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10 Must Read Film Biz Articles Of 2014
By Ted Hope
A lot has gone on in 2014. Our world continues to change rapidly. It no longer will be what it once was and we have to move on from it. IMHO, few have a handle on where it is all heading. All the more reason why you should want to dig in deep and explore. All the more reason why we need filters and curators to point us in one direction or the other. All the more reason we need someone to approach it as a business, and stop relying on those who feel forced to do it as a hobby.
Here’s my quick survey on the year in film biz that was, as told by the articles that resonated for me (or at least ten of the subjects). Many thanks to my friends who helped pull this together by recommending reads along the way.
The “Too Many Films?” Debate. (Jan. 12) The year got off with a splash, as Manohla Dargis dared asked if the abundance has runneth over. Tim Wu rebutted. Beanie Barnes and others chimed in with other perspectives. Regardless of where you sit on the issue, the reality that must be reckoned with is that we have more films than we can consume. Our industry was established on the premise of scarcity of content, and we are now due for a profound pivot.
MediaREDEF’s 3-part “Future Of Film” (Feb, 2014) 1:”Why Summer 2013 Was Destined For Losses” 2:”Box Office Losses As The Price Of Admission” 3: “The Crash Of Film As A Platform” — Liam Boluk’s careful analysis demonstrating that the tentpole business is not about movies but about setting up platforms for lucrative additional revenues captures this moment we are in when the movie business is not about films, at least not on Hollywood’s global level. Using graphs and careful analysis we get a clear picture. For those of you/us driven by the art and the transformative power of film, this read is the equivalent recognition that someone else is from Mars or Venus. We just aren’t doing the same thing. Perhaps the best thing is, if these three substantive posts did give you your fill, there is one more: “The Future Of Superhero Cinema“.”
The Paradox Of Art As Work“, AO Scott, NY Times, May 6. Personally, I can never think of anything more valuable to the world than the generation of distinct, ambitious art. Yes, I am pulled to the systems that allow for this production too, but for me, a beautiful story always shines the brightest. The lack of fair compensation for the creation of this has been one of those itches I obsess over. How I wish I could throw myself exclusively into birthing and aiding such gems — if only my collaborators could be compensated fairly for their contributions and risk. The nature of our times though, for most, this no longer matters. As Scott puts it:
“A concentration of big stars, blockbusters and best sellers will sit at the top of the ladder. An army of striving self-starters will swarm at the bottom rungs, hoping that their homemade videos go viral, their self-published memoir catches fire or their MFA thesis show catches the eye of a wealthy buyer. The middle ranks are being squeezed out of existence.”
It is those middle ranks where my own aesthetic and ambition reside. I could use such an article every year to help me in recognizing the “rub” within the dream. Scott sums it up with “Inexpensive goods carry hidden costs, and those costs are frequently borne by exploited, underpaid workers. This is true of our clothes and our food, and it is no less true of those products we turn to for meaning, pleasure and diversion.” We can’t let our consumption destroy the production of what we crave.
“The Full NY Times Innovation Report“, Mashable, May 15. To quote Sundance Artist Service’s Joseph Beyer “Just substitute whatever content type you are working on within the context of this document and you will be reading your own tea leaves!”
“An Analysis Of Current Internet Trends For Independent Film” Marc Shiller, medium.com, May 30. There is so much more that can be done here. It is a necessary annual overview. It is the sort of thing that our film support organizations should release annually. I am glad that Marc has started this ball rolling, and help there is a collective effort to allow it to hit full momentum. Let’s face it, the shifts are fast and we all need perspective.
“Mary Meeker’s Love Affair With Web Video“, Steve Rosenblum, Forbes, June 1. It’s not so much for the article but really for what is in it. Mary Meeker makes a good case that we are in the early stages of TV 2.0: a trifecta of change, with devices, content, & monetization. And here are all the slides — they are the MUST READ but as they number 164 you might want to read a brief first to get hooked.
“The Cinema Of Future” The Philosophers Mail, July. One day the Film Biz will wake up and recognize they have to make and market films that can REALLY do something useful — not just entertain and kill time (and that this utility is film’s most important attribute):
”Watching films has become so profoundly familiar in our society, we have lost sight of just how strange, remarkable and consequential this activity truly is. We have come to take cinema so for granted, we don’t wonder how we might use it to benefit our lives in a properly profound way. Ideally, we would get more ambitious about the role of cinema in the world. We would try to pin down more accurately what films can actually do for us, then make sure we’re reliably making, and finding our way to seeing, the best (that is, the most useful) kinds of films: the films that really do help us with our struggles and pains. We would, ideally, learn that film – like all the other art forms – best reveals its power when we conceive of it as a kind of therapy.”
(of course I have to do a little self-promotion!)