There is an interesting article on Salon.com about the independent film industry. Although independent filmmakers deal with different problems than independent publishers, there are parallels between the two groups. The article discusses how “independent” films are being taken over by subdivisions of the same megaconglomerates that pump out the blockbusters (and own most of the big publishing houses), and how new digital delivery systems are changing the way films and television are experienced. These are the same megaconglomerates that make up the AMPTP, and the sweeping change to individual digital consumption of media is the major focus point of the ongoing WGA Strike.
Some quotes from the article:
“Nobody has a clue how audiences will be watching adventurous, modestly scaled, sub-Hollywood films in five or eight or 12 years, but everybody’s pretty sure they won’t be watching them the way they are right now.”
“Nobody disputes that the Hollywood studios’ boutique wings produce, acquire and distribute lots of worthwhile films, but they’re simply not playing in the same stadium as genuine independents like IFC or Magnolia or THINKFilm or Samuel Goldwyn, not to mention the many smaller companies clinging to the fringe of the business. As First Run Features vice president Marc Mauceri told me last year, the mini-majors and their upscale, awards-ready product should be understood as ‘a side strategy of the Hollywood conglomerates.’”
“The studio specialty divisions, he says, ‘release a lot of good movies, and that’s terrific. But they are the big gorillas in this little pond, and the way they can play the economics is very different. If something doesn’t work, they can absorb the loss. When something does work, they can maximize it and reap the payoff. Their business model is very different from anything a true independent with meager resources can muster.’”
“Over the past year or so, IFC has committed to a refined version of the controversial “day-and-date” release strategy, whereby films are released in a handful of theaters and simultaneously become available via video-on-demand (VOD), or pay-per-view, to cable TV customers.”
“‘You have to look at how our consumption of media is changing: I watch TV shows on my iPod Nano now, and then there’s the YouTube universe and the whole notion of making things for cellphones. It’s not up to us to decide what a movie is or how people watch it.’ For an entire generation of younger viewers, she adds, watching movies on some version of the small screen has long been the primary mode, and going to a movie theater is a rare and special event.”
“‘I think we have a new audience and their attention span is different. It might be a cliché, but I really think it’s true. There’s this social-networking mentality; they’re Twittering, they’re blogging. There’s more commitment to, you know, the experiential moment, and not much commitment to longer moments.’”
With the recent FCC decision to further enable megaconglomerates to monopolize media in whole regions, by removing barriers to companies controlling both broadcast and print outlets in the same city, independent publishers have even more reason to “think outside the box.” Like independent filmmakers, we’re going to have to be nimble and resourceful, and ready to exploit new avenues of distribution as fast as possible, or the Big Guys will bully their way in first.