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Biz models of filmmaking in the future?


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#1 Sasha Riu

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Posted 19 December 2008 - 10:59 PM

Hello all you wonderfull people!

My first topic here.
:)

Alas, it's first and it's rather financial/economical in its nature than artisticly creative (more of it in my future writings), which is contradictory even to myself given my own motives to join this site but since it's pure coincidance I will have to preceed with it...
:)

I was wondering what is the take of you, quintessential working professionals of show biz, on the biz models of filmmaking in the future?!

On that account, I would like if we could concentrate on predictions in the field of narrative and documentary features, predominantly, since I belive that these are the fields influencing every other kind of moving the pictures, wheather in the world of corporate videos, wedding shooters or broadcast reality shows!

Just before I start elaborating my own thoughts and feeling about this subject, let me say just briefly, that I think that it's just the matter of short period of time, few months, maybe even full year, when the Hollywood's Major movie producers will finaly announce its "bankroupcy", since it's quite obvious when one applies the basic common sense, that the biz models we have right now, just don't cut it anymore and will not susstain for much longer, which ineventably will change the media world and all of our lives in total.

Before I step in with my vision of future of filmmaking, I would like to hear some of you whose writing so far I find to be very inspiring, true and honest and of a very high quality, and for whom I am hoping will have to say something meaningful on this subject that is so important to all of you/us!
(yet it seems to me that so far, nobody in the echalons of "dudes with power to make changes" really took into account or asked the camera/photography people what do they think or feel about the future of their biz practice that direclty affects their craft too)?

TIA for your much appreciated opinion!



P.S.
I felt like this is the best place for my topic but if moderator thinks that it fits better under the "business practices/unions" subforum, than lets move it there!
Thanks!
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#2 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 20 December 2008 - 05:54 PM

I'm not quite sure which business practises you're referring to, Certainly the agents and the demand for the stars who can generate business during an opening weekend that are a major cost in most productions, even lower budget ones. These decisions are out of the cinematographer's sphere of involve, but it can affect how much of the budget is left to pay people and resources further down the pecking order,

Distribution and marketing are key to any film's success and I suppose it's arguable if the block release currently in use is the best model for quite a few films that work better by using word of mouth with a slower realise. Although, the later may not work so well with the DVD release coming so close after the theatrical release. However, a number of films have got second legs during their video & DVD release having done poor business in the theatres.

Film and television production are always driven by the need for an audience. Unfortunately, the audience doesn't always know what it want until it sees it, so there's a build in contradiction. "Artistic" films tend not to have mass appeal, although there exceptions that lock into the culture at a particular moment in time.
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#3 Sasha Riu

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Posted 20 December 2008 - 06:49 PM

The bad business practices that I am reffering to, that are observed by the contnet creators themselfes, and for which I belive will not survive for a next year or so are:

-profit mathematics that is based on the rule of modern movie making where 5 out of 6 movies released by Hollywood majors is not gaining any money in theaters

-practice where (as Brian put it) marketing is the one who decides wheather movie is gonna make it or not in the market, rather that the quality of the product

-and generaly, greed, when it comes to profits expected in moviemaking

among many other non money related practices...
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#4 K Borowski

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Posted 20 December 2008 - 06:53 PM

We are no where near the same level of hurt that studios were in the '70s. MGM was, by some accounts gambling every big-budget film that they made that it would be a success or the studio would fold.

So how can you make the jump that because we are in an economic downturn, and that studios are greedy, that they are going to fail in one year?

I haven't done this myself, because I'm pretty sure your thinking is flawed, but if you look up the stock prices and earnings statements of the studios, they are far from being in the dire predicaments of the auto and banking industries.
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#5 Sasha Riu

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Posted 20 December 2008 - 08:08 PM

That is, if you trust the statments and balance sheets made by Hollywood major studiors
:)



Let me try to explain myself a bit more here:

I am not trying to raise panic in filmmaking community, or be a young rebellious prick, nor I am trying to put down efforts of many to make good movies in a reasonable way and manner.

