I went to film school because I wanted to see my name in lights. Now it's online.
What was the first experience that made you work in Hollywood? For me as a kid, it was watching movies in theaters and using my parents' camcorder to tell my own stories when I got home. Those visits to the theater inspired me to see my own things on the big screen.
I got my first chance when I was in college working at the State Theater. I made friends with the projectionist, who let me place my short films between films. Those movies sucked, but they made a dream come true and drove me to Hollywood, where my next theatrical experience would be at SXSW. I saw my movie Shovel Buddies which debuted for a thousand people.
A dream came true.
But this film didn't stay in theaters. In fact, this was the last time it was shown in one.
AwesomenessTV posted it online for modest results. If you want to watch it now, you need to borrow it from Amazon or iTunes. I thought that made me less of a filmmaker for a long time. And I was concerned that when the studios looked at me they didn't see a writer with a movie that was being made; They saw someone producing something that didn't deserve to go to the theater.
Then came the announcement from HBO Max, and I saw a lot of famous filmmakers face something I had seen a few years ago. This obviously had much bigger ramifications than it did for me, but it put one question in the foreground of my thinking …
Are streamers who are taking over the world and the theaters are suffering now all just content creators?
Are we all just content creators now?
When I sit down to write, I still envision the film coming out in theaters. But the more meetings I do, the more I hear the same chorus: "We want things to be done and we don't worry about where they get published."
The fact is for sure that the studios will still be making movies that they bring to theaters, but unless you're working on a giant IP or some other type of tent pole, most things will likely go to streamers. Producers will get their edit to make it through, and streamers need content to stay competitive with one another.
That seems like good news.
Hopefully there are more jobs. This means that more genres are feasible and the content is always needed. But for some reason it doesn't feel good. It feels like the list of people who see their names in lights is getting smaller and smaller.
It feels like a shift to be a content creator rather than a filmmaker.
This may seem like a title to you, but when these big companies take control, the quality of the products we make will change. Places like HBO Max have a budget thanks to AT&T, and they want everything to be done cheaply. That said, if you're a tentpole movie that's being moved, they might want you to take out the expensive scenes to save costs. Or they want you to do everything digitally … without a real finishing touch because it's cheaper than practical.
Many of these decisions are taken from the artists.
So while we may have more, most of it will be crap.
I think there are certainly several ways to look at this. The less pessimistic thing is this: Soderbergh's new HBO Max film Let Them All Talk might never have been made if it hadn't been made cheaply. It's a great movie with impressive stars, but niche enough not to have a high ceiling.
And when you look at things like Greyhound or even The Old Guard, they thrive on their respective websites because they are marquee releases with stars depicting home cinematic adventures. It may be that these content pages depend on the quality.
But it's hard to say – because they always want and need more.
There are many sides to this argument and this ordeal. I also think that the line between film and television continues to blur. We see it with all the tweets about the run of the Irish and how Tarantino chopped Hateful Eight down into episodes for Netflix.
If most things only exist online, I wonder how much that line will be skewed in the future. Do your act breaks need to be defined more precisely so that Peacock can advertise? Will Netflix ask for a crazy opening scene to captivate people after two minutes of taking their watch number?
And how much more will stars matter?
Famous faces are some of the biggest indicators of what people click. Are writers and directors even important in this new world of content? You just need stars. And how do these stars get bonuses? If it's not pinned to receipts, it needs to be pinned to clicks … if it's pinned at all.
As you can see, this "content" question is having a ripple effect across the industry. I would like to see the NFS viewpoint here. How do you see yourself changing in the industry? Will most of us just work as content creators?
Let me know what you think in the comments.
And good luck in 2021. We see everything change before our eyes.