Wednesday, December 29, 2010

11 Things on My Mind for Twenty11

Thinking... please waitphoto © 2009 Karola Riegler | more info (via: Wylio)
It’s that time of year when everyone makes their top ten lists, and I’ve done it before and am adding my 11 cents here now. I could just paste in last year’s list below, as all of them are still relevant, but that’s too easy...except for number 1, policy. Unfortunately, this one is much the same as last year, so to make up for this repeat, I’m giving eleven thoughts here. Most of these aren’t predictions, but are instead just a few things I’m thinking about as we head into the New Year.
  1. Will the film industry start to take policy seriously? I doubt it. Policy turns people off, but if we don’t pay more attention and get active in these debates, the possible future for indie film might get turned off. It’s hard to imagine a world where the internet no longer works like it does now, but take one look at this graphic of what the industry wants and you quickly get a sense of what could become of the internet. This will be the year that this story gets framed to the public in a big way. The Right is already trying to paint the FCC’s recent ruling as “regulating” the internet. Filmmakers are story tellers. We need better stories about why this issue is important. There’s quite a role here for creatives, and I hope a few of them take this issue head-on in 2011.
  2. Will Apple become a rights-broker? When talk turns to Apple these days, it’s usually about the Ipad, and when it might come to Verizon. What interests me more is this excellent interview with Michael Whalen about their purchase of a huge cloud computing facility down in NC, and what it might mean for the future. It’s becoming increasingly clear that ownership of content isn’t as important as controlling the experience around content. Apple is already doing well with consumers accessing content. They could also handle rights licensing pretty well - imagine if any artist could post their content (film, music, writing) and set terms and publishers and others licensed that content through a system built by Apple - in the cloud. As Whalen says in the article about their possible plans "What if iTunes or whatever AAPL calls their new streaming service is broken into TWO parts - the actual delivery and streaming of the programs, etc. and on the other side - - the administration of the copyrights in the digital realm including collecting fees and licenses from OTHER PLATFORMS." While this isn’t talked about much, it’s an interesting theory and worthy of some speculation.
  3. Which indies will embrace the prequel? I’ve been speaking for a long time about how filmmakers can use short video as a way to build interest in their films before the film is released. Karol Martesko-Fenster has put a name on it with the idea of the prequel, and you can see a great example of how it can work for a documentary film with Bengali Detective which is premiering at Sundance. Lots of room here for other formats - building up certain characters or plot points in a narrative film, for example, and a great way to build audience.
  4. Which indie transmedia experiments will succeed? A lot of indies are starting to experiment with developing their story across multiple entry points. Lance Weiler has a transmedia project premiering at Sundance and another in the works (or maybe several). Liz Rosenthal and Tishna Molla are pushing the field forward by holding excellent conferences and labs with Power to the Pixel, and rumor has it some other big entities are getting into this soon. Wendy Levy at BAVC is helping filmmakers learn more about it as well through the BAVC Labs. I don’t think 2011 will be a big year for transmedia - it will probably start gaining more momentum in both indie and Hollywood circles (and elsewhere), but it will probably be 2012 at earliest before the “big embrace,” but maybe I’m wrong.
  5. Who will figure out mobile, social, check-in, rewards and indie film? There’s a few companies operating in this space, but no one has put it together well yet. This will be a gold mine (or three) someday and I can’t wait to see what launches and develops in 2011.
  6. Will YouTube figure out what it’s doing? If any company could use a strategy, this is the one. I could give them a million ways to do what they’re doing better. I’m sure you could too. They obviously have the whole mass adoption thing down, but when it comes to working with long form film and changing the distribution paradigm, they need some work. They ran some half-assed experiments in releasing films last year, and have been making some interesting moves lately, but this is probably the year when they need to put up or ....