But I do belive that a new biz practices will have to be brought up to the table very soon, and that people to be effected the most, filmmakers (or as I put it at the begining of my post, their quintessential representative-cinematographers) will have to be aware and conscious about them before the others, to think about them, and to try to find a model that will work to the best benefits to everybody.

Filmmakers missed that train when it happened with the change of filmmaking technologies.

I do think that many will disagree with me here, but I do belive that the "tool manufacturers" were not taking into account what their target audience, crafts people thinks, needs ,feels about new tools ( and on the other side, craft people were to bussy with "something else" to get involved in the subject) and as a consecuence, they ended up in a blackmail new technologies deals that now are very hard to change:
Deals that basicly say that camera people have to work with the cameras that manufacturer wants to make rather than situation where camera manufacturers make cameras that camera people want to work with!

If crafts people don't get involved themselves in the question of business models of future in filmmaking, they're taking a risk to end up like today's real estate brokers.

(You might find the comparison a bit vulgar but I think it's very accurate: for most of the real estate brokers, the only important thing for them was to get their licences and start selling houses with horrenduous price tags to the people that can not afford it. Nobody bodered to take a look behind the curtain and find out that the whole biz is based on very fragile legs and might collapse anyday leaving them unemployed, like they are today unfortunatly)
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 04:24 AM

The bad business practices that I am reffering to, that are observed by the contnet creators themselfes, and for which I belive will not survive for a next year or so are:

-profit mathematics that is based on the rule of modern movie making where 5 out of 6 movies released by Hollywood majors is not gaining any money in theaters

-practice where (as Brian put it) marketing is the one who decides wheather movie is gonna make it or not in the market, rather that the quality of the product

-and generaly, greed, when it comes to profits expected in moviemaking

among many other non money related practices...


Part of the problem with selecting films is that no one really knows which films will do well. You can try to improve the success rate, but at the risk of a less adventurous selection process. Some successful films were totally crazy in corporate terms eg. "Easy Rider". As William Goldman says no one knows anything.

Although the studios do throw a lot of marketing money at their films, that's not a guarantee of success. There are lots of films with the studio machine behind them that have died. As they say "no one tries to make a bad film", but it doesn't take much to upset the balance of the creative process so that you end up with a turkey.
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#7 Warwick Hempleman

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 05:58 AM

If nobody wants to go to the cinema, nothing in the world can stop them.

The reality is that the taste of the viewing public is not something that can be quantified. The concept of one breakout hit financing 5 (or more likely 20) flops works and works surprisingly well. As it happens there are some people doing "by the numbers" plot, script and production analysis that is reasonably reliable for prediciting box office success. Their rate of success in prediction is good, but it narrows the prediction range dramatically, and fails to account for runaway hits. It also tends to downgrade the likelihood of financial success of "small" films and indies.

As to the hardware question, I don't think there's any viable link. Leonardo had no access to acrylics, Michaelangelo couldn't work in steel, George Melies had no access to greenscreen, "Gone With the Wind" was done without the benefit of CGI technology, and the Apollo program flew to the moon with an 8mb hard drive on board. "Easy Rider" has already been mentioned, there are plenty more exceptions that in fact are the rule.

As to studio accounting, 2008's domestic BO is expected to be in line with the previous 8 years, at around US$ 9.5 billion. The distribution model works fairly well. Digital projection, which can certainly be debated for it's aesthetics, will realize enormous savings for the distributors once it's in place. The chance that theater tickets will be cheaper as a result is as likely as somebody finding a way to predict with 100% accuracy what the viewing tastes of the paying public are.

As for crafts people's input, it was suggested to me some years ago that my equipment rental company's income from a show we were servicing should be based on the show's ratings. I asked the producer if she was really serious that the welfare of my employees should be contingent on the creativity of her writers and the tastes of the viewing audience. In terms of how stories are told and "looks" are realized, I don't think you have a working knowledge of closely tech and creative really do work together.

