“Why black sitcoms and creative control will never work in America”
“Some things are just too good to be true,” would be a great way to explain the rise and fall of black tv shows and sitcoms. When it boils down to it, we as black people need to start paying attention more to contracts we sign when we do business. Yes, you’re paying me millions, yes you’re giving me something with my name attached to it, but what am I giving up in exchange for these things? Whether you take the check and stay, or part ways and keep your sanity, we as a black culture need to find a way to overcome this obligation of giving away our creative controls. Before I analyze the results of giving away the rights to your creative control, let’s explore this concept.
People often mix up the definitions for creative control and creative freedom, and even though they sound similar, they are in fact quite different. A person with creative control has the authority to decide how the final product will appear. In movies, this commonly refers to the authority to decide on the final cut. Creative freedom simply means you are in control of the creative concept, and not answerable to a director but, not necessarily free to decide final output. Creative control is more than just two words next to each other. Creative control is your 1st amendment. It’s your right to having authority to decide how the final product will appear, but we fail to read between lines when we sign contracts and allow others to make final cuts and edits to our work.
The Chappelle Show, The Carmichael Show, The Boondocks, all have something in common. The creator’s, Dave Chappelle, Jerrod Carmichael & Aaron McGruder end up abandoning a show with their names on it due to horrible creative constraints with these huge Networks. “For three seasons (okay 2.5), I got to make a show that I love with my friends,” Carmichael said, clearly pointing out halfway through season 3 that creative control was the issue. It’s frustrating as a viewer to sit by and watch what happens after that contract gets signed, talent works hard for a few seasons, boosting network stats, and then randomly on episode 8 of season 2, the producer “doesn’t think the show is headed in the right direction”. “At the end of the day, you don’t have that much control over it. You just try to conduct yourself as best you can,” said Chappelle on his choice to leave Chappelle’s Show in 2005, walking away from a $55 million deal on the table with Comedy Central.
For what it’s worth, it’s always been this way, we can’t ever have anything great in this sinking ship of a country. The joy of being able to have no boundaries on your creative control is what we want, it’s what we need. Taking that away is what causes you to feel like you are losing everything you stand for. At that point you’re stuck with a decision, taking that check from these money and power hungry corporations and going against all your morals, or walking away and staying true to yourself.