The Road We Travel

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I woke up feeling militant today. When it comes to my film career, have I taken The Road Less Travelled? But if so, why do I meet so many Fellow Travellers? Today it feels more like The Road We Travel. Here’s where we’re going and why:

In Search of Alternative Structures. After years of riding those two horses of being inner-directed as a writer and yet respecting the market, I believe there is a third way – to build your audience as you write and make your film – and create an alternative distribution path. The internet has made this real, but it also builds on a far older model where stories rise up to meet the needs of the community – we seek out the stories that help us understand our universe and survive it, maybe even transcend it for a few moments.

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Away from Predictability and Routine. It is not our job to sell the old paradigms of existing shows and tried and tested formats. It’s our job to originate new ones. No one under 20 admits to watching TV. Yet they do watch heavily authored and beautifully crafted series that speak to their own tastes and values. Nothing is ever truly new of course and those shows stand on the shoulders of others and have their own ritualistic formats and tropes. But at least for the moment they feel box-set fresh, a story we want to collect, like golden breadcrumbs.

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To Meet Fellow Travellers and Collaborate. Communities of filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians and other creatives are getting together online and in the real world to create, distribute and cross-promote each others’ work. The freelancers have got together and as Billy Bragg would say, ‘there is power in our union’. Our manifesto is simple:

This is What We Want to Make. This is What We Need to Say.  Choose your dream project and make it happen. ‘I want to invite you to join me in making a story I care about.’ Few can resist those words and so artist speaks to artist directly without mediation or need of cumbersome management structures that falter at the first hurdle of making a decision.

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Make a Choice. Stand up for the stories you want to tell, the people you want to work with and the causes you believe in. Build value into your movies – not just monetary (though that would be nice) – but true value that supports our community and makes us stronger.

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Diversity is Who We Are. It is not a special interest group or a catch-all phrase for troublesome outsiders. We are a truly diverse nation and we have the opportunity like never before to reach a global audience by writing, making and distributing our own stories. There is a huge pool of talent already trained and ready to be a part of this– don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

May Your God Go With You. All belief systems are valid, even those we despise have a function for those who hold to them. To contemplate a network of stories and storytellers that span this incredible world of ideas, to connect emotionally to even one human being is extraordinary. How much greater is it to connect to millions with our words, our images, our lives?

Let’s Get Together. And make something great.

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I’m in the usual places – @emlin32, and right here. Leave a message. x

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House of Cards

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I’m a little late to the party but I want to write about House of Cards.  First of all, if you haven’t seen it, watch it now.  Second of all, here’s why.  It’s the future.

It’s beautifully shot with a fantastic cast led by Kevin Spacey, an Oscar nominated writer, Beau Willimon and set in a captivating world of power and deception.   As each episode ends the next begins, with no recaps, very little story of the week.  This is a giant 13 hour movie.

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When I saw the trailer I wanted to watch it.  Instantly.  And was prepared to pay for the privilege.

And this is key.

This is premium content for a subscription paying audience.  It has to be outstanding to cut through all the noise, all the ‘filler’ shows, all the not-quite-right, ‘quality’ series available on Freeview.  Cable has to justify its cost and so now does Video on Demand. Netflix had to design something so good you would sign up to monthly payments to see. Here’s why.

We have no more free time. We only have an hour or so to spend watching a show so it had better be good.

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We want to watch it when we like. I don’t want to have to wait until 9pm to watch a great drama series on TV.  I want to watch it in bed when I wake up, on the move, when I’m in the mood.  I want to watch it where I want, on a portable screen or screens.  And I’m prepared to pay.  Not a huge amount, but enough.

I want a show that is exactly tailored to my requirements.  Not too old, not too young, not too male-skewed, not too girly –  but I don’t want to be pandered to or second-guessed or dumbed down any more.  That’s what ‘House of Cards’ gets right and all those over-targeted niche TV shows get wrong.  I  want the best.  And with the migration of top-flight talent from cinema to television, fleeing from the tent-pole culture of blockbuster movies, I am getting it on the small screen rather than the big.

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At Cannes I heard someone ask ‘What is the future of cinema?’  The answer was, ‘Television’. Correction – it’s Viewing on Demand.  Kevin Spacey was right in his Edinburgh address.  Binge viewing is what we want and what we can now have.  I overhead a guy on the tube telling his friends that watching a whole series this way is ‘like reading a book, you are so immersed in the world and its characters you keep going back for more’.  And more.  And more.

Once the Emmys are over, will there be more pale imitators of House of Cards?  Cheaper series we will mainline like cheap candy when Netflix and Co have to produce much more original content at a lower per programme cost?  Or will quality continue to win out over quantity?

I hope it will.  I always think better in silence than in noise.

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What kind of series inspire you and why?  Leave a note here or contact me  @emlin32 on Twitter.  Happy viewing!