Apr 2, 2010
Herve Fischer writer of The Decline of the Hollywood Empire, goes into great detail about the corruption of power in the studio system creating not only an outside divide, but an inside one as well. If you look at how long this system has been in place and proven successful financially, its no wonder they don't change it. Society is starting to realize this divide and is finding content outside the system through the Internet or other sources. What studios are losing by this is their "source" of power.
The Hollywood system would be what economics refer to as a perfect monopoly, where the seven major studios are the monopoly firms. The seven are made up of, Walt Disney/Buena Vista, Sony Columbia Tristar, Paramount Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal Studios,Warner Bros., and MGM. And these studios are also owned by larger conglomerates. Television has a similar system, only with broadcasting networks.
The process of distribution is also limited both with its potential for more profit and steps of processing. New digital medias such as computers could quicken the process and create smaller expense. Profits are divided up as the theatre owners giving distributors the share of obtaining sixty percent of the revenue from the first week , fifty percent the second week, and forty percent until the end of showing. You can see how blockbuster films, where the profit is generated within the first week is a more desirable content to produce for maximum profit.
This leads to film studios and television networks not only to have a system for distribution, but content creation as well. This system deters genuine talent from producing content in commercial filmmaking. Fischer describes the system as, " formulatic, in which the scripts, casting, and the sets are based on short-sighted market analysis rather than on the vision of filmmakers...to hopefully guarantee profits, inevitably imposing formulas that producers and directors, prisoners of the Hollywood system, must follow" (Fischer, 19). In comparison to how many films America produces to other countries the percentage is low, but the amount of gains from tickets receipts is almost one hundred percent more.
So how are independent producers able to get their content to the general public when there is such a tight hold on the type of content that is decided to be commercially distributed? Many theatres are cutting around the system by the use of digital mediums outside of the millemeter film. Fischer mentions a cinema in Quebec, which uses DigiScreen technology and DVD to screen films. This allows for him to screen independent films cheaply, without having to pay the distributors. Governors in Quebec issued the Cinema Cartier a permanent film festival status to show films without proper visa.
With studios so engrained into a certain system, it makes it almost impossible for any independents to make it in. Believe it or not independent studios are only slightly easier system to enter because they too rely on the larger distribution studios and networks to produce content. Fischer clearly describes the systematic relationship of indies and big studios. " The illusion of their independence has made it possible for specialists in the field to believe there is a true separation between the majors and the independents. But its all a smoke screen. In reality, the indies are completely dependent on distribution networks, or on films that depend on distribution networks. They offer the big 7 the advantage of occupying every niche and eliminating competition from outside of the cartel. The indies remain within the sphere of influence of the big seven and even act as a pool of talent and expertise that the majors can draw from" (Fischer, 31).
Independent producers are fed up with the smoke screen and are looking for more control in the distribution of their content through the Internet. The most popular genre to use digital distribution is documentary. Documentary is mainly a genre used to supply information to the public through the moving image. Documentary titan, Michael Moore has done that with his documentary, Slacker Uprising. Whats more interesting is that the film is offered to download for free, if you're a citizen of the U.S. or Canada. It makes sense for Michael Moore to give his audience a chance to freely view his documentary when he advocates extremely liberal policies. It spreads his ideas and information through film to his target audience of North Americans.
Although independent producers were the first to truly utilize the potential of online distribution, the big studios are now not only realizing this fact, but feeling it as well. Atom.com is a site that produces comedy content on the Internet. The formula is much different than you tube though. You tube is for amateurs, but Atom TV is made from amateur's with professional potential. The developers find genuine talent to produce content on the website and pay them for their material produced. The site is more of a means of quality digital distribution for any talented individual. Some of the content is also shown on Comedy Central during a special time slot. Their motto is that they're a 'convergent entertainment network.' Big studios could benefit from the general public to create content by using similar distribution systems that Michael Moore and Atom TV have adopted. There must be a convergence of the Internet and film or the system will die out.
(1) Allen J. Scott.(2005).On Hollywood:The Place, The Industry. Princeton: Princeton Press.
(2) Fischer, H. (2004). The Decline of the Hollywood Empire.Vancouver: TalenBooks.
(5) Bush, V. (2010). As We May Think. Retrieved March 31,2010, from http://www.theatlantic.com /magazine/archive/1969/12/as-we-may-think/3881/.
