As is customary at the beginning of every new year, we ask ourselves, "How will this year be different? What will change? What will stay the same?" As filmmakers, I'm sure most of us are asking these questions about the film industry, perhaps even making assertions and predictions about what we'll be seeing in cinema in 2014, and founder of Sub-Genre Media, Brian Newman does the same. Here are his 10 predictions about the 2014 film industry. This is a guest post by Brian Newman.
Tricky business, these predictions, but I’ll try once more to get something right here.
1. This will be a deciding year in the film tech space. We’ve got a lot of platforms in this space: Vimeo, VHX, ReelHouse, Fandor, IndieFlix, Snag, Mubi, Distrify…the list of platforms is long, and I didn’t even mention the gorillas in that room. We’ve also got lots of competition in the discovery arena: MoviePilot, Letterboxed, SeenThat and Flicklist (which I’m still struggling to launch). Then we’ve got the tools like Assemble, MoviePass, TopSpin, Tugg, Slated, Seed & Spark, and more, all helping with various aspects of the film business. I won’t even begin to list the numerous online news and review sites. I don’t see many of these companies existing in 2015. I think 2014 will be the year where we figure out who is going to grow up and own this space (or, these spaces, these companies represent a lot of different business models). My money is on ReelHouse at the moment. They’ve just launched a partnership with Warner Brothers that is pretty interesting. If they can navigate the waters and merge indie, arthouse and studio discovery, viewing and engagement right, they could own this space. But there’s an equally good chance that someone new will launch and eclipse all of these guys, or that Facebook just launches better versions of their services by close of the year.
2. Branded Content Explodes. I hate every word I just typed, but it’s a better short hand than: Smart companies with a powerful relationship with their consumers/fans will realize that they can and should make smart films and other video content to better engage with them, and it will expand dramatically this year. I am biased, as one of my clients is in this space, but two non-clients are doing it best now: Red Bull and ESPN. I think we’ll see many more doing it soon, and indie filmmakers should watch and learn…and debate what indie means, because many of these companies will want to work with you soon.
3. Data finally taken seriously in this space. I remember roughly five years ago when Lance Weiler told the crowd at Sundance that data was the new oil. Everyone ignored him. I too have been preaching this for quite some time, and now everyone has woken up and is exploring data in the film world. I am consulting on one project in this space, and I know of many others. I expect we’ll see several amazing data projects in the film world this year, and we’ll learn what more we could know as a result, meaning 2015 will see some longitudinal studies and more people opening up their data as they see the value in sharing it.
4. Changing of the guard. We’ve just seen three or four major institutions in the film world lose their leadership, for various reasons. There will be some new leaders announced, but I think we’ll also see more shake-ups at a few more. I don’t have any feelings good or bad about the changes, but I am excited to see who takes the reins at these institutions, and what next steps they will (or won’t) make.
5. Direct Distribution Backlash. I’m already sensing this on the festival circuit and think it will become a more open topic of conversation. 2014 will be the year where everyone starts to dis direct distribution. Many will think I’m crazy for saying this -- in a world of unlimited new tools to reach your fans and distribute your film right to them, how can I make this prediction? Because it’s hard work, and it doesn’t often pay off any better than going with a distributor. It’s a tough business whether you do it yourself or go at it with partners. Not everyone has the stomach for it, and everyone is starting to realize it works well for certain types of films, but not every film. I am not saying direct distribution will die, or that certain filmmakers shouldn’t try it. I am also sure we’ll see at least one project a month that nails it – does it right and makes bank. But many people are starting to realize that we’ve not gotten rid of the middle-men here, we’ve just made more of them (aggregators, bookers, marketers, etc) and that sometimes you just want to make the next movie instead of becoming a carny for 18 months.
6. That said, direct distribution will make someone a millionaire this year. Who will it be? Probably a film to be discovered at Sundance in January. We’ll see.
