Netflix, the new golden age of television
Katie Buckland shines. This former lawyer heads the Writers Guild Foundation (WGF) in Hollywood, an offshoot of the very powerful union of American screenwriters. The WGF makes a point of training new writing talents. Unique in its genre and rich in more than 40,000 documents, its library provides them with all the scripts and screenplays of American television and the 7e art – from the hundreds of episodes of simpsons until Godfather and at the Star wars. It is the written memory of the American audiovisual industry.
Katie Buckland joined the foundation in 2013. She is therefore particularly well placed to analyze the evolution of Hollywood over the past ten years. And her enthusiasm is… limitless: for her, television has entered a new golden age since the advent of streaming. Because of the proliferation of programs, of course, but, above all, the walls that keep collapsing. “What a wonderful time to work in the audiovisual sector! Thanks to competition, there is more audacity, more creativity, she congratulates herself. By the 1990s, subscription channels like HBO had emerged, which were bolder than traditional channels. Today, it is much more spectacular, and the old chains are obliged to follow! »
Start of streaming
She wants proof of this in the story revealed recently by the documentary Half-timeseen on Netflix. Half-time is devoted to Jennifer Lopez and the show that the singer gave in early 2020 during the Super Bowl, the final of the American football championship. This event is one of the highlights of the year. All of America is in front of his post to see the helmeted players collide, but also to attend the half-time show, which is generally as colorful as it is consensual.
However, says Katie, Jennifer Lopez had imposed on the broadcaster, CBS, a historic channel, a staging including children in cages. Its goal ? Denounce the treatment that the Trump administration reserved for migrant minors at the Mexican border. “It was unthinkable before streaming, loose Katie. Before this revolution, television was much more cautious. »
Of this golden age, and of this renewed audacity, Netflix is undoubtedly the major player, the founding pillar. In all areas, the ex-start-up of Los Gatos has endeavored to break down barriers since the start of streaming in 2007. Even in cartoons. Claire works with her father, a former Disney freelancer. His brother is also in the game, and the trio collaborates regularly with Netflix. “Netflix is interested in all kinds of cartoons, and invests a lot of money, explains the young woman. It’s very stimulating. At the moment, we have a very poetic, very personal short film project. And another more classic. Before, each production studio had its own style. When Netflix took off, going down many paths, everyone else said: “But no, but no, we are interested in everything as well.” »
From its inception, the firm has spent lavishly to acquire the rights and broadcast the programs of others first, then to produce its own. Even if it means paying more than necessary. In his book Rule ? No rules! (Buchet-Chastel, 416 p., 24.90 €)the founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, justifies this strategy coming from the software industry, his own (read episode 2, in The Weekly July 23-24)and summarized as follows: “Pay above the market. » It is at this price that we attach ourselves to the services of the pros who make the difference.
But it’s not just about resources. There is also a method, a manual for Netflix’s army of screenwriters. Diagrams, narrative modes, profiles… We thus insist, in particular, on the need to strike hard from the start. And not to miss. “Audiences watch a program for an average of ten minutes before deciding whether to continue or do something else”we emphasize in the workshops for authors.
In these home workshops, we also teach the cycle that the hero, and the viewer, must go through – a cycle conceptualized by Dan Harmon, American screenwriter and television producer. A loop in eight stages: the meeting with the hero; statement of the problem; the initiative of the hero; the struggle to achieve the goal; the success ; the price to pay for this success – a form of suffering; the return to a normal life; the revelation of the change produced on the hero at the end of his adventure.
Netflix is an entertainment company. Entertainment first, entertainment above all. With some forays into auteur cinema. Hollywood “big guys” have received full powers and the means for their productions. From this point of view, 2019 is a turning point: big names find refuge with the king of streaming. That year, Martin Scorsese released his irish man filmed with $160 million from Netflix. That same year, the big screen crowned the little one: the Mexican Alfonso Cuaron and his Romedistributed by Netflix, received the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. A first for a streaming platform, which arouses controversy, in Cannes as in Los Angeles.
Although marginal in the Netflix universe, these thunderclaps fuel the reputation of the Los Gatos firm. At the end of the 2010s, the machine took off. At the end of 2020, the 200 million subscriber mark was crossed – twice as many as at the start of 2018. It is true that the world was at a standstill then. The Covid-19 has struck the planet in awe and there is only digital freedom. Only the bits continue to move. In 2020-2021, streaming is one of the few openings to the world. “Freedom, I write your name”…Netflix?