In the book, “Blue Ocean Strategies,” the authors talk about the difference between “Red Ocean Strategies” and “Blue Ocean Strategies.”
“Red” means an ocean awash with alpha predators (i.e. sharks) all fighting over scarce resources (i.e. other sea creatures and/or unfortunate human swimmers), turning the ocean red with blood. “Blue” means the ocean is still pretty much empty of said predators, allowing budding entrepreneurs like yourself to flourish unbothered.
The idea being, we should avoid “red oceans” if we can, because in all likelihood we’ll just get eaten. We should instead strive to find a “blue ocean” to swim in, which means inventing a new innovation, market, product or business model, preferably one that is hard for the “sharks” to find, let alone imitate, let alone devour, along with hapless us.
Which brings us to the Hollywood Writers’ Strike, which has been hitting the news lately. Yes, it’s easy to see why the writers are aggrieved (see this zinger from The New Yorker: “Why Are TV Writers So Miserable?”). It’s also easy to understand some of the management’s arguments, basically saying that it’s not 1995 anymore.
There’s a lot of complex issues going on, dealing with things like fairness, equity, business reality, technology, economics, decency, compensation deserved and undeserved, insider-vs outsider yin yang, status, culture… and at time of writing, nobody really sees a path forward. We certainly don’t, nor are we qualified to suggest one.
What we did see, however, was this one simple webpage that spoke volumes.
It’s a community page on Reddit for aspiring screenwriters, where they exchange tips, try to help each other, and chat in an effort to move their careers forward.
What’s the problem? There really isn’t one, except that the page has 1.6 million members.
1.6 million people hoping to one day have the jobs of the 11,500 writers currently on strike. 139 hopefuls for every one person with a union job. This, in an already crowded market.
This means for every tasty fish that becomes available, you have 139 sharks fighting over it. If that isn’t a Red Ocean situation, we don’t know what is.
Whatever wonderful concessions the Writer’s Guild of America is able to secure for their members and whatever grievances might be successfully addressed this time round, these extra 139 sharks aren’t going away. And to us that’s the real issue. Everyone’s swimming in an ocean of red.
So what can a writer do? The same two roads that writers have always taken. 1. Quit, and go find a bluer ocean elsewhere, or 2. Stay in the red ocean game, but create your own unique offering i.e become a blue bubble in a red ocean. That’s what Taylor Sheridan did, that’s what the writers of Ted Lasso did, that’s what the creators of South Park did.
It’s the same for most industries. Differentiation is the hardest thing to pull off in any profession.
But it’s also the thing most worth figuring out.