Originally published by Raindance.
At the beginning of this year, Raindance took to the crystal ball and presciently published their filmmaking insights for 2014. So as the Christmas countdown begins and the yearly round-ups start to appear, here’s a retrospective on the trends that took flight and those that are delayed…
1. Mini Content Marketing
Sitting comfortably at third position in the list of highest grossing movies of the year, is Warner Bros. The Lego Movie. A candidate arguably made for mini-content marketing, given that it stars, well, mini people; this is but one example wherein our prediction came true. With a budget of $60million, it made $9million profit on opening weekend in the US alone and did so with a content marketing campaign that has been labelled a triumph; remaining relevant and appealing to both children and adults.
The Lego Movie built a solid and engaged Twitter campaign, keeping a constant eye on its feeds and remaining personal to its audience. They also launched a ‘Fan of the Week’ competition across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine platforms, encouraging followers to upload photos and involve themselves in a dialogue with other fans, as well as continuing to upload their own animated content. By utilising short-form content and immersing themselves in the digital world, Lego brought themselves up-to-date and a larger audience along with it. Whilst the content itself may be quicker than a flash, this trend is certainly not a flash in the pan. Consumers and audiences have become accustomed to advertising that revels in immediacy, brevity and interaction and with a success story such as The Lego Movie’s, other brands would be foolish not to follow suit.
2. The Death Of Film
You don’t need powers of premonition to predict that celluloid, like the dodo before it, is on its last legs. Since 2010/11, the industry has recognised and acted upon, the benefits of digital filming. There are some filmmakers still clinging onto celluloid, meaning that a handful of future releases will still hark back to the golden age of cinema. Director Quentin Tarantino for instance, spoke at Cannes 2014 reiterating his disdain for digital projection and his intentions to continue shooting on 35mm film. But certainly, most cinema releases this year and undoubtedly in the years to come, are being filmed on high-tech and rapidly improving digital technology. Start practicing your ‘Funeral March’, because come 2015, celluloid could well and truly have kicked the bucket.
3. International Reach of VOD
Like the evil villain of the entertainment universe, one can envision the CEO of Netflix sitting in a black leather chair, stroking its pet cat and dreaming of world domination. Whether or not such lofty visions are realised remains to be seen, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Netflix is a game-changer in the way films are released and distributed.
Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has claimed that “the current distribution model for movies in the US particularly, but also round the world, is pretty antiquated relative to the on-demand generation that [Netflix] are trying to serve.”
Our voracious appetite for instant entertainment has seen growth in the online streaming and VOD markets soar. Gradually evolving from a distribution, to an acquisition and production platform, Netflix is now worth more than some of the Hollywood studios that license movies to it and thus we predicted the supersession of the studio, rendered irrelevant to the process of getting content to consumers. However, Netflix has also made a sly business move that gives it an edge over streaming competitors in that it partners with established production studios to create it’s content. Therefore accruing the production know-how and efficiency of professionals, and distributing the finished product to subscribers whilst their rivals struggle to start the process from scratch. This signals that the middleman isn’t so much removed, as merged into the production process.
In Netflix’s aggressive pursuit of increased original content, however, there may be unprecedented pressure on studios, streaming services and broadcasters to acquire high-quality and innovative entertainment to differentiate themselves. Certainly, Netflix’s rise to power signals the dawn of a very different cinematic landscape. As a recent article on Forbes predicted, this changing landscape could result in “independent films [being] financed by pre-sales to Netflix, not the local distributors. Netflix may be a vibrant, important source of new financing that disrupts the studio system and bypasses standard distribution channels”.
4. Collapsing Windows
In keeping with the disruption of the studio system, Raindance predicted that the waiting time between the theatrical and home release of a film would disintegrate significantly. Whilst we have yet to see such drastic shrinkage between this gap, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg predicted earlier this year that theatrical windows would diminish to approximately three weeks in the next 10 years, indicating the industry’s awareness that they need to catch up with the demands of the internet age. Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has also recognised that “the movie-going experience is evolving quickly and profoundly, and Netflix is unquestionably at the forefront of that movement”. People dragging their heels might argue that same-day release for on-demand and theatrical viewings would impede box-office totals. Hushing this puppy however, are two films acquired and distributed by Roadside: Margin Call and Arbitrage, as well as the more recent Bachelorette. They all used a multi-platform release strategy, which saw simultaneous availability in theatres and online, and which didn’t damage profits. VOD is more than the runt of the distribution litter, and whilst it may take a while for studios to come around, on-demand could begin to coincide with on-screen more and more.
Cameo is an app that aims to do more than just let you shoot bite-sized video clips on your iPhone — its cloud video editing platform lets you turn those clips into two-minute long short films.Cameo sets itself apart from the competition by offering features like HD recording and collaborative editing, as well as the ability to record and share videos that are longer than what’s available to Vine or Instagram users and purports to be rooted in a storytelling experience that could be appealing to filmmakers. It has yet to take-off in the way Instagram saturates our lives, with just over 2,500 likes on its Facebook page, compared to Instagram’s 25,680,837. But there’s potential for growth, and 2015 could be the year it makes more than a cameo appearance.
