Somewhere between the aspiration and Hollywood, is a gulf where many would-be filmmakers are lost. This blog is about recording my insights, mapping the progress and unearthing the truth along the way.
Getting what I came for,
C.M. Sanchez III
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Digital Markets Today and Where it's All Goin (Best Guesses)
Read up: (and I'm going to probably lose you in this article but take heart, it's a rallying call)
This here is what a gold mine looks like. It's a bunch of people working hard in the dirt.
Seem familiar? "There's something worthwhile buried deep," says someone or maybe a bunch of people who've caught a fever. In our case it's a film, or a new revenue model, and there's no hard data. I have no idea if we have really accurate ways today of telling how deep a gold mine goes but this is sort of how we're behaving about digital cinema and digital distribution. Heads of companies all around are scratching their heads about what could be the future of film. There aren't enough case-studies, not enough clues. Fans remain unpredictable. But the sentiment is the same, we're on the verge of discovery and new forms of sustainability are about to be discovered - and the reason why it's sooooo hot is because whomever discovers it can exploit it first. Early bird gets the worm I think. But in this case the worm's got dancing shoes on. As long as the internet stays free (!), it'll force the hands of it's participants to start realizing that globalization is going to temper the pursuit of profit in far greater ways than can be anticipated today.
The situation is attractive because there's a lot of loose content out there. And surely there's enough of the world to watch it. Maybe there's someway to monetize it all or maybe there's someway to exploit all these options and reverse it on itself so that there are only very few and very narrow streams of revenue. That seems to be the current thinking: spin things back to niche-genres. And I think a lot of the communal head-scratching is done for show. The discussions they're having seem too obvious: "audiences need to be sold to!" "think about your audiences before you make a film" "let them know what you're doing" "use the internet" These aren't bold new expressions. Far from it. It's sales, it's pre-qualifying, it's about being specific and asking what creates brand loyalty.
The one thing I agree with is that the time investment doesn't add up when proofing this campaign model that everyone's circling. I think the films that succeed do so because profit isn't the aim. It's hard to sustain the passion to push a film for profit alone. The filmmakers have to be so damn-near obsessive that they know the language of their community intimately and you can't synthesize that. You can't manufacture compassion or love or addiction...well no that last one I guess is the great temptation. And the world's been doing it for a long time so why all the concern? Some folks get tired of being consumers and decide they want to sell the drugs, the inspiration or the story themselves. And they do and everyone wants in on moving trains (ideally because the train can't power itself for very long in this economy but while it's powered it can carry).
So business minds then say "well in the event you have something worth selling it's good for us to know how to maximize exposure." Yes indeed. Except the only thing that's ever really held true was the power of word of mouth. So if you saturate advertising with your product, you're not really trying to get people more aware of what you're selling but less aware of what others are selling, what their options are. Crap can only hold if there isn't something better on. Be the only thing on and make arrangements with others for specific windows of time with the consumer and you hold your ground. That might just be why blockbusters from so many majors appear the same. They hold to a similar standard to protect each other. But then again it might actually be very difficult to step out of line and stay in business what with audiences being trained by genre.
Now, all the options within indie-cinema and the "democratization" effect they are creating are mounting in excess to create a wider channel of less powerful streams of revenue and the danger, so they say, is that the machine as it is won't be able to manage. I think there will always be blockbusters and the mid-level guys will do fine. They get passion and pragmatism. They're trying to stabilize options and realize they don't have the power to monopolize the media so their egos are in check. Without a worthwhile relationship with talent, there's no movement. Emerging film must be upheld. There's no way around it. Filmmakers are too stubborn to quit and they can easily happen upon the answer organically. Trial and error, in this state of confusion, remains king.
What does all this mean for folks who haven't yet chucked it all away on a gamble, who've managed to hang back and watch and still have a gameplan brewing for their entry onto the field: follow your protagonists example. Want something so badly it transforms into action, and let that action be tested against resistance, inform that action, and let that prevailing act evolve into something contagious.
Everything in the world can be done around a niche community. Everything can be angled this way or that way within a given market around a given product. If the content creator in question does not have absolute conviction, it's all diluted and it'll never be sustained. The heart of the project has to care deeply about the audience and the experiences they alone can share with them.
The world is massing around the independent filmmaker wherever he or she is, and when they find you, you just gotta be ready. The gold isn't in the infrastructure, it's in the desperation, it's in the need to exist and survive, it's in the force of will that carries the pick and the hammer and the hungry search of wealth and the right to the next meal and it's in everything that struggle means. That's the energy with which you build your story and tell your story. The indie market will champion causes and criticisms and deep thinkers and people who care. Nothing ultimately meaningless will survive. (YOU SAY YOU TUBE, I SAY PRODUCTION IS TOO DAMN HARD TO WORK FOR NOTHING, NO SINGLE PRODUCTION GROUP CAN SUSTAIN A FUTURE ON ABSURD RANDOM BITTIES - at least I don't think so). Real enduring professions will be built on tired efforts and humble people and absolutely necessary tales that show us how connected we all really are.
So what I'm saying is, everything we think we know about story, how we discuss it, how we interpret its value, is going to change before the new digital initiatives figure it out. Story is the real issue and all this wayward science is a side effect. For all I know in my limited experience, it's a cycle and maybe story is returning to some proto form where it mattered more, but I'd like to think it's a on a spiral ascent back in phase with a season where the arts are colliding on a common level to the benefit of the entire world.