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 movies (7)


Week's Best Posts: Long Reads, Best-of Lists, TV & Movie Biz #NGIF

We're in a New Year, and it's time for the first edition of "Nick's Great Information Friday," my weekly curation of the best posts and links in film, television, technology, and all the things I follow. I promise, this will be the last installment filled with other people's lists. Going forward, of course, we have to put up with all the damn awards!


  • If you've been following my blog lately, you'll know that I've written "best-of" posts for television, books, software, and now movies, with the last of the four coming out as late in the year as I could make it in order to include pictures from the December glut. This post gives you links to all four sets of reviews.
  • Anyone can make their own list (including me), but these guys curate a list of the best lists. I like it, notwithstanding the source:  a quirky website called Crabby Golightly.
  • To review the best sci-fi and fantasy books of 2011 from ion9 ("We come from the Future") here's a good list -- not my prime genre, but worth a look.
  • Check out “A Year in Transmedia,” Simon Staffans’s free ebook colllection of posts about the emerging t-m field, including an interview  with your truly : download here.
  • The best of 2011's tech writing is collected for your consideration by Thomas Houston at The Verge.
  • The Guardian offers "the top 50 iPad apps." 


  • The Next Web offers its own tidbits in "What 2012 Holds for Online Media."
  • Book-obsessed website The Millions posted a very informative rundown of the most anticipated books of 2012.
  • Fortune's "Guide to the Future," notwithstanding the sheer grandiosity of the headline, is a useful predictive wallow, highlighting a few trends I hadn't considered. 


  • Amid the predictable hand-wringing over the predictable year-end bad news about movie box office, The Wrap's editor Sharon Waxman jumps in with some obvious and sensible advice, and renews her call for "bold" moves by the studios in digital (WB's acquisition of Flixster? "come on, I said bold!" sez Waxman.)
  • Meanwhile, serial entrepreneur and start-up guru Steve Blank slugs Hollywood a bit harder in his post "Why the Movie Industry Can't Innovate and the result is SOPA."  Truthfully, Blank does a great job of showing that Hollywood doesn't innovate, but doesn't really tell anyone why they can't. It's a good read, nonetheless.
  • The Atlantic's Derek Thompson dives deeper into Hollywood's business model by asking "Why Do all movie tickets cost the same?" 
  • Indie Producer Ted Hope spotlights a cool infographic that displays virtually all possible film distribution options.
  • IndieWire blog THE PLAYLIST itemizes its 50 most anticipated films of 2012


  • Want a quick gloss on the Changing TV Landscape? Go no further than this lovely infographic, covering the dawn of digital broadcasting (2009) through social TV. 
  • Deloitte puts some numbers to the cord-cutter chatter. 
  • Broadcom chip to be introduced at CES would embed a host of  "over-the-top" functions in next-gen set-top-boxes alongside regular cable channels, reported in some tech detail here
  • Reports are that reality-TV king Mark Burnett taps his scepter upon social TV start-up ACTV8.
  • BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield claimed this week that  Nielsen viewing data proves that Netflix is the 15th most-watched TV "network" in the U.S., and is second in Netflix homes.
  • Mobile Content Ventures hooks up with MetroPCS to deliver next generation of live mobile video. In related news, TV Technology looks at the evolving television experience, with a look at ConnecTV, another MCV initiative that seeks to bring TV to the tablet. The consortium of TV station groups and networks has an ambitious agenda


  • Speaking of curating, VentureBeat has compiled a really neat list of 2011's best tech-oriented "long reads" -- itself an interesting trend, e.g., countering the web's relentless info-snack quality with major explorations of interesting topics that were once the province of "quality" magazines. I had seen only a few on this list before.
  • Small press Tin House has reissued a really wild book called "Plotto: the Master Book of All Plots" a 1928 anthology that runs down 1,462 possible plots. Evidently studied by Hitchcock, no less.  