7. Distributor Shake Out. There’s too many players in the space. In the documentary world especially, it’s leading to unsustainable prices being paid to acquire content (good for filmmakers in the short term), and when that money isn’t made back, heads start to roll. I predict we’ll see some consolidation here, and several burn-outs.
8. Episodic Content Will Rule. It already does. It will explode even more this year, and my hope is that more indies will learn from those leading in this space. Six million subscribers is more valuable than a film fest laurel, or even an Oscar.
9. Online Episodic Creators will roll out more feature projects. As Freddie Wong has already done twice, more creators will launch feature projects, and many of them will do it through crowd-funding direct from their fans, turning those millions of followers into real gold, and making the most exciting, truly independent work out there.
10. More investors will lose money in film than ever before. Thanks to the JOBS Act and the upcoming expansion of crowd-funding and crowd-investing initiatives, more people will get the chance to lose their investment on crappy film ideas with no business plan, and no chance of success. It will make it harder for the rest of us with good ideas to get funding, because we’ll find more burned investors in the pool.
This post originally appeared on Brian Newman's site Sub-Genre.
[Film Reels image from Flickr user Andreas Metz]
Brian Newman is the founder of Sub-Genre, a strategic consulting company focusing on business development projects in the entertainment and cultural industries. Brian is also the co-founder and CEO of Crowd Play, LLC a recently funded start-up launching a mobile application called Flicklist. Brian has served as CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute, president of Renew Media and executive director of IMAGE Film & Video. He blogs about film and new media at Sub-Genre.com.
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Interesting post. I totally agree with point 8: "Episodic Content Will Rule". It's an area where film makers can cut their teeth and have the chance of gaining a global audience.
January 10, 2014 at 6:16AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Great post. But one question -
What do you mean by episodic? If you just mean something that is divided into episodes, than yes, I agree. But if you mean episodic vs serial, I wholeheartedly disagree. In the age where online content is expected to be binge-watched, episodic content will get boring, annoying, and dull. To be binge-watched, it has to be serial. It has to make the viewer not mind watching the same characters for several episodes in a row.
This has held up for the online shows I've watched (House of Cards, Arrested Development's last season and VGHS).
January 10, 2014 at 6:17AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
TOTAL AGREE with much of what you said here. I've been saying same for the past few years as well. My big departure from your info? : Investors getting burned. If I'm totally honest up front with my investors-business partners from day 1...I'm letting them in on the whole business plan. I'm showing them the global auds demos I'm aiming for; I'm showing them the EXACT, TRUE budget we're ALL working with; I'm revealing the fact that a certain genre that shows continually large profit margins (horror) can have its losses minimized in the storyboard stage, by simply showing them the storyboards and a few trailers and auds' reactions to them. I'm also looking at the various distribution models which favor my work above the distributor. There's just no reason for any of these distributors in the digital age to be commanding so much percentage when there's no more FILM to deal with. And let's face it...I read nothing in here about the tradition of producers lying and hiding their budgets to outside investors, and pocketing the excess money (in other words -- STEALING ). I have been for the burning down and fall of the HOLLYWOOD STUDIO and PRODUCTION COMPANY systems for quite some time now. If that means I have to claw my way to the global auds that I myself come from, in order to be a successful and rich writer-director-producer of creative content in the digital world...so be it.
January 10, 2014 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
"We’ve just seen three or four major institutions in the film world lose their leadership"
More info please. Do you mean people or market share? And which ones?
"more people will get the chance to lose their investment on crappy film ideas"
Not if they have decent accountants. And I disagree that it makes it harder for good film ideas. The ones who get a taste for it will be even MORE interested. To grow this 'sustainable investor class' we need to have as many people as possible try the experience out. Most will only dabble: some will hang around, a few will get in elbows deep. Gee, we're just like the casinos.
January 10, 2014 at 8:24AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
He's probably referring to the few heads of the big studios that were kicked out in 2013, and had business types replace them. I can't recall their names, but this was talked about quite frequently in industry news over the year.
