Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Originality Is Non-Existent...

The great film-maker Jim Jarmusch said: ‘Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Authenticity is invaluable, originality is non-existent’.

And for those of us digging at the creative chalk face that's true. Each vein we hit seems to be one that someone has plundered before. We can barely work any idea without getting that feeling that 'I'm sure I've seen this somewhere...'. Which is of course the moment when we have to stop, down pen, cease clicking the keys and reassess our stories.

However much we attempt to wallpaper over the cliches once you hit Cliche Town in a script the streets start clearing, the viewers click away.

And yet to see some drama  and comedy on TV these days you'd almost imagine it was the writer's job to deliver a succession of tropes and lines so worn down they are smooth from the pounding. Why is that? I refuse to believe any writer goes in with a notebook full of hackneyed ideas. Heads of This and That tell us - demand - that it is the new and fresh stories that get bought. My arse. If one channel has something the other channel wants one just like it - and then they tell us their product is nothing like the other. Denial. Don't believe them. Remember, people who run television don't watch it. Oh, they get across a landmark series by watching bits, but they don't watch like a viewer watches. Too many spread sheets and number crunchers.

But original programmes do get through, escape the searchlight beam of Stalag Mediocre, climb the fence and break out into the world. Once there they are cheered and applauded for being different - until someone then decides they want one just like it, and so it goes.
The Danish political drama Borgen may not be original - you can argue The West Wing got there first - it may have taken some inspiration from other political dramas but it has a kind of authenticity that I love. I have no experience whatsoever of Danish coalition politics yet this show grabbed me in the first half hour of episode one. I believe the country is run by four people and Danish television news is staffed by six. Doesn't matter, it was real. By the end of episode ten I was completely hooked.I can't wait for series 2.

How can a tiny country like Denmark with a small population, a tiny pool of actors, writers and producers suddenly be showing the sharks in the infested waters of UK and American television how to do it?

That is what I - and I'm sure many others are unpicking at the moment. But if we unpick it and use it it won't be original.

In the meantime for those who hark to the hackneyed, the unbelievable and the resolutely cliched there is a drama, in it's third series on British TV, that shows, for some, originality is non-existent: Whitechappel. It began with a good idea and is now so far down the road of implausibility it is hilarious to watch - if you can bare to watch at all.

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