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The Evolution of Filmmaking and Our Role in Shaping Its Future

Going to the cinema used to be an exciting way to spend an evening, and we were more than happy with a single episode of a TV series a week. Then on-demand video platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video came along and transformed the way we consume video content. For a small premium, we now had 24/7 access to watching movies and TV programs over the Internet.

The Age of Binge-watching

But the biggest game changer was Netflix’s bold move to release complete seasons of new TV programmes rather than a single episode at a time, as was the norm. This radical maneuver effectively ushered in the age of binge-watching, feeding our insatiable appetites for video content and keeping us hooked for more.

There are however, conflicting perspectives on whether Netflix is a positive or negative force for the entertainment industry, particularly for the creative community. But more on that later.

Instagram Live: A New Form of Visual Storytelling

On the social media front, we’re seeing a whole new form of visual storytelling via Instagram Live Stories. A real-time, fluid format of short videos through which users share interactive and animated snippets of their day, hold interactive polls, promote content, products and services, and more.

VR: Where Tech Meets Art

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“VR is a perfect example of technology and art coming together.” Jastrow cautions however, that “developing immersive media such as VR to its full potential would require a lot of collaboration and is not something that any one company could achieve on its own.”

Marcie Jastrow, SVP of Immersive Media at Technicolor

Meanwhile, the steady growth of immersive technologies such as VR and AR continues to pave the way for the next cultural shift. Marcie Jastrow, SVP of Immersive Media at Technicolor, shares that “VR is a perfect example of technology and art coming together.”

Jastrow cautions however, that “developing immersive media such as VR to its full potential would require a lot of collaboration and is not something that any one company could achieve on its own.” An example of such an elaborate collaboration is the Tree experience created by New Reality Company in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance (source: TNW). The multi-sensory VR experience enables the viewer to hear, sense and feel the tree’s growth and existence in the rainforest.  

Nevertheless, it’s still early days for immersive tech. HP’s Chief Technology Officer and head of HP Labs, Shane Wall, shares a similar view: “Believe me, when we are looking at VR today, we are looking at the punch cards of our generation. We are operating in DOS 3.0.”

The filmmaking landscape is poised to take viewers on heightened immersive experiences. But while we wait for the technology to mature, on-demand streaming remains the primary platform and business model for creators and consumers.

Online Streaming Platforms: Profit vs Accountability

Gone are the days of shooting with physical film, getting it processed, colour corrected, transferred to video, edited offline, blown up to a bigger size, and hustling for the best possible distribution deal. In comparison, these days one just needs a DSLR camera to point and shoot, edit on a computer after, and upload to streaming platforms. It’s never been easier to produce an indie flick, or so it would seem.

The real challenge however, lies in producing quality narratives that the audience will appreciate while generating enough of a profit to make it a worthwhile venture. Maybe that’s the challenge that matters: creating content that not only entertains but cultivates progressive ideas and perspectives, with visibility via a global platform that isn’t profit-first. Idealistic? Perhaps, but the solution might already be in the works.

Much as we love the affordability and accessibility of streaming platforms, the fact that they are centralized operations driven primarily by profits, with the power to influence and control the entertainment marketplace, does not bode well for content creators or consumers.

Ashley Turing, founder and CEO of LiveTree ADEPT (a London-based socially-conscious film and TV crowdfunding firm) sees Netflix’s policy of not sharing users’ viewing data, not even with content creators, as a bad sign. This data drives the streaming giant’s algorithms to determine the kind of content it shows to subscribers. According to Turing, “This is bad news for consumers, because it limits choice and will ultimately result in a world of cookie-cutter content. And it’s bad news for content-makers, because creativity and originality will be sacrificed on the altar of profit.” (source: Growth Business)

Is Blockchain the Answer?

Designed as a decentralized technology, the blockchain is a database network that exists in a state of constant consensus, automatically updating itself every ten minutes. It works much the same way Google Docs does, wherein multiple parties can edit the same document at the same time with a single version of the document visible to all parties, except that in the case of blockchain, it’s an entire network of databases.

This renders the blockchain an ideal platform for transparency and incorruptibility, as demonstrated by LiveTree ADEPT—a blockchain-powered film and TV crowdfunding platform that gives control back to creators and audiences. Just like VR and AR, blockchain technology is still in its early days and will take time to mature, though it’s already making waves with its widespread applications.

The Future of Filmmaking: Immersive, Inclusive and Empowering

The future is as much what we make of it as what technological revolutions bring. From YouTube stars to Instagram sensations, talents are being discovered every day, just as compelling content is found and shared. Videos go viral in minutes, whether of adorable kittens and puppies, or heroic acts by good Samaritans.

As content creators and consumers, we have a role to play in shaping the future we want for the filmmaking industry. As recent global events have demonstrated, the power lies with the people and not with governments or organisations. The question is, what kind of future would you like to see for the film industry and for its audience?

Add your voice to the mix this 27 June 2018 as we delve further into the topic via a Panel Discussion to kick off BSFF 2018. We look forward to seeing you there!

Justin Merino