In order to develop ideas for television, you have to have two skills: the ability to pitch the idea in a room full of TV execs, and then the ability to write a brilliant hour-long script. These two talents are so far apart, require such different areas of the human brain, it’s a wonder anyone develops the cajones to do it. It’s like an Olympic sport where you have to swim 100 meters and then play the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto on a clavichord.
I mention this not just because we’re doing that very thing, but because the current anti-intellectual atmosphere in this country – as well as the venality shown to people who dare make “art” for a living – means that all creators must also be their own public relations agent. In other eras, you could have been a nebbishy artist cranking out verse like Emily Dickinson stuck in a chamber pot-reeking bedroom and let the words speak for themselves, but not in this environment. Fully 33% of your workload as an artist must be spent promoting yourself (for actors, that might be as high as 85%).
Part of the problem is that so many people want to be actors or musicians that there is a line to get into the line that gets you into the door of an agent, and even if you can crack it, most actors spend hours of their week trying to get their managers interested in their careers again.
It’s not just the commercialization of art, nor is it the modern notion that “art is only art if people will pay to consume it.” It’s more that people want other people to be personable and well-rounded. Your talent set must be bizarrely diversified. Business deals are worked out on the golf course in Administrative America, but there’s a rub: you have to be able to play golf.
Does playing golf make you a better manager? Hell no, but it is now a tangential requirement for business. I’m fascinated by the myriad of skills you need to be successful at anything now, as we have truly left the guild age behind: you can be a blacksmith, sure, but you’re only going to get the Anderson account if you have a good backhand, know about the special scotch that Macallan has on reserve, and can tell a joke about Janet Reno within 2.4 seconds. In a way, it’s no wonder that dorks have taken over America, because we’re the only ones that had more than two interests in high school.
I know there are playwrights and scribblers and indie filmmakers out there who say “fuck that, man” and take a perverse glee in how bad they are in crowds. I say that if you’re going to adopt this attitude, you had better have a trust fund or be content with nary a soul ever seeing your work. There is so much static in our culture that it will take more than your innate brilliance to let your work slip the surly bonds of your studio and penetrate the brains of your fellow man.
Scream from rooftops if you have to. Be able to wow a room full of executives, even if you’re a sculptor. Be able to pitch over the bunker and land on the green, even if you just wanna dance. Don’t be proud of your insularity, it only ensures silence.