Death by a Thousand Meetings

Committee (n): 1) a group of individuals specializing in irreversible creativity vivisection; 2) last known location of a good idea. See also: elephant’s graveyard.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing anyone creating art is less the generation of new ideas and more the knowledge that at some point, you will have to release your art to an awaiting world; aka, relinquish control.

Now, we can (and have) discuss the illusion of control at any phase of the creative process, but there is no denying that if you want your art to be appreciated by others, you will have to pass your newborn into someone else’s hands…or worse, someseveral else’s hands.

For writing—my predominant area of interest—that moment can come quite early in the creative process, whereas for other art forms, such as sculpture or painting, it may appear quite a bit later (please correct me, if I under- or misstate things).

You must respect your art. You must protect your art. But you must also realize that if you intend to share your art, and perhaps even make money from it, you must be somewhat flexible with your art. When you bring it to the world, it ceases to be all about you.

A teacher once suggested that upon completing a play, Shakespeare merely became another critic of the work. His opinions on meaning and significance within the play were simply one more voice and held no more sway than those of any other critic. I don’t know that I agree—what self-respecting writer would?—but I see the point.

When I write a screenplay, I need dissenting and diverging voices to ensure that I am not leaving things out or glossing over important plot or character points that are clear in my head. At the same time, I must be sure that my vision is protected, lest I start writing someone else’s screenplay.

I understand, however, that if I want to turn this screenplay into a movie or television episode, I will have to relinquish some of the control to the hands of studio executives, producers, directors, actors, directors of photography, sound teams, and in all likelihood, the third cousin of the guy who runs the craft services table. I have to be comfortable with the idea that each of these people wants to (actually, must) contribute in some way to the final product to give them a sense of ownership. They too are artists.

I am struggling at this stage with several television projects I have been developing. I have a computer filled with TV series concepts and/or pilot scripts, and I am trying to decide with what production companies to share my babies. Like Smeagol, I stroke my precious and have a rampant distrust of everyone.

How do I know the company I choose shares my vision, will protect my baby, isn’t just a group of ravenous Orcs? I don’t. I can’t, ahead of time.

What helps is watching fellow writers who rabidly protect their newborns at a much earlier stage in development. Who in a reading group, spew buckets of foamy spittle while savagely defending the use of the word “vivisection”, or primal scream that their protagonist’s motivations are obvious to anyone with half a brain.

I am doing the same thing with my projects, only at a later stage and mostly in my head (and possibly with just half a brain). Just as they have to learn to let go or at least lighten up, so do I.

In writing this post, I am coming to realize that my art is in the writing of the screenplay, not in the making of movies or television. Thus, when the screenplay is ready to move on, I must let it go and hope it flourishes…even if I am not ready to let it go. The art must grow and breathe, regardless of my personal reluctance and fears.

Committees are still evil…you will never get me to say otherwise…but unless I am willing to do everything on my own, which would not do justice to my babies, committees are a necessary evil and less dangerous to my babies’ successes than on overbearing, overprotective parent.

 

For a humourous take on the evils of meetings, please also see the recent blog post by Ben’s Bitter Blog: Meeting Bitterness.

3 thoughts on “Death by a Thousand Meetings

  1. Pingback: This could help you write a novel. – slimegreen

  2. Everything is made by committee, and each committee has their own needs they need to fulfill based on things you couldn’t have possibly known when you wrote your masterpiece. 🙂 Try to have a loose handle on what you’re willing to change and what you’re not. I had a teacher tell me my tv show should be a movie, and I really thought about it based on what he had to say. In the end I felt there was more to explore in a show. I had a tv exec suggest it might be an easier sell if it was a half an hour instead of an hour, and I took those notes and thought “Yeah, that one I can work around.” Look at the Harry Potter franchise: there was a lot of the later books that didn’t make it in to the movies because movies have different agendas than novels. But because JK wasn’t about to surrender her baby to just anyone, her contract kept her heavily involved, and the movies, while separate, maintained the spirit of her writing. (And at that point, in the beginning, she still was really a nobody.)

    If you get a deal, understand exactly what you’re signing and what it means.

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