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Four Ways to Build a New Open Infrastructure

by Lance Weiler
October 9, 2009 3:42 AM
4 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

Digital pioneer Lance Weiler joins the fray with a modest proposal for how the film industry should embrace innovation as it faces the digital future:

Where the industry goes from here is going to require a rethinking of the infrastructure that supports it. To realistically move forward, innovation, experimentation and R&D is needed to help create an OPEN framework that will improve the funding, creation, distribution and discovery of truly independent work.

Here are some thoughts:

1. Keep it Open. As the industry shifts, it is key to build the next generation of discovery, creation, and distribution upon systems that embrace the following:
- Open software/hardware that encourages innovation and rewards improvements on functionality.
- Open business models that enable filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors, and audiences to sell, trade, and share films in ways that directly reward performance and encourage a healthy sense of competition.
- Transparency: In the age of connected devices and the real-time web, there is NO reason why tracking, performance and reporting can’t be accessible in real-time.

2. Net Neutrality is without a doubt, one of the most pressing issues for any filmmaker and/or distributor--unless of course your parent company is an advocate of a walled-garden approach to content. The future of new models in content discovery and distribution will rely on OPEN access to the pipes that push content to living rooms, mobile devices and computers worldwide. Many are fighting the good fight to keep access fair and open (Help Save the Internet).

3. Audience Sharing Protocols: Find new business models by looking at how other industries solve problems. For instance, file-sharing protocols enable servers and computers running different operating systems to communicate in unified ways. A similar concept could be applied to the cross-pollination of audiences by enabling different types of audience data to be traded in a common form.

Develop Audience Sharing Protocols that protect the audience’s identity while providing anonymous data that can be shared and visualized. This could make it possible to mine the attention economy that surrounds films. This data would provided insight into who, where, when, what, why and how audiences are consuming their media. If you imagine that each filmmaker, distributor or exhibitor had an audience of 1,000 to 5,000 people then over time it wouldn’t be hard for a collective reach to surpass certain television-size audiences.

4. DataPortability: As acquisition fees continue to erode the data around a particular project, DataPortability, if harnessed properly, could emerge as a new value asset for filmmakers. But many artists are building their audiences on third party services that own the data and therefore own their audience. If there is a glitch, or terms of service violation, you could lose not only your account but your whole audience. (Tip: Mirror your efforts and establish a simple email list that also collects zipcodes.) For more info on DataPortability, visit DataPortability.org or listen to this interview with Chris Saad, founder of the DataPortability Project.

To be continued…

4 Comments

  • Arin Crumley | October 10, 2009 7:47 AMReply

    Thanks lance for the great summary. So OpenIndie.com, how can we help? Well it's simple, we just have to make theatrical be so cheap it's practically free. Provide a way a filmmaker can upload the HD version of their film, fill in some parameters of their movie, provide some payee information and then have that film able to be screened anywhere in the world with an internet connection and a digital projector. It's really very simple. This is what we are doing with OpenIndie.com and we are currently seeking 100 pioneer filmmakers to join in proving that this is possible for more films then Four Eyed Monsters & Paranormal Activity.
    Arin

  • Miles Maker | October 10, 2009 6:17 AMReply

    GOOD stuff! Albeit a bit obvious--the powers that be are slow and resistant (which is a GOOD thing for us lil' guys). Current trends and emerging technologies have created the perfect storm for indie producers to slip their crowdsourced content through the cracks and into the hands (and computers and smartphones and TV's) of niche audiences. The bottom line is YOUR bottom line--when you've produced a film on a modest budget, you're in a win-win situation when you're committed to carrying your audience for the long haul; when you know your audience and where to find them it's all about your body of work and less about your current title.

    Having said that--applying tech-savvy solutions for content delivery is often a small feat for artistic folk. Obtaining a practical understanding of content security and back-end functionalities for digital rights management and point of sale/turnkey solutions can be daunting--providers exist, but assessing your needs and weighing the options is simply complex.

    We see the light and we know where we're going--now all we need is the right vehicle to take us there.

    Miles Maker
    Transmedia Storyteller, Movie Tech Blogger and Social Business Strategist
    Converciné Communications: http://www.convercine.org
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  • lw | October 9, 2009 8:43 AMReply

    The issue of dramatically reducing the cost related to production of films is here. Has been for years. There is a flood of films in the market. And in terms of linking theaters digitally that was first done over a decade ago and currently exists. In fact for a good example look at the model that emerging cinemas has been developing for the last few years.

    But the real issue is not about trying to retro fit theaters or reduce the cost of production. It's about a different type of accessibility altogether. It is about taking this opportunity to establish models and methods which relay on easier ways to connect filmmakers and audiences. But how do you connect with an audience when there is so much competing for their time? What do you do if you lack resources or have no funds for advertising? Even getting people into a theater is something that will greatly benefit from open systems and access to data. Case in point, look at how a film like Paranormal Activity is using an on-demand theatrical model - closing in on a million screening requests. Or what Arin Crumley is doing with his OpenIndie project - building software in a way that directly involves the filmmaking community thus enabling filmmakers and audiences to connect directly. In both cases it's about identifying demand and efficiently managing resources.

    It's wonderful to have access to high quality / low cost equipment and nothing beats a theatrical experience. BUT what's the point if everyone is making films and no one knows they exist?

  • jl | October 9, 2009 7:26 AMReply

    This guy really misses the point. All these items are tech issues that have been around for many years - these won't necessary matter a bit to the film industry unless the real core foundation is changed. What really would restructure the industry is removing the physical distribution structure:
    * Dramatically reducing the cost to create film-quality features: What if a RED setup cost $5000 instead of $50,000?
    * Linking theaters digitally: It costs $1000+ to create a 35mm print, excluding storage, shipping, and time. What if sending a trailer or film were simply a digital bandwidth charge? (some companies are doing this, but it's not widespread ... and there are a host of companies that would hate for this industry to disappear) Theaters could also be more flexible in scheduling screens, vs. the typical Fri-Thu run.

    This would fundamentally allow every filmmaker to be able to offer their film to a worldwide audience without the cost that many distribs face. It will take a long time to get there, but the physical distribution network is a much more "real" problem than "open software" and data portability.

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