When I was growing up, there were three TV networks, a handful of LA movie studios, and a half dozen publishing houses in NYC. Today there are more than fifty US networks broadcasting over hundreds of channels. Independent film makers operate easily outside of Hollywood. The publishing industry has expanded, with smaller houses in every major city.
With these initial transformations, the television, movie and publishing worlds were flooded with garbage. Numerous reality shows and cable news programming diluted quality with quantity, producing endless hours of tedious infotainment. Photojournalists were replaced by reporters with iPhones. This was initially disheartening, as the images streaming in were poor quality on many levels.
Then something surprising happened. It took a few years, but we gained some decent skills using our new technologies. The weekly video winners on GoPro’s site are nothing short of amazing. Small budget films and TV shows from unknown talents have exhibited some brilliant writing, directing and cinematography. There are so many excellent television series now, it’s impossible to see them all. Independent films emerge every season to great acclaim and impressive earnings. Of course, the blockbuster still reigns, but it is accompanied each summer by a few small, successful gems from minor sources.
In 2010, Lena Dunham spent an estimated $65,000 on her film, Tiny Furniture. It premiered to rave reviews at a few small festivals, earning her a seat at the table with the eyes and ears at HBO, where she currently maintains control over most of the writing and production of her award-winning series, Girls. This could not have happened a decade ago.
After a slog through it all, the outcome of this generalization of media is a good one: empowerment of the individual artist. Expanding publishing avenues are especially intriguing. A few years ago, vanity publishing cost a hopeful but unsponsored author around ten grand. Now, you can order ten copies of your self-published book for under $200 on Lulu.com. For $250 at BookBaby, you get the premium package, with your book available for purchase at a dozen eBook stores, and 100% of the profits going to guess who: you!
The time has come. Pen your poem, write that screenplay, collect your short stories. Gone are the days of closed doors and limited opportunities. This new landscape is inviting you to tell your story.
Carolyn and Leah