Saturday, November 15, 2014

We'll Miss Those Ink-Stained Wretches

Modern colleges thrive on a pack of lies. The biggest one, of course, is the one The Heir got fed: "Workplaces are looking for people with liberal arts degrees, because these people are used to higher level thinking." What a crock.

 Spare is at an art school, where a more pragmatic approach prevails, but the snobbery is still there. In this case, it's the idea that film and t.v. producers are foaming at the mouth for people who have learned the proper way to write scripts and pitch them.

Last Thursday, David Simon came to speak at The Spare's art school. He is an HBO producer best known for "The Wire."

I grabbed a season of "The Wire" from the library last year because I heard that the show dealt with inner-city schools. And I loved it. The show not only dealt with inner-city schools, it got the whole thing right, including the ridiculous standardized testing and the fact that teachers are powerless over the lives their students live outside the school walls.

I liked "The Wire" so much that Mr. J bought me the boxed set for Xmas. Watched it. Loved it. Terrific show about crime in Baltimore, all the way up to the biggest criminals, which are the politicians and real estate developers.

(And yes, whippersnappers, that is Idris Elba in the drawing.)

I was beyond thrilled to be able to hear Mr. Simon speak at Spare's school. He was invited by the school's fledgling creative writing program.

I don't think this particular arsty ivory tower was ready for Mr. Simon's message.

In a nutshell, Mr. Simon said he's no artist, television dramas are collaborative, and he was lucky to have been a curious print journalist on a big-city paper, in this case the Baltimore Sun. When gently prodded by a professor as to what kind of production team he looked for when beginning a television series (no doubt to bolster the ambitions of the attending student screenwriters), Simon said he wants nonfiction prose writers and people who have lived the experiences that he is depicting in his show. He said there's hardly ever anyone under 40 on his teams.

David Simon also offered what, to me, could be the perfect gem about television drama. He said that he knew he wasn't interesting himself as a suburban white male, so he went into journalism to write about people who were living more interesting lives. Of course this led him to the homicide department of the Baltimore City Police, where the workers pray for a string of dull days.

This was a blow not only to the professors teaching exactly what Mr. Simon says he hates ("people who write to the commercial"), but also to the young writers in the audience who have no access to jobs in print journalism. That medium is sinking like the Titanic on Iceberg Day.

Where will the gritty, honest, realistic dramas of the future come from? How will people support themselves if they try to follow a good story source? I don't know the answers to these questions. I only know that the avenue David Simon pursued is disappearing into the mists of time. How sad and starved we will be when the ink-stained wretches are all gone!


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Interesting lecture about how the real world works. Is not the biggest life lesson the students need to learn that they should not expect to start "at the top"? I doubt any one of them will get anywhere near a hit series right out of college.

Stacy said...

As someone who just graduated from a liberal arts school, I agree with everything you said in this blog lol