Kevin Spacey Dismisses the Line Between TV and Film
By Andrew Dickins for C21Media
Hollywood star Kevin Spacey has told the Edinburgh International TV Festival that the idea of a division between feature films and television series will soon “fall away.”
Delivering the MacTaggart Memorial Lecture this evening, the actor and producer said movie studios and TV networks that ignore advances in technology would be “left behind.”
“I predict that in the next decade or two, any differentiation between these formats – these platforms – will fall away,” Spacey told the crowded auditorium.
“The device and length are irrelevant. The labels are useless – except perhaps to agents, managers and lawyers who use these labels to conduct business deals. For kids growing up, there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computer. It’s all content, it’s all story.”
The artistic director of London’s Old Vic Theatre, who is due to step down from that role in 2015, also said that SVoD service Netflix’s investment in his series House of Cards and the way it released all 13 episodes at once without considering a pilot episode, represented a huge shift for the industry.
“The obligation of a pilot – from the writing perspective – is that you have to spend about 45 minutes establishing all the characters, create arbitrary cliffhangers and generally prove that what you are setting out to do will work,” Spacey said.
“Netflix was the only network that said ‘We believe in you. We’ve run the data and it tells us that our audience would watch this series. We don’t need you to do a pilot.’”
He added that the House of Cards example showed that “we have learnt the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: give people what they want, when they want it, in a format they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”
The actor also dismissed the long-held view that web content faces issues of its audiences’ shorter attention spans: “If someone can watch an entire season of a TV series in one day, doesn’t that show an incredible attention span. When the story is good enough, people will watch something three times the length of an opera.”
Spacey told the audience that the “king of television is the creatives,” but said he was disappointed the industry did not do more to support new talent.
“Our challenge now is to keep the flame of this revolutionary programming alive by continuing to seek out new talent, nurture it, encourage it, challenge it, give it a home and the kind of autonomy that the past and present – of our three Golden Ages of television – has proved it deserves.
“We know what works but the only thing we don’t know is why it’s so hard to find executives with the fortitude, the wisdom and the balls to do it.”
That lack of will from TV executives won’t matter to the new generation of creatives, however, as they’ll find an outlet on YouTube or other platforms. “If they [the TV networks] fail to hear these warnings, audiences will evolve faster than they will.”