Category: film

Burn Hollywood, Burn

First there was the music industry. No one tried to help it back up; after years of being viewed by the general public and bemoaned by the artist as the big soul-sucking money-hungry machine of exploitation that it was, people only gathered round to watch it burn and fan the flames.

The result has been a transfer of power is all. Not to the artists, necessarily (of course there are always a few exceptions) but to the new digital aggregators who deal in micro-payments and still cut the far less than what it cost them to make the stuff in relation to what it costs for iTunes to distribute and sell it. The difference is when there were A&R people, some of them actually filtered out the bad stuff. Today those are called Tastemakers. They are better known to Generation Y as Simon Cowell. And iGenius.

The Dawning of a New Age (Again)

The artists hear the evangelists of this new democratic age calling down from the hilltops about how they have more freedom and opportunity than ever before, but somehow they are missing the foundation of how the market works – by removing the funnels and filters previously controlled by the major labels, and dispersing the point of sales all over the place, it is much more difficult for any artist to build momentum let alone sell on the Long Tail. By abandoning the major studio model (which HAD to be shaken up regardless) the artists inadvertently abandoned the very infrastructure that formed their marketplace.

Ask any musician today who ever made a dime before just how motivated they are right now to go and spend money and time and sweat toiling to get those de-tuned guitar strings right, and perfecting the EQ on their mixes when no one cares where the music came from or how it was made or whether or not its being pirated. Why are so many people just dancing on the ashes of the music industry and failing to realize that often they are also dancing on the heads of the musicians themselves?

Don’t get me wrong. I ran an indie label for 15 years. I wasn’t a fan of the studios, but at least there was an economy for music then. It wasn’t that the studios were slow and failed to seize the right opportunities (which they did) it was that the audiences were upset about paying 15 bucks for CDs (because they thought that CDs are only like 2 bucks to manufacture) so defaulted to getting their music free from The Internets.

By the same argument – I question the widespread derision and resentment that exists towards Hollywood. “Piracy is what Hollywood deserves for charging so much at the box office.” It is just too inconvenient to go to a three-storey high theater with Dolby Certified surround sound and pay ten dollars for popcorn. And Hollywood movies are soulless shit made by suits anyway.

Screw Wolverine: The Audience Wants More Truffaut – or – If Xmen Origins: Wolverine Exists, I Can Not Be Truffaut

Why is everyone so excited about bringing down the Hollywood model all of a sudden?

Why can’t it just be that there are more opportunities for more films in addition to the tentpole conglomerates?

The problem with this line of thinking is that it belies the WWI era scarcity model mentality where there can’t be two, there just has to be ways of splitting up and passing around fragments of one.

Do indie filmmakers, disillusioned and frustrated by rejection and gatekeepers in the studio system, really think that the fall of the studios and the distribution infrastructure they support and subsidize, is going to make financing more available to them? Or that audiences, suddenly free from the hypnotic glare of Spiderman 3, will finally turn their attention to moderately well crafted HVX100 features made by really big fans of Judd Apatow and even some Hitchcock?

I like change, and I like competition in the marketplace – it wakes people up and innovates and evolves things, and it gets rid of weak and outmoded models, but this does not all have to happen in spite of the infrastructure. If you want ever to download a pirated copy of an epic adventure thriller of any quality ever again, and not just some Bokakeh HDSLR indie avant-garde piece showcasing the latest Nikor lens, think about what it takes to successfully run and release a 400 million dollar picture like Avatar and get it out to your neighborhood in digital IMAX 3D.

wondering if the above, really just came from my keyboard – the once nose-ringed, green haired, experimental prog-rocker

Scarcity vs. Abundance

The takeaway from this is: stop thinking in terms of the scarcity model and start thinking in terms of the abundance model. There is enough to go around. Don’t horde your wisdom, resources, passion. Spread it, build it, develop it, express it and let the people building airships, skyscrapers and highways do their job also. Lest your concern be that they will flood the planet in oil, burn up the oceans and kill the indies – remember that the market goes where the money is – which is to say, if you don’t pay to see Snakes On A Plane – they probably won’t make a sequel. If you do pay to see Spiderman, they probably will.

If you make a mediocre album be it indie or released via a major, people likely won’t buy it. They probably won’t even pirate it.

Make good things. If you make inefficient gas guzzling cars that spray noxious fumes and cost too much, people will probably not buy it unless it is their only choice. So make a fuel efficient, eco-friendly car that feels and looks awesome, and you might just make a whole lot of money.

So when we start hearing about how Hollywood is gonna get it just like the music industry did, consider how a desperate industry will behave; it will probably play it safer, probably do less and thus interest in that very industry will wane.

People say all we care about is the story. All that matters is the song. Really?

What about adventure? What about entertainment? What about escape? What about spectacle? What about the communal experience? The social experience?

Do none of those factor in our attention and investment in the product? Would Lost be half of what it is if it weren’t for the chance to discuss it with friends, its scope, its production value?

I can’t wait to hear from you. Please tear the above apart. Or agree with me. Let’s hear it.

This article was in part, inspired by a piece someone posted at a Digital Entertainment studies board I read by UCLA Extension instructor Peter Russel titled Hollywood Is Going To Die — But Wait, That’s a Good Thing!

