The Gatekeepers Are Gone

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Recently by Michael S. Alford: Perfectly Harmful

     

Other people have written about this, and probably done a better job, but here goes. Do you have any idea how fundamentally the creative game has changed in the last few years? How different things are for artists, writers, filmmakers? Notice I didn’t say necessarily better, just different.

Just a few years back, there were a series of gatekeepers in the realm of ideas. You could write the best book ever, film the best movie ever, or have just the best idea ever, and that fact, the sheer greatness of your idea wasn’t enough because of the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers, as in the book publishers, and the movie distribution people, were functioning off of a business model in which it was best to play it safe. Nobody wanted to sink a bunch of money into an unknown, and it took a bunch of money to get a piece of work in front of an audience, Because of the cost involved, unless you were a tried and true money-maker, it was almost impossible to break in. You write a book, you have to convince somebody else of the greatness of your book, and if you couldn’t convince the corporate gatekeeper that your idea is worth the risk, then the people who would have appreciated the greatness of your idea would never even know you existed. Because of the ridiculous hoops that their business model put you through, there is no telling how much the creative world was deprived of really neat stuff.

The internet changed all that, in that it allowed an end-around around the gatekeepers. A creative type could build their own audience without needing anybody else’s permission. That is huge. You, kind reader, don’t need anybody’s permission to chase your creative dream. Think about his for a second. You are sitting wherever you’re sitting, reading the musings of a virtual nobody. I am sitting in a small town in south Georgia communicating with people in a surprisingly intimate fashion, and I didn’t need anybodys permission to do it. It would have been technologically impossible for us to share this connection even just a few years ago.

When I decided to write my book SWINDLED, it wasn’t my first book, but it was my first published book. Imagine if I had been tasked with selling my idea to a publishing house. My pitch would have been something like "Yeah, he didn’t get elected, but he’s way cooler for having lost!" Aren’t you glad I don’t have to do pitches? I certainly am. Instead I simply wrote the book, self-published it, and before I knew it, I had begun to tap into an audience that I wasn’t even sure was there, and Ive done better than I hoped I would by far.

I know a guy (doesn’t everybody, but this guys name is Danny DiLeo, google him) that had a day job as a hairdresser, and in his off time, he MADE A MOVIE!!! That was IMPOSSIBLE a few years ago. He would have had to beg and grovel and surrender his creativity to get something that even resembled his dream past the gatekeepers. No more.

By way of contrasting example, I have been working off and on for several years on various animated ideas. I remember setting things up for a pitch I was going to do for Cartoon Network. The paperwork they sent me said that if I went and did my pitch and they didn’t buy my idea, they reserved the right to create ‘derivative works’ from it, and I had to agree to that for the gatekeeper to even grace me with his attention. That’s crazy, and frankly I dont have enough good ideas to be able to give them away like that. Nickelodeon required me to hire a lawyer before I could pitch, and my pitch request had to be on legal letterhead before they would even schedule anything with me. See what I mean? Gatekeepers.

Now this freedom to build your own audince does mean that there is a bunch of absolute drivel out there. But since I believe in freedom, I think that’s ok. I love looking at new stuff, and the explosion of great starting writers and artists that I’ve seen in the last few years has been very encouraging.

I have a habit of having more ideas than I have time or the attention span to implement, so the fact that I don’t have to mortgage the house to find out if an idea is going to work is a big plus for me. A year or so back my wife and I got the idea of printing Victorian-themed stationary. That idea was a big old flop, but better to have tried and failed ( and spent a couple hundred bucks) than never to have tried at all.

So what’s your excuse? You do know the economy is collapsing around our ears, right? You do know you’re not getting any younger, right? All those great ideas you have, the music youve written, the book you keep meaning on finishing ,they are your way out. How long are you going to ride that cubicle when you have such a cool brain inside your head? The gates are wide open, friend, We producers and creative types owe it to ourselves to develop ourselves to the highest potential that we can. To do less would be almost a crime. Take it from a nobody.

Reprinted from Local Boy.

Michael S. Alford [send him mail] is the author of Swindled: How the GOP Cheated Ron Paul and Lost Themselves the Election. Visit his website.

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