  • Can newspapers be tech incubators? asks this interesting GigaOm report
  • "A Web of Apps" offers a quick gloss of new apps that help with the challenge of discovering content.
  • Iconic blue chip company Kodak teeters on the brink.
  • With potshots coming fast and furious over the new Yahoo CEO, Fast Company posits that Scott Thompson, the company's fourth top exec in five years, could turn the stodgy web giant around by concentrating upon turning its tonnage of "big data" into gold.  
  • Never heard of Path? It's the buzzy "new" social network that offers a cozier alternative to Facebook.
  • Marshall Kirkpatrick gives an unqualified rave to curation tool "Storify" because it personifies an important trend of providing context from the tonnage of information.

• Best Films of 2011 - My Year End Lists & Reviews

To try and see as many of the year-end releases as possible, I’ve saved my movie “best-of” list til last among the four 2011 posts (television, books, software & movies). 
Not only does the industry in all its wisdom release most worthy titles bunched up at year’s end, but the poorly released foreign and Indie titles begin appearing on DVD and Netflix too! Not enough time to see everything.
One tries to catch up with contenders before Oscar night, of course, but this nutty pattern creates a bit of a problem with year-end lists, doesn’t it? Do I offer you my favorites released in 2011 or viewed (by me) in 2011? 
Well, I’ll try to do both in this post with lists first, and then the reviews, which I have written throughout the year on Flixster here (if you follow me on Twitter or FB, you may have read a few, as well). 


First Tier Favorites:

  • The Descendants
  • Hugo
  • Tree of Life
  • Melancholia
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Pariah
  • A Separation
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  • Weekend
  • Moneyball
  • Win Win
  • 50/50
  • The Help
  • Poetry
  • Incendies

Second Tier Favorites:

  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Young Adult
  • Another Earth
  • Drive
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • The Lady
  • Coriolanus
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Margin Call
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • Beginners
  • Jane Eyre
  • Source Code
  • Senna
  • The Skin I Live In
  • A Dangerous Mind

Also enjoyed in 2011, no matter when released:

  • In A Better World
  • Biutiful
  • Carlos
  • Catfish
  • Gasland
  • Mesrine
  • Mother
  • Red Road
  • Dogtooth
  • Inside Job


First Tier Faves:

  • The Descendants. Clooney's Matt King should have it more together than he does, what with substantial inherited wealth and a rich life filled with friends and family, but we learn, pretty much as he does, that his life is a mess. And we learn, pretty much as he does, that he has the character to pull the wandering strands of his life into a pattern that might help him build a future. The razor sharp script, filled with many knowing epiphanies, gives an ensemble led by Clooney scene after scene of power, tinged with bruised humor and a lovely historical Hawaii overlay. I'd vote for Clooney's performance as the year's best male.
  • Hugo. Gasp provoking and deeply satisfying, Scorcese's homage to the early magic of the movies was a blast, one of my favorites in a year when the movies themselves are front and center as subject matter (The Artist, My Week with Marilyn). Not to mention the astonishing use of 3D technology, the insanely inventive sets (like something out of Terry Gilliam), and a lovely feel for humor. It's a long way from Mean Streets to this enchanting train station, the shy boy, and the lost soul of cinema. The latter, embodied in Kingsley's charming performance, is the driver that makes the film more than just a visual thrill ride, because of course, the throwaway attitude towards culture is everywhere and mightily present today. 
  • Tree of Life. The carrier of Malick's deepest emotional sense-memory, Tree of Life uses various experimental film modalities to "tell" a story, sort of. I presume it's his story, his memories of childhood in central Texas. And I presumed that the resonance, the febrile vibrations which I felt erupted because I spent my 13th and 14th years in central Texas too -- but no, my movie companions responded to the delicate and harsh gestural and emotional content of this segment of the film as strongly as I. Much has been made of the layering of different modalities -- the formation of the earth, the cosmology of the planets, the birth of empathy via the raptors, alongside his somewhat murky family story. I liked a lot of that stuff, in part because of the sheer beauty. What I decidedly did NOT like was the ending, with the zombie-like wanderings on the beach, presumably a sort of heaven or purgatory. Indeed, the insertion of the adult Jack, e.g., Sean Penn, seemed out of sync with the rest. A minor whine, because overall, I was overwhelmed.

