|Full video from Telegraph.co.uk|
He disrespects America's wasteful insistence on pilot episode based commissioning of TV series. He claims that giving viewers the ability to "binge" on reasonably priced series can help save content distributors (and creators) from the level of internet piracy the music industry suffered last decade. He asserts that the boundaries between movies, TV and streaming content are indistinct: just "stories" on a screen. All pretty sensible stuff that most internet users have probably felt for a good 5-10 years, but coming from a big name movie star and being lapped up by the media.
For example: I really liked "Continuum", as I laid out in my previous blog post. The level of intrigue a good series like that can cultivate is utterly unattainable for feature film pieces. Also, the conclusion of "Breaking Bad" precipitated a months long media frenzy in my news feed. Great show, but a bandwagon I'm not going to jump on here.
No film can generate that kind of on-going, free publicity, let alone develop such well loved characters or cover so much ground in such detail. I've become pretty resigned to a continuing drought, as far as inspiringly novel (sci-fi) films are concerned. Neil Blomencamp made perfectly clear that his summer blockbuster was necessarily polished (away to blandness) for mass market appeal.
Memetically, shorter/smaller spreads faster/better. Hence the massive influence of Twitter's succinct format and the 20/10/5 minute pop-science TED talks. A 40 minute episode is a far less daunting investment of time, fitting comfortably in life's interstices. Ungainly films demand timetabling into one's personal schedule as carefully as a fancy meal out, which is increasingly difficult in our accelerating lives.
Series trump feature films by being bigger too. The greater volume of story allows more permutations, hence more room for novelty, an attractive trait for this here meme machine (me). Each successive episode has higher saliency (to a potential view's brain), thanks to the previous episodes (they've seen). A kind of memeplex with each show reinforcing the other's chances for selection.
"I hate television. I hate it as much as I hate peanuts. But I just can't stop eating peanuts." (Orson Welles, via Kevin Spacey's recent address.)Movie executives have long rallied against the limits of their medium, pushing out sequels and paying well over the odds for universally known faces. It's not just a lack of imagination, it's mostly that they know people's attention is piqued by things that are only partially unknown, rather that totally alien. Hence they talk excitedly about franchises and "IP", doing their best to serialise a discrete medium.
With computerised special effects, sci-fi's bread and butter, now obtainable on marginal budgets, it seems that cinema's legacy hold on this block-busting genre is becoming ever looser. There's also more scope for niche appeal with the cheaper production values of TV, making modest revenues acceptable (even more so web).
Lower budget, lower performance pressure, seems to be the way to breed greater diversity/novelty. I've previously stated that animé does well for this reason, penetrating further than live action TV could, into the realms of imagination. Bringing such gems as "Full Metal Alchemist" (2003) to life, "Cowboy Bebop" (1998) for an even more classic example (as well as fleshing out the GITS franchise with the SAC series).
Spacey probably just channeled the general hub-bub about 'convergence', regarding this industry (and the various multi-media, consumer hardware). But really, the plethora of subtly different digital viewing platforms are creating more of a divergence. Media is no longer forced to fit either cinema length, or TV scheduling length molds, opening up a greater idea space. A spread into new territories, promising a boost to multimedia speciation, rather than homogeneity.
Netflix is rapidly expanding into funding content creation, since their first series last year (2012), they're now aiming to double their current budget for original material to 20%. That's a paradigm shift away from being the online equivalent of a DVD rental store. But it's more significant than a new big-boy breaking into the domain of award winning dramas, currently monopolised by cable TV companies. TV is traditionally passive viewing, broadcast, but digital viewing is inherently active: "intentional watching". This should provide faster, more direct feedback, influencing content selection.
Even more direct is the crowdfunded approach, with people paying into projects they want to see made. This system is a wonderful way for grass roots to bootstrap worthy little start-ups, a way to bypass the old gatekeepers. Indiegogo, AngelList, etcetera, seem to hold enormous promise for the democratisation of finance, but it remains to be seen how effective this kind of system is. Getting funded is all about looking/sounding good and exciting. There's much potential for the kind of market distorting, pre-purchase selection bias that pushed up camera mega-pixel counts, far in advance of the less quantifiable optical quality. And for use of memetic exploits, like (unrepresentative) YouTube thumbnails that conveniently feature a sexy lady.
For example: this year, a big, enthusiastic fan base catapulted the Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter way beyond it's $2M funding goal, into second place (now 3rd) on the most funded list, with $5.7M. While the fans will be sure to get what they asked (and paid) for, will it turn out to be what they truly wanted? Could this kind of bandwagon funding actually demote variety?
I've just noticed that YouTube is now selling video views, on it's Films channel, at a DVD comparable price point, with payment via Google Wallet (a worrying easy couple of clicks away). But aside from these directly monetised web services (including Netflix, Lovefilm, Amazon, iTunes, etc) there is a whole ecosystem of free to view (ad supported) YouTube content. It's possible to earn £100k through YouTube's "Partners Program", if you happen to be the lucky sole who posted the intensely viral clip "Charlie bit my finger – again!" (400M views).
One off, world dominating videos, like "Gangnam Style", might top the charts for clips with most views, like cultural supernova, but it's the 'channels' that dominate on continuous throughput. Rapidity and volume of video creation seem to be key to success here. On the list of most subscribed channels: PewDiePie's irritating flavour of video game talk-overs is currently beating out Smoshes's, just as irritating, low budget parody sketches, 14.6M to 12.9M subscribers. While channels toting videos that garner around 10k can earn an equivalent to a modest real-world salary, PewDie may have earned over $6M, to date. Bigger still are YouTube 'networks' (collections of channels banded together) like Vevo and Machinima (a term describing cinematic production in real time graphics engines/games, i.e. cheap and accessible CGI) are even bigger, raking in billions of views per month. A very interesting, fluid landscape compared to traditional TV channels and cable networks, etc.
Aside from Lady Gaga music videos, Youtube seems far less friendly towards high production value (fiction, drama, etc). There's some done on a shoestring by up-and-comers, presumably hoping to to use it as a launchpad to gainful employment. But serious sci-fi web series seem generally borked for now.
[Update 2013-10-20 - Significant rewrite and augmentation.]