The economy and the entertainment industry are going through a structural change. While many in the film industry fear the threat of digital downloads, while a very real threat, it isn't nearly as significant as structural changes in consumer consumption of content. There is confusion in the market between the requirements of the older "passive massive" film generation vs. the interactive expectations of younger generations.
- It's the difference between the generation that is comfortable watching 5 hours of TV a night vs. the generation that can tell all or part of a short story using the 140 characters allowed by Twitter.
- It's the difference between linear story telling with a beginning an end, vs. reading part of a story without knowing where you are in the narrative.
- It's about a generation that feeds on the firing of neurons in the brain vs. a generation that is willing to allow the story's author the time to provide a neural reward.
All of the constituencies that support the film industry, from film makers to fans are struggling to reconcile the film revenue and distribution models of prior generations and the current environment. The threat of digital film theft aside, structural change in the industry is the true threat to the status quo. The last structural change n film was in 1963/1964 at the start of the independent film movement. As the movement matured it became organized and legitimized by festivals such as Sundance (1985).
Today, change is being driven by the impact of technology and consumer behavior on storytelling. On-going episodic approaches are replacing stories that have a neat beginning and end. The MIT center for the Future of Storytelling , an initiative run by David Kirkpatrick, a former President of Paramount, is quickly becoming the bell weather of the "new “ storytelling movement.
Change is slowly taking route in the way advertisers tell stories. Recent initiatives such as "colors" advertising from SONY, and the Cadbury Gorilla are both examples of the new creativity and interactivity where the raw footage of the commercials were made available for the audience to re-cut and reinvent.
Today, narrative has a time value. What gets to Sundance is old by the time it is released at the festival. Even SXSW represents a point in time vs. an on-going phenomenon. When the Kindle 2 was introduced, the Steven King book released exclusively for the Kindle became an instant best seller. The book was marketed in a way that ensured success at a particular moment in time. In the future, film festivals like Sundance will not be able to survive unless they are on-going participants in the narrative.
The film festival itself has many attributes of "old" Hollywood. This includes:
- 1x Per Year Meetings for those that can attend
- “Mainstream” Independent longer length films
- Elite People in attendance
- Film Maker to Audience (passive)
- Brands imposed on “Hollywood” by Advertisers
The film festival of the future will:
- Operate and organize everyday, 24 hours a day
- Genre and film length have no constraints or definition
- Open to all
- Invites active and passive collaboration
- Meeting place open to all
- Brands engaged in storytelling consistent with their relevant metaphor
Marketers continue to be amazed (and quietly worried) that brand Barak Obama was able to jump to the head of the political line. What should those that aspire to lead the film industry do in the future to keep newer firms that are born in the age of Web 3.0 at bay? . One immediate action to take is to become the Voice of the New Industry by acting like the new industry. Some ideas include:
- Start by collaborating vs. guarding assets.
- Confirm and articulate a vision of the new storyteller.
- Write a position paper.
- Act as the forum for the new generation of storytellers.
- Bridge the old with the new. Welcome both.
- Organize amateur and professional industry participants including:
. Other things I'd do as the leader is to :
- Find new models to reinvent and monetize each stage of the film lifecycle.
- Provide opportunities for a new generation of co-creators.
- Provide Tools to re-cut and re-mix
- Work as a Partner/Friend to guide, teach and support
- Education for those wanting to participate
- Establish Scholarships for talented individuals that need time to develop (vs. the pressure for immediate success)
- Provide the tools to publicize all manner of thought (path to Twitter, Gaming Platforms, Tivo etc.)
Of course all of the above would come with many of the elements that make film successful. This includes:
- Raw material for Inspiration/Ideation
- Fan Participation and Awards
- Work Spaces
- Story Ideas for others to build on
- New Genre Development (mash-ups, length)
- Education (formal, informal training, help)
- Early audience building and support
- Brand Sponsorship of area and specific forums (targets; writers, thinkers, innovators)
To be the leader in this space a company will need to demonstrate that they can help others:
- Turn Ideas into Reality
- Develop scripts and finish them
- Provide Workspace Tools
- Advise on Legal Protection
Like the economy at large, the coming storm in the film industry is being driven by changes in the way we consume content. There is a unique opportunity for a new leader to not only emerge, but monetize the associated activity.