Future of Film Published 2007-02-05 under

Last Friday, American Public Media's Marketplace, did a story titled "Long Wait for Video Download Profits" talking about Wal-Mart's movie download service now in beta and Amazon's partnership with TiVo to provide movie downloads to the TV set. This story offers a general introduction to the movie distribution discussion. Certainly, the Internet will play a bigger and bigger role in how we access our entertainment. Take CD's for example; you remember CD's, those little silver disks that you can hold in your hand. With the likes of iTunes, Kazaa, podcasts, and GarageBand.com why do I need a CD? Folks like Blockbuster and NetFlix have been thinking about the same thing.

But the real story for me is not so much in the distribution of the Blockbuster type of movies, but those like the shorts WindowBreaker and t.o.m. or features like Expired and Protagonist. Also, is our current definition of a movie going to change? The Internet is all about the Long Tail, something for everyone. As mentioned in the MarketPlace piece, current distribution strategies require a movie to appeal to a mass market and a market like TiVo's 1.3 million subscribers is too small in which to operate. Or is it?

At the Sundance Film Festival, I had the opportunity to sit in on a panel discussion "The Business of Web 2.0: Media and the Net Now" with representatives from MySpace, YouTube, Revver, Brightcove, Popcurrent, and Battlestar Galactica moderated by Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal. Each contributed their thoughts on how the Internet is transforming the entertainment industry. Whether it is a musician promoting herself on MySpace or the ever so popular "Evolution of Dance" on YouTube, we have access to more entertainment content than ever in history. The quality of this content can be debated, but as was pointed out at the discussion, this will only get better (the first films made were not all that great). The point is, technology is at a place now so that the barriers to entry in creating media are so very low to be non-existent. Anyone can create a film and get distribution.

But the age old problem of making a profit remains. Ultra-low budget films like WindowBreaker can make a little money (or at least recoup its costs) through a distribution deal with the likes of iTunes. Blockbusters have access to both traditional and beta methods of distribution. But what about the low-budget (e.g. $10k to $100k) movie? As one writer/director put it, "I have tried to make a living using services like Revver [which monetizes videos through ads], but the revenue generated is just too small. How can someone like me monetize my films?" In this age of the Long Tail, there must be some way for quality films to get noticed.

The Web has also created a new phenomenon - "cultural snacking". We buy our songs as singles, we browse Garageband sampling new sounds, and we watch short videos (< 20min) that transcend the traditional movie script. As one of the panel participants put it, we are a "clip culture".

I get Rocketboom delivered to my TiVo box nightly and these 3-8 minute snacks are great. The BBC offers "Telling Lives", a wonderful digital storytelling space. I love the 15min TED Talks videos. All of these represent video snacks - a new form of entertainment well suited to the fast pace of our "modern" lives. My friend and I were just talking about how we under-utilize our NetFlix subscriptions mainly because we can not find 90 minutes to watch a traditional movie without falling asleep (we both have youngsters to chase). But video snacks are well suited to our lifestyles.

The Web is much more than just a marketing platform for films. It is going to fundamentally change distribution and even re-define what we mean by film. When a high school student can produce and distribute a digital story that will captivate my attention over spending a day's wages to take the family to the movies, the pros in Hollywood are advised to take notice.

Tags: , ,

Powered by Qumana