6. Online Video
Raindance predicted that online video platforms such as YouTube would continue to grow has unsurprisingly been proved correct. Since it’s inception in 2005, YouTube has consistently undergone exponential growth in both uploads and views. In 2014, YouTube reported statistics that they received 100 hours of content per minute, and more than 1 billion unique users visits the site each month. Whilst the channels with the most subscribers are predominantly categorised under ‘film’ and ‘entertainment’, thus suggesting that this could be a primary and potentially, widespread platform for filmmakers to distribute their product.
However, it’s not necessarily a lucrative path to go down. Most people release their films via VOD platforms until sales begin to trickle and then move to the free/subscription platforms such as YouTube. To acquire advertisements and subscribers, you need people to return to your channel and uploading one film isn’t necessarily going to generate that level of interest, especially in a landscape in which the filmmaking process has been democratised and more films are available to audiences. One way to build up a fan base prior to the release of your film could be to share the filmmaking experience or tips learnt along the way in regularly updated snippets, like DVD extras but as a marketing technique, so viewers are invested the ‘making of’ before it’s been made.
YouTube requires dedication and consistency to make it a viable film distribution platform. You can’t hit upload and expect people to come flocking to your film, like they would a studio blockbuster on opening weekend. That being said, it remains a cheap and interactive way to garner feedback and a loyal fan base, as well as being a portfolio that could lead to something bigger – like a distribution deal. The launch of the YouTube Film Festival also signifies that this is a platform that could over time proliferate and it remains an underrated, and perhaps undervalued means of getting movies to the masses.
Kickstarter is increasingly used by film-makers to raise finance for movies. In 2013, producers of the Veronica Mars TV show secured a staggering £3.70m to revive the detective series as a feature film. Whilst, the Charlie Kaufman-scripted stop-motion film Anomalisa raised a then-record £250,600. In 2014, Zach Braff’s crowd-funded film Wish I Was Here released to relative acclaim. Gap-financing was used, but it relied on Kickstarter for a good portion of its budget and rewarded donors with special screening, after-parties and the opportunity to participate in production.
Whilst I can’t see crowd-funding becoming mainstream, for independent films it provides another means by which to raise money and to have their voices heard. Ultimately, it gives fans and audiences greater control over their entertainment – as evidenced when the axed Veronica Mars got a new lease of life; as well as enabling filmmakers to push creative boundaries in ways that traditional funding or studio interference might curtail. As filmmakers are forced to become even more entrepreneurial, crowd-funding is a viable solution to the money problem.
This August, Lytro released their Illium camera, marketed under the banner that this was the future of photography. With a lens that allows you to shoot from several perspectives, to focus pictures later or to view in 3D, as well as offering cleaner, brighter, higher-quality images, it promises technical wizardry like no other camera out there. But technically, it’s still got a way to go before being able to compete with the DSLR, and is currently hindered by its inability to shoot video. There are impracticalities and impossibilities in terms of its design, software and capabilities that it needs to iron out before it can even consider catching on. Sure, it’s a glimpse of the future, but one that’s not upon us just yet.
9. Customised Ratings
It was suggested that films might begin to include ratings according to its result in the Bechdel Test, i.e. a level of feminism rating, which could then snowball to encompass various other causes. However, film ratings more tailored to audience niches is something that has yet to really take flight. Arguably institutions such as the BBFC have worked for decades to give audiences an idea of the levels of violence, nudity, sexuality and profanity they can expect from a film and changing this system would take a lot of hard-graft. Nevertheless, the BBFC is increasingly active in the online realm, collaborating with the home entertainment industry, to offer guidance in a way that complies with public demand, so perhaps this a development to keep any eye one.
10. Enhanced Cinema Experience
Rather than enhanced, I would contend that the cinema experience has become specialised, or spectacular-ised. One example from this year was the Secret Cinema screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel, which boasted a clandestine, and theatrical experience centred around the showing of Wes Anderson’s latest film. The event required guests to dress-up in 1930s style attire, to bring an alpine postcard or pink flowers, and for those going the extra mile, to learn how to waltz. The themed night brought an air of opulence and occasion to an already impressively stylish film. Tickets are steep, at around £50, but certainly it creates something more memorable than your standard cinema-going trip and the buzz surrounding the event indicates that this trend of immersive, exclusive cinema treats is likely to continue. Equally, outdoor summer screenings are more popular than ever, with more and more venues setting up a series throughout July and August. It seems entertainment venues are cottoning on to the notion they have to provide more than just popcorn and a movie to satiate audience’s growing expectations. Cheap dates we are not.
It’s clear to see that the cinematic landscape is one undergoing constant evolution. Changes and improvements might be incremental, but they are altering the way we make, watch and think about films that will have a dramatic impact for decades to come.