By Bella Zaccaro
Some say that in the arts, whether in the writing, film, TV, music or theatre industries, there has always been a struggle between creating original work and running a successful business. Though each industry may serve as the intersection of these two things, oftentimes an individual within it falls only on one side—creator versus executive, crew versus network, writer versus publisher. A power imbalance is often described from the artists’ side of things, and situations such as loss of rights to original work, inability to maintain creative integrity, or limited to no ability to oversee the treatment of creations are commonplace across all industries.
Such topics are particularly relevant right now, in the wake of events such as the Warner Bros. Discovery merger. That alone resulted in tax write-offs causing many finished or almost-finished productions to be cancelled and left unseen and the removal of many titles from streaming services (oftentimes to avoid paying residuals to the crews of these shows and movies), leaving them with limited or no legal accessibility for the public, and greatly diminished visibility. Such a situation extends beyond the usual control of creative and distribution matters that executives and corporations exert over creators during the process of production—now we are seeing media be retroactively hidden and, arguably, practically destroyed, archived only through illegal piracy or forever locked away in a vault just before the scheduled release. Fields within the industry such as animation, which regularly take the brunt of similar abuses, were again the first to be targeted.
These events have left many creators and aspiring creators very discouraged. Many already know how tough it is to make a successful career in creative fields, particularly if your dream is not only to play a smaller role in the process of production or creation but also to publish your own works.
So, what keeps the young artist going? How do they maintain faith and security in their dream industry, even with constant reminders of its uncertainty, instability, or rampant losses, always bolstered by headlines about the up-and-coming creators just like them who never got to see their ideas realized due to not-entirely-explicable business decisions?
DA visual arts teacher Hillary Hogue describes it like this: “The art world is a hard, competitive place…once you do one thing successfully, you have to keep going with it. It’s about finding a way of being seen and creating a support system.”
It takes a particular approach to getting your creations out there, and more importantly, it takes community and support to act as a safety net. Today, more and more independent approaches to publication, production, etc. for many different art forms are being created and used with modern technology and Internet resources, particularly as traditional routes to publication, distribution, or getting greenlit for these creators have become less reliable and more controlling.
Above all, the passion that motivates artists to determinedly enter their industries—or forge their own path with the rising alternatives becoming available, allowing them to control their own work and methods—is what keeps them going. Oftentimes, it is pure and simple determination, a refusal to give up on the characters, stories, pieces or art forms that they care about so deeply, no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Even in the face of such uncertainty and seemingly impossible, worthless odds, the young artist persists. As Hogue puts it, “You do it because it’s in you, and it has to get out.”
Even as business matters cloud the artist’s ability to share work, the creative instinct is insuppressible. Innovation and determination lie side-by-side at the heart of the rising artist’s future in today’s industries and art worlds—and what could better exemplify the type of people that we all are?