Thread: RED thoughts

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    #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by adaml
    Movies can be profitable without needing to fill large theaters several times a day. I'm not saying this will happen, but it could.
    There's lots of talk about how the digital projector can change things for the exhibitor -- live NFL SuperBowl parties on a 40' screen, for example. And there's definitely some logic to that.

    [rant on]
    (my apologies in advance, but now that I'm all wound up, this'll be a long one!)

    The thing about movies and theaters is this: movie theaters are not in the business of showing movies. (stick with me on this, as it's vital to understanding the whole industry). Movie theaters are in the business of selling popcorn and renting seats. They are not in the business of showing movies. Did you know that theaters typically have to turn in something like 90% of the opening weekend's gross ticket sales to the studio?

    They rent seats and they sell "food" (in quotes because -- come on, "nachos"? microwave pizza? $4 popcorn?) Theaters don't make any money off the movies, they make it off the popcorn and the ads.

    Who in their right mind would walk into a public place, plunk down $10 to sit in a chair and eat $4 popcorn and drink $4 drinks? Hmm, the business model doesn't necessarily work, so they had to add another angle onto it -- which is that they show movies. They'll show whatever they need to, or do whatever they need to, to get you to sit in that seat.

    So Hollywood exists to promote the living daylights out of itself. You love Jessica Biel, you must see her in this next film. You cannot live without seeing Sam Jackson yell profanities at snakes. Your day will not be complete without watching Sylvester Stallone climb back into the boxing ring at 60 (sixty!)

    So goes the marketing -- so screams the headlines of People, US, Entertainment Weekly, etc. So goes the office talk around the water cooler. So buzzes the internet. And where can you get this experience? Where can you experience these things?

    At the theater, of course. So the theater lets you in under two conditions: rent a seat, and (hopefully) buy some grossly overpriced comestibles. Oh, and now you have to sit through 20 minutes of ads too before the show.

    How does this all factor into "backyard cinema" and Red? Well, here's the thing: WHY do you go to the theater at all? Because popular culture tells you you *must* experience this experience and do it now; don't wait for the DVD or you'll be out of the loop and a social misfit. And how does popular culture accomplish this? Through Hollywood -- the marketing industry that has made us revere our movie stars as "America's Royalty". Remove that element and the whole system stops working.

    Imagine this: walk up to the movie theater and pick out a film you've never heard of, ever (it's not that easy is it? Movies you haven't heard of don't make it to the theater very often... hmmm...) But assume you could do that; now think to yourself on the spot: do I really want to spend nearly $36 bucks ($20 for two tickets, two hours of you & your date's time, and $16 for popcorn and drinks), to watch something that you have no idea what it is or what it's about?

    Of course not. And that's the dilemma facing "backyard cinema". Without the marketing industry, no success will come. No impetus to see it is created (unless it's the one-a-year "snakes on a plane" or "blair witch" or "napolean dynamite", but considering there's thousands of indie films made per year and only one per year (if that many) gets that kind of buzz, that's akin to winning the lottery. In other words, a lousy business plan to go counting on that kind of success.) And how will Red level that playing field? It won't, of course. It'll let us make better-looking projects than we could before (just like the HVX and the DVX before it) but is that really what's holding us back? I'm all for better tools, obviously, but keep an eye on the bigger picture (hah!)

    So, indies dream of the day that theaters will be equipped with digital projectors, when satellites will be beaming content directly to the theaters, and when ticket buyers will be lined up around the block to see their latest opus. Ain't gonna happen. Can't happen. You wouldn't go to the theater now to see a film you haven't heard of, would you? I mean, maybe on a lark a small percentage of you would, but the public in general? No way.

    And without that draw, without that demand, without that "I gotta see it" mentality in the public, the theater owners don't have the draw to justify their seat rental prices and popcorn and making people sit through 20 minutes of ads. Without the revenues from the ads and the overpriced "food", the theater goes bust and the whole system comes crashing down.

    So the system will persist. We will see the movies that are heavily advertised and who feature people that we think of as larger than life royalty. We will continue to buy records from American Idol contestants because we've seen them on TV and read about them in "People." And backyard cinema will be no more a threat to the hollywood system than it ever has been. Make a film that people will pay to see (or that hollywood believes they can convince people to pay to see), and hollywood will snatch it up from you and happily distribute it. The trick is to make a film that people would actually pay to see -- it's much harder than most people believe! I mean, with all the resources at their disposal and the best filmmakers and geniuses in the world, how often does Hollywood get it right? Not that often, percentage-wise.

