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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, January 24, 2005

How Selective

Do you think an artist should be with what they decide to do, as they are trying to gain a reputation? Is it important to take all work given, as it's a potential networking opportunity at the very least, or to focus on getting a very specific kind of work, risking a tougher road, but with higher results?

Love to get some thoughts on this...


1 comment:

jones said...

It depends. It depends, first off, on how commercially mainstream your work is to begin with. Say you're a comic book artist, and you love drawing superheroes. Well, then it doesn't hurt to sell out immediately, taking any hack superhero work, because it's all working towards what you eventually want to do. The hack work is still good training, and helps build a resume. Then at a certain point, you can pretty much turn around and do whatever you want, because you've been so popular for so long that your name alone will get some people to follow you. Todd McFarlane, much as I hate him, made millions with this formula, and up until a few years ago, a lot of people still respected him.

But if you are trying to create a very specific type of work that isn't in high demand, then I think it's important to take the time, struggling in anonymity for a while, until you feel you have a firm grasp of your craft. It also helps to get a bit of critical notice at this point. Now you can start taking jobs to pay the bills, firm in the knowledge that the money made from them will go to fund the next true artistic work, and since the critics already know what you are capable of, they will know that the mainstream piece was something you did for a paycheck, and (if you're lucky) they'll see the good parts. Soderbergh is a good example of this, I think -- whenever he does a big popular movie, people know he's just trying to pay for the next indie film, and they go see the big popular movie anyway because they know there will at least be some snappy dialogue and some neat camera tricks.

I think in any case it is important not to take ANY job offered. That sort of thinking is what leads many beautiful young actresses to do softcore porn. "It's a gig, it's a paycheck, and it's experience, right? And it's not like it's REAL porn or anything...." Yeah, well, a few years down the line when you're trying to earn a real reputation, the money will be gone and the experience will actually make you look worse. Never do a job that will hurt your reputation later just because it might be a good experience. Christopher Walken is pretty much the only person in the world who can take any job and get away with it.

And of course there is no real formula. The realm of art doesn't always obey strict mathematical rules. Especially theater. I mean, think about it, years ago a mediocre half-finished musical adaptation of La Boheme won every award possible because of the tragic death of the creator (and pretty much never had a performance cheap enough for the people it was about to afford....). What swept the awards recently? A puppet show. There's no logic to it, no set path to success. You could be the best writer in the world and never see an ounce of success because for some reason it just doesn't click. Or you could toss something off in an afternoon that will set you up for life.

At the end of the day, you're the one who has to quiet the nagging in your head so you can fall asleep. Do whatever it takes to sleep at night. Anything else is just overthinking.