In my writing groups we often talk about “Selling Out.” Which for us means pandering to a particular audience just because it’s selling well. Especially if its a genre that you actively hate. I think every person at the critique table has a paranormal romance sitting in their back pocket at the moment. We all tinker with it from time to time. In the back of our mind we are constantly wondering what it would be like to put our entire effort into it.
My older brother is a screen writer. And we’ve had this type of conversation often. It generally hovers around the term “artistic integrity.” He has a humorous anecdote about a professor of his who had a chance to write an episode of “The Love Boat.” His prof skipped the chance because it was against his artistic integrity.
N-years later, the man regrets the decision. As the show has been in syndication across the country and he’d still be receiving royalties. For him, he had been held back by that integrity. If he had done that one thing, he could be free to pursue whatever else he wanted.
For me, I still struggle with that idea. When Michael Bay’s concept for TMNT was floating around I was outraged. How could you change their very concept from being mutants to aliens. It didn’t make any sense. When I talked with my brother, I fully expected him to be on my side. I mean, we grew up on these guys. They are apart of our childhood.
I was thrown a curve-ball.
My brother said he’d write whatever Michael would want. It didn’t matter to him. The film would pull in a load of money–if Transformers is any indication of those sales. And with my brother’s name attached to the script, it would give him more work.
And I get it. I see where he’s coming from. But man–as a fan–it hurt my little Teenage Mutant heart. I know I couldn’t do that. Because I’m a fan. And I know what the fans would want to see on the screen. For me, I would want to give them–and thus myself–a screen adaptation that fits with what we all would want.
But there is something to be said for getting recognized first, to free yourself up for whatever else you want to do.
So in part that’s where I stand. Do I write the schlock in order to give myself some freedom–though there is no guarantee that will happen. Or do I focus on my passion, the one book I really have my heart set on?
Can I really sell out for the quick buck? Can you?