    But Youtube... see, there's the difference. You don't have to shell out money for a ticket. You don't have to shell out cash for overpriced popcorn and overpriced drinks. You don't have to commit two hours of your time, you can just close the window if the video stinks. So you're much, much more willing to try stuff out, right? A world of difference. But how do you sort through all the videos to know which ones to watch? Just like Hollywood, there has to be a system. It's developing. Part of it appears to be something like Yahoo's "The Nine", where they have a little video to introduce you to the hottest web videos. And there will be ads... oh good golly moses will there be ads. Then there's viral marketing and e-mail. Those are all the techniques backyard cinema makers are going to have to master if they want to have success distributing their products, but -- youtube's free. Free to the viewer, which means no moolah to the filmmaker. And filmmaking is expensive and a LOT of work. A preposterous amount of work. So unless you're just in it for the ego-stroke, what's the point of going through all the effort?

    There's got to be a revenue stream for the filmmaker or they won't continue to do it. Right now $10 ticket prices and $20 DVDs deliver that. The Hollywood moguls fly around in private jets, the movie stars walk on red carpets and get botox injections and get married or divorced or adopt kids and these events cause headlines around the world, and we the customer pay to see the films they're in, and that paying goes to pay the filmmaker salaries and the whole system keeps turning.

    Hollywood distribution isn't going anywhere. It'll change, it'll adapt, but it won't disappear. If you're a conspiracy theorist, look into "net neutrality" to get a glimpse into how it may change -- charging people by the bandwidth they use could be a way that Hollywood inserts itself into the chain of net distribution and ensures their ongoing take. After all, streaming video will be about the highest-bandwidth usage one could do, right?
    Last edited by Barry_Green; 08-21-2006 at 09:42 AM.


     

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    #22
    Senior Member smelni's Avatar
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    nice rant Barry - It cant really be argued with. Like everything in life - it comes down to a balance sheet - need to make money
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    #23
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    Yeah, can't argue with that. But that doesn't mean that an alternative can't exist in parallel or on the margins. The model I described doesn't have to replace or displace Hollywood to work. It just has to be profitable for the theater and the production company. It doesn't have to be based on the same popcorn and candy and soda model. There are people all over this country who either resist or are immune to the Hollywood hype, and who enjoy quality movies, and would like to go see them in theaters if they could. If they could get something relatively healthy to munch on at an only slightly inflated price that would be even better.

    Having said that, what's more likely is that small bands of like-minded friends will gather together at the house of the one with the best screen and best sound system to watch a dvd that one of them saw already and told the others that they just have to see it too. And if they're really together they'll have a cookout beforehand and then project the dvd on a screen in the backyard, and maybe show some locally produced shorts and videos too. Anyway, that's what we do around here.
    "My subject matter always is and was just looking at people the way they are." - Mike Leigh


     

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    #24
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    Great post Barry. I have no inside experience with Hollywood but I agree that it will probably never die and will just change and adapt.

    I think you are correct that indie film makers will have to master internet and viral marketing, but I am not convinced that they will not be able to make any money using these methods and that the only thing they will gain is an ego-stroke. According to the "long tail" (wikipedia link) theory it is still possible for non blockbusters to make money. Here is an example: last week I saw a Death Cab for Cutie concert here in San Diego. The opening act was "Spoon", a band I had never heard of, but all the teenagers around me knew the lyrics to EVERY single song. I've never heard them on the radio but they have 32,000 friends on myspace. So while they are not pulling in the big bucks from radio play and CD sales, they have a few tracks you can listen to for free on myspace and have gained a small but dedicated fan base who will pay to come hear them in concert.

    I agree that sites like digg.com, yahoo and others will allow viewers to find films that interest them. But I think that once an online marketed film has a fan base it should be possible to make money from it. Product placement is one option. But also, if digital projectors allow these kind of films to be shown in small theaters for much cheaper I think that online fan base will show up and purchase tickets. Youtube's blocky video still can't compare to even small movie theater projectors, and fans, like you said, will be drawn to participate in the cultural experience...just like the fans of this unknown band Spoon.