Mar 18, 2010
James Cameron, the director of Avatar has brought on a new wave of filmmaking through 3D cameras. The exponential success of Avatar will bring on a new revolution of 3D films in the future. The special cameras used to shoot the film contain two lenses instead of one, resembling two eyes. TIME magazine featured an article in March 2009 with James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Katzenberg promoting the future in 3D filmmaking. James Cameron states that "every film I'm planning to do will be in 3-D."(4) It will be interesting to see what type of films will be using 3-D rather than traditional film. Recently another article in Business Week featuring the director, included that big-budget directors, Michael Bay and J.J. Abrams are considering to change their franchise into 3-D as well. This also leaves into question of how 3-D will change the whole market of the film industry. Since 3-D is more likely to only translate with high-concept action and adventure films, Hollywood could be persuaded to mostly feature these genres in theatres, knowing their potential profit. This means that theatres will be forced to update their projectors. "Of the 38,000 screens in the U.S., only about 3,600 are currently 3D-ready." (3)
Before James Cameron's Avatar, The Dark Knight was shot on an IMAX camera, which runs at 70mm film stock.The opening sequence of The Dark Night, shot on this 70mm was so vividly stimulating that everyone was convinced it would be impossible to make anything better. If you look at the history of IMAX, it has been around for a long time with only a recent commercial success. In the 20th century the same form of projection was used called Cineorama. " First presented at the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, it was a hybrid medium: Ten 70mm films were projected simultaneously to form a connected 360 degree image." (2)
Outside of film, television is also updating its format again to utilize 3-D. Many television manufacturers have come up with 3-D televisions, but are waiting for a large enough market to sell these televisions to. The issue is that people are willing to have unique experience at a theatre with 3-D glasses, but the idea of wearing 3-D glasses constantly at home is less appealing. Some of the top 3-D television models at CES this year were from Sony, LG, Samsung, and Toshiba. Sony is the main leader of 3D television because of the CEO's close involvement with Cameron's vision.
While television and film is perfecting its level of vividness, it hasn't done much in perfecting its interactivity. Directly, film is not an interactive medium, but outside the viewing of a show or film the audience has found inventive ways to interact with the content. One example of this interaction is the popularity of movie trailer mash-ups created by individuals and posted on the web for viewing. The idea of a trailer mash-up is the combining of two completely different films to generate a separate movie trailer. Unless the audience is satisfied with this indirect interaction of the film and television medium, it most evolve into something richer for the audience to enjoy socially. Just as movie trailer mash-ups are a way to involve the individual creatively into the content, a film needs to not only inspire but include the audience, generating a virtual experience.
(1) Steuer, J. (1993). Defining Virtual Reality: Dimensions Determining Telepresence, 4(4), 73-93.
(2) Grav, Oliver (2003). Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion. MIT Press: Cambridge.
(3) Grover, R. , Lowry, T. , White, M. (2010). King of The World [Again]. Business Week, 1(8), 48-56.
(4) Quittner, J. (2009). Are 3-D Movies Ready for Their Closeup?. Retrieved March 15th, 2010 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1886541,00.html.
(2) faculty.mdc.edu/mbeguiri/ >
Feb 22, 2010
The most traditional form of storytelling within the film and television industry has been and still is narrative. The first step in creating content is developing a script, which is entirely narrative. The most used structure in screenplay narrative is Aristotle's three Act; most recently it has been Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, used in Star Wars. Some television series, mostly dramas, tend to gravitate towards the hero's journey to appeal to a cult following that Star Wars created in the 1980's. Some popular television programs using this structure would be Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997) and Lost(2004). Of course one is dealing with episodic, rather than the beginning, middle and end for film. This is the reason why Aristotle's structure is not used as much in contemporary commercial filmmaking because it does not follow over into other medias so easily. " Their capture is the visual equivalent of what Hayden White calls a chronicle: a chronological list of events that presents neither the closure nor the causality nor the organization of a plot"(p.353, Narrative Across Media). Look at it this way, is it easier to stream an episode of a television series on the Internet or a two hour film?
