Kevin Spacey has crticised the arts sector for failing to nurture the next generation of creatives, claiming more should be done to “seek out new talent”.
Delivering this year’s MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Spacey said that he was “disappointed” about the lack of support currently provided to emerging talent, and added: “For those who do have a passion for the arts and have a voice, I believe that we have a responsibility to seek them out, because if we don’t they may never find their way over the walls we’ve built so effectively around our theatres, networks and studios and we may lose their stories forever.”
He admitted that he himself – as the artistic director of the Old Vic and a television producer – could do more to “encourage the best of storytellers coming up in this industry”.
He added that the sector had a duty to “send the elevator back down” to the next generation of talent and said: “We just have to make sure the floors we live on are not so high that we can no longer hear the voices of those who want to get on and take a ride up to our level, calling out for opportunity. Wherever they want to go in this new world, television and the internet surely cannot afford to lose them all.”
Spacey – who is the first actor to deliver the prestigious MacTaggart Lecture – also stressed that “age is not a barrier to great ideas or good stories” and claimed “talent comes in all shapes and sizes”.
“We should be open to discovering those with a lot of experience and those with no experience,” he said.
In his speech, Spacey highlighted the work of the Old Vic and its Old Vic/New Voices scheme, which he said focused on bringing new writers, actors, producers and directors together, rather than “separating them like many theatres, television and film programmes do”.
He said this enabled them to “produce and realise their work together” and added: “We are no longer operating in a world where someone has to decide if they are an actor, director, producer or writer – these days kids growing up on YouTube can be all these things.”
Spacey also addressed the way television shows are consumed by audiences today and highlighted the success of House of Cards, the series his company Trigger Street produced for on-demand site Netflix, as an example of how viewers want to access content.
The entire series was released in one go, which Spacey claimed allowed viewers to decide how and when they want to watch content.
He said: ”They want freedom. If they want to binge – as they’ve been doing on House of Cards – then we should let them binge. Through this new form of distribution I think we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn – give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”
The artistic director and actor also said broadcasters need to give series more time to grow and develop connections with viewers.
“If an audience is bonding to a show, however small that audience is to begin with, isn’t it worth investing the time to help it find its true potential?” he said.