January 11, 2014 at 9:55PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I just want to echo the the above comments. Excellent post.
January 10, 2014 at 8:30AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
An interesting article. I would also like to say that I love that the picture is the hollywood/vine redline station
January 10, 2014 at 9:21AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Been trying to explain this to so many indie filmmakers around here. It's a shame that so many sub 30 year old filmmakers are so obsessed and locked into the old dying system of killing yourself over a project then submitting your work to a festival where no one sees it. I can't imagine myself ever making something that doesn't go straight to youtube where my audience slowly grows.
If you disregard everyone not even participating in the new forms of distribution, I think the biggest problem facing indies right now is how to be profitable while still making free content for a growing audience. Youtube works for 2 minute videos that cost nothing and get at least 100k views, but there is no platform for long form content being profitable unless you have a hefty kickstarter behind it. The only way I can see something like reelhouse working for indies is if you get some kind of budget elsewhere, or if you already have a loyal audience from somewhere like youtube that is willing to pay to watch your stuff elsewhere.
January 10, 2014 at 11:00AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Can someone - author included - elaborate on the "Data" portion of the article?
As to "heads rolling" - sure, another summer of blockbusters going bust and it'll be too much for too many.
January 10, 2014 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
so how do you develop an audience in the first place? Say, for example, youve just made a great pilot and uploaded it to youtube, whats the next step to get people to watch it?
January 10, 2014 at 12:21PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Great points! Number ten is kind of weird for me though. Not sure why investors would lose more money than ever this year. Investors win and lose every year. This year will be no different. It could be better for that matter. One could argue that with all the tools and information available we'll see more investor opportunities with solid plans.
January 10, 2014 at 2:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Direct to fan will never make anyone a millionaire, stop saying that, stop selling this false fantasy.
With everything else I agree
January 11, 2014 at 1:07AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
yea extrapolate on the data bit please? Not sure what's meant by that.
January 11, 2014 at 6:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I'm sure it's been done somewhere, maybe on NFS but, does anyone know of a concise, well-written essay on avenues currently available to a filmmaker, be it long form, serial, episodic, whatever? I mean, you make your pilot for a series, the whole series itself, a short or a feature... what do you do now?
I realize that's a huge question and not easily answered but, where would one look for something that might come close to outlining that?
January 11, 2014 at 9:32AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
The easiest proposal is to get an agent ... which is, by itself, a very difficult of a proposal. Having said that, agents prefer short films to long scripts.
January 16, 2014 at 12:34PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Freddie Wong and the likes are definitely paving the way for a new way to create content. This list definitely points at the future for indie content creators too. We're more than just filmmakers - we're marketers, merchandisers, and much more.
Thanks for the write up :)
January 12, 2014 at 3:21PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I have a question on item 8 I went to the link and I had not heard of Freddie Wong (FreddieW). Ryan Higa (NigaHiga). Jenna Marbles. Kevin Wu (KevJumba). So I spent some time and watched their content. It was good and they are talented people but I am wondering if there is anyone that I should know about that makes stuff adults would be interested in.
January 12, 2014 at 6:32PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
Would you mind if I quote a small number of your posts as long as I provide credit
and sources returning to your webpage: http://nofilmschool.com/2014/01/10-film-industry-predictions-for-2014/. I will aslo make certain to give
you the appropriate anchor-text link using your blog title: 10 Film
Industry Predictions for 2014
January 13, 2014 at 2:56AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM
I agree with the YouTubers comment. There are channels that I follow and would like to see longer content from them. I think if you build an audience with shorts they are more willing to watch bigger projects.
One trend I would like to see is mainstream theater chains showing independent films once or twice a week. We have a discount theater in town where I would go see some non-Hollywood flicks if they had them once in a while. The movies could be shown in off times so they don't interfere with the main income streams. These slots could be open for test showings and if they are popular move them to a multi-theater distribution.
January 17, 2014 at 9:27PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM