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Film i Väst publishes “Creative Overload”, a new report on writing and directing in the golden age of content
We take a look at Wendy Mitchell’s latest report on the challenges and opportunities of working in a world where the divide between theatrical features and episodic content for platforms is growing
At Cannes, film journalist Wendy Mitchell presented the key findings of her latest report, titled “Creative Overload” and commissioned by Sweden’s Film i Väst.
The document comes at a time that has been defined as the “golden age of content” by writers and directors, and looks at the challenges and the opportunities of working in a world where content is booming, and so is the divide between theatrically released features and episodic content commissioned by streaming platforms.
In detail, the report includes insights from interviews with two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund, French actress-writer Fanny Herrero, BAFTA-nominated screenwriter Tony Grisoni, Canadian-born, European-based writer-director Richie Mehta, New York-based filmmaker Desiree Akhavan, Danish-Egyptian film director May el-Toukhy, Norwegian-Pakistani filmmaker Iram Haq, Swedish filmmaker and artist Johan Renck, Belgian film producer, director and screenwriter Koen Mortier, and German producer Jörg Winger. The conversation with these prominent filmmakers operating in Europe and globally allowed Mitchell to draw some interesting conclusions on creativity in the age of content overload and streaming wars.
In her report, Mitchell highlights that, luckily, “there are more opportunities for paid work than ever before for writers and directors”. However, “more content being created or distributed than ever before doesn’t mean creatives are getting to tell the stories they are most passionate about”.
The struggle to enable independent features to make an impact and reach a wide audience has been continuing throughout the pandemic and, even though “the potential to reach audiences and connect with more of them globally is much greater than in the past”, writers and directors trying to craft a “global hit” may be playing “a dangerous game”.
On a positive note, the content boom is allowing the industry to create new opportunities and spaces for a wider range of voices and talents. Moreover, global audiences are becoming more and more receptive to works produced across the globe, and not only those from their home country or from English-speaking territories. The increased availability of content, in addition, encourages creatives to hope that “viewers can recognise and seek out quality, authentic storytelling amidst the many thousands of hours of content available at their fingertips”.
One of the significant challengesthat remain is that of holding onto intellectual property, which becomes even more challenging “when a show is greenlit by a global streamer”. Regarding production models and writing trends, Mitchell reports how “the US tradition of the showrunner is starting to become more commonplace in the UK, Europe and beyond, giving writers more power”, how episodic work tends to offer more financial stability for writers and directors, and how filmmakers, now busier than ever, to avoid burnout or other mental-health issues, should “remember to jump off the hamster wheel sometimes to reconsider what their passion projects could be and protect the development of those more original ideas”. Besides, “even cinema-obsessed creatives do also enjoy the opportunity to delve deeper into stories and characters in episodic work”.
She also acknowledged that the cinema audience needs to be “nurtured, protected and encouraged especially to appreciate independent feature films, not just blockbusters”, and suggested that festivals could be a good place to develop such an appreciation.
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