About two years ago I started to notice some big goings on in the business of our art, began to profess: “the times they are a changin”, and began advising anyone who would listen what skills they needed to be developing in order to be ready to grab onto opportunity. It was not the first time this type of shift has happened, definitely not the last, and I was not the first person to notice.
I was, however, as it turns out, correct.
This isn’t a ‘told you so I know what’s what’ article, promise. It is, though my prediction of ‘where the puck is going to be’, which as any Good Canadian Kid knows is the secret to success of all Great Ones.
We are at the dawn of a new age of storytelling. There is opportunity in front of us that has never existed ever ever ever before in history. I’ll get to that. Where we are going, I believe, all started about two years ago around the time I began to point out where the puck is right now.
At that time, Netflix and DirecTV were beginning to create original series and cast them in Canada. New players in the market were entering the game at a level that hadn’t existed before. That meant an increase in demand was on the horizon. A battle for the attention of the viewer and consumer was coming and the ammunition for that battle is content.
I was (and still am) in the habit of pointing out a growing polarization in what audiences are seeking – effectively the extremes of either ‘poke you in the endorphins’ sensationalization (extreme game shows, “reality” television, pornography, freak show type stuff), or extreme real humanity or rather sensationalized presentation of real humanity. Watch Peter Saarsgard in his final episode of The Killing, Bryan Cranston when he decides not to roll Jane over in Breaking Bad. Or, a little closer to home, Michael Eklund’s guest role on Alcatraz, Ben Cotton’s wonderful work on The Killing. Just to name a few.
Audiences want HUMANITY, the real stuff, in their entertainment.
This isn’t an accident. It’s a product of the times. Entertainment always is. Entertainment is merely a flashy word for ‘Engagement’. It’s the audience’s engagement that is sought, and it’s what everyone saying anything to anyone is fighting for – their engagement. The ‘rules of engagement’ continue to evolve, and are a product of competition, which is why it’s so damn noisy out there. When a world consists of people who are under constant attack, demand, and coercion for their attention, the means of acquiring their engagement seems to go in two directions: hyper sensory or hyper real.
We are connected and yet more lonely than we have ever been. I am way way too late to be the first person to point this out, but it’s true, and it bears repeating: we live in an age of artificial compensation for our fundamental human requirements of companionship, proof that we are not alone, – Connectedness. Not “networked” – CONNECTEDNESS. That ‘Hey I’m like you, you’re like me, we’re not alone, here’s life happening with us right now’. Connectedness.
As I have already stated, I believe that truly experiencing this sense of connection is a fundamental human requirement. Without it we are not well, and without it we grab on to ideas and ideals to compensate for it. That’s what’s been going on with us, and it’s been accelerating for decades. Ever since Lee Harvey Oswald got killed live on television, that ‘even better than the real thing’ jolt of humanity has been getting stronger and stronger and going in the two distinct directions.
Here’s a great video that’s been going around that shows how social media has helped push things along: