The Film Business

Three Ways the Film Industry Will Change

changes in the film industry

photo by flickr user sVm7860

I ask every single filmmaker I meet the same question: why did you want to make your film?

The answers vary from filmmaker to filmmaker, from film school to no film school and from film to film. The most common answer is to make money. Next is fame (or to use the film as a calling card). These are pretty clearly-defined goals and easy to measure the success of the filmmaker.

Then there are some fuzzier answers I get from other filmmakers. To have the film seen by as wide an audience as possible or to change the world are typical responses, which are very difficult to quantify and evaluate.

I launched the IPTV channel Raindance TV in 2007, and with this launch I have heard two more reasons why filmmakers make films. First, green issues (a very clearly defined reason with results that can be quickly monitored and evaluated). Last, and most interesting, are filmmakers who see their first short, feature or documentary as their first step to build up an audience for their work as a filmmaker, not simply an audience for a single film.

This interests me because now it seems that filmmakers are beginning to defy the traditional career routes in the industry. Until now, filmmakers have been taught that the filmmaking process is divided into three parts: pre-production, production and marketing. Traditional production companies and the so-called self-appointed ‘discovery’ festivals like Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, and Rotterdam have preached that all a filmmaker needs to worry about is making a film, while the marketing should be left to the experts. It is only a few production companies and film festivals (like Raindance and SXSW) who realise the importance of creating a hybrid approach to production, marketing and eventual sales and distribution. I would even go as far as to divide the process into two: Make | Sell, or even Sell | Make.

Times Have Changed

I believe there is no future for innovative filmmakers unless the filmmakers themselves understand the entire process: from script development, cost-efficient production and effective marketing and distribution. Furthermore, the traditional paradigm of script/production/distribution is often reversed, with the distribution and marketing process dictating the types of production techniques and story. From production and marketing will come story in the new age.

This new way of looking at filmmaking will also impact more heavily on European filmmakers who have become steeped in a tradition of government subsidies much like their colleagues in agriculture, health and education. The realities of the new world and especially with the cutbacks in European public funds will mean not only less finance for films, and the grants that are available will be dispersed in the old school traditions.

Filmmaking has always been a collaborative art form. This will never change. But the type of collaboration has moved from a simple combination of collaboration during the creative and production process to engaging the audience. This new collaboration, the one between filmmaker and audience, will result in a far-reaching shift with seismic proportions.

To date this has been taken as a reference to the creative and production process. In our new age, more than ever, film as collaboration means the essential relationship between the storyteller (filmmaker) and audience. The shift in focus to this collaboration between filmmaker and audience will call for huge sweeping changes which will have far reaching implications for modern filmmakers and will most likely destroy the traditional paradigms of the movie industry.

Three ways filmmaking will change

There are going to be three main casualties as the new paradigm takes over:

  1. Art and commerce The first victim, and justifiably so, will be the strong difference between art and commerce. Hollywood’s money men have created the boundaries of so-called creative endeavor using a complex mix of metrics and consumer data. Money has driven every single Hollywood film. Even new filmmakers bow to the god of commerce in the annual celebrity rituals at Cannes, Sundance and Toronto film festivals. This tradition is about to be blown to smithereens by the new age of digital filmmaking and distribution.
  2. The relationship with audience Second to fall, and to fall hard, is the traditional barrier between audiences and marketing men and women. Until now, a marketeer could surmount this wall and reach an audience, but only if there was a huge sum of money. The new digital age means that filmmakers can now market directly to their audience for a fraction of the traditional cost. The ability of emerging filmmakers to understand this, and utilise the new marketing approaches, will define the careers of filmmakers in the next thirty years.
  3. Storytelling and scripts The last tradition to fall will be the structures surrounding scripts and story development. Because filmmakers of today and tomorrow can engage directly with the audience, it suggests that the audience will become an important part of the script and story development process from the start of a project. By taking elements of gaming storytelling, filmmakers of the future will be able to create stories that weave multilayered story layers with a story experience that might include apps, websites as well as other online experiences with the traditional offline cinema experience. The 1990s and 2000s saw the collapse of nearly every single media tradition. At Raindance we are already seeing innovations such as second screen.

The Future of Filmmaking

When I started Raindance in 1992, I bought newspaper ads, we showed 35mm film prints at the festival, we relied on good solid film criticism and filmmakers could expect a healthy return from DVD sales. It is hard to imagine how each of these mainstream media elements has either disappeared, or is shrinking at a rapid pace.

In with the new. We launched our first website in 1995—a four-page affair, and one of only thirty in the UK. Later that year our office in London became one of the first in the city with email. In 2003 we pioneered UGC with the famous Nokia 15-Second Shorts Competitions. In 2006 we became the world’s first day/date screenings in partnership with the now-defunct Tiscali.

Filmmakers are faced with two options. The first is to bemoan the changes and whinge about the collapse of the independent film industry. The second is about filmmakers who seize the moment and are able to reconceptualise the way new media, art and movies are distributed. Some of the new media distribution techniques, like transvergence, open up yet even more opportunities for storytellers to create stories far beyond the imagination of any cinema lover and beyond the scope of any traditional production technique.

Excerpt from Raindance Producers’ Lab Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking, 2nd Edition by Elliot Grove © 2014 Taylor and Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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