According to comments widely circulated by industry insiders, followers, pundits, and amateurs from Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas, the film industry is just a few flops away from implosion. To better understand why this is the case, I believe tv and film producer Lynda Obst explains it well in this piece from her book and why Hollywood is broken.
Hang up your viewfinder. Put the camera away. Movies are over. </ end sarcasm >
Now that we’ve gotten that silliness out of the way, let’s talk about movies. In a sense, it’s going to get rough. Things will change. Someone, somewhere, is going to have to start having some very fresh ideas on how movies can be effectively made and distributed. Movies have always been a very high risk investment with relatively small profit margins. From a business standpoint, these are the times that try creative people’s souls.
Look at what happened to the recording industry. Yeah, piracy did a number on the industry. Music files were easy to share in the earliest days of the internet. Piracy is to blame. But so is iTunes, the original album killer. And so are the new streaming sites like Spotify.com, which pay in pennies. The big recording studios are pulling in less than half of what they did ten years ago. It’s harder and harder for an artist to do what the love: i.e. play music. When the industry dried up, so did radio and live venues. Artists have to be their own marketers and promoters now, when most of them are far better at being scatter-brained creatives who hate numbers and “business stuff.”
But the smart ones — the ones who know how to leverage YouTube videos and Twitter feeds to enhance what they’re doing — they recognize that there is an audience out there who can access them in ways impossible five years ago, and they can produce decent, quality recordings for a fraction of what it cost five years ago. They don’t need a label. Yeah, they may not be touring the country in a jet, but in the heyday of the industry, how many artists got to that level? Instead, they find a way to do what they love for an audience built just for them.
Is the movie industry on the same trajectory? It certainly requires more resources to make a film then to record an album, but like recording, the cost of entry keeps dropping. There’s no reason that high quality will continue to require hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the meantime, for the filmmaker or musician grumbling about how the well is dry, it’s time to look for a new well. No, not a new well. It’s time to rethink water.
Someone, somewhere, is going to find a way to help filmmakers get their stuff made and distributed in a way that makes everyone happy: filmmakers, investors, and the audience. Why? Because otherwise, there will be no movies, and movies are pretty important in our culture.
Movies and music will continue to exist because they have an audience, even if that audience looks a lot different than it did five years ago.
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images