Format Positivity

I hate hate.

Always have, always will. In a complicated, interconnected world, it’s too easy for too many to lose sight of the fact that we all share the same planet, with the same hopes and dreams for our families, our friends and ourselves. Food, shelter, clothing, the pursuit of happiness…

FRAPA co-chair Phil Gurin is president and CEO of The Gurin Company

While the world is trying to both recover from a pandemic and cope with an unconscionable land war in Europe that simply should not be happening at all, it’s easy for primal anxieties to take over. The rapid pace of technological change, the growing tsunami of global warming, the income and social inequality that permeates societies and foments fear of ‘the other’ (whoever that may be). These are just a few symptoms, galvanized by systemic unrest, that sweep and perpetuate a troubling pessimistic world.

In our humble sphere of formats, the global language of content creation has the ability to transcend borders and connect people in ways unimaginable a century ago. Whether it is to entertain, inform, illuminate or escape, formats offer a kind of trans-national, border-free language. Game shows, reality competitions, factual formats, social experiments, shiny-floor entertainments — they are hard to create and, for most creators and producers, even harder to sell.

On the assumption that high tides lift all boats, it’s important to recognise that the rapidly changing landscape of the world is hitting the format industry too. While there are no shortages of ideas and shows, and an endless array of distribution platforms — terrestrial, digital, SVOD, AVOD, etc — the decision-makers are being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer GEGs (Global Entertainment Giants).

When faced with such obstacles, it’s incumbent on our community to be supportive, collaborative, honourable and optimistic. We must root out the format thieves and rip-off artists — the platforms and distributors and creators (you KNOW who you are) who shamelessly see a format somewhere and help themselves to the IP via copycat ideas, hoping to cash-in quickly before they get caught. And even then, the burden is always on those ripped off to fight for the rights of their intellectual property.

So now let’s talk about sex. Specifically, ‘sex positivity’. I’ve seen a definition online that sums it up this way: “For most, it involves having positive attitudes about sex and feeling comfortable with one’s own sexual identity and with the sexual behaviours of others.” In other words, let’s be supportive of ourselves and those around us, moving boldly towards acceptance over cancellation and hate.

If we embrace honesty, truthfulness and lawfulness in the world of formats — if we recognise that there will be good shows and bad shows, hit shows and failures — then why not lift up the best and avoid criticising the worst? These shows, regardless of their reception, are valued children of the format family.

Back in 1910, US President Theodore Roosevelt offered this sound statement: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”

Not all shows are great; not all formats are worthy. But let’s be supportive of one another and of our community. The world will be a better, more positive place one format at a time.

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