Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Money Matters: The Quest to Make Stronger...


Usually I try to tell you about the best in books, music and film which I think deserves your attention and your hard earned. This post is a bit different as it looks to recommend a film that has yet to be made. In order to get books published, music released and films produced those who are involved increasingly look for public support to get their product made. Arts funding has been slashed across the board, with the arrival of Creative Scotland resulting in everyone competing for the same, ever decreasing, pot of gold. It may be that you believe that this is only right, and that funding for the arts is the first thing that should be cut in times of recession, but a healthy society should have a vibrant and questioning culture that will reflect and comment upon said society. Funding of the arts should be central to any government’s policy. This is never more important than when people’s jobs, liberties, family and futures are at stake as they are currently. But until this situation changes for the better artists of all hues look for different ways to fund their art and find an audience.

All well and good I can hear you cry, but what are you selling us? Regular readers of Scots Whay Hae! will remember a review that appeared last year for Peter Mackie Burns’ Glasgow set documentary Come Closer which looked at individuals as they went about their lives interacting with each other, and the city around them. His next film is his version of August Strindberg’s 1888 short play The Stronger. If you like your existential drama, such as Kafka and Becket, then this is for you. Here’s some further information:

‘…the author (Strindberg) paints an extraordinarily distinctive, visceral world exploring power, sexual politics, paranoia and the role of women in society. Set in the heady world of two actresses, former friends, meeting on Christmas Eve the piece examines infidelity and friendship, traditional tropes of the melodrama, but this is simply a frame for a work that is entirely original and thought provoking, complex and incisive, that deserves to be more widely seen.’

The two actors are Kate Dickie and Kathleen McDermott as Mrs X and Miss Y. Dickie has long been one of our best stage actors and saw a big screen breakthrough with her extraordinary performance as Jackie in Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, although you should also take a look at her turn in Shane Meadow’s Sommers Town. McDermott has worked with the director before, appearing alongside Brenda Fricker in Mackie Burns’ Golden Bear winning debut short Milk. Film fans may know her best as Lanna, Morvern Callar's loyal best friend in Lynne Ramsay’s film of the same name. She was also part of a terrific female ensemble in Irvine Welsh's TV drama Wedding Belles alongside Shirley Henderson, Michelle Gomez and Shauna Macdonald.

I agree that Stronger deserves to be more widely seen and that’s why I’m backing the attempt to fund it. If you'd like to see the film, or simply see it made, then you can help by going to Stronger Sponsume where you can find out just what you can get for your money, from a credit on the film to the promise of the night out of your life, and you get to be part of the glamorous world of the movies. Stronger promises to be a fascinating modern interpretation of a largely forgotten play by one of the 19th century's greatest playwrights. Mackie Burns will attempt to capture the invasive and uncomfortable atmosphere of Strindberg’s original, concentrating on what is unsaid rather than what is, something which is in evidence in this short portrait of the two leads:



Artists are increasingly being encouraged to give their work away for free, literally a free-for-all, but that phrase only conjures up visions of conflict to me. Ewan Morrison has recently been positing the sound theory that such ‘freedom’ is not a good thing, for artist or audience. Here, taken from an article he wrote last year for the The Guardian, he takes a critical look at what Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson has named ‘The Long Tail’:

‘In simple terms, the long tail derives its name from graphs of sales against number of products. Whereas throughout the 20th century publishers concentrated on selling only a few heavily promoted "hits" or "bestsellers" in bulk, digital shopping has meant that what was originally a tail-off in sales, has now become increasingly profitable. Rather than selling, say, 13m copies of one Harry Potter book, a long tail provider can make the same profits by selling 13m different "obscure", "failed'" and "niche" books.

The long tail is Amazon and iTunes, Netflix, LoveFilm and eBay. It is, arguably, between 40% to 60% of the market, which was hidden and/or simply unavailable before the advent of online shopping.

As more consumers come online and chose to select content for themselves, the long tail gets longer. It also starts to demolish the old mainstream system of pre-selection, mass marketing and limited shelf space for "bestsellers". Amazon is a successful long-tail industry: it has forced publishers into selling their books at 60% discount and driven bookshops out of business. As the long tail grows, the mainstream mass market shrinks and becomes more conservative. The long tail has created this effect in all of the other industries that have gone digital.’

There will be plenty of people who will believe that such a situation is a more egalitarian way of deciding who is worthy of making a living in the arts, and that the best will rise to the top, but in this structure it is the popular which will rise to the top and those are two very different things. There is also the problem that only certain artists will be able to afford to work in such a future. This makes the arts financially divisive once more, and a whole section of society will lose cultural representation as a result. What we can be sure of is that those who survive, if only for a short while, between the extremes of ‘The Long Tail’ will begin to disappear (it’s happening already) and that is where most of the bands, writers, film makers and artists that I love, with a few exceptions, exist. And I bet most of yours do too.

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