– We take a look at Wendy Mitchell’s latest report on the challenges and opportunities of working in a world where the divide between theatrical feature films and episodic content for platforms is widening
Wendy Mitchell with her report “Creative Overload” (© Film i Väst)
In Cannes, film journalist Wendy Mitchell presented the main findings of its latest report, entitled “Creative Overload” and commissioned by Sweden Film i Väst.
The document comes at a time that has been defined as the “golden age of content” by writers and directors, and examines the challenges and opportunities of working in a world where content is booming, just like the gap between theatrically released feature films. and episodic content commissioned by streaming platforms.
In detail, the report includes insights from interviews with the two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben OstlundFrench actress and writer Fanny HerreroBAFTA nominated screenwriter Tony GrisoniCanadian-born, European-based writer-director Richie Mehtanew york filmmaker Desiree AkhavanDanish-Egyptian director May el-ToukhyNorwegian-Pakistani filmmaker Iram HaqSwedish filmmaker and artist Johan RenckBelgian producer, director and screenwriter Koen Mortierand German producer Jörg Winger. Conversing with these top filmmakers operating in Europe and around the world allowed Mitchell to draw some interesting conclusions about creativity in an age of content overload and streaming wars.
In his report, Mitchell points out that, fortunately, “there are more opportunities for paid work than ever before for screenwriters and directors.” However, “more content being created or distributed than ever before doesn’t mean creatives can tell the stories they’re most passionate about.”
The struggle to allow independent feature films to have an impact and reach large audiences has continued throughout the pandemic and, although “the potential to reach audiences and connect with a larger number of them in the world is much bigger than in the past”, writers and directors trying to create a “global hit” can be playing “a dangerous game”.
On a positive note, the content boom is enabling the industry to create new opportunities and spaces for a wider range of voices and talents. Additionally, global audiences are becoming increasingly receptive to works produced across the globe, and not just those from their home countries or English-speaking territories. The increased availability of content, moreover, encourages creatives to hope that “viewers will be able to recognize and seek out authentic, quality storytelling among the thousands of hours of content available at their fingertips.”
One of the significant challenges that remains is that of retaining intellectual property, which becomes even more difficult “when a show is greenlit by a global streamer.” Regarding production models and writing trends, Mitchell reports how “the American showrunner tradition is starting to become more mainstream in the UK, Europe and beyond, empowering writers”, how episodic work tends to provide more financial stability for writers and directors, and how filmmakers, now busier than ever, to avoid burnout or other mental health issues, should “remember to sometimes jump from the hamster wheel to reconsider what their passion projects might be and protect the development of these more original ideas”. Additionally, “even movie-obsessed creatives also appreciate the opportunity to dig deeper into stories and characters in episodic work.”
She also acknowledged that cinema audiences need to be “nurtured, protected and encouraged in particular to appreciate independent feature films, not just blockbusters”, and suggested that festivals could be a good place to develop such an appreciation.