This is a rough period for creators. They work in their chosen media, spending hours to create projects that express themselves in their own way. And then the unthinkable happens: The project is accepted and loved by consumers.
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that kind of success what creators hope for when they release a project to audiences? Yes, it is. But that success often brings with it a handicap. While the creator may want to sit down and create a project that explores different techniques and topics, some marketing pro wants to get their hands on the creator and have them create more of the same. For the marketing professional’s perspective, it makes sense. People loved the first work and prefer the familiar, so they’ll love more of the same work from this creator. From the creator’s perspective, it might be fun to revisit a project and find a new, yet similar, way to explore the themes and elements present. That project may also have been designed to be self-contained, and now the creator is put in the awkward position of finding hooks where none were deliberately created. As the creator tries to meet the marketing pro’s request, the project becomes weaker and weaker because it’s being asked to sustain something it was never meant to sustain. Meanwhile, the creator finds time to work on what they intended to be the next project, and it can’t get the foothold it deserved because the first project was overextended beyond its intent.
For some reason, we’ve become expected to not accept standalone projects. Everything must be somehow familiar. And it happens in pretty much every single form of media.
Part of the problem is that downsizing has reduced the number of qualified people available to sift through submitted ideas to find the ones that really stand out. That job has now fallen to marketing departments looking for something that’s the next whatever-the-most-recent-major-success was, and that’s exactly the criteria they judge it by. They’ll go so far as to expect current creators to emulate those recently successful projects rather than focus on their own projects. As a result, rather than get those new perspectives, even from established, successful creators, we get repetitive drivel.
How does this clearly creative conversation fit in here? Well, I’d kind of expect that to be obvious. When we force those creating into these narrow molds, we stifle their creativity, robbing them of their ability to express themselves and share their ideas. And we stifle innovation as a whole by clinging to what’s worked in the past, even in a world that’s nothing like that past. All because we aren’t generally experienced enough to recognize the potential worth in a new idea.
Sequels and re-explorations do have their place, and can really add to a project when done correctly. But it’s good to hear new standalone stories, too.