Over the last decade, as the tools of filmmaking became less expensive and more generally accessible, there was much excitement about what came to be known as the “democratization” of filmmaking. Suddenly, one didn’t have to be rich or the relative of a studio executive to get a movie made. In addition, web sites such as YouTube and others opened up distribution to the masses, creating a new paradigm that was dubbed “user-generated content.”
All of this sounded great on the surface, but like other seemingly positive advances -- remember the “thousand channel universe” or the “long tail theory?” -- there are always unintended consequences. While it was true that more people were making “movies” than ever, I would characterize the change not as democratization, but rather as “amateurization.” These market forces -- an oversupply of product and seemingly endless channels of accessible distribution -- caused the bottom to drop out of the professional marketplace. Content in all its forms was being commoditized. Why should distribution channels pay for content when it could be provided for free? If audiences could be attracted by offering them quantity, why worry about quality? In other words, the so-called democratization of filmmaking was ensuring that no one could make a living at it.
So where does this leave us? If you think this will be another in a series of doom and gloom pieces, then you haven’t been playing attention to the latest developments. The same marketplace issues that have been plaguing filmmakers are suddenly creating opportunity. You see, all the businesses that were built to take advantage of the unlimited availability of content are competing with one other to find a model to reach profitability. Consumers are confused and frustrated by the variety of choices and the lack of a coherent way to differentiate among content providers.
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