The Day the Gatekeeper Died: Patton Oswalt on DIY Creative Careers
This is not new. It is so old, in fact, that it has been on the internet for over two months, so feel free to skip this if you’ve already heard it. However, I’ve found myself sharing Patton Oswalt’s recent keynote speech on comedy with more than one filmmaker/actor/creative over the past few months when they tell me about trying to make it via “traditional” routes. So here it is, because if you replace the term “comedian” with “filmmaker” it applies equally well.
I actually had to go back and search this website to see if I’d posted this speech before; I wrote an open letter to an actor a year ago saying some of these same things, but no, this speech has not appeared on this site. Oswalt may not have said these things first, but he may have said them best — and with the credibility of a certifiable Already Famous person. And then there’s his quote about his iPhone: “I’m holding in my hand more filmmaking technology than Orson Welles had when he made Citizen Kane.”
NSFW language here.
By titling this post “The Day the Gatekeeper Died,” I am not saying gatekeepers are completely useless or are dead entirely — they will always have a place and will serve as important filters. What I mean with that title is: there is often a particular point in history where a general sentiment is crystallized very well and that often makes for a good trailhead/turning point/reverse Tipping Point, and this Oswalt speech seems as good as any for actors/creatives/comedians.
Here’s the rest of Oswalt’s quote on filmmaking technology:
I’m holding almost the same amount of cinematography, post-editing, sound editing, and broadcast capabilities as you have at your TV network or studio. And in a couple of years it’s going to be fucking equal. It’s going to be fucking equal… This isn’t a threat, gatekeepers, this is an offer. We like to create. We’re the ones who love to make shit all the time. You’re the ones who like to discover it and patronize it support it and nurture it and broadcast it. Just, PLEASE, get out of our way while we do it. Because we have THESE now.
One counterargument I often hear to the democratization of media is that most of everything is still crap. Sure, but no one is saying that everything is great. It’s about the democratization of opportunity and the gatekeeper-less ability to get your stuff in front of an audience and find out if it’s good (or not). And if it’s not good, then the motivated among us will use the feedback we receive to improve. Oswalt nails this point:
If you get out of our way and we fucking fall on our face, we won’t blame you like we have in the past. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the stuff that’s being uploaded to YouTube. There are sitcoms now on the internet, some of them are brilliant, some of them are “meh,” some of them fuckin suck. At about the same ratio that things are brilliant and “meh” and suck on your network.
The full speech is below if you can’t watch the video itself (e.g., if there’s a “gatekeeper” at your day job who would be willing to open the gate — to unemployment — if you sit around watching comedy speeches all day). Also, for further Patton Oswalt-related listening, I still think this is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard about screenwriting (extremely NSFW).