Let's hear more of your theory, so far there's nothing there to hang a coat on.
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#8 Sasha Riu

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Posted 21 December 2008 - 08:45 PM

Dear Warwick and Karl,
It's seems that you and I have completely different attitudes when it comes to having a faith and trust to Hollywood studios.
:)

Let me try to tell you why I find your trust in them - questionable:

You are talking about Studio's accounting and bookkeeping as a reliable references (wonder what Art Buchwald or Tommy Lee Jones have to say on that?) that we should trust when making our jugdement and decisions.

I belive that a lot of people heard the expression "creative bookkeeping" (refered to Hollywood studio's practice of tweaking the numbers and paperwork in order to draw the picture that they like) more times that we want to belive in it.

I can only imagine what kind of "creativity" they apply when they have to convince the audience that everything is OK and that the "show is gonna keep rolling", or when they have to prove to Wall Street gamblers, and foreign bankers (it's been said that major financiers of Hollywood studios are German, Japanese and UK banks; small portion goes to ex Soviet taycoons too :) in what a great and solid state their business is, and how safe it is to invenst in them.

In other words, I belive that to trust the proofs that Hollywood majors submit as a reliable reference is nothing less adventurous than to trust Mr. Madoff that he is conducting a honest business.

I don't know how we can say that marketing tools and business practice that is in use right now, works fairly well, when in fact people who are working in the industry are fairly jobless (with some exeptions of cource) :
http://www.cinematog...showtopic=35230

You may say that this kind of biz practice works well for execs (which is true) but certainly not for a whole filmmaking community.
And in that case, where one group of people is doing fine, and the other group of people (from the same community) is doing bad, you don't have to be a prophet to realize that a lot of changes is waiting us in a near future (Let's pray that these changes are non destructive and to the benefit of all parties involved).

Even, if you are right (which I doubt:) that system woks fine, I can tell you that the system as is now, will colapse as soon as it faces the things that are ahead of us.

The question is how naive and passive the filmamaking community (cinematographers) will be when the things happen? Will they miss the train like they did when the major technologies changed?

And that's why I am wondering if anybody here, have any idea what the biz models for filmmaking will look like in the future and how one should approach it?

(p.s. Warwick, I didn't understood your hardware talk at all; would you mind try to explaint it again please?)

Dear Brian,

I Absolutely agree that nobody knows anything, especially when it comes to filmmaking.

But tha's exactly why sticking to the same rigid formula will not carry us very far.

Yes it's true that nobody knows the taste of the audience.

But every social worker and psycologist will tell you this:

The mass audience will like and go to movie theathers to watch anything that it's on the repertoare.
And they will know how to choose what's good what's bad as long as thay have a freedom of choice.

The truth is that movie theater's programs doesn't allows them tat.
Movie theather's program sucks!

And it sucks because desicion makers are trying to convice us that the audience likes or dislikes this particular thing or that particular thing.

The audience will like anything that is good.
But you have to let them have opportunity to have a chance to see something that is good.

Movies made by the formula, whose only drive is fear, will never be good.

If audience is not challanged, if audience is not enthousiastic, if it doesn't have a special wish to go see the movie, guess what?
They will not go to movie theater.

No good movies=no audience.

With current biz practice, good movies don't get to the market.

I'ts very prosperous time for negative selection.


In my next post I will try to bring more facts and explanations where I will try to present you more crealry with state of biz as is now.

In a menawhile, it would be nice to hear some more opinions.

(sorry for the lenth of my reply; it wasn't ment to be so long but I guess aI got carried away by my passion:)
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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 04:45 AM

One point you have to remember regarding theatrical films is that cinema owners want to sell large volumes of popcorn and drinks because the profit margin on the popcorn is so much greater (1000% I believe) than that on the cinema seat. The age range that buys the largest quantities of popcorn are the 15 to 25* year olds , therefore the owners tend to press the distributors for films to meet that market.

*Older people tend not to buy these products in the theatre.
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#10 Sasha Riu

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 07:31 AM

That's exactly one of my points that needs to be taken seriously by the filmmakers!

If theather owners rather sell popcorn than movies, what's gonna happend when they discover a new attraction to bring people to pay for a admission, something more profitable and cheaper for them to get, than the movie?

Where do movies are going to end up?

What if overnight all movie theathers become "starbucks theaters"?