  7. Will film festivals figure out social? Yes, they are all on Twitter. Marketing themselves constantly. Oh, wait, sorry, just constantly as the festival approaches or to hit me up to support some fundraising campaign they’re doing. Film festivals, through their curation, are better positioned than almost anyone to build a better relationship with audiences and help change the indie film paradigm. But only if they take social media seriously and start using it to help me (as an audience member) discover films year-round, and not just the ones they programmed. There’s value in the opinions and curations of your programmers. Lots of value, but only if you get smart about social (hint: see 5).
  8. Which trades will die? The last couple of year’s have brought us a whole host of new trades - almost completely online - and some new business model experiments. The problem is, we’re not getting any better information. In fact, if you put a bunch of random people who use the Net in a room and asked them to list the top 100 worst ideas for a film trade journal, you’d find all of them represented somewhere in the mix of Variety, HR, The Wrap, Deadline Hollywood, MCN, etc. (I am missing many here, I know). I imagine Variety will survive, if only because enough of Hollywood will pay for it behind their pay-wall, but it’s long been irrelevant. I actually think the HR strategy to become more consumer focused could have worked, but as it is being executed it’s like they are aiming for Delta Sky Magazine level work. That said, they have some new advertisers that might keep them afloat. IndieWire is in good hands now with Dana Harris (Eugene, who did an amazing job, recently left), and she, and the good crew there, might turn this into something even more interesting. At least one of the others will die - that’s one prediction for this year. I was speaking with a media investor the other day, and we both agreed - this space is ripe for some disruption, and I hope someone launches something new (or redirects course), because man, we need something better.
  9. Could someone start a fund for creative storytelling? Yes, I know there’s things like Creative Capital, but what I want is an IMPACT Partners for narrative films with no redeeming social value. Okay, just kidding, I know that all films have social value, and I actually believe that narrative storytelling is a better way to have impact on social issues than through docs, but you get my point. We need funding for narrative filmmakers with good ideas.
  10. Who will be the new filmmakers who break through and reach an audience? Who will tell the best stories? While most of this post is about business stuff, what I really like is discovering a new voice, or seeing an established artist go in a new direction, or just stay in a tried and true direction with a great new story. Many of these films won’t make it to a large audience, so I’m also interested to see which ones can break through enough to enter the cultural conversation. From what I’ve heard about many films in development or even premiering this January, we might have a great year ahead of us.
  11. Who will launch the next big thing? There’s a lot of people at work behind the scenes trying to build new film companies, transmedia companies, tech companies in this sector and similar new endeavors. I feel like I meet with someone about to launch the next big thing almost every day. Here’s to hoping that 2011 is a successful year for all of them!
note: I corrected the title of Bengali Detective (I had it wrong, as Bombay Detective....oops) and fixed the links.


Martin said...

I like the list and definitely will be following with interest as always.

I was ready to embrace the "new" at this time last year but by doing so I was able to score a traditional deal with a big player. Hopefully that helps us with penetration of our film but we'll be back to the drawing board soon and as always open to all possibilities.

Good luck to all of us in 2011

LorieM said...

Oh my heavens, I am with you on #9!! I've actually fantasized over the years about creating a "Nicholl's Fellowship" or something of the like, for narrative filmmakers.

In the meantime, I'm producing a transmedia project/ indie comedy-drama, and I'd love for you to check out the debut of our enhanced website on January 31, 2011 -- We wholeheartedly have embraced the "online prequel" idea with our site, and we'll be introducing games in 2011, as well. All this, before shooting our <$500K movie.

I'm so excited to share this with you, b/c I think you'll actually "get" what we're doing!

Thanks, in advance, for your eyeballs and any feedback!

Love your blog. Have lurked for a long time. :)

Brian Newman said...

LorieM, I checked out your site, and the preview of the new home page. Looks like you are doing the right things for now. Keep me informed and thanks for checking in here. Make sure you spend the time while developing the site and the transmedia to keep working on the story itself - making it better and better. I like the idea! Onwards! Brian