Access is everything. When it comes to entertainment content this has been the rule for close to a century in America. Some suggest that it doesn’t matter if you produce great content if no one sees it. I disagree. Producing great content is a reward in itself. Not seeing said content be enjoyed by others is something that saddens us no doubt, but as an artist you need to live your life with a Field of Dreams attitude: if you build it they will come. This is scary for a lot of people. Why create good content if you’re unsure if anyone will enjoy it? Well, people have been writing for fun for a long time and others like myself need to write in order to feel alive. I always run across that one person though who seems to believe that my time is being wasted on projects that will never get made and content that will go unseen by millions. This tends to happen exactly around this time of year also. It’s a little strange, but I don’t let these folks stand in my way and I’m going to lay out my reasoning here. If you’re an artist who is wondering how or why to continue doing what you do I hope that this provides some sort of reassurance for you because artists have all been unknown at some point in their life and we learn through our experiences. I can’t tell you how many times I go through a day when I feel like everything that I’m trying to do is in vain, but there are other times where my hopes and dreams begin to align and I see what is possible and it is for those moments that I work my hardest for and hopefully you do too.
Most people are focused on results. They want what they want and if they don’t get it they are disappointed. My grandmother used to tell me that the lower my expectations were the less disappointed I would feel and she was right. Taking that logic a step further I’ve realized that the less you have to rely on other things and especially other people the happier you are going to be. People will never fail to disappoint you. There are moments in our lives where we must rely on others for support however and it is in these moments that the sense of loneliness and career gestation can become overwhelming. Most successful writers operate with the mindset that it is best to “stack your deck” that is have as many developed ideas and projects as possible available to you so that if one thing gets shut down you can quickly and easily move on to another. I use this mindset and apply the rule of threes to it. I have three screenplays, three novels, three essays, three nonfiction books, and three TV series that I can take out and put on the table if I need to. Fiction writers know this as putting together a portfolio. A portfolio feels outdated in today’s fast-paced results-driven economy where you and your content aren’t nearly as valuable as what you’ve done lately. It’s like free agency in sports. If you’ve produced over the last year you’re going to get paid if you haven’t then you will not. It is for this reason that I think it is valuable to have what I call “actionable” ideas at your disposal. These are things that you’ve fleshed out and could realistically put together a completed version of given between thirty and ninety days. The more prepared you are for what people can throw at you the better off you’ll be. I’ve yet to find a real world scenario where that is not true.
A lot of people hear my ideas, hear my plans, and read my stories and think: “well, whoever he’s working for is set.” But that’s the thing: I don’t work for anybody. The only person I work for is myself. I don’t say this in a screw the archetype of a working writer kind of way; I mean it literally. I don’t have an agent or manager of any kind. I’m not pitching projects to people. I’m not active in any writing “scenes” or anything. I put my head down and work on my projects regardless of whether they’ll ever see the light of day. I’ve never sold a story. My only by-lines are the ones that I got for writing stuff with no intention of ever publishing it and that is the mindset that lets me work with the kind of creativity and freedom that has allowed me to put together a full season of my show Living History. I’m finishing the last episode of season one right now. I’ve written 972 pages spanning thirteen episodes for my historical satire series that will someday find a home somewhere. Each episode is written to be an hour long. That’s right; I decided to write an hour-long comedy series by myself back in 2011 and am close to finishing the draft process for that show. The crazy part is that I don’t want to be done. This show has become my life. Just as I continue writing essays I want to continue writing this show. But, how do I do that? I have no agent, no manager, and no connections. None of that matters though. I’m not writing the show for someone else. I’m writing it for me and when you look at the great works of art that’s generally how the artist approached their project. They don’t do it for the acclaim or the money (although both would be welcome) they do it because they felt like that was what they wanted to do.
I used to hide my show from people. I didn’t want anyone to know I was working on it because I felt like the idea was too special and I didn’t want anyone to steal it. Then I realized that no one could fully steal my idea. You can’t just take close to four years of work that spans almost one thousand pages and reproduce it. Think about how unrealistic that is and even if you could re-invent my premise it still wouldn’t be the same because no one knows my characters like I do. The actual pitch for my show is this:
Living History takes place in the present day and follows a re-enactor playing George Washington as he attempts to run for Mayor of Colonial Williamsburg as the historical figure George Washington. Aided in his pursuit by fellow founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, George must convince voters to elect him and not his ex-girlfriend who he is running against. What makes Living History different is its foundation in historical satire. But, its’ satire is not limited to the historical. The show aims to point out the dysfunction of media, politics, and our own understanding of American history as folklore rather than fact. In this quirky, off-beat comedy, no subject is off-limits, making for a fun ride that provides a consistent narrative along the way.
Living History shows us a world of possibilities and enables the viewer to escape into a world of imagination that is not bound to the typical storyline that Hollywood normally produces. Living History is about breaking down barriers that might inhibit a regular TV show or movie from exploring issues in-depth. The goal of this series is to open the mind of the viewer to the art of the possible amid the satire of the historical clashing with contemporary.
Even if someone were able to get down the details the show order and sequence of events would be totally different because this is a genre-busting show. The main goal of this series is to break people out of the contemporary mold of what we consider to be episodic television. The writing doesn’t follow a conventional structure. There is no “inciting incident” that provides the basis for most shows. Living History takes place on a timeline and as viewers we can look into their world at any time and see something totally different. It’s like a continuum of events that occur in the world only these events happen in a town of less than one thousand people. My point is that my art can’t be replicated unless someone stole it from me directly (as in stole my computer, my notes, spied on me while I wrote most of it etc.) When you think about it much of what we create as artists is like this. This is what makes art what it is and it is what makes us the unique artists that we are. We feel like our creations are finite and in many cases they are, but you cannot fully steal someones idea because there will always be something about it that the thief won’t understand and that is why we should be working in such a way so that everyone can know what we’re doing. I’m at a point where I tell everyone about my projects not only because I’m passionate about my work but because my work has become a part of me and I can’t hold back my enthusiasm for what I do anymore than I can hold back my enthusiasm for who I am and who I am becoming. The great part about being an artist is that you never know where it will take you. You could be a really big deal, you could never achieve greatness in this lifetime or you could go through your life as a struggling artist. None of this should matter because being an artist isn’t a choice. Being an artist is a gift and like most gifts art is a gift that is best utilized when it is understood by someone else and it is that kind of universal understanding that what we should be aiming for above all else.