Kevin Spacey delivered the keynote address at this year’s Edinburgh International Television Festival, the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, noting that 15 years ago he, as the first actor to do so, would never have been asked because “television was considered a lost cause.” “Frankly, 15 years ago I wouldn’t be up here lecturing you because my agent would have never allowed me to do a TV series after winning an Oscar,” he added. “Let alone something streaming.”
In the 45-minute talk, which you can watch in full below, Spacey discusses both the rise of the quality drama and the sea change with regard to platforms and streaming that’s allowed him to get a history-making Emmy nomination for his role in Netflix’s “House of Cards.” He cites a comment from David Lean in 1990 that the studios’ lack of support for upcoming creatives would lead to the medium losing them all to television, noting that back then “the film industry didn’t believe that television would become it’s biggest competitor,” and urges executives to take risks, to support new talent and to have patience, pointing out that “Breaking Bad” didn’t start off with blockbuster ratings, but built up an audience as people discovered the earlier seasons on Netflix.
It’s a forward-looking lecture that covers a lot of topics about the shift in TV, including platform agnosticism, the blurring between it and film (“Is 13 hours watched in one cinematic whole really any different than a film?”) and the rise of the multifaceted online artist. He also gets specific with the impracticalities of the pilot process and of spending $300-400 million a year on an array of potential series, few of which make it beyond that point, much less to a full season. It’s a good overview of the important themes of the current “golden age” — check it out below.