“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
The job of an artist is to show people what they want. Or at least to give them an option of a well thought out, finished work that some people will like and others may hate. (Keep in mind that Steve Jobs and his company Apple weren’t always popular. When I switched to Mac in 2006, Apple junkies were seen as weird, fringe people. Heck, us Mac users still are! But hey, once you go Mac, you never go back, right?)
Let’s switch gears here and talk movies, so I can lead up to an experience I had that deals with this…
If you ask any Joe off the street to make movie, you won’t get a movie that any Joe off the street will want to watch. You’ll get a movie that is a piece of crap. That’s because the average consumer is good at…well, consuming. Not producing well thought out works of art.
Just because someone has read every Stephen King book on the planet, it doesn’t mean he has the first clue of how to write a book of that caliber.
Here comes the experience…
I was once approached by a man, a former businessman and author, who had this supposedly earth-shattering idea for how to create a movie. His idea involved letting the public create the movie. He’d brainstorm with a team, then throw an animatic up on the internet for all to see (an animatic is basically a movie version of a simple comic book, or slide after slide showing what was going to happen in the movie). Then he would invite everyone to participate and say what needed to be changed, and to dictate the details and flow of the film, and to basically create the whole movie, bypassing the need for an artist.
This is insane.
The whole driving force behind his argument was money. And he openly admitted it. He said investors were wary to invest in a film which wasn’t going to bring in a lot of returns. So this was the solution. To have the audience tell us what they want. This is such total bullsh$%. I knew this from the beginning, and not even from an economic point of view. And that’s just the point! Making films is an art, not some bullcrap gimmicky thing we do to make money. Leave that to the pet-rock inventors.
If we are making films to make money we are missing the point altogether. We shouldn’t be making movies to make money. We should be following our bliss. Making money off following our bliss, if it happens, is just a byproduct.
“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
If Walt Disney had seen this guy’s plan to make money (it really wasn’t a plan to make a movie, since the whole thing from start to finish was a plan on how to make money, not on how to make a movie), he would have been disgusted at such blatant mercenariness. (Yes, mercenariness is a word, I looked it up!)
Here’s a fact: Not everyone is going to like what you create. That’s fine. In fact, that’s more than fine, it’s perfect! As an artist, you have to find your niche. Trying to create something that everybody likes is a recipe for disaster.
That’s why when I saw this book on Amazon, I knew it was going to be awesome, without even having read it yet. It’s called The Power of Unpopular: A Guide to Building Your Brand for the Audience Who Will Love You (And Why No One Else Matters).
Let me repeat that last part:
Why no one else matters!
Here is a great quote from the book description: “Every successful brand in history is inherently unpopular with a specific demographic. Somewhere along the way, people felt they had to be popular in order to be successful, when in fact, the opposite is true.”
That’s why I’m so glad that I don’t share this flawed belief that I have to make something that everyone loves and make a bunch of money off it. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, the perfect scenario for me would be to find my 1,000 True Fans and to create for them. (Actually, I’m creating for myself, and my 1,000 True Fans are others who think like me and like the same quirky stuff that I like.)
I’ve written a screenplay that I intend to shoot this summer on no budget. That’s right, Christopher Nolan style. Christopher Nolan and no budget films? Isn’t he that guy that makes those big-budget Batman movies? That’s right. Check out Following. (Also happens to be on Netflix.) His budget was $6,000. And virtually all of that went to analog (read: obsolete) film expenses. If he had been shooting it today and had had a DSLR camera, he could have made it for free.
I’m not making this movie for everyone. I’ve written the movie that I’d like to see—an intelligent, self-reflexive, psychological thriller which comments on the process of creation and filmmaking. And the type of people who like it will most likely be other film buffs and people like me who like cerebral movies that make you think. Like Following, for example.
“The crowd is untruth.”
So stop trying to be popular. This isn’t high school. This is real life. It’s the unpopular people who change the world. It’s the unpopular people who reign.
Remember, Van Gogh never sold a single painting in his life. Steve Jobs was seen as an eccentric prick with a very different way of looking at things who clashed with almost everyone. Until he died. Now everyone speaks of him as if he were a God. Even people who still hate his products.
What are your thoughts on artists or art that tries to cater towards everyone and ends up being over-commercialized garbage?