It's fairly utopian thinking that digital projections will put movie biz in a better shape when we all know that digital projection means hundreds of thousands of dollars investments, that needs to be performed by the people whose main biz interest is to make a deal with starbucks and dunkin dougnuts?!
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#11 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 01:06 PM

Filmmakers missed that train when it happened with the change of filmmaking technologies.



What train was that, pray tell?
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#12 Sasha Riu

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Posted 22 December 2008 - 03:49 PM

It's hard to tell when that train was around, and how did exactly looked, but Iet me try...

I have a feeling that after the times when they have to prove their status, which starts roughphly anywhere btw 40-ies and 60-ties ,and than through mid 80-ies, filmmakers (most notably camera and editing departments) was perceived as artistic craft (first) and techs (second).

Starting mid-80-ies, with the biggest change in the late 90-ies, perception of these departments shifts more towards perception where thise craft people are seen predominantly as:
technicians (first) with occasional burst or artistry in their skill(second).

And part of the reason why that happend, to my mind comes the explanation that it happened that way because these guilds (as crafts people not as official unions) allowed, or weren't able to fight back, manufacturers to play the music on which soon, they had to dance instead of vice versa.

As a consequence, today you have major manufacturers producing equipment thet benefits solely to them, to make and sell, convincing filmmakers that that's the best thing they need and therefore should use it (and pay for it), especially since currently, "there is no better thing on the market".

As a big absurd comes the fact that all of these equipment is completly non standardized and uncomplatible with each other.

So when new digital media steped in the arena more ambiciously, to take over from film and analog technologies, offering new product, slightly improved (or rather handicaped) in each new version (that happend to be around every 3 quartals of the year) filmmakers acceped that.

I guess they didn't realised (previsualised) where that's gonna lead in the future.

Before (40's through 80-s) cinematographers needed to know basics about their equipment (of cource it's their tool) but their main focus of attention, knowledge and expertise for which they were paid for, was the "look", photo picture (light and dramatic elements of it), not their knowledge of "which button of the mashine is doing what".

And look what we have today?

If order to be competitive on the market, your focus needs to be the "secondary" knowledge of the craft, the engineering one, not the artistic creative one, which I belive is the priority of filmmakers.
The knowlegde that needs to be adopted (and discarded) almost on the monthly basis, which means, as new products shows up on the market, you need to learn how to make product function rather than how to use it in your job.

Look at this forum here:

Half of the subject and question posted are, how to make the mashine work itself, not how to use mashine creativly.

And whole thing is even more complicated when you realize that all manufacturers use different hardware, different software, different mounts, different accessories, different files, different codecs, different plug ins....

Nothing is standardized!!!???!!!

Thing about rental houses...

In the last, let's say 10 years, if they wanted to stay competitive on the market, they had to invest in all this equipment, that costs quite a lot, equipment which effective usage period was merely few years (if they're lucky).

Who rents Betacam SP today?

Yet, that thing, 6 or 7 years ago, had a price od more than 50K $....

50.000$ of wasted many...

Every year...every few quartals....

No wonder these places are barely surviving, when every year you have to invest 30% of your profit just to keep stones rolling...

And you have to because the game is set that way!


Of cource, filmmakers are not the only one.

The whole society has to play tham game!!!

But being somewhat elitist guilds, they had much better position of negotiating the deals of the game than average consumers.

Don't you think that it would be better if let's say, in the last decade or so filmamking community sent clear massage to the manufacturers that looks something like this:

All your attemts and experiments looks fine, but what we need, as a prodominantly creative people in the industry, is a simple and reliable system that works. Something that will not distract us from our prior duty (artistic creativity), something that will be compatible with each other, and fairly affordable (which will be if all manufacturers produce for the same goal). Untill then, keep your dv's, dvcpro's, hdv's and any other mutant in between and beyond formats - in your lab. Don't put in the market because we will not use it!!! We want all of you, Arri's Sonys JVCs, Panasonics to get together, figure out something that is truly revolutionaly and superior than what we have now, something that can share same hardware and software platworm, and than come to us and say - this is it, this is the best think we can make for you. Use it!!!"