Click to read more ...


• Enough Year-end Predictions to Make Your Head Spin - #NGIF

My last weekly summary of interesting tweets, links and posts of 2011 is chockablock full of predictions and trends -- looks back and forward. Makes a person's head spin. For you, the year's last #NGIF (Nick's Great Information Friday).


A slew of video visionaries offered dispatches from their crystal balls, including:
  • "Five Predictions For Online Video in 2012" offers a tidy trip down the well-worn path of prognostication -- no aha moments, but well-written and reasoned. 
  • If five aren't enough, here are "50 TV Predictions for 2012" from a website called "TVPredictions" so I guess this is their thing!
  • "Twelve Things That Won't Happen in Online Video in 2012" is a terrific post by WatchMojo founder and professional opinionator Ashkan Karbasfrooshan. To hear him tell it, TV will not die; cord-cutters will not make a ripple; neither Google nor Apple will rule TV… you get the idea. 
  • He also asked "Is Video the New Software?" -- This guy is busy! 


  • Mashable lists five tech trends to watch in 2012, and JWT lists 100 "Things" of all sorts to watch next year in a seemingly endless slideshow. Slog through it though, there are some hidden gems. 
  • Another post that got a lot of heat in the blogosphere was "End of an Era: The Golden Age of Tech Blogging is Over" by tech analyst Jeremiah Owyang. Indeed, 2011 saw acquisitions, mergers, and a lot of public mud-fighting (Arianna vs Arrington). But the END?


  • "Apt Apps" is my own year-end review of favorite software of 2011, in which I note that almost all software is now seen as Apps, thanks certainly to Apple's effective store and branding. 
  • A lot of what I discuss are actually tools that make my digital life easier, which seems a good description of this post: "The  Best Productivity Apps of 2011" from The Next Web.
  • The "app-ification" debate is not settled, of course: Dominiek ter Heide writes intelligently about the debate over the "App Internet" and the "death of the web" on GigaOm.
  • Or, put another way, "Apps are Media," as Erick Schonfeld wrote in a thoughtful TechCrunch post
  • Farhad Manjoo's Slate post "2011 Was a Terrible Year for Tech" decries the trend of complexity 
  • Speaking of complexity, Ars Technica suggests that 2012 will prove to be Microsoft's turning point, as the rest of the world flees the era of the desktop.


  • Much hand-wringing in the trade press over the year-end box office tallies, which may be lower than any year in a long time. Roger Ebert opines why, proving once again why he is so influential on the web (calls a spade a spade: Hollywood makes too much bad stuff and distributes the good stuff poorly).
  • Louis C.K.'s audacious self-distribution scheme got a lot of people sitting up in the media world  -- only one of the trends that led Michael Wolf to declare that "2012 will be the year of the artist-entrepreneur."
  • Among the endless year-end best-of lists, I especially like the quirky ones like this one: IndieWire's favorite movies by their in-house editors and writers. Why? Because there is NOTHING too obscure or minor that one of these movie geeks won't elevate to their top-ten list. I immediately go to Netflix and add it to my queue, because without question most will never make it to theaters. Interestingly, some of these titles are already available on Netflix streaming. Try it!


In addition to my apps post this week, there were two other blips in the blogsophere out there that I contributed to: 
  • Check out “A Year in Transmedia,” Simon Staffans’s free ebook colllection of posts, incl intvw w/me: download here. It includes an online interview Simon conducted with me, and more than 100 pages of other goodies for the transmedia addicts among you.
  • Tribeca's Future of Film's Top 10 Transmedia Posts (two are mine) was published on Huffington Post this week if you missed it earlier. 


It’s the end of the year, and I’ll be unfurling my favorite TV, films, software, and books of 2011 in a series of posts, beginning with television, here.

