Kevin Spacey on how business shapes narrative

Kevin Spacey

SOURCE: Flickr user Lotusphere11-26

Some great thoughts from actor Kevin Spacey on how business practice and process either foster or flummox the stories artists can tell. In these excerpts from a speech at last week’s Edinburgh International Television Festival (article here), he shares the challenge of the traditional American ‘pilot episode’ model for program development, and the potential of the Netflix model he experienced in making ‘House of Cards.’

In short, a pilot demands immediate introductions to characters, cliffhangers to force a future episode, and short story arcs to suit what may be a single-shot series. With ‘House of Cards,’ the creative team wanted a loooooonnnng arc of a story over many episodes, with complex characters, and a full realization of a season without creating a compressed, compromised, and expensive, single-episode sales pitch.

He also suggests that our current distinctions between ‘television,’ ‘film,’ and ‘Internet media’ are useful only to the business people trying to craft a back-end deal. The audience increasingly doesn’t care about which is which. They care about story.

How much of this is also true for the practices, definitions, and distinctions we use in the nonprofit arts?