s up to you, the artist, not to cave under the pressure of wanting to satisfy one part of "The Balance" over the rest. But when you do find that sweet spot. Where you create something the fans love, that keeps the execs swimming in cash AND makes you proud, well, there’s NOTHING greater.

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