Let’s please bury the age of “digital” production, and walk away and start anew. This is NOT a “Film vs Digital” argument, that has been argued more often, and for more stupid reasons than religion or politics. This is a post on where we go from here – not just in movies, but outside the movie theater as well. Or more importantly how it affects us in life.
As far as “digital” film making tools go – the decreased cost has allowed people to make more “product”, and get it seen by more people than ever before.
Product – what a stupid word to use when discussing anything. I hate it when I hear people use that word. “We put a good product out on the field” – that’s often the word general managers use when describing the sports teams they manage. I hate that. I don’t root for a product – I root for a team. Build me a team I can root for – it isn’t about putting out a good “product” that wins championships – it is about building a team filled with players that the fans can follow, live and die with, one that the fans can connect to. That provides for lasting memories, emotional content, all the things of Sports storied past.
Building a product you can sell as winning, and that’s it. Changing players in and out. Yeah, you can go charge crazy prices because corporate sponsors will pay to have their clients go to “Events”, but what happens when that is taken to an extreme – hey isn’t that Marshal McLuhan over there and his Laws of Media– here is what happens the FANS stop going and the stadiums empty, then the big pocket guys who don’t really care, will also stop going, because they never really cared, it was just a perk, an event, a diversion.
It isn’t just sports, you can see it happening in other fields. I watch “Top Chef”, I can’t stand it when a chef uses the term “Product” to describe their food. Use the terms – ingredients, finished dishes – don’t tell me that you put a good product out on the plate. My body produces a good product every few hours, I don’t want it served to me on a plate to eat.
So let’s just dispense with this idea of delivering “product” as a good thing, because really once you lump everything together as “product” the value of it all plummets. Product is there to fill a pipeline, do you really care about the quality of the gas you put in your car beyond its octane rating?
UPSIDE – DOWNSIDE:
Either you make a film or you won’t. If you really want to make films, you make films, there is always a way. What cheaper gear and post do is allow for an increase in “Product”, not polished, finished, adhering to technical standards, providing good “Production Value” or compelling story telling – all the things you need for a”Movie” to be good. You just get more “Product” – which means you now need more outlets for that product to be delivered.
What is wrong with all this you say – right or wrong aren’t necessarily the terms to apply here. Look more “Product” does not equate to more “Good Movies” that is the down side. The upside is that it is easier to discover/invent new story telling techniques – financially easier to experiment. The down side of that – well, there is so much out there it is harder to find the cream rising to the top so to speak. Reviewers actually become more important – even as a profession that has disappeared – to helping you find gems to invest your time in watching. Another downside – eh it becomes cheaper so we can experiment, but the investment becomes so minimal, that ideas and thoughts are far more easily committed to and then abandoned.
Downsides a plenty – but look there are upsides. I can shoot, edit, release my films, and not have to rely on a distributor to believe in my film and support it. That cuts out the middle man fee, but it does cut out all the other things the distributor brings. Still changing markets, so put your film on Netflix, or Amazon, or self distribute DVDs. The Cost of the DVD is maybe cheaper if you do it that way, but not hugely cheaper (unless you are ripping the DVD of someone else’s work, then that’s cheap – AND illegal so don’t do it.)
There are upsides as well of course- Here are a few people I know really working the angle of making films cheaply, and just doing it, and doing it. Mike O’Mahony’s Sloppy the Psychotic, PJ Woodside and Steve Hudgins of Big Biting Pig Productions, Dave Campfield and Joe Randazzo of Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas.
Now look, you could always make films on the cheap, cost hasn’t been that much of an obstacle, distribution has been the obstacle. If you could get distribution, could you make money off of it? I spoke to someone who wrote text books (before the whole e-publishing thing), they said until you were writing your third or fourth text book, you weren’t going to be seeing any money for the first two. So can you really make money on distribution? My friend Joe – Co-Producer on Deadly X-mas tells me you can upload to Amazon, and get whatever you want for the download – Amazon takes half. Still can’t get rid of that middle man.Also with so much being uploaded and available, what do you set the download price at? Remember I can “rent” a great many Hollywood films at a $1.99 Great, so price your movie cheap, and if your movie cost twenty bucks to produce, shoot, edit, post, etc. Great if you have a runaway download thing happen, or all your friends and family download the film. Of course there are a lot of those $1.99 movies out there, a lot of competition for that meager download price, so make sure you got a lot of friends and family to download.
As far as the idea of “Democratizing” Film making as a plus – “Ohh Look digital has democratized film making.” People used to travel several days to hear political candidates speak. The candidates could really hold their own and debate, for hours at a time. Now there is so much coverage of political candidates, available everywhere – they don’t have be able to debate, and think on their feet, just repeat some memorized phrases. We accept this because we aren’t investing much effort in hearing our “politicians” speak. Its the same with our media – yes there are some wonderful examples of writing and film making, sadly very few and far between. It’s a pity when you think of it, to make this “Product” it has gotten so much easier and cheaper, and with all that, it hasn’t really gotten better. As if the difficulty in making the film, the investment in time and thought and effort just to be able to get the project in the can, edited and delivered is what makes the film worth making, and watching. It’s the wild west out there, every dude has got a pistol and a fancy gunslinger outfit, and the street is littered with corpses.
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