This week’s Economist features a brief article on the state of Hollywood. Though not a lot will be revelatory to those of us in the space, it does remind us of some interesting trends that many of could hardly imagine just a few years ago.
One example, rumors of television’s demise were premature.
TV is relatively stable and currently lucrative. TV networks earn money from advertising and from the fees that cable and satellite operators pay to carry their programmes. These fees amount to some $32 billion a year in America, and are growing by about 7% annually. People love watching TV, and, per hour, it is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment.
In contrast, film revenues are volatile. Attendance swings like the moods of Claire Danes’s bipolar character, Carrie Mathison, in the TV show “Homeland”. In 2011 American cinemas sold 1.28 billion tickets, the smallest number since 1995.
As studios continue to experiment with new distribution models, and companies like Netflix are getting into the content creation business, both the motion picture and television industries might be in for a period of growth.
Video professionals often discuss the need to include media literacy in education. That ship has sailed. The next generation of professionals, not just media professionals but the whole professional class, has filled that void with the likes of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show. In fact, the current generation of college students is more media literate than any other generation. They are not just media literate, but media fluent as well.
The proliferation of inexpensive cameras, inexpensive and free software, and free distribution channels has given them the tools to become visual communicators. Previously the tools used and materials consumed to craft a visual story were quite expensive. In order to become any good at photography and motion pictures a significant investment of time and money was needed. To put it in perspective, my part time job in high school yielded me enough disposable income to shoot at process two rolls of film (72 images) per week. To distribute those images to an audience outside my family and closest friends was cost prohibitive unless the school newspaper or yearbook wanted to pick them up.
The change over the past decade has been dramatic. For the past ten years I’ve taught a 500-level post production class at Boston University. Students no longer have to be instructed to use the rule of thirds. They know it instinctively. They’ve shot so many images on their phones they’ve discovered it on their own. I don’t have to tell them what works on the big screen doesn’t work when creating a mobile experience. They know that.
I still enjoy comparing the students’ first assignments of the semester to their final projects. The progression is amazing. The difference is that the first projects submitted by the class of 2012 rival the final projects of the class of 2002.
As this generation gets into the mainstream media business, its effect on it will be profound. Its effect on society will be more so. They have their FOX News decoder rings. The remaining question is what will be the new standard of Fair and Balanced.
This was a quick, throw away shot I snapped of my reflection in my office window. The double paned glass messed it up and it just wasn’t very good anyway, so I was about to throw it out.
But then I looked at it saw something very sad. I’m wearing a hoodie and quasi Malcolm X-style glasses. I thought, “Gee, I look every bit as threatening as Trayvon Martin. A piece of garbage like George Zimmerman could shoot me at will and no one would do anything about it.” Sad enough, until I realized it would never happen to me. I’m white.
We still have such a long way to go.
Today was a turning point in American politics. Watching Senators and Congressmen backing away from these failed bills as hastily as they originally tried to push these bills through was quite satisfying. It would be naive to believe we’re out of the woods. These horrible bills will return in some form again and again, like Police Academy sequels.
We’re in the midst of an era where the deck is stacked in favor of large, lobbyist-hiring corporations and the 1%. This small victory needed support from Google. Let’s not overrate people power. We might be able to roll back $5 bank fees and rally to preserve a single DVD queue in Netflix, but the 99% lack the political clout to get meaningful financial regulation and a fair tax policy through this same Congress.
Celebrate today’s victory, but gird yourself for bigger battles.