Attention-Deficit Audiences and How New Media Might Be Affecting Traditional Filmmaking
There's a big difference between what me might call traditional filmmaking and what Ray William Johnson does. Ray has over 2 billion total views and is the most subscribed-to YouTuber ever, but his work is definitely achieving its goals in a different way than some of the pieces we champion here at No Film School -- especially when you consider its rapid-fire pace. In what ways does (or should) the micro-attention span of audiences drive and shape films that make berth on the web? Filmmaker Magazine has recently posted on the subject, with some interesting commentary and findings.
Here's the video that accompanies Mike Feurstein's write-up, a conversation-style brainstorm peppered with a few clay pigeons taking some shotgun fire:
These hyper-short forms -- 5 Second Films comes to mind -- can certainly occupy places in our hearts, but the big question is whether or not the hunger for brevity 'infects' cinema in some way -- especially internet-bound work. Mike Feurstein had this to say about what can be learned from the bread and butter of the YouTube generation:
The web medium, one that demands attention spans shorter than most goldfish, will not destroy chances to tell stories that don’t adhere to YouTube parameters. But it has given us hopefully something to think about in terms of crafting our stories to their cores no matter what the length or method of delivery. The new rules are the old rules, just more intense:
A successful YouTube video is kept short, oftentimes funny, maybe riffs on pop culture, shows some boobs if possible, updates frequently and stays genre specific. All this means is what novelists and screenwriters and playwrights have known their entire careers: appropriate length, appropriate mood, relevance, stimulation or shock value, staying current, and knowing your audience. It’s just applied to a different mode of delivery: the digital short attention span.
As a side-note, it's interesting that YouTube itself is attempting to expand the very parameters that Mike's mentioning here, because as he says, everything has its audience and the trick is to unite the two -- why not try for cross-over success? The infectious nature of super-short hyperactive new media may not warp what anyone expects of a film, instead it might just reinforce what most people are expecting from any media in the first place: to accomplish exactly what it sets out to at a pace and angle that doesn't overstay its welcome or become overly self-indulgent.
Have you ever found yourself shortening work to better fit the modern model? In what ways has the new media approach affected the way you consider an audience's attention span? How do you think shorter and shorter attention spans will affect filmmaking in the future? Will we see faster and faster paced films, or do you think traditional filmmaking will still have its place?