Of Moneymakers and Artists


What cannot be measured in dollars and cents? This is a question that used to have many more answers that it has today.

Take movies, for example. How are script writers, directors and actors valued by those who fund their production? The measure is usually one-dimensional: box office success. As a result, movies are made almost exclusively according to their appeal to general audiences. If you watch clips of actors being interviewed nowadays it is not unusual to hear them yearn for the availability of independent productions, movies which would allow them to test their ability to interpret meaningful scripts and bring fleshed-out characters to life. Here, the word independent is synonymous with low budget and targeted appeal —conditions which rarely, if ever, will attract investors. Top-earning actors and directors have themselves become investors in their own independent films as a last resort to get them produced.

Now, in reference to the quote illustrated above, let’s take a similar look at fiction writing. Juan Carlos Onetti, a marvelous Uruguayan writer whose books, if measured by sales volume, were largely unsuccessful during his lifetime, has subsequently emerged as a literary artist of the highest magnitude. Many of his contemporary peers have been the ones to affirm this.

The quote above, translated to English, says the following:

The author who writes what everyone likes may be a good writer but will never be an artist.

So, in line with movie production, most new novels are green-lighted based on their projected sales appeal to specific audiences. In this case, however, the novels published are marketed according to the specific tastes (genres) of the reading public: romance fiction; science fiction; and other categories such as historical, mystery, crime, and so on. Sadly, the category of literary fiction is often the last to be funded, unless the author in question has already acquired a demonstrable following that makes a new novel less risky to the publisher.

Students of film and writing are made aware of these conditions and then encouraged to follow the path of least resistance. As a result, we have gradually discouraged the artists among us while encouraging those who generate good books and movies —»good» as measured along that one-dimensional axis of dollars and cents.

5 comentarios en “Of Moneymakers and Artists

  1. You FEEL my pain! The world is being held ransom by corporate capitalists and biz-school grads, few of which are broadly well-educated. Culture is thrown under the bus of money-metrics. THINKING has already fallen victim to the adrenaline-fueled mind candy of network television – with the cable channels in hot pursuit.

    Is LITERATURE is going the way of the dinosaurs? Even when a publisher has the balls to take a chance on a great book – usually thanks to an editor who is able to separate dross from gold, willing to fight for a book s/he believes in – sufficient marketing funds rarely come with the deal.

    What those short-sighted profit-obsessed folks fail to realize is that the BRAINs of the populace are becoming increasingly underdeveloped, which impairs thinking skills in a way likely to bite everybody in the butt.

    But I could write an entire Series of articles about the link between exposure to content-dense material and healthy brain-aging and I doubt it would make enough difference to stave off the inevitable. If you need proof of the dumbing-down of America you need to look no further than the results of the recent election.

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    «It takes a village to educate a world!»

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