Walking beneath the of faces of stars glowing from two story tall billboards, I glanced down at the stars embedded into the side walk—at least when they were not covered by the feet of the crowds on Sunset Strip. Above me are giant billboards–evidently Mary Poppins is coming back and so is M. Night Shyamalan. However, I must also look down occasionally to ensure I didn’t trip over a homeless person sleeping at the edge of the sidewalk, curled up in a blanket on hard concrete in the relative safety of the daytime. It was fun for a while, this walk of fame, replete with costumed super heroes who may be sleeping on the streets with the homeless if they don’t get enough tips. It is also unnerving—a reminder of the great divide when it comes to performers.
Enough of this, as my real intention in visiting LA was to see an exhibit at UCLA. So, I contact an Uber driver to get me to my destination. He chats about his idea for a movie, and producers that haven’t responded to his script. Everybody wants a piece of the movie business. The driver assumes he’s written a sure-fire success, a part two of a previous film. He is even trying to contact the same big name actor to ask why his studio hasn’t come up with a script for this, yet. Of course, I know the driver’s chance of ever getting his script acknowledged by any one in a movie studio is almost nil. And, I try to tell him this. Yet, I also mourn that he has fallen into the same trap as many movie producers who assume the crowd is always hungering for another flashier version of what they witnessed on the big screen last month.
How does this assumption alter the quality of what screen writers and book writers actually produce? Writers no longer seem to strive to improve their previous work—reaching for a new level of creativity and quality. Rather, they try to polish the same work and make it flashier. Perhaps the major character takes a complete switch in direction in part two and ends it in a sudden twist that nobody would guess. But what is to be done to make part three even more dramatic? Switch back again and repeat the plot of part one with more battles scenes and more devastating weapons. After all crowds entering the theaters every week want what they’ve seen before. Don’t they?
Not always. The shift is away from movies produced by big-name studios to series made by independent studios and video streamed directly into our homes. A glance up at what’s being advertised on the billboards on Sunset Strip makes this obvious. Even the driver mentions that series on Netflix that are the next big thing and the quantity of their representation on billboards is stunning. So, the challenge becomes greater for the writer. No longer is a three book series enough, but rather a whole season of plots that unwind without noticeable repetition is the new demand. It’s time to stop depending on special effects, and stories that are supposed to draw readers in with instant action. It’s time get back to writing complex characters that unfold over a period of time and high quality stories that can continue long after a series of three. Are you ready for the new challenge?