Keram Malicki-Sanchez at NAB 2009For those who follow my multi-platform output, you have invariably been bombarded with my output lately concerning the learning I gained at this year’s National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas and for that I almost apologize. But not really, because there is so much to talk about that I endeavor to cover new elements of it in each post or podcast or video or bulletin or tweet.

Which is kind of my point: last year the NAB glitterati were busy sweating and lamenting the bells tolling for TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, the record industry and all other antiquated media platforms.  This year however, we saw a revitalized community – aggressively interested in emerging platforms for communication of our collective stories and in innovating new technologies to address the zeitgeist.

At his opening day keynote address, NAB president and CEO David K. Rehr began:

“There is no place I’d rather be than right here…right now…with all of you.” Donning a sticker that read “I Matter” he continued:

“We are demonstrating that broadcasters are forging ahead…spurring innovation and creating multiple platforms to deliver our content from moving 3D into the home to incorporating FM chips in cell phones, to exploring all the possibilities of the Internet – we are planning for the future and seizing opportunities in this digital age.”

It’s Not A Recession – It’s A Reset

And though these words can be taken as cautionary, post-mortem and defensive, they were certainly not delivered that way. As author Dr. James Florida delineated later during the opening ceremony – we must consider that we are not going through a new Great Depression, but rather a Great Reset. Where once the economy was built on God-given resources like water, food, ore and wood, and then later the resource of human energy and labor post-industrial revolution, what we are seeing now is a new kind of economy built on that of the output of the Creative Class. What Juan Enriquez called Human Evolutis at TED. As the work of building and crafting is increasingly outsourced to China and India and other countries abroad, in North America the primary export is being that of the human mind itself – of imagination and ideas and creativity. This of course, is not to say that these do not exist abroad, but rather that the North American GDP is shifting the source of its wealth.

Ideas were found in abundance at NAB as CEO’s, Presidents, General Managers and inventors from such companies as Disney, Adobe, Electronic Arts met with independent directors, producers, post-production experts, radio broadcasters and content creators of every type and platform to exchange ideas and talk about what the world will look like and respond to over the next few years.

Mary Tyler Moore, Kelsey Grammer and Bob Newhart were all honored for their contributions to the television programming lexicon.

Henry Selick, director of Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Coraline was interviewed about the development of stop motion and its marriage with new digital techniques.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of groundbreaking social analysis books Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers was interviewed before the NAB attendees by NAB President David Rehr.  He extrapolated his process for coming up with his book subjects and confided that one of his most powerful techniques was avoiding Google searches altogether; Google is essentially empty he explained, it is merely an index of what is on the Web but to go beyond it is to mine massive sources of information available that afford us remarkable insights on who we have been, are and will be especially when seen with our new eyes in this high-speed information exchange society.

The Jim Henson Creature Shop demonstrated their digital puppeteering system wherein one puppeteer controls a head and mouth and another the body via a motion tracking suit and capture grid.  Without any intermediate, they are able to create real-time 3D animation that captures all the nuances and gravity of a real moving body.  Rather than illustrate a variety of movements, they simply shoot another “take” and then use the best take as the final output (after a polish render in Maya).  I asked them whether we might one day see a turnkey system from Jim Henson Company but they reminded us that the puppeteer and experience with working with such technology is really the thing, not so much the computers, mo-cap stage and proprietary software.

Jim Henson Creature Workshop at NAB 2009

Lectures given in morning sessions were echoed in afternoon sessions, but now modified, expanded and reconsidered. By week’s end there were new consensus emerging about how to implement and innovate our proverbial campfires about which we sit and exchange our common experiences through this incredible life we share.

And now more than ever we are sharing it in ways we couldn’t have ever predicted or even imagined.

The Amazing Future of Broadcasting

Beyond all the pontificating – incredible products were on display – Autostereoscopic (which you will come to know as AS-3D) 3D TV sets -(meaning 3D screens for which no intermediary viewing glasses are needed), real-time video cameras displaying in 3D, super high resolution screens that add almost ten times the pixel count of existence HDTV screens, HD radio, FM tuners in all cell phones, HD movies on cell phones that run below real-time Flash based menus, technology that allows every word spoken within a video to be searchable, real-time holographic interview wherein the interviewee appears to be sitting or standing in front the interviewer in spit of any geographic disparity (think Princess Leia’s holographic appeal for help at the beginning of Star Wars except at a resolution almost indistinguishable from reality) and yes YouTube 3D.

Seminar topics ranged from When Will The Web Kill TV to How To Blog In 140 Characters to Alternative Reality Gaming, Second Chances in Second Life and the nature of Web 3.0.

You may have noticed one word popping up an awful lot in this article: “Real Time.”  Other popular keywords at this years convention were Home 3D and Metadata.  Metadata will allow every stage of the production workflow be indexable, searchable and integrated from top to bottom.

It was indeed an extraordinary week and I hope to share and unravel some of the ideas exchanged over the coming weeks and even months. In the interim, you can hear myself and my travel partner and co-host Aimee Lynn Chadwick giddily discussed some of our findings at my podcast