Future of Movies / by Nate Westheimer

Reader beware: I know very little about the film industry. I make a lot of assumptions here, but hopefully my ideas will be of inspiration to those who know more. A good friend of mine, Josh Sugarman, is an up and coming movie writer/director. In the past, I've posted some of his work on my blog, and, over the past year and a half, he and I have engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the role the web has on the movie making industry.

So far, a few things have become of interest to me:

For one, the art of making movies -- rather than the art of making web sites and web videos -- has had little benefit thus far from the likes of Moore's and Metcalfe's laws.

Still today, all major blockbusters are built, distributed and sold like Web 1.0 websites; they cost huge sums of money to create, and then millions are pumped into marketing them so they can be "consumed" at a high price offline.

There have been a few exceptions, most notably The Blair Witch Project, but much of the medium's costs are locked up in capital wholly unrelated to the advance of technology. Humans (actors and crew) still cost a lot. The movie experience -- a big screen in a theater -- still costs a lot, too. While viral marketing has replaced traditional marketing for online products and experience, converting to offline activity still costs a lot of money.

So, while startups grow out of the need for large, speculative investments, if any, movie making still costs large sums of money, making the process anything but flat. If you want to make movies, it's not what you know as much as who you know.

But this must eventually change, right?

If it does, here are a few trends which may lead the way:

Distribution 2.0

The advent of open source and social media systems, like Boxee, coupled with the cheapening of LCD and plasma screens, will do two huge things: 1) bring the "theater experience" in home; 2) enable the viral distribution of independent films. Combine this with cheapening bandwidth and "hello cheap distribution!" Other products, like MeDeploy, are also enabling new distribution models which allow independent artists to sell their films across platforms. Boxee Movies

Photo: Avner Ronen, Boxee CEO, and family, in front of a 103 inch plasma TV, running Boxee and showing a film in 1080p.

Pre-Production 2.0

The talent sourcing process is one way making movies will change. We've seen it happen in music, and soon we'll see it in film: someone gets signed straight from their MySpace profile.

While union rules may currently hinder this from happening for dramatic films, documentaries are already going this route. My friend Aaron Cohen is producing a film called The Aaron Cohens -- a very funny film about different people with his name -- and is sourcing all of his participants from Facebook and other social networks.

Collaborative platforms could also effect the pre-production process, as producers outsource everything from location research to wardrobe decisions to the public. Thanks to technology like Google Street View, a location scout could probably glance at dozens of additional locations before settling on where to shoot. Mash that up with government information data on permit costs and down goes another major cost center.

Other Trends

What are other trends in the movie-making industry. Human cost still remains the highest for a movie. How will technology feed actors? Will actors, like developers, band together, eat ramen noodles, and produce worldclass movies together? If there becomes a point where major motion pictures are produced without large investments, I imagine some of the ideas above will be incorporated.

What other factors will come into play for the film industry? Comment below.

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