     

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    #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by GaryinCalifornia
    My favorite saying about making movies is this and I've said it more than once... you can make a bad movie from a great script... but you can't make a great movie from a bad script....
    I would disagree with this statement. The story might have been terrible on paper, but once you start editing the film and really start discovering your story sometimes it takes on a life of its own something greater than anything ever originally intended.
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    #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by adaml
    what's more likely is that small bands of like-minded friends will gather together at the house of the one with the best screen and best sound system to watch a dvd that one of them saw already and told the others that they just have to see it too. And if they're really together they'll have a cookout beforehand and then project the dvd on a screen in the backyard, and maybe show some locally produced shorts and videos too. Anyway, that's what we do around here.
    I'd agree with Barry's rant overall - but I think your point here is valid.

    One way indie filmmakers might make money in the future is if some kind of new "CoffeeHouse or BookStore Theaters" function like your idea of friends getting together. What if any establishment could digitally download and project films by licensing a public viewing of your film for $100? They wouldn't need to SELL tickets. They just use your film to drive people into their establishment and sell 'em Coffee and have a cool discussion about your movie. If 100,000 of these mini-indie-theaters did that a couple times a day there would be some money flowing.

    OUR ability to market our own products is what's critical. Blair Witch and Napoleon Dynamite were purchased BECAUSE of the great marketing that had already happened on the Internet before they were purchased.

    Now if iTunes, uTube and Google provide a way to market your film AND collect money to view it then things could really brighten up. When those services are both searchable and viewable via PC/HDTV or iTunesHD then Hollywood might actually have something to be concerned about in the long run. Maybe HDTV Goggles will be the ultimate immersion experience that plays computer downloaded movies. Maybe they are BETTER than the theater... and maybe you could take them to the mini-indie-theater to watch the film while still getting a cool social experience where people are hanging out.

    Sure seems like starting a band, marketing and selling 3 minute songs for $2 each would be easier and less risky than filmmaking.

    Joel
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    #27
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    Wow Barry. You tackled a lot of topics.

    On most of it, I agree with you.

    We will see the movies that are heavily advertised and who feature people that we think of as larger than life royalty. We will continue to buy records from American Idol contestants because we've seen them on TV and read about them in "People." And backyard cinema will be no more a threat to the hollywood system than it ever has been. Make a film that people will pay to see (or that hollywood believes they can convince people to pay to see), and hollywood will snatch it up from you and happily distribute it. The trick is to make a film that people would actually pay to see -- it's much harder than most people believe! I mean, with all the resources at their disposal and the best filmmakers and geniuses in the world, how often does Hollywood get it right? Not that often, percentage-wise.
    You see the thing is, the system is not persisting. Box office attendance is diminishing, and Hollywood is in an equation of "diminishing returns". As movies
    become more expensive, gross participants take more of the peach pie, revenue becomes top heavy on opening weekend, and p&a becomes inceasingly expensive - movies become more generic and vanilla scented to appeal to the widest possible demographic to recoup the costs and losses from all the aforementioned. This has the opposite effect of increasing box office attendance because originality and singular voice is what the audience goes to the movies for in the first place. Along with movie stars, of course.

    So, Hollywood is facing a new day. The business model no longer works. Once the profit of DVD's is reduced relative to alternative sourcing (which will become a reality) , then Hollywood will have to change . It's inevitable. Now, I think since the days of Charlie Chaplin, you will always have a star driven system of marketing. Yet, Hollywood is realizing that diversification and original stories, targeted demographic marketing, with a high degree of specificity across old and new media platforms, is most likely on the horizon.

    And about all those smart people making films that just don't connect ? IMHO, the percentage is so low because they aren't working under the ideal of producing the "best" movie, but the "best marketable" movie. Exec producers on down to the craft services are effected by this distinction. When a movie has to break the box office on opening weekend, then you limit creative decisions, no matter how accomplished the above-the-line are.

    Will the shift in the industry give room to smaller indie flicks, and low budget producers ? IMO, maybe.
    There still is going to be the same litmus test as Barry mentioned before, but whenever business models change, it's the same ball game, with a few new hitters. It's not a big change, but could be good enough to get great movies noticed. Something that is not happening today.

