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DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in film (2)

Thursday
Aug252011

Vote for SXSW

I've never managed to attend the annual SXSW conference, despite my strong admiration for the role built by the organizers of the multi-faceted event each spring in Austin. More than any other festival (at least in North America), SXSW gives equal weight to film, music and interactive.

This year Janet Piersen who runs the Film program pinged me to suggest that I should consider proposing a panel, and was very helpful in steering me through the rather arduous process of doing so, articulated in this FAQ.

You see, SXSW is interactive to its bones. While I'm sure certain conference sessions are programmed by staff, there's a healthy dose of user-generated content among the roster of activities. And it starts 9 months prior to the show itself.

Once the submission and speakers have been established (all online), there's a public voting process, which is NOW -- through September 2nd. Public voting and comments comprise a 30% share of the weighted consideration, but obviously a well-crowd-sourced panel does get the attention of the organizers. 

I submitted the following two panels, one in film and one in interactive. Please review, vote and comment, should you be so inclined: 

INTERACTIVE: Television in the Era of Social Engagement 

FILM: Can Next-Gen Studios Reinvent Content Models?

Wednesday
Nov032010

• MOVIE MOGULS AS DISRUPTORS

On Monday I watched episode 1 of TCM’s MOGULS & MOVIE STARS with the lovely title: “Peepshow Pioneers”. The seven-part series will span the rise and demise of the first-generation movie studio founders, roughly 1890-1970, with installment one exploring the entrepreneurial roots of the movies, including the epochal struggle between inventor Thomas Edison and the men who founded the studios.

I could not help but notice the parallels to our current media environment 100 years later in this story of a band of outsiders — Jewish immigrants who came to America by will and to “the movies” by accident — who took on and beat a powerful Edison movie cartel that controlled 80% of the business, including content production, tools creation, content distribution and consumer exhibition in a vertically integrated complex of aligned companies. The Trust defended its questionably broad patents and its oligopoly by any means necessary, including the use of roaming bands of thugs.

A Supreme Court case eventually broke up the Trust in the teens, opening the door for Edison competitors, most of who had already moved from the then-movie capital in metro New York City to the sunny climes of Los Angeles, where they found cheap land in an undeveloped suburb called Hollywood. They moved there mainly to get away from the thugs, as this documentary would have it.

These were the original disruptors in an emergent media business, unseating the incumbent and building a glorious mousetrap that turned the movies into a major global industry. Of course, these upstarts promptly did Edison one better by building their own vertically integrated system of production, distribution and exhibition that effectively froze out their challengers for a generation: This was the “golden age” of Hollywood, when their studio system controlled every aspect of the business. Subsequent episodes of TCM’s series — premiering each Monday— are devoted to the expansion of this world built by moguls with now-familiar brand-names: Mayer (MGM), Fox, Warner, Laemmle (Universal), Loew and others that followed.

Within a generation, their cozy arrangement was itself to be dismantled by yet another disruptor, namely television, and another court case, the 1948 consent decree that untethered production (studios) from distribution (theatre chains).  A new generation of Hollywood moguls, led by talent agent Lew Wasserman, were able to co-opt the new media when they integrated talent, television, and movies, creating a different sort of incumbent power base for the business, one which lasted largely intact, even with the influx of new distribution methods like cable and pay TV and home video, until the advent of the Internet. There have been waves of new entrants and would-be disruptors, but Hollywood has been successful in absorbing each successive challenge, and prospering along the way.

Most of us believe that the tsunami of digital media, most particularly broadband distribution of print, audio and then video over the World Wide Web, marks another epochal disruption akin to those in the teens and the 50s. The timing is right for this “long wave” of innovation to disrupt the status quo.

It certainly seems that the technological and entrepreneurial shift powered by Silicon Valley innovation is different in kind, and will continue to disrupt and transform media, even without a comparable Supreme Court validation, although some might argue that the breakup of Ma Bell was that shot back in the 80s. 

Already we have heroes and villains, with some of the attendant myth making (“The Social Network”, for instance).

Just seems impossible to imagine that we won’t be watching THE NEW MOGULS at some point in the future. What we will be watching this content on, well, that’s what those new moguls are probably working on, right now.