Hollywood 2.0 — Imagining The Future

A love letter to the film industry, continued.

Via amazing Unsplash | https://unsplash.com/@seemoris
With Story crowned as Queen, a new kind of film studio is born.

A studio that…

  1. Creates new IP in both art and entertainment based on the “make something people want” principle — through prior testing of that IP in front of a real life audience
  2. Delivers content directly to consumers, bypassing antiquated channels
  3. Nurtures talent and protects new-born ideas, treating people that create and work on them not as a human resource, but as magicians who weave words for humankind to laugh, and cry, and long, and ponder over

Disruptors start in the segment of the market (a niche) that the incumbents aren’t motivated to fight for, with a fundamentally different business model that allows them to serve that niche profitably.
Using enabling technology (something that allows the disruptor to take that same business model and begin to serve the mainstream market,) and the rate at which that enabling technology progresses — a disruptor then moves into the mainstream market, having broken the trade offs that made it impossible for the incumbent to serve the niche market.
- rephrased from Michael Raynor and Clayton Christensen

Because films are fundamentally a hardware product that cannot be changed after they’ve been released — we must then change the model for how we make them. Currently, it begins with a screenplay — the source code. Once the film is made, it is screened in front of a test audience and changes are (sometimes) made based on that audience’s reaction and feedback.

The problem with that process is that it already cost a hypothetical $150 million to produce the film, and any changes will either cost more or be superficial. In the gaming industry, the iterative build-measure-learn process is by design built into the production line and the creation of new IP.

What if we could build that same process into the film industry?

What if instead of this: screenplay — movie — trailer.

We could do this: “trailer” — screenplay — movie.

“Trailer” in the above example being a story teaser of any kind: a short film, a VR experience, an app, a novella published on Wattpad, or a series of long-form posts here, on Medium. Anything that would:

  1. Give the audience a look into the world of that story, the characters that inhabit it, and the mythology that governs it
  2. Give the studio and the creators the ability to measure response and engagement of the audience in real time

Developing a new IP in front of an audience, creating new worlds in front of people’s eyes and having them take part in that world’s creation, makes for better art and entertainment. A Hollywood 2.0 studio invests capital and resources into continuous research, development, and deployment of many different storylines. Instead of spending $150 million on a film, bringing it to a test audience — at a point where only minimal changes can be made — audience engagement is measured at all steps of the development process.

The choice to further develop a storyline is made based on audience response — some of these stories will eventually see a wide release while some will only ever serve niche markets. None of these choices will be made based on referencing what was successful in the past — instead, the audience will indicate what they want, in real time.

Marvel cinematic universe is an example of a studio serving a massively underrepresented audience of comic book fans — people who grew up reading those fairy-tales for the modern age, stories that got them through some trying times, captured their imagination, and inspired them to be better people. Because of this following, for every comic-book-to-screen movie done right — there’s an audience of people wanting to watch it.

Make something people want.

Distribution then must also change. Bridging the gap between mediums and building connections between platforms is a process that a Hollywood 2.0 studio invests resources and energy into since the project’s conception. In itself, that means that delivery of content to people starts (or may start) very early in the project’s life, using any direct-to-consumer delivery method available.

Currently, for a feature length film with a hypothetical $150 million dollar budget, there’s a marketing budget of another $150 million. Even before the cost of delivery to theatres is considered, the film has to earn $300 million in the box office just to break even. Immense pressure is put on the opening weekend and every weekend that follows. A healthy lifespan of a $150 million film is around 6 months in cinemas, after which it is released on video.

The audience still has to go to a movie theatre to watch a film on someone else’s schedule. A film they cannot pause, and 15–30 minutes of ads that precede it — ads they cannot skip and can’t opt out of. Even in today’s world, that makes very little sense. In the world of tomorrow, VR will become the mainstream platform for content consumption, rendering the movie-going experience as we currently know it obsolete.

The benefits of delivering content directly-to-consumer, on their own time, in a more convenient format are clear:

  1. Circumvent the massive upfront investment of capital needed to deliver the film to theatres
  2. Obtain real-time audience engagement data that far surpasses any test-audience in sheer usefulness
The first studio that releases their major A-List feature on demand (read: streaming, directly to consumer) on the same day as it comes out in theatres near you — will change everything, forever.

There is of course another problem — the insanely high burn-rate of talent in the film industry. Especially for content creators: writers, actors, directors, composers… the list goes on. Starting from how the industry treats creative talent, and ending at the opposite end of the spectrum — with how that very same creative talent approaches the industry (hint: not very intelligently.)

If it starts with ideas, and words scribbled on napkins and margins of screenplays — then the checklist for “green-lighting” an IP into production has to be changed, and talent responsible for the creation of that IP — has to be managed differently.

Ideas born of pure concept and notions that something must exist that doesn’t yet deserve better than to have their fate be decided based on what earned money last summer. Artists who give parts of themselves to those ideas deserve better than to burn out as fuel in the machine.

It starts with words. With Story crowned as Queen.

Once more, this time — with feeling.

All together now.

Magyon is a film startup. These are problems we are working on solving. These are things we believe in very strongly.

We’re building FilmYeti — a robot agent for film crew. It makes finding film gigs easy.

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We wrote more thoughts on this subject before, if you’re interested read “What it’s really like to be an indie filmmaker.”

Thank you for reading!

Humans of Magyon.

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