Speaking of lists, one of the most informative movie lists is from the BFI’s Sight and Sound, which polls 100+ critics to come up with the top movies. But the real fun are the critical commentaries that follow the main chart, where I discover lots of gems that I would otherwise never know about.

MOVIES: Speaking of movies, I for one can’t wait for the international coproduction of David Mitchell’s complex novel CLOUD ATLAS, which I just read. Evidently, the production financing may be as big a story as the ambitious movie itself, according to this report from the NY Times.

Meanwhile, Hollywood studios continue to roll out digital access to more movies via the UltraViolet “locker” project, with Sony releasing its first U.S. titles, and Warners expanding to the U.K.

PUBLISHING: Over in the disrupted world of books, Hachette tells the world why publishers are relevant in today’s digital ecosystem via a leaked memo, drawing a quick response from one J.A. Konrath, a successful self-published author. Makes for interesting jousting.

I learned more from a GigaOm post that shows how publishers have given “Amazon a stick to beat them with” by insisting upon DRM that locks readers into the Amazon walled garden. 

VIDEO: Online video viewing has crossed the threshold of 50% of the U.S. population this year, according to eMarketer.  

Beleaguered Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, on the offensive after a couple of brutal quarters, predicts that 50% of TV viewing will be on the web in ten years. He also announced that Netflix will stream more than one billion hours of video in Q4 of 2011. 

The web was abuzz with news and leaks about a planned streaming video competitor to Netflix from Verizon, which will team up with RedBox., an online video site featuring (what else) Machinima videogame content, has hit an amazing one billion monthly views, according to my old pal Allen DeBevoise. While the gamer niche is certainly an aspect of the success of the site, the larger implication to me is the success of ultra-niche video programming channels. Machinima will be of the 100-plus new YouTube partner channels that will begin rolling out in 2012, much as cable introduced “vertical” programming back in the ‘80s.

Microsoft made news with a major upgrade of the Xbox 360 platform, adding functionality and content partners and prompting this love letter post on Paid Content, which coins yet another term: “engaged TV.”

TRANSMEDIA: Two deep and thoughtful posts went up from leaders in the transmedia storytelling movement. First, check out part one of Gunther Sonnenfeld’s piece about evolving investment strategies in emerging media markets. 

The second, from Conducttr founder Robert Pratten is a great post about “engagement-driven” narrative design.

PREDICTIONS: The New York Times published a killer interactive feature on the history and future of computing. A timeline dating from 1617 lays out key discoveries in computation, AI, Transportation, Lifestyle and Communications, and then invites users to submit their own predictions. You can also amend the predictions, which in effect constitutes a form of crowd-sourced prediction. It’s fun!

The Personal Computer is Dead, by Harvard’s Jonathan Zittrain, is a jeremiad against vertical integration and walled gardens (Re: Apple). 

This Business Insider’s post, entitled “The Death of Television May Be Just 5 Years Away,” is bound to send shock waves through some of my clients, as it cites various cracks in the current model. 

That's it for this week. Follow me on Twitter (@nickdemartino) for daily doses of info, or subscribe to the newsletter on my site to get updates directly to your inbox. 



• Part One: Shouting “Fire” in the Theatre 

“Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity, he just named it,” one TV writer-producer quipped during a recent conversation about “transmedia.”

And so it would seem, despite a testy flame war over the term transmedia –– or perhaps because of it –– the “transmedia” movement is catching on across the media business. 

“Transmedia” is shorthand for a grab bag of production and distribution practices and audience engagement techniques that have emerged over the past decade, and when taken together, promise a new kind of media experience.

Along the way, practitioners and pundits have applied many terms to describe this type of production –– interactive or participatory media, cross-platform or multi-platform storytelling, deep or immersive media, experience design, story franchises, sequels, packaging, integrated media, 360 production….the list goes on.

What’s new here is the idea that storytellers can create deeper experiences for their audiences when they unfold a story and its world via multiple venues, and when they invite consumers to participate meaningfully in that world –– especially when they do so from the outset of the project.

