Never tell Emma Thompson that you’re a fan of her “content.”
The Good Luck To You, Leo Grande actress won’t take it as a compliment. From her perspective, it’s not the right word to describe movies and TV shows — and it’s the perfect example of the relationship breakdown between studios and creatives.
“I think the relationship between the executives and the creative branch just has to be much, much closer,” Thompson said at the Royal Television Society conference, according to Variety. “To hear people talk about ‘content’ makes me feel like the stuffing inside a sofa cushion.”
She continued, “It’s just rude, actually. It’s just a rude word for creative people.”
The acclaimed actress, who has been in the business for over five decades, went on to explain exactly why she finds the word so insulting.
Addressing the drama students in the audience, she said, “You don’t want to hear your stories described as ‘content’ or your acting or your producing described as ‘content.’ That’s just like coffee grounds in the sink or something. It’s, I think, a very misleading word.”
Thompson’s comments about the complex relationship between studios and creatives come at a notable time, with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes on the verge of entering their fifth and third months, respectively. Among their asks are tighter restrictions surrounding AI usage, and higher compensation, including streaming residuals.
Speaking to the ongoing conflict, Thompson added, “Everyone is affected. I’ve been writing to friends who are crew people, who are costume people, who are make-up people who aren’t working. It’s a very, very, very hard time, people are suffering so much.”
Later in the conversation, the Oscar-winner argued that approaching creative work as “content” is not as effective as authenticity.
“You find your audience by being completely authentic,” she said. “These formulas don’t work… And then you sit there and you watch them and you wonder why, at the end of it, you feel a bit ill. And I think that’s something else that we don’t talk about as creators in television and in film. How does it make us feel inside ourselves after we’ve seen something?”
For her part, Thompson says she wants to feel “different” after watching something.
“I want to feel as though I’ve been shifted slightly, even if it’s just my mood or I’ve learned something extraordinary,” she explained. “That is something we just have to keep on thinking about because that takes you away from this thing of ‘content.’ What is the story that you want to hear and that you want to tell that you think will make people feel different, safer, stronger?”
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