THE FILM INDUSTRY & TECH: ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
During this year’s Forum, we held our inaugural Movie Hackathon. Sponsored by the visionary folks at ZEFR and Fast Co.Create, it was 41 hours of non-stop coding and attracted developers from all over the Los Angeles area.
Deutsch LA, an advertising and marketing powerhouse with offices across the globe, sent two teams; their Deutsch JV team took home first place and a cash prize of $2500 with their mobile app Pop Over, recently featured in Fast Co.Create. One week later, the Deutsch LA Team took the apps they spec’d out during this non-stop coding marathon and pitched them to the delight of their clients at Pop Secret.
The result? Pop Secret Labs, the newly launched hub for Pop Secret “kernels” — a variety of apps and media partnerships to be released throughout 2013, all meant to make movie watching at home more fun. A sorely needed quality, judging from a recent New York Times article about the declining cultural relevance of movies.
I had an opportunity to chat about this changing state of cinema with Deutsch LA’s Executive Creative Technical Director, Trevor O’Brien ( @trevorobrien). O’Brien shares his thoughts on what he’s seen working in Los Angeles, bringing an outsider’s perspective of LA’s burgeoning tech scene that is insightful, thoughtful and considered, characterized by the speech patterns of a fiercely creative individual who is totally engaged in what he or she is doing in the moment.
Showbiz: Eyes Wide Shut to the Internet Revolution
“I’ve been in Los Angeles for 14 months. Since I’ve come here, I’ve been more involved in the start up community,” O’Brien says. “We have Silicon Beach, we have some really great incubators that have cropped up here, and there are some really amazing start ups that have popped up around Santa Moncia and Venice. I go to some really great meet ups all around here, but I haven’t seen many of the movie companies at these events. Why don’t movie studios have a strategy around investing in start ups?”
Our conversation moves toward thoughts on how he would characterize the movie business’ relationship to technology, and how the tone in the movie business is very similar to the motion picture’s leaner cousin, the music industry.
“You mention the music industry, and it’s a very mature, elder industry, and I feel it’s had its eyes closed for a bit while the internet revolution is going on. Their business models are not set up to leverage it. It blows my mind.”
We both agree: there is a general fear of the internet from both the movie and music industries that has impacted how digital marketing and technology has been implemented in the marketing of movies.
“Looking at how we use digital tools to help our clients, we’ve completely moved away from micro-sites and display ads. Instead, we’re tapping into social communities where the audiences already are, trying to get a community to do something and in turn giving something back. When I look at how movie studios promote their movies, I feel they go to a very templatized structure and hope the audiences interact with something. No one goes to micro-sites to interact with brands.”
Kickstarting a Crowdfunding Shake-Up with Lemonade: Detroit
“When you think about what’s happening on Kickstarter, it’s amazing to me. Lemonade: Detroit was the first version of a crowdsourced movie before Kickstarter [really gained momentum]. I bought a frame or four frames 18 months ago. Basically, they’re asking the crowd to help fund their movie; for a dollar you get a producer credit on IMDB, and for a $100 you get an executive producer credit. But 18 months ago you weren’t seeing anyone do this… we’re actually going to ask people to fund and help us fund our movie.
“I’ve never read about Lemonade: Detroit in the press, it never really blew up, but I think it’s such an interesting model. They’re filmmakers, but they’ve also evolved their marketing model. At first, you could buy 1 or 24 frames, then they modified it and added this model of ‘giving a gift.’ It’s one of the big differences between film and digital. Film is kind of locked: you go out, you put it on a tape and its done. Digital isn’t ever done, you put it out and things change and live and breathe. At some point, film and digital are going to converge and film is going to live and breathe.”
Indie Film: Get Ready for a Digital Disruption
When asked about independent film’s role in this moment of disruption, O’Brien continues:
“Indie filmmakers have to be much more agile with how they spend their money and how they market things, and even how they shoot things. To bring those two things together would be incredibly interesting.
“We use two terms – we have our traditional creatives and our digital creatives. The advertising industry for a long time had those two sets in two offices. Now we just have creatives – you have creative coders sitting next to writers and you have this convergence of really different business lenses. When you put them together it starts to get really, really interesting.
“I also look at the marketing side of things — you look at how an independent film uses its marketing budget, and you know it doesn’t have the marketing budget of Batman that you can blanket every bus board, television and billboard. When you’re an independent, the best way to connect with audiences is to build things that are useful and enhance your audiences’ every day life and push it back to your film.
“There are probably considerable similarities in the disruption that has happened in the film industry and music industry. Take Kaiser Chiefs, a band in the UK. They did something really interesting to launch their last album, its all about tapping into the community: they put [sixteen] songs up on the internet and as a user you could create your own album of ten of those songs, and you could go pick Trevor’s album, you could even design your own cover, share it with your friends and invite your friends to buy it, and Kaiser Chiefs would get their cut, and I would get a cut.”
Digital Storytelling for a Connected Generation
“How do you think independent filmmakers could better leverage emerging technology to create new stories and build audiences for their work?” I ask.
He responds slowly.
“There’s a decline of people going to the movies every year. When you contrast that with people watching video, the growth of people watching content online has outstripped any other form of online content. One of the strategies that we have for a client is to make a more social experience for those watching at home online. Digital is not a channel, you shouldn’t think of digital as a channel; it’s a layer. It’s a layer on top of everything. It’s not, lean back and I’m going to show you what I want to show you, it’s the user deciding what it wants to watch.”
“If you think about the generation that’s coming up behind us that’s connected to the internet 24/7, that’s a huge disruption for a business that is based on asking people to go to a physical place to watch a movie. The Hackathon was great – bringing people together to hack around those industries. That’s a great way to connect the next generation of business owners and inventors with each other – smart people that realize we need those people involved in our business to create the future of our industry.”
He pauses a moment and the energy returns.
“What would happen if you added a bunch of nerds together coming together with filmmakers? What would happen? That could be a really interesting way to spend 41 more hours. I think there’s a lot on the film side that I’d be super interested in knowing about, how stuff gets done. Once that happens some really interesting things could develop.”
–by Nicholas Jayanty (@ideahed), Development Manager / originally published on FilmIndependent.org on Dec. 6, 2012