Monday, December 05, 2005

The Dawn of the New Media

People have been talking about New Media for years now and in general they been talking about blogs. But blogs are really just a throw-back to the days of pamphleteering. But the New Media the New Media in terms of distribution of stories, the New Media that will sink the studios, close the networks and make the unions obsolete is finally here. In fact, though it's been here for a while, it is exemplified by the video iPod and Google.

I've been thinking about this for a while, ever since I gained the ability to shoot and edit an entire film in my garage, but now that I have the ability to distribute it to a worldwide audience, also from my garage I'm thinking about it more. I'm also thinking about it because of my recent departure from the union and because SAG and the WGA are rumbling about another strike.

There's been a lot of talk over the last few years regarding digital distribution of feature films - theatrical distribution, that is, but it hasn't really happened yet. Theater owners are reluctant to spend the money to upgrade projection systems since the economic benefit of such a system goes to the studios. But the studios have backed away from this for reasons including technology, piracy, and the cost (how many theaters worldwide would have to be converted?) There's also another reason which no one talks about and I'm not sure why. That reason is very simple and gets right back to me sitting in my garage. If theaters go digital and it winds up costing no more than the price of a blank DVD to produce a film print, then all the studios have left is their ability to make huge blockbusters that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and their advertising budgets.

But if I make a film that people want to see, one with, presumably, a great story and great characters (something that isn't guaranteed by hundreds of millions of dollars and advertising budgets) that doesn't cost much to produce, say something like (a modern) Maltese Falcon (though minus the star names) and can get it out and build word of mouth and people want to see it - then (and I'm fantasizing here for a moment) I'm not going to need the studios. I can post it on free on iTunes and someone, in their quest for Desperate Housewives, may find it there and like it and email it to a friend and if enough people like it (now I'm really fantasizing) they'll email it to more friends and they'll email it to friends and if enough people get interested and enough people want it I can sell the DVD to make back my money (or simply charge a small fee to download it) or a theater chain may pick it up and if all I have to do is burn DVDs... bye, bye Universal.

And bye, bye Unions. You see at that level I'm not going to need SAG or the WGA or the DGA or IATSE. Sure they'll come after me for my next film, but I'll only need them if I sign a huge contract with a studio. If I make my next film the same way I made the first then who needs unions? Of course the obvious question is what about star names? You can't sell a film without star names, but you see in this world of new media - the PROCESS is the star name.

Sounds implausible? Sounds far too simple? Sounds hilarious? Laugh away, but this is exactly how Google became - well, Google. And by the way, it only took one Google to shake up the Web.