The distruptive emergence of a new entertainment model

staringatscreen1.jpgPatrick Goldstein has a great article up in the Los Angeles Times in which he foresees a not-too-distant future where writes-producers realize they don’t actually need the studios to bankroll their visions. Instead, he predicts, they will find the freedom of internet distribution alluring and create their own media brands (much like bloggers of all stripes already have) and bring content directly to consumers.

This model is already in place on a small scale with sites like FunnyorDie, which serves as an outlet for all the smaller, more experimental things some celebrities just want to throw out there to see what sticks. And Ed Burns is releasing his movie Purple Flowers through iTunes, a move he says is kind of necessary considering the sad state of arthouse cinema in 2007, where movies are dying that would have succeeded much more in the mid-90s.

Goldstein rightly surmises that real change in the entertainment industry is going to come from people trying new things and seeing what succeeds and not from trying to squeeze money out of the studios. He points to Silicon Valley as an example of the mindset that’s needed since it’s full of cases where instead of trying to change the culture or business model of, say, Microsoft, people set out on their own and built the web as we know it today.

Steve Bryant takes Goldstein’s thesis and says that while his argument is spot on for distribution the issue of marketing the content is still a significant one. Without the financial resources of a large corporation this sort of self-generated content won’t be able to find an audience.

I both agree and disagree with Bryant’s concerns. On the one hand he’s right that big campaigns are needed to support any sort of mass scale production. On the other, I think it’s just a matter of time before niche studios or individual creators find a way to connect with the potential audience using things like Flickr, Ning, blogging and other social media tools. It’s not that hard, especially not if you spend a little bit of time creating relationships beforehand with the online audience.

Personally I don’t think it’s the individual talent that will decide to ditch the studios first. I think instead it will be the production houses that will realize they don’t need distribution partners but can instead sell their shows and movies directly to consumers online. Why sell the movie to a studio who’s going to flub the marketing and distribution when the production entity can go straight to the audience?

When that happens you’ll start to see some innovative marketing that has to be both low-cost and niche-targeted since that’s how survival will be achieved. You’ll also start to see the same sort of pricing that’s currently in place on Amazon, where the production house isn’t concerned with selling 20,000 downloads of one product but with selling 2,000 downloads of 20 products.

And it’s when that happens that you’ll start to see studios get a lot more accommodating with what they offer talent in the form of compensation.

Quick Takes: 11/21/07

  • filmstrip.jpgStudios are anticipating a slate of high-profile – and therefore expensive to buy up – movies to be scheduled for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. A schedule heavy with movie-star movies could bring out major studios, not just buyers from the smaller studios.
  • Universal is partnering with VUDU to make the entire Jason Bourne trilogy of movies available for home viewing through VUDU’s downloading service beginning December 11th.
  • Adam Rifkin’s treatise on the surveillance culture Look gets profiled with an interview with the director over at Newsweek.
  • Whitney at Pop Candy points to an EW list of 15 trailers that made people cry. If you substitute “cry” with “die a little inside” I’m right there with the people who submitted these.
  • ComingSoon has a TV spot for Rambo. I guess this is really happening.
  • The heads of four major studios are urging the FCC to drop the idea of regulating the cable industry, saying such intervention could do more harm than good.
  • European regulators have banned two TV spots for Shoot ‘Em Up over concerns they glorify gun play.

Watchmen mini-movies coming

watchmen1030.jpgCHUD is reporting that Watchmen director Zach Snyder plans on shooting some of the graphic novel’s “aside” stories as separate films. The idea, of course, is to satisfy fans of the book who would likely be upset – and vocally so – at those aspects of the story being dropped from the film.

This is a great idea but let me take it one step further. These movies should be released in advance of the feature film for free through iTunes in much the same way Hotel Chevalier was released prior to The Darjeeling Limited.

Doing that would be a great promotional opportunity for the movie, giving fans a taste of what’s to come and something to later incorporate into their movie experience. The story says the “Black Freighter” story may come out on DVD the same time the movie hits theaters but I don’t think that goes far enough. Make it a digital download as well and I think the studio will get much more excitement brewed up.