Broad Horizons

This post brought to you by the demise of my favorite local (Madison, WI) theater – the Sundance 608. As you might imagine from the name, after the film festival, the theater had a focus towards “artsier” fair. Foreign films, lesser-known movies that might briefly play around Oscar time regularly showed there, nestled in with a few wide-release flicks. It’s been acquired by AMC, America’s largest theater chain. The benefits of this acquisition were, according to my experience last night:

  1. Double or triple the usual number of previews, which is a plus if you love movie trailers, a minus if you value time.
  2. Slightly higher ticket prices with an added online convenience fee
  3. Removal of at least one tap of local Madison beer replaced by Blue Moon (not a terrible beer, but it’s not a match for the good stuff brewers come up with locally

At this point you might be wondering why, if I intended to rant like an angry old man, I titled this post “Broad Horizons”: I did so because access to a diverse array of artistic experience is something to be valued, and with this change, our access to different types of films has been reduced.

In today’s endlessly interconnected world, when we’re soaked by endless waterfalls of information, it can be easy to dismiss the value of diverse artistic experiences, especially for creatives. While I write principally science fiction and fantasy fare, I try to read just about everything. I might follow up a Lovecraft collection about mysterious dooms and madmen with a Michael Chabon novel about a hapless English professor who both recognizes his condition and does little to change it. That exposure to different styles, subject matter, and plot structure bleeds its way into my own work, making it more unique.

Nonfiction, graphic novels, games, TV and movies, music and theater; there are so many ways to consume stories and so many genres to enjoy that to limit yourself to only your “favorites” is to put unnecessary burdens on your creativity. Leverage that. Make a habit of stretching your creative intake outside of your comfort zone.

One tactic I use is to alternate the books I chew through – for every sci-fi or fantasy novel, I try to read something outside of the genres. Literature, nonfiction, etc. Keeps me spry. The mind fresh.

If the thought of leaving your chosen loves fills you with angsty fear, then try branching out within your genre first. Arrival and Aliens are two very different types of films, even if both are science fiction. Lord of the Rings and A Spell for Chameleon are two very different types of fantasy. You get the idea. It’s like taking a step into the deep end of the pool – you’ll find good and bad things as you leave your creative comfort zone, but you’ll be richer for it.



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