Recently the cast and crew of the classic film series The Godfather had the 45th anniversary of the first movie. As a huge fan I read an article in The Guardian newspaper about it and was shocked to see this quote from Frances Ford Coppola: "Today it wouldn’t get a go-ahead,” he said. “The first Godfather cost $6.5m and the second cost about $11m or $12m. If you convert that, it would take a major studio [to make it], but it would never get through the process of getting an OK." Mr Coppola went on to add, "Nothing can get a green light unless it’s a movie that they can have a whole series of, or a Marvel comic.” He was asked why that is and he said, "Risk. Nobody wants risk."
I wrote in a previous blog post about how the publishing industry has changed and that it is now totally averse to risk. I added that a creative industry that is averse to risk has rendered itself redundant.
That the film industry is also now becoming increasing averse to risk is hugely disappointing to creators such as myself who love the challenge of stretching ourselves beyond what we'd previously thought possible. Stretching ourselves creatively demands that we, as creators, take huge
risks. I feel increasing forced to write to some format and genre that is currently popular. That has to be wrong and society will suffer as a consequence - in my opinion, art is all about offering an audience new and fresh perspectives. Those perspectives begin life in the creator's imagination and it takes a huge investment in time and emotion to communicate those perspectives in whatever medium.
On a positive note, Ted Sarandos, the president of Netflix, stated at a press conference in Cannes: "Unlike us [Netflix], the studios have no appetite for risk."
I applaud the statement and I applaud Netflix. Amazon Studios too are trying to embrace risk by giving new scriptwriters a real opportunity. Their submission system is easily accessible and open to everyone. Of course their open approach means they are deluged with submissions, but the fact they have an open door to new writers means they get a massive tick from me. And they do seem to filter the wheat from the chaff very quickly and submitting to Amazon Studios is a learning curve in itself. To cut a long story short, you need to be very professional in your approach.
And professionalism is the name of the game in the film industry. Yes, there are a lot more indie films being made nowadays, largely due to easily accessible and affordable film making equipment - I know people who have made shorts on a iPhone - but indie films, like indie (self-published) novels, stand out as amateur. The reason for this is quality across the board, from cover image to acting to cinematography to editing to titles, you will immediately tell an indie film from a "professional" film. I place quotes around the word professional because it often isn't the indie producer, director or actors fault. Mostly it is purely down to the production budget.
But there is the big question of talent. The director and actors a producer employs to make a film will be very talented individuals. The amount of money invested demands that. I mentioned shorts made with an iPhone earlier; what do you think would be the result were you to give Francis Ford Coppola an iPhone and a group of amateur actors? ... Well, I'm confident we would get a seriously professional and genuinely entertaining result.
Which brings me to the indie novelist. Here too there is a divide between the amateur and professional and in part it has a lot to do with money. A big five publishing house has in-house "professionals" for cover design, content editorial and format and, arguably most importantly, marketing. And the marketing department has the advantage of reaching millions of readers on day one of a launch via the national printed press reviewers and high street books shops for promotional campaigns - and that's not to mention the pre-launch campaigns that will see pre-orders of a few thousand copies.
These are indeed massive advantages. However, the author will only be paid a mere ten percent of sales, whilst the indie author can make seventy percent. Also, the advantage of the marketing department in traditional publishing is questionable. In my experience the marketing effort was very short-lived. They only really made an effort around the launch. A month after In Sights was published the press executive assigned to the book disappeared. Marketing a book for an indie novelist is a full time job and unless you are prepared to compromise your integrity it is an uphill struggle, and by uphill I mean a vertical cliff. And you're not just trying to climb that cliff, you're pushing a dead weight up as well.
And I like to see that climb as a learning curve and the higher up I get, the more professional I become, because the only way I and my fellow indie authors and indie scriptwriters will succeed is to get as professional in our approach to every creative project as we possibly can. And being professional today means observing the fact that both the publishing and film industries are more concerned with the business than the art. So, as a writer, my next project will be risk free - meaning not controversial, which has become a habit for me - and will conform with the limitations of strict genre and formula. The next novel will be under one hundred thousand words, which means it will hit the retail price point of £7.99 for paperback without the need for long "financially risky" print runs and the story content will include a balance of sex and violence that will make it attractive to the film makers.
So to work... I wonder if it will be as easy as that... 😉