    You know, will RED affect this shift in the industry ?
    As a tool ? - No... But it's well placed to take advantage of it. That's the true benefit. For those who want to work in the margins staying true to their artistic vision, it will bring you more choices (how you take advantage of them is up to you). And for those who want a foot in the door of exhibition or alternative distribution, there will be one less obstacle to it (aesthetics of 35mm). You'll still have to get through the jungle, but there'll be one less tiger to worry about (35mm choices)... Indeed, for all the rest ENG, event, cable, corporate shooter, they are placed in the enviable position of waiting for the distribution to catch up to them and not the opposite (HDTV).

    None of this is a cake walk. And you still have all the players.But when business models adapt to make financial sense, and change is on the horizon, whether it be big or small, what will be your part in it ? That's the real question.



    PS - I just want the most choice for the least amount of $. For me, make high quality product, and you will eventually attract high quality participants, and eventually you will get noticed, or at the very least make a modest living doing what you love. That, to me is the home run. Babe Ruth style...




    RED # wish I was higher


     

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    #28
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    The laser printer didn't cause a tidal shift in book sales. Neither has the Internet. I see the status quo holding into the foreseeable future. Film making is at its heart psychological manipulation. I don't see how that's possible except through a carefully controlled experimental environment. An environment free of distraction and interference. The traditional "theater" and "home theater" environment. The YouTube consumption style is not this environment, and as such I don't see the viewers looking for or finding anything beyond voyueristic nut bashing.

    90 minutes is a long time to keep someone's attention, and requires a great deal of convincing. That convincing costs a lot of money.
    Last edited by im.thatoneguy; 08-21-2006 at 07:58 PM.
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    #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by im.thatoneguy
    The laser printer didn't cause a tidal shift in book sales. Neither has the Internet. I see the status quo holding into the foreseeable future. Film making is at its heart psychological manipulation. I don't see how that's possible except through a carefully controlled experimental environment. An environment free of distraction and interference. The traditional "theater" and "home theater" environment. The YouTube consumption style is not this environment, and as such I don't see the viewers looking for or finding anything beyond voyueristic nut bashing.

    90 minutes is a long time to keep someone's attention, and requires a great deal of convincing. That convincing costs a lot of money.
    Right now, it's the DVD tale that is wagging the theatrical dog. Yeah, people are still going to want to go to the theater, but will they want to go in high enough numbers to sustain the losses incurred by the Studios ? I'm not saying the technology will do it, but it's the ponzi scheme that the Studios have got themselves into that will. We'll still have the star system, and barriers to entry, but hopefully there will be a greater variety across the various delivery platforms.

    I don't think it will happen overnight (years in the making), but just as itunes eroded cd sales, so could other delivery mechanisms erode DVD sales. In fact, itunes forced the big music marketers participation, with its popularity. Can something similar happen with movies ? Movies and events streamed to your home theater for a flat fee, or copy charge ? When that happens, the focus will be on making profit theatrically again, or making small amounts of profit across a wide array of venues. Mark Cuban has mentioned some of this in his lectures.

    Of course, this is all conjecture, and is more about distribution and business models than RED.

    It would be aways away anyway, if anything were to change, but there are always possibilities. Barry just got me thinking, along with some of Mark Cubans experiments with his company.

    RED # wish I was higher
    Last edited by D_and_G; 08-21-2006 at 09:09 PM.


     

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    #30
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    This type of discussion is one of the benefits of Red. Seriously.

    Red is as much about upsetting the norm as it is about making a great camera. It is attracting the types of people who are not afraid of change, but rather embrace it. Red is about changing the notion that cinema creation is only for the elite.

    As Barry pointed out earlier, Hollywood is primarily a publicity and marketing machine. It is not interested in art, it is interested in money. What Red is going to be very good for is producing a film that is quality wise up to the standards of Hollywood, but created by people who are primarily interested in telling good stories. The nice thing is that having a product that Hollywood can distribute quality wise means that if you can find the backing to make your movie initially, your chances are increased that Hollywood will simply buy it from you, thus making you your money. After all, for them it is far lower risk having a ready product to market than expending the hundreds of millions of dollars to do it themselves from scratch.

    This is the opportunity and mindset that Red offers, which is why I think that it is a revolutionary product for more than just its low price.
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