V8N4: Power Sharing + Creative Freedom
By Jane Espenson | February 27, 2013
iDMAa: Looking back over the past decade, what stands out to you as the most fundamental development in society and/or culture with regards to digital media/digital art?
JE: For me, the most significant development was the increased access to the things you need to take your idea from the page to the public—the means of distribution. People can write a script, produce it, and present it to the public without the massive studio/network system. That removes a whole lot of buffer that’s always stood between the creators of the media and the consumers. Now, everyone who consumes has more choices, including the choice to become a creator.
iDMAa: How has this specific change impacted your career? How would you describe the impact of digital media and art more broadly on your career trajectory? (e.g., what aspects of this field compel you to work in it?)
JE: The access to distribution has augmented my career. I still work in traditional media, writing for a mainstream network TV show in a job that I adore. But I also co-created, along with Brad Bell, an online show that we run together (http://husbandstheseries.com). That has given me the chance to make something with tremendous creative freedom, and has given me a reputation as someone who is willing to break out of the old mold. It remains to be seen if that affects the opportunities that will come to me in the future.
iDMAa: Looking back on your own professional experience with digital culture, is there something you wish you had learned more about/explored/been a part of?
JE: I’m sure there are huge parts of digital culture that I’m totally unaware of. Luckily, I’m blissfully unaware.
iDMAa: What aspects of digital media are you most excited to explore in the next ten years?
JE: The great thing about digital media is that I don’t think we know what it’s going to look like in the next ten years, but I’m looking forward to that—to watching the transformation into whatever comes next, and to being part of that.
iDMAa: What do you think will be the most significant challenge for the next generation of artists, critics, and viewers with regards to digital media?
JE: Keeping it open to new creators and diverse voices.
iDMAa: Many cultural pundits argue that our digital culture has “cost us” everything from the ability to be fully social to the ability to focus on/fully ponder anything substantial for a sustained period of time. What do you think we have lost as a culture in the last ten years via digital media? What would you say we have gained?
JE: I have to agree that it’s very rare that we focus on anything anymore without interrupting ourselves to check email or Twitter. I see that when I lead “writing sprints” over Twitter that encourage people to turn to their writing for an hour at a time—people report back that they haven’t done concentrated work for that amount to time in years. We’ve gained productivity in other ways—the ease of research is amazing, the ability to schedule our lives and do work from home… fantastic. And the chance to distribute content on a grand scale… that’s a huge gain.
iDMAa: What do you think is the “next frontier” with regards to digital media storytelling such as web series or online applications? What do you envision as the next key development, both technologically and culturally?
JE: Even with all the ease of access to digital content, it’s still not as easy to figure out how and what to watch as it is to turn on the television. When that change happens, and when there are incentives to the creators to create more great content, I think we’ll see a big step forward.
iDMAa: Looking back on the role that digital media and art have played in your own personal life, what has been the best and worst thing to change for you as an individual in your everyday life?
JE: The worst thing is that I have the burden of sharing creative, and financial, and administrative decisions for a whole show. The best thing is that I have real freedom in making those decisions, especially the creative ones.