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January 31, 2011
Artists Should Earn Money
Boingboing and Kottke both pointed to a piece on the99percent.com by Francis Ford Coppola
. As you'd expect of someone with that long a career he has a lot to say, but for Copyfight purposes let's focus on his discussion of copying, which comes off his response to the question about developing one's own style.
He notes Balzac's happy response to learning that someone had copied Balzac's writing and talks about how people start by stealing (or copying, in the art world) from the masters. Balzac, and Coppola, clearly care more about their legacy than the money they make right now. Coppola finances all his films himself and makes his actual money in the wine business. From this he branches off to talk about how modern our system of directly compensating artists is, and says "who says artists have to make money?"
Now on the one hand I agree with him - our current models are a recent blip on the historical radar. And it's true that creative people can keep their day jobs to pay for doing art that they love. Coppola also points to the patron model but as I mentioned when discussing Interfictions I don't think the model scales very well.
The other problem I have with Coppola's idea of disconnecting cinema - or other arts - from the idea of making money is that the ability to make a living doing one's art has enormous advantages. For one thing, it lures people. We all benefit from there being more art and though there are plenty of creators who will continue to create even when they have no hope of making a living at it there will be excellent creative people of all sorts who will be disappointed, hindered, or actively discouraged from pursuing their art by an inability to make a living at it.
Even if they are not completely turned off, there is a great deal of art that cannot be made part time, after hours, outside a work schedule, or under constant interruption. Much great art comes from the ability of a creator to lock herself away for an extended period of time and really focus on the creative work. Creative work is hard work, too. One of the greatest legacies of President Kennedy was his recognition that arts are worthy of support in the national sphere and the creation of the National Endowment. We live richer lives as a result, though I can't point to hard statistics to back that assertion up.
And likewise, my gut feeling tells me that we cannot simply dismiss the idea of artists making money from their art, no matter how much I respect Coppola and what he has done/is doing.
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