Because filmmkers (nor majority od society forthat matter) didn't performed it that why, they ended up in the blackmail deal, made by manufacturers, where they have to use whatever's on the market (wha'ts there is the product that benefits manufacturers not users) even though they know that what's on the market is not the best possible that can be made.

And also, the perception of the craft is definitly changed:

Camera, editing, sound people, are now perceived more as people who can make mashine get in the operative functional mode (which one should be out of the box), than as people who cam perform miracles with that same mashine.
Labor rather than idea.

Which affects income too.

Laborer is always paid less than a visionary.
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#13 Ralph Keyser

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 06:14 PM

I don't think it can be argued that the "major Hollywood studios" are out to make great cinema as opposed to money. Sometimes the two overlap (thankfully), but the majors are elements of large corporations and they behave much more like any other large corporation. They have no more heart and soul than any other corporation, and I'm sure they suffer the same questionable ethics as other corporations. The idea of a major product making enough money to cover for 5 other losers (or at least break-eveners) is not unique to the film business. Stock pickers, auto manufacturers, electronics companies all use this model too. I don't see anything that is going to cause those companies to collapse within the next year (or even five). I'm sure there is going to be a lot of turmoil going forward. All of the big players are aware of the trends within audiences, and they are all looking hard at how best to change with the times.

You make a number of excellent points about the pace of change. I'm often glad I'm not in the equipment rental business since the rate of change, especially in the camera arena, is so high. Purchasing a digital camera is much more like buying a laptop than a traditional film camera. Still, as they say, change is the only constant. I got a kick out of your lament about the lack of standards from manufacturers when you realize that the 35mm film format is about as standard as it gets. It would indeed be wonderful if digital cinema was as standardized, but I just don't see that happening. For the moment, you have to realize that film and digital are different, understand the strengths and weaknesses of both, and help producers make the best choices for each project.

I've seen lots of experimentation with business models for new media. A few have worked at least once, although most have not. I'm not sure I see some sort of vast change for cinematographers on the horizon. I'd like to see them brought on earlier in the process and kept on longer in post. Especially with digital imaging, the post can be as important as actually shooting to the look of the film. Truthfully though, labor is the largest cost on most productions (that aren't freebies), and from the producers view, the cinematographer is just labor. I'm often amazed at how producers treat their employees. In that regard, this industry is very different from any other.
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#14 Michael Most

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 06:55 PM

Truthfully though, labor is the largest cost on most productions (that aren't freebies), and from the producers view, the cinematographer is just labor.


If you also count above the line as labor (i.e., producers, director, actors) I guess that's true. But if you're talking about general crew costs, on most productions the cost of locations, construction, wardrobe, set dressing, props, and transportation usually dwarf the basic cost of crew.
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#15 Ralph Keyser

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Posted 24 December 2008 - 07:32 PM

If you also count above the line as labor (i.e., producers, director, actors) I guess that's true. But if you're talking about general crew costs, on most productions the cost of locations, construction, wardrobe, set dressing, props, and transportation usually dwarf the basic cost of crew.


Michael,

Yes, quite right. I was counting the above the line folks too, so thank you for that important point about the hard working below-the-line folks.
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#16 Paul Bruening

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Posted 27 December 2008 - 01:43 AM

I'm not sure what Sasha's point is. I'd be really surprised to find that Hollywood doesn't know what it's doing. I'm not real keen on what comes out of Hollywood. But, I'm not their principle demographic. They want what the theater owners want. That is, butts in the seats. If you're concerned about quality, you've got a lot of breath to hold. We tend to see the stuff that has survived the test of time, thinking that things were better back in the good ole' days. We never see the mountains of complete crap that have died a deserving death over the years.
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#17 Sasha Riu

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 01:37 PM

Things start to change slowly. I am just not sure if this is the right way:

http://www.nytimes.c...1plat.html?_r=1
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#18 Sasha Riu

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Posted 31 December 2008 - 01:48 PM

Also, just to try to keep some sort of inspiration for this topic:


http://www.cinematog...showtopic=34942
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