Excerpts from Kevin Spacey’s MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
On reaching excellence
Are you still disappointed - in your own reach, your own bar of excellence, your own ambitions, your creative courage, your own ability to use this medium - these platforms - so they bring out the best in yourself and in those you work alongside? And I wonder if you are - as I am - disappointed that this medium doesn’t reach for the highest of excellence as much as it should, or could?
On seeking out talent
But for those who do have a passion for the arts and have a voice - I believe that we have a responsibility to seek them out, because if we don’t they may never find their way over the walls we’ve built so effectively around our theaters, networks and studios and we may lose their stories forever.
On Francis Underwood (his House of Cards character)
I suspect people might admire is that he too has embraced a sense of total abandon: abandonment to the rules. He has no allegiances, to party, to titles, to forms, to names, to labels: he doesn’t care whether it’s Democrats, Republicans, ideology or conviction. What he sees is opportunity and the chance to move forward.
Clearly the success of the Netflix model - releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once has proved one thing - the audience wants the control. They want freedom.. I think we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want - when they want it - in the form they want it in - at a reasonable price - and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it; well, some will still steal it, but I believe this new model can take a bite out of piracy.
On Breaking Bad
This example teaches us I believe another important lesson for the networks - and it’s about patience - a much overlooked quality needed in creative development and a virtue not found as a rule in network executives, hidebound for decades by pressure to find sure fire hits - quickly.
There has been this myth of “nobody knows anything,” that making good programming is a crapshoot. But frankly, that’s just BS. We do know how this works and it’s always been about empowering artists. It’s always been about total abandon…So we know what works and the only thing we don’t know is why it’s so difficult to find executives with the fortitude, the wisdom and the balls to do it.
More from Spacey in Edinburgh:
This story was first published by Broadcast.