This week sees the arrival of writer/director Cary Fukunaga’s eagerly awaited ‘Maniac’ on Netflix. Fukunaga is perhaps best known for directing every episode of HBO’s ‘True Detective’. The series was hugely praised and let Fukunaga run riot with his visceral, pitch-black direction. But when series two was announced, his involvement was not. Next, he became attached to Stephen King adaptation ‘IT’ before departing the project because of those oft-touted ‘creative differences’.
It seemed that because of Fukunaga’s commitment to doing something different or differently, he was gaining a reputation for being difficult. He put his departure from ‘IT’ down to his vision not fitting "into the algorithm of what [the studio] knew they could spend and make money back on.” A clash of creativity and the standard popcorn fare the studio wanted. Yet with ‘Maniac’, Fukunaga has shown he is capable of remaining the auteur and not sacrificing his integrity along the way.
It’s refreshing to see a director unwilling to compromise their creative vision for a studio’s commercial agenda. Yet this difficult and unpopular approach can reap rewards. Darren Aronofsky is not your atypical studio ‘yes man’, and his refusal to go with anyone else but Mickey Rourke for his 2008 feature ‘The Wrestler’ meant finding a new studio and working with half the budget. It also led to winning the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion and Rourke winning a BAFTA.
We have found ourselves in an era of people unafraid to apply the greatest of conviction to their beliefs. Brexit and Trump alone have made certain more people are finding their voice, whether outlining their stance on these issues, or the multitude that affect us every day. These beliefs can also be expressed through the brands we choose to associate ourselves with. No longer content for brands to sit on the sidelines, we instead expect them to make their point-of-view known.
A message is arguably at its most powerful when creative license meets impassioned belief. Think of Stella McCartney who refuses to use fur or leather in an industry not necessarily known for its environmental mindfulness. Whilst earlier this year, aviation giant American Airlines made it clear to the US government that children separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border would not be relocated on their planes.
Like ‘Maniac’ director Fukunaga, some brands are shirking the ordinary, the expected and the safe to move in the direction they believe is right. Whilst addressing (or perhaps exploiting) the opportunity for political statement our times afford.