(Image: Still from “Man with a Movie Camera” (1929) Made with little money, Dziga Vertov’s silent documentary film pioneered techniques and a cinema that we’re still exploring.)
The Past Week in Review: For August 15, 2011
We search for the more interesting and provocative news and views of the past week…just so you don’t have to.
This week we hear about how the economy affects Hollywood, why we get more of the same from TV, and a technology ideal for shooting snakes and funerals.
Entertainment Weekly’s Inside Movies takes on an old chestnut in the article “Is Hollywood recession proof?” Our rapidly fluctuating economy with growing numbers of unemployed are causing some people to point to Hollywood during the Depression, when huge numbers of folks went to relatively inexpensive movies to forget bleak times. But box office analyst Karie Bible says that the reality was that for studios, only MGM was in the black; all the others were “bleeding red.”
In his article on TheWrap, Joshua L. Weinstein says that the “indie film community is jittery” while TV media buyers aren’t yet panicking over the stock markets violent ups and downs.
However over the long term those involved in the media economy are worried since tougher economic times means less investor backing for movies as well as top ad rates for TV. Tightening credit means that deal making could show the earliest problems.
Calling it Hollywood’s dirty secret, Edward Jay Epstein in this Adweek article says that it’s TV that keeps the big six studios in business, not movie profits. (Sony is the only major without a television subsidiary.)
Without ad sales on cable networks and foreign TV, even profitable companies can’t make it by the silver screen alone. For example Time Warner–the largest movie producer among the six—still makes some 87-percent of its earnings from TV.
In his blog on IndieWIRE, Ted Hope opines “Can We Create The Future Of Indie Marketing & Distribution—Or Is It Already Dead?”
The Indie producer notes that it’s the lack of PMDs (Producers of Marketing & Distribution) in the indie film scene that holds back the whole genre. While he had developed a proposal to help develop such an integral part of a films existence, none of the standard groups such as Tribeca, Sundance, or the IFP could fund it.
Hope praises Sundance’s new executive director Keri Putnam for starting up Sundance’s Artist Services as a 1st step towards building a “true Artist/Entrepreneur class.”
On GigaOM, reporter Liz Shannon Miller asks “What happens if your web series doesn’t hit it big?” Miller says that it’s the Web success stories we hear about, and not those who have put in time and money and turned out a great series of shows but still fail.
She tells the tale of Jonathan Nail, who has created and written and even starred in Solo, a sci-fi comedy series. Nail put his own money in the series, some from his parents, other money from crowd sourcing and some sponsorships. While the amounts were not huge, Nail couldn’t recoup even this modest amount.
In this GigaOM article, reporter Janko Roettgers sees a possible return to piracy as consumers start to tighten their belts and cut unnecessary expenses such as entertainment that they can get in other ways. Since Netflix is about to institute a price hike while authentication plans from broadcasters further clamp down on viewing opportunities, it might be a “perfect storm for piracy.”
More of the Same
In his AdAge article, Michael Learmonth tells us what we already know, but it’s still entertaining to see it laid out: television really, truly is not an innovative medium. In his article “Why 500 Channels Means 19 Shows About Pawnshops” the reporter points out that that even as the FCC mulled over plans for new rules that will open up access to the airwaves and presumably allow more divergent voices to be heard, the reality is that networks continue to steal, copy, or clone whichever shows are popular and making money. You needed to hear that spelled out, didn’t you?
While cable networks have unique demographics upon launch as their rationale for being, the reality is that over time only two goals remain: a bigger audience and a younger one.
Filmmaker Kevin Knoblock
You’ll get a sense of what it costs to make feature documentaries and other concerns of directors and producers if you read this interview with documentary director Kevin Knoblock on the Script site. If you are new to documentary production, Knoblock’s personal step-by-step procedure for pitching and producing a documentary will be of interest.
Good for Snakes & Funerals
AbelCine’s tech blogger Ian McCausland has a quick overview of ARRI’s Anamorphic De-squeeze for the Alexa. The capability, accessed via a purchased download license, enables the use of widescreen (2.39:1 image) lenses for the 1.78:1 Alexa imager while still allowing the image to appear normal and not squeezed in the viewfinder and for playback. And no snide asides about Fritz Lang’s comment in Godard’s Contempt, who described Cinerama as only good for filming “snakes and funerals.”
If you’ve taken the dive and bought a copy of Final Cut Pro X as I have, you might be enjoying this radical re-written program. But you might also like to know that there is a useful and very inexpensive PDF manual available.
Hollywood composer Edgar Rothermich bests Apple’s online manual too by its extensive use of graphics. Rothermich explains how he has been making his own version of each manual that he might need when using computer-based gear. This basic 62-page manual is just what you might need too, and for the low price of $2, it’s hard to beat.
Google is moving quickly into the streaming video market, says CNET in this article. An update to Google’s Video app allows some users of Android smartphones to screen movie rentals from the Android Market. Users-who must the running the 2.2 Froyo and 2.3 Gingerbread versions of Android–can also manage the movies they’ve rented.
Streaming video service Vudu meanwhile is now available on the iPad, which allows it to keep pace with Netflix, the market leader. Vudu, which just happens to be owned by retail powerhouse Wal-Mart, makes the movies and TV shows available via a browser plug-in for the iPad, rather than as an app in Apple’s App store. That keeps it free not only of Apple’s decisions on what gets him or what doesn’t, but circumvents the Cupertino-based company’s 30-percent cut on such transactions.
Read more at CNET by clicking here.
Ezra Pound (1920) Photo credit: E.O. Hoppé
Make It New
Over at the Guardian, reporter Aleks Krotoski writes about storytelling in the digital age. This isn’t another film specific story on how digital technology is enabling new production but rather how breaking up traditional linear storytelling bolstered by digital technology could place is on the verge of an exciting new era of digital storytelling. After all the gloom of our economy, it’s always refreshing to find folks still trying to ‘make it new’ as E.P. would have it.