Thursday, February 04, 2010

Conventional Wisdom Redux

Alex Epstein over at Complications Ensue has a post up titled: Conventional Wisdom Overheard at the Telefilm Multiplatform Conference. 

There's some good stuff in this, but I wanted to focus on one aspect of Alex's post:

2. “Expensive-to-produce content is doomed.”

Really? I like LOLcats as much as the next guy, but it’s fun the way pork rinds are yummy. Don’t we still want the filet mignon of MAD MEN? I don’t believe people will stop wanting sophisticated stories that are well-acted and well-produced. But I’m an opera fan, so draw your own conclusions.


Okay, point taken, Alex.  But you didn't address the quote.  What the quote is saying is that the actual productions must be financially responsible because they have no money to spend.  Productions must now spend relative to the expected return.  You can't throw money at the problem. 

Again, the money isn't there anymore... and really, that's okay.  Two points:

  1. Well-acted and well-produced are not terms that are dependent on budget.  

 Sophistication is a function of story and character.  I can tell a sophisticated story in any location.  And thankfully, technology in the hands of talented people has resulted in high quality images - production value - at low cost.  You can shoot anywhere now - meaning the pool of talented actors and others aren't just working in the usual suspect cities.  If you're a fan of opera then you realize there are lavish spectacles in theater and there are stories told on a bare stage - both can be compelling.

So the line in the sand you're trying to draw here between web series as just cat videos** and television is already blurred. There's quite a few sophisticated-looking, compelling web series out there.  Here's one.  Here's another.  Both made for peanuts compared to television shows. 

(and both are better looking than some shows we've both seen on the tube)

To paraphrase Rogers from a conversation we had awhile back - the only difference between the look of an expensive Hollywood production and an indie is just giving  a damn. The tech is there.



So let's put to bed this idea that it costs a lot of money to create compelling cinematic stories with high production value that people will pay for.  That's an artificial barrier that doesn't exist.  We know that people will pay for what interests them.  The point is that this business has spent a lot of money that hasn't shown up in story or on screen.  That's part of the reason people have flocked to other forms of entertainment (video games, web videos).

It's our job to change that... to look at the story and say, "How can I get the most entertainment value, the story, to my audience for the money I have?"  Because if we don't do that - if we don't rethink the business and how it operates hand in hand with story and not just money - then there will be fewer and fewer shows, and more and more people out of work.

Then we all lose. 


             2. This is also part of why multi-platform is being discussed in the first place. 

If you can't put all the story in the show then you NEED other ways for people to become part of  your story's world and characters.  Inexpensive ways - art, text, audio, games, etc... Immersive ways.

People won't stop wanting "sophisticated stories that are well-acted and well-produced."  We'll just have to create them for less and tell those stories across multiple platforms. 

We can do that.


** to be fair,  there's a lot of cat videos.

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