Whatever the nomenclature, the transmedia trend is gaining traction, fueled by some observable trends:

• Demand. Today’s audiences expect their media to be social, participatory and customized for every device they use, especially the much-coveted hard-core fans who are especially drawn to properties which let them go them deeper into a story or discover something first.

Creativity.  The formulaic is giving way to the innovative, as producers, including a new crop of digital natives, compete to engage fans in their stories over time and space with new approaches and on new devices.

Buzz. Transmedia is becoming the Next Big Thing in both Hollywood and on Madison Avenue with more press coverage, more blogs and websites, more panels at film festivals and commercial conferences and ultimately more pitch meetings.

• Money. Big names in film, television, and games are placing bets on talent with transmedia chops. New studios have been capitalized to produce made-for-multiplatform properties, and proven creative services firms in the space are prepping their own original projects. Marketing dollars now routinely extend anchor properties onto additional platforms.

From Interactivism to Transmedia

I’m excited about all of this activity because for more than 20 years, I have helped artists and companies develop new forms of storytelling across many platforms (movies, music, TV, PCs, CD-ROMs, game consoles, mobile phones, set-top boxes, the Web). The programs I created at the American Film Institute attracted true believers who were fervently trying to reinvent Hollywood in the wake of the digital revolution, a movement that I called “interactivism.”

Which is why I joined a transmedia panel at May’s Digital Hollywood. Whereupon, I immersed myself in the vigorous online fight over “transmedia” nomenclature, definition, and turf.

The hubbub dates to the April 2010 decision by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) to authorize a new credit – Transmedia Producer.”. This credit was drafted primarily by Jeff Gomez, CEO of New York-based transmedia consulting firm Starlight Runner.

Sides were quickly drawn between supporters and detractors of the PGA move. Advocates believed that the credit provided legitimization and would stimulate more multi-platform production. Opponents felt that PGA’s definition was too narrow, and left out many forms of cross-platform projects. Among the most vigorous opponents were producers of Alternate Reality Games or ARG’s.

“Why do we have to define it yet?” asks indie filmmaker Lance Weiler. “Why can’t we just continue to experiment?”  Because, says TV writer-producer Jesse Alexander (“Lost” and “Heroes”), “You have to give it a name so people can talk about it. Isaac Newton didn't discover gravity, he named it.”

Anger finally erupted at the 2011 SXSW interactive conference in March, and then spilled onto the public Internet where a flame war ensued. Take a stroll through some of the posts and comments to decide if the fight matters, or if it is/was a tempest in a teapot:

• A history of tweets on the topic by Londoner Rachel Clarke, using the new Storify tool.

• A play-by-play rundown of the fight from 4D fiction.

• A blog post by Steve Peters, veteran producer of alternate-reality games, in which he swears off the use of the word.

Another by Atlanta-based designer Brooke Thompson, railed against Hollywood “snake oil salesmen”.

• The #antitransmedia hashtag which Peters established on Twitter as a rallying point for critics.

• A Flickr image that features the word “anti” spray-painted over Wikipedia’s transmedia entry.

• An April Fast Company post entitled ‘Seven Myths About Transmedia Storytelling Debunked’  by USC Professor Henry Jenkins, who had pioneered the term back in the early ‘00s. Jenkins said, “Companies are laying claim to expertise in producing transmedia content. But many using the term don't really understand what they are saying.”

• A May Facebook post by GMD Studio’s Brian Clark, in which he parsed the competing tribes and contended that their real distinction was who had creative control. This conversation drew hundreds of comments and has been reposted by other bloggers in several countries.

Ironically, this online kerfuffle has only heightened Transmedia’s buzz, helped to spotlight the breadth of the movement and fed into a deepening appreciation within all segments of the entertainment community that transmedia is the Next Big Thing.

PART TWOMany Paths to Audience Participation for Transmedia Talent

To learn more about transmedia, check out my Delicious account and this slideshare presentation.