The film industry has focused on this issue and responded by creating more universally accepted narrative structures. Variety published an article stating that studios and writers use the bible as a source for structuring new ideas for films. " People are realizing that this kind of concentration implementation is one of the most powerful ways to convey messages."(Variety) This has helped shape how studios produce their content. For example, Starlight Runner Entertainment production company now contributes their skills in marketing before the production has ended.This way of content producing allows for more content to flow more freely amongst creative industries, creating more bankable content. This appeals to the more industrial organisational side of creative industries, which is the management of risk and uncertainty in such a subjective market.
Not only has the transmedia of television caused the film industry to appose the 3 Act structure, but the audience has also forced Hollywood to reconsider its storytelling content. This being that audiences now use computers, an interactive technology to submerse themselves into multiple mediums of creative content. The most popular interactive site being youtube, where individuals can create their own content and socially network at the same time. An older interactive media is video games, which is a creative industry constantly becoming more innovative with their transmedia storytelling abilities. A few successful films based on popular video game have been adapted for audiences. This leads the film and television industry to create more user generated or user-led content. The creation of user-led content is a phenomenon referred to as 'democratisation of innovation,' or 'remedition', " the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms" (p.31, Narrative Across Media).
A new genre of film has been created in response to the 'democratisation of innovation,' called pseudorealism. Pseudorealism contains elements of fake reality, forcing the audiences to distinguish between what is real and what is not. The genre was first introduced in the nineties when The Blair Witch Project was released, but has not taken off as a genre until recently. Before the film opened in theatres, pseudomentary media forms were posted on the web that revealed the film's narrative: " that engage that sense that while information wanted to be free, it didn't seems to have any corollary imperative to be accurate" (p.383, Narrative Across Media). Recent successful pseudorealistic films include, Cloverfield(2008) and Paranormal Activity(2009), each loved by audiences because of the interactive characters and documentary style. Distributors and advertisers were in the past unable to find a way to market The Blair Witch Project and what Paranormal Activity was able to do successfully was sell the film by featuring trailers showing the reaction of audiences rather than the content itself. So if Hollywood wants to produce more bankable product it needs to create more transmedia storytelling elements such as, interaction in pseudorealism film and a universal structure.
Feb 8, 2010
Convergence, the combining of communication devices such as IT, social networking, media content with a service, product, or process. With the integration of IT in our social lives it has become a prerequisite for industries to include IT into their business model. An example of a contemporary convergence with technology is the film industry, which has illustrated a struggle of integrating their content to reach a larger audience.
The Internet is a technological determinate factor, which forces the film industry to incorporate an easier way for film to become available to everyone. Within 10 years time, an intelligent convergence would include a technological device that allows audiences to watch any film or television show from any medium, instantaneously. This would force the film industry to remodel their structure of distribution. The current model being the distribution of films to specific venues, television networks, and finally distributed on DVD to suppliers or rental stores. Why not reduce those mediums to one and reach a much larger audience? The reason being that studios are comfortable with the former system because “ the studios don’t want to blow up a business model that allows them to sell the same movie over and over in various formats to venues” (Grover, Satariano, & Levy, 2010, p.54).
Television took the lead in the entertainment industry with the option of streaming free television shows on a network’s website, mainly limited to public networks. Then finally studios and networks converged with Apple and made television shows, movies, and eventually movie rentals available for purchase on iTunes. Studios became fearful that the film industry might become a parallel to the music industry, which is similarly happening in the publishing industry at the moment. Streaming videos for free on the Internet to deter illegal downloading seemed like a counteractive decision to the public’s demand. This backfired greatly when the writer’s strike began in 2007 and writers were demanding more incentive for their written material produced online: “They’re demanding a slice of the profits whenever their dialogue is downloaded from the internet–say, when you watch The Office on your iPhone or stream Desperate Housewives on ABC’s website”(Svetkey, B, 2007).
