Future Of Film - post 5
Lessons from the Future of Film ‘20: Unprecedented Diversity Powered by Democratised Technology
Future of Film Summit 2020 was designed to be the space where film’s future can be created. Across 3 densely packed days of keynotes, panels and workshops, leaders in film discussed all aspects of the future of film from production technology, innovative business strategies and audience behaviour.
The following are my key takeaways on what this means for the future of film.
Film’s Future is Diversity.
What does this simple but powerful statement mean?
It means that in the future, film (by which we mean all screen storytelling) will include a previously unimaginable multitude of stories and perspectives. This will be driven by the increased appetite from audiences for a wider range of stories (already evidenced on platforms like Netflix) as well as a massive lowering of the barriers to entry for production quality, made possible by technological innovation (see below).
Keynote speaker Effie T Brown says it thus, “You can’t make something about us, without us!” which means you also can’t fake this diversity - it needs to - and will - originate from all areas and from creators of all backgrounds.
This is going to be powered by new technology… If the iPhone meant everyone got a movie camera in their pocket, virtual production means everyone can have a movie studio on their laptop!
At the Summit we unpacked the term ‘virtual production’ into roughly two camps: the LED backdrop in-camera visual effects favoured by THE MANDALORIAN and the fully computer generated work that can be achieved directly on the engine. Both have incredible potential but it is the latter which offers ore immediate scope for new voices to deliver high quality outputs at little budget, with remote teams that can literally be located anywhere in the world!
Unprecedented diversity empowered by new technology is an incredibly exciting, democratised and vibrant vision for the future of film but we need to remember this is not set. In order to realise this potential we still have much to work out, including:
Training and skills are badly needed in Virtual Production
Felix Jorge, Founder of Happy Mushroom, made the point that a major skills shortage in virtual production is currently a handbrake on progress. The audience at Future of Film also identified this as the most pressing challenge in terms of incorporating this technology into their platform. The technology will become more accessible and Epic Games are doing great work with the Fellowship but more needs to be done to truly open up this opportunity - particularly with more diverse audiences.
The future of film is going to be ‘story first’
Instead of a single film, creators are increasingly going to look at building, exploring and monetising story worlds across multiple forms and formats. Again, the technological convergence presented by game engines are key to this with their integral potential to share assets (like characters, settings, worlds!) across various outputs. This presents an opportunity for creators to regain greater control over their work - but creative and business models need to adapt. Independent studios like Blazing Griffin and Maddison Wells Media are pursuing this path. Will the majors and streamers be able to keep pace with this new approach?
Community will be key
One of the most exciting outcomes for me during the 3 day interactive Summit was witnessing how engaged, responsive and supportive the watching community was - asking and answering questions and supporting each other. This is a learning process for all of us and it is imperative to seek out and/or build supportive communities where we can ask questions, learn and progress together.
The collapse of the theatrical window has inevitably attracted a lot of attention but the industry needs to rapidly adapt and how we can effectively, ethically and intelligently market films across all platforms. How can we empower discovery and how can we provide channels for the multitude of work and formats that are coming our way? In the Innovation Keynote Jason Blum attributed at least 50% the success of a film to marketing - and he stressed ‘at least’!
Building direct channels with audiences is a key opportunity here - a move away perhaps from curating films for audiences to curating audiences for films (something we are driving at usheru).
These are some of the key areas that we will be focusing on at Future of Film as we continue our mission to be the space where this future is created but we need to remain open-minded about what film will become.
With these new tools in the hands of new creators, film’s form is going to evolve. ‘Bullet time’ inventor John Gaeta made the point that linear ‘sculptural’ film may come to serve as the gateway into a an immersive and interactive world.
Fellow THE MATRIX pioneer and Epic Games CTO, Kim Libreri similarly believes that the convergence of the technology in media production is going to create something radically different and that in the next 20 years we will witness “the most interesting evolution in the form since the birth of film”.
After a year that has challenged so much of what we knew about film, Libreri's vision feels like a wonderfully inspiring beacon for our collective future.