Archive for March, 2006

Post Oscar gossip-Lucas says big pics doomed

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

A friend pointed me to this story where George Lucas, described as ‘portly’, predicts that in less than 20 years the average movie cost will be $15 million.
I suppose that depends on how one determines what a movie is. Even if you use the releases by the studios into theatres, both the studio and the theatre are facing radical changes that makes two decades seem like a really long time.
George is an interesting study in how a short guy from Modesto went to LA, put together talent and relationships to break new ground both in business and art, and has spent every day since distancing himself from LA and ‘Hollywood’. Meanwhile he continues to work the very channels and people he claims not to be a part of. The back story of his love hate with the business will make a “Citizen Kane” type movie someday. I hope I outlive him long enough to see it produced.
The business in general is under attack, and the means and ways to counter are readily available, but the very filters that put the current management in charge also mean that they have no access to those ways and means. They aren’t nimble or forward thinkers. They are social and political masters, and when it comes to handling the transition from a push market to a pull market, from command of the consumer audience to the dialogue with customers enabled and demanded by a networked world, these guys have nothing. It isn’t even a matter of what they are willing to do. They just don’t have access, like fish don’t really have a clue about air.
So what George says is on track. I hesitate to speculate about the scale. The mountaintop and brand that “Hollywood” is will persist, and be converted by the companies that survive the impending decay and collapse. The MGM brand has been destroyed so many times, but like Italy, retains its appeal.
Attention spans and mobile ubiquity means that media will get shorter. The whole idea of a narrative story being 90 to 120 minutes of our lives is going to be challenged. Every communication, even the little signs in the market, and at some point the labels on the products, are going to be motion pictures battling for our attention.
Neal Stephenson, in “The Diamond Age” predicted the flat part of chopsticks will have dynamic scrolling marquees that will be sold as ad space. It all seems quite possible to me, given the progression of technology and the competition for people’s attention.
It is the progression of the social structures that may impede these things. Inability to act about things like the levees in New Orleans show that even when we know, we fail to act in our own interests as a society. Thus having the infrastructure required to enable the continued development may not survive the challenges suggested by climate change, bio chem, energy supply, water supply, to say nothing of ideological and religious conflicts.
The blockbuster will get made, but not as often, starting this year. Fewer movies are scheduled by the studios this year than last, and more of them are being made elsewhere. That means the talent pool, especially the below the line talent that has to work every day to pay their rent, will be available to the independent producer. Writers who pulled real bucks last year to write something that is in turnaround because the fear is clutching the purse at the studios (the panic over the flattening of DVD sales is changing the smell of popular hang outs), will write something they care about while they have money in the bank. Or get them to take little or no money to direct a project of passion.
We might actually be returning to an organic anarchic version of the 30s studio system, where people worked year round and produced three or four shows a year. In those days a director had to make a dozen pictures before anybody knew who they were. These days a dozen pictures is a career. Imagine how much better people get with more practice. Reduced toolkits are likely to bring out more creativity, not less.
The restrictions will also force the providers to develop applications that are much easier to acquire and use, instead of the ridiculous complexity of pull down menus and modes that we have to digest today.
While the disruptions will be hard on the current generation of middle managers, and ten percenters who have become so good at riding the gravy train and packing golden parachutes, the chaos will make a great deal of opportunity.
Which town is the next young George dying to leave in this decade? Or will she be able to access resources to produce and distribute from that town because it has world class connectivity? Might it be in India instead of North America?