However, the public still demands an easier access to films and television. In the past 4 years I have found myself going to the theatres less frequently because of the lack in convenience. In more urban areas it can take an even greater effort to make your way to the theatres, with public transportation as the only option. One answer to this is the rental service, Netflix. It had the perfect pitch of saving time and money by ordering a subscription online for a low fee and a choice of 100,000 film and television shows. All of this was automatically managed online through a queue system and delivered directly to your mailbox. Netflix also saw the opportunity of convergence with the Internet and film rentals, by including a ‘Watch Instantly’ on the website decreasing the wait time for movies and television shows being mailed. The service is still limited; “ Watch Instantly features only 17,000 films and TV shows, compared to Netflix’ 100,000 or so titles on DVD. Netflix stream older titles ‘but not new releases’ ” (Grover, Satariano, & Levy, 2010, p.54). Internet streaming sites such as Netflix can get there, but they must appeal to the big studios. “ The studios are willing to do so-but there’s a catch. Warner Brothers and other studios want Netflix to accept the same deal Hollywood has with the cable companies. They charge about $4 each time someone watches a new movie and then kick the studios 65% to 70% of the take” (Grover, Satariano, & Levy, 2010, p.55). So the problem isn’t if we can change the system to become more available to audiences, but can audiences agree to pay the price for more convenience?
Another popular website, Hulu.com that has created a huge convergence with television networks and internet streaming, is one of the largest effort by television networks to give free content access to viewers online. Mostly an effort from the NBC network, Hulu made it easier for audiences to watch all their favorite television shows on the internet for free without having to browse to each network’s website for streaming. While the biggest public network streamed their television shows, other networks quickly signed up to do the same with Hulu. A large amount of people use Hulu as their television content provider, it doesn’t hold equally true for films. Hulu has a very limited selection of movies, with most being outdated or less mainstream. Another large flaw with Hulu is its inability to stream outside the United States, limiting the amount of people it can reach.
The main source of revenue for Hulu is currently advertising, which may not continue in the future according to the owner Jason Kilar. Jason Kilar is considering charging a subscription cost for the content sometime in the year 2010. This has always been the business model of another streaming site theauteurs.com. This site works quite well because it caters to the more sophisticated audience that values consuming a smaller amount of quality content and are willing to spend a little bit of money to watch films, which aren’t available on the mainstream market. In addition, the website contains social features as well as connecting cinephiles, “a person who is fond of motion pictures” (The Oxford English Dictionary, 2008, p.123). The convergence of different formats to create the Auteur’s Internet streaming quality is what set the Auteur apart from other Internet streaming websites. “Engineers work behind the scenes to boost the viewing experience, painstakingly tweaking the compression settings for each film with a tool chain that includes mplayer, x264, ffmpeg, and mp4box. They also add lush 5.1 Dolby surround sound”(Svetkey, B, 2007). All of these Internet convergences are great services, but the film and television industry is nowhere near its ultimate potential of interlinking Digital Media and we’ll be sure to see a change within the next ten years.
Grover, R., Starniano, A., & Levy, A. (2010). Honest, Hollywood, Netflix Is Your Friend. Business Week, 1(2),54-55.
Grover, R. (2009). Hulu’s Tough Choices. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_49/b4158028934714.html/.
Zjawinski,, S.(2009). Streaming Hard-To-Find Films For Cinephiles.Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/17-06/pl_screen/.
Svetkey, B.(2007).Striking Home. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20159253,00.html/.
Oxford English Dictionary (2008). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jan 25, 2010
Dec 23, 2009
Kanye, the artistic man that he is, wanted to display his own demons in a new medium- film. That's where Spike Jonze comes in. In the first 8 minutes of the film I don't recognize it as a Spike Jonze film, it seemed so stereotypical and a literal translation of Kanye's ego. I kept wanting to ask when is he going to punch the mirror and hate himself? But the ending was surprising and bold for Kanye to act out and also closer to a Spike Jonze style. So I would watch it just for the ending alone. Well you can assess it yourself:
Dec 14, 2009
On Thursday for those of you who are avid fans of The Office like I, a shocking twist happened for Dunder Mifflin. Dunder Mifflin was declaring bankruptcy, which is not shocking and we were left wondering how much time the Scranton branch had to goof around. Well, finally David delivered the news on Thursday that the company is going to be bought, which means that the top executives lose their job. The surprising factor is that the sales branches are keeping their jobs. That includes the loved Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, and the rest of the office family. So we now know that The Office will be returning but what does this mean for Michael? I don't know if most of you noticed but David let a lot of Michael's Shenanigan's slide. On the positive side this means more character and potential story plots. So thumbs up for another season of The Office because we need it these days.
Plus check out the productivity of Kelly, Erin, and Ryan in The Office: