“Fear is the path to the dark side … ” · Yoda
Unfortunately, despite the wisdom of one of the greatest film characters of all time, in todays film industry, many players nevertheless prefer to voice fear instead of opportunity …
Very often, these are honorable voices. Such as the one of Richard Fitzwilliams. No doubt a honorable man, creator of many honorable film reviews probably worth reading (however, I’m not aware, I have been reading one so far) and a Royal Commentator. A couple of weeks ago he posted the headline “Netflix could ruin the film industry” onto his group post on a LinkedIn “Film & TV Professionals”-Group.
The belonging text bascially states his concern about the companies treatment of their acquisition “Beast Of No Nation” (Nutshell: VOD & theatrical day&date, platform cinema release, no theatrical holdback window) followed by some anxious words on the threats, the film industry might face from online streaming without proper theatrical holdback windows and especially the market power Netflix might be devloping — or even has developed already.
Unfortunately this rather vague one-liner is just one more in a long row of posts and statements from members of the film industry, that usually always connects Netflix to some form of destruction of something in the film industry …
I find this quite disturbing.
As I do not see any reason, this specific company destroys anything.
I rather think they create new opportunities.
The future of the entertainment biz is about selling, trading, delivering content.
Moving picture — pardon: film! — content for the most part, as it looks right now (Video!!!). And as for today, there is no real reason to believe this model will go out of business any time soon … And I’m fact checking this almost every day. For almost a decade now.
Or did anyone hear somebody talking about dropping the plan to watch “Spectre” or “Game Of Thrones” because he or she is so busy catching up on YouTube-Cat-Videos?
And that is why there is also no reason to believe that anytime soon Netflix will be the one and only platform buying and showing films. It’s rather the other way around — with the rise of Apple TV, Google/YouTube, Yahoo, SKY, HBO and HuLu, the # of outlets competing about exclusive content is growing … Not to mention the thousands of TV-stations around the globe broadcasting already. So, in 2015 competition about the best content is rather though.
Speaking of ‘Beasts’ in this context: Netflix reportedly payed USD 12 Mio flat for all rights of the film. With production costs at ca. 6 Mio not a bad producers profit by any Indi-Film-Standards. More: an exceptional deal.
But not todays norm. Yes. But it had always been special like that just for some titles only.
Under any circumstances, it is a deal that does cherish the project and its creators. Because, let’s be honest — Beasts is not film that would have had a great chance to get into a traditional wide release creating that one box-office surprise of the season. Anybody who looks at film box-office results since more then 3 months has to admit that fact.
So Netflix was of great service here for the Indi-Film-Industry. Once more. As so many of the new players in the field are since a little while.
Thats part of why I think, many things only got better in so many ways. And will get even better … Look at the investments players like Netflix, Apple or Google make into the entertainment industry today. These resources have not even been there 10 years ago.
And they seem to create more interest from new audiences. For fiction and non-fiction: If I am looking around in my circle of friends, as of 2015, people are rather getting more attracted to scripted and non-scripted, professionally produced content then ever before. If we — as an industry — at times seem to loose some potential clients, it is because we build barriers where we should open up instead.
Cause, lets face it, some theatrical experiences are not really the gold standard. No wonder, kids prefer the cosy couch to binge watch instead … And you even can avoid that tasteless syrup-mix-Coke that way.
So, yes, it might suck for some people: But the playing field changes. So do peoples habits change. And all of this because of technology. Yes. But its not technologies fault. Its more that Tech is the enabler. Just as the letterpress enabled every home to get their own bible.
Tech is good for film. Let’s face it.
And with things like the self driving cars coming up, we gonna have even more opportunity for people to consume content. For example.
Those who prefer to whine about the “good old times” rather then to embrace innovation mix up many things.
Sure, while complaining, they are in good company with otherwise great talent like Quentin Tarantino and most recently Michael Moore. Their points in the nutshell: Its only film if its on the silver screen. Discreetly ignoring their privileged film-buff position, being a well-off, well established filmmaker, working in the film industry.
(I get that; I never cared about CD prices myself, when all the brand new CD samples got shipped to my door in the 1990ies, accompanied by letters begging me to review them … :-) )
However — pretty strange, isn’t it? The screening format should be more valuable then the content itself?
Do I really need to go to a cinema to truly understand “Bowling For Columbine”?
Was it my illusion, that I did enjoy the great acting of Mr. Waltz watching “Inglourious Basterds” on my TV recently?
Why, oh why, should the potential death of Cinema be the end of film itself?
As if the “end of Coca-Cola” could be the end of drinking …
And oh, btw., Cinema is far from dead right now.
And there is now sign it will be.
Cinemas a great places to see films — if the owners do a good job running them.
As the cinemas, so is film not under threat to go extinct.
Not by the hand of Netflix. Or digital. Or Apple. Or Tech in general.
Its the business models, the financing structures that change.
But all this has changed so many times over and over already.
So why should it be lethal to the medium now?
Another common complaint is all about “the money lost due to Netflix market dominance”. As if selling to the world market would have been a walk in the park in the 1990ies and 2000s (and earlier on — but I can surely speak for the 20+ years of my industry experience). Reality has been, and still is: Some films sell great, some films do not sell at all. Like with every other product in every other industry …
Then there are these ugly, funny “going nowhere”-statement a la“ a film is not a film when its viewed on a tablet / smartphone etc. etc. …”. Well we have been hearing about this before, didn’t we. You remember:
“A film is not a film when its on TV …”
“A film is not a film when its on VHS …”
“A film is not a film when its on DVD …”
Ah, yes …
And Video did kill the Radio Star. Right.
(Fact check here: Radio today is still considered among the top 3 to 5 most powerful media channels in the US by the end of 2015. With a 18+ BN-USD revenue …)
So why all this fear? Haven’t they not learned the lessons? From the success of VHS and DVD. From the rise of cable. And Pay-TV? Technologies that broadened the horizons of our possibilities. As filmmakers. As producers. As film financiers. As film distributors. As actors. As teams in front of and behind cameras.
This is why I strongly believe that we — as the film industry — should always embrace change and innovation and look for opportunities in the future. Rather then being sad about bygone eras and yesterdays rules.
As there will always be plenty of opportunity. In the land of the fearless. In the light. ;-)