Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Always Sunny" vs. Shrek 4 - Creative and Commercial

I appreciated James Roberts' focus on the inherently complex nature of the relationship between the creative and the complex forces in media industries, and his proposition for discussing the decision-making processes at work as opposed to just conflicts. It seems as though much more could be determined about how the creative and the commercial influence each other if the constructive parts of that interaction are studied, not simply the controversial.

With that said, the articles we read in conjunction to Roberts' exemplify this complex relationship between the commercial and the creative, particularly the "pragmatic, mixed agenda" of each individual show or movie (770). The Kung and Schuker article, with its focus on the legitimate concern of the movie industry's dropping ticket and dvd sales, does a great job of showing how the industry must shift its creative focus to a commercial one that attracts the biggest audiences and addresses the issues at hand. There is no room for risk in a business that is already in a precarious position, and this is why so many of the movies we've been seeing in theaters lately are sequels, franchises (like the continuation of Shrek), or very low-budget productions (all mentioned in detail by Kung and Schuker in their article).

The considerable guarantee that comes from following a successful movie with a sequel is likely worth the loss of wild creativity, as having a stronger economic focus now will allow for a more balanced focus in a future, more stable industry. Roberts describes the relationship between the creative and the commercial as "mutually influential factors dictated by a generally realistic view of what television drama is there to do" (771). While he may have been referring to television, the same could be said for the movie industry - being realistic about the reality of the industry's position means that the commercial influences the creative in perhaps a stronger way than it has in the past.

Because Roberts makes it clear that decisions revolve around the interaction between the creative and the commercial, and not simply a clash between them, let's let the Wrap article on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" serve as a necessary opposite to the current position of the movie industry. Even before the details of this article, it's important to note that the stark differences between this article and the first fall precisely into Roberts' argument - the decision making process behind media content is dependent on creative and commercially-minded people who are aware of what will work in a particular situation.

The "Always Sunny" model of starting off with a small financial investment in return for lots of creative risk would not work in every situation. The Wrap article blatantly expresses this, saying, "It only works because FX allows that freedom..." and its shows are known for being risky in content. Creative freedom works because, in this case, it doesn't require a dangerously large investment, and the returns have proven to be great, with an audience that accepts this type of creativity. There couldn't be this type of creativity without the knowledge that an audience was willing to watch it, and advertisers were willing and provide the necessary return to the network.

The ever-changing movie and television industry means that creators and producers of this type of content have to be prepared forseasons which shift between a commercial-based focus and a creative one. The commercial does not always impede upon creativity, and vice-versa, but sometimes a greater focus on one or the other seems necessary for the industry. The interplay between the two depends on a willing simultaneous focus, which would make sense, considering the mixed agendas and approaches of nearly all staff and management that Roberts studied. His research shows that the industry's inner workings are shifting to accommodate this nuanced relationship between the commercial and the creative, and that the decision-making process offers far more clues to how this complexity affects what shows and movies we end up watching.

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