I’m looking forward to this panel, because it’s a new batch of panelists for me, different from the usual suspects at Vancouver, IFP Market and London. We’ll be discussing some of the same topics as past panels: on-demand theatrical booking, content discovery, the up-scaling of the theatrical experience. But the added perspective of the bigger-budget, older-school Goldwyn and Zeitgeist representatives should be interesting, and if we’re very, very lucky, maybe we’ll see another showdown. Aaron will also ask us about how the writers strike ties into Internet distribution. One of the greatest consequences of Internet distribution is a shift in power, so we should have a lot to talk about.
More and more frequently, filmmakers ask me for feedback on their film websites, and I keep seeing the same thing: heavy, multimedia sites built on Flash. I keep seeing site navigation all in a full-screen image representing some iconic place in the film; animations of design elements flying or fading in on every page; music playing automatically; long loading screens; and the dreaded splash pages. This seems to have become the standard. Hollywood does it. (See: Beowulf, Lions for Lambs, American Gangster.) The indies do it. (e.g. Margot at the Wedding, Eagle vs. Shark, Weirdsville). It’s awful, and it’s so Web 1.0.
We are well beyond denying that a film website is the most effective and often the only entry point to discovery of your film. The audience has to jump an increasingly absurd number of hurdles to see your movie in the theater. The website is an opportunity to introduce the film as quickly as possible, provide the detailed information your audience and the media are looking for, to engage your audience repeatedly, and to make it ridiculously easy for fans to promote your film for you.
Below, I’m going to explain why this ancient model fails and suggest a few starting points for an alternative approach. Read the rest of this entry »
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the Power to the Pixel conference at the London Film Festival. Liz Rosenthal, director of the conference, invited me to join Arin, Susan and a number of other pals and speak to a breakout group after the rest of the conference. The Q&A was moderated by Richard Ayers of Magic Lantern.
I introduced myself and my role in the Four Eyed Monsters self-distribution. We focused on the application of traditional business principals to the changing models of media distribution. Have a look:
In some ways, this sounds like a great idea. As Anderson writes, it’s a classic model that usually works well: give away the razor, sell the blades. Lowering costs and helping the environment are great, of course, assuming the electricity is generated efficiently in the first place.
But what’s to prevent the downsides that come with similar mobile phone contracts? It’s self-evident that the mobile phone model drives up costs and hinders innovation. How will this be any different? I imagine these cars will come with minimum use contracts. When you can only recharge your car at a PBP charge station, what’s to prevent them from jacking the prices? What motivation do they have to innovate and improve the service, or even maintain it, for that matter? What happens with your car if you’re not happy with your service when your contract expires?
PBP’s fact sheet (pdf) even directly cites the phone contracts as inspiration:
The business model for the electric cars will be similar to that used by mobile phone operators. In the same way that wireless operators deploy a network of cell towers to provide an area of mobile phone coverage, Project Better Place will establish a network of charging spots and battery exchange stations to provide ubiquitous access to electricity to power electric vehicles. The company will partner with car makers and source batteries so that consumers who subscribe to the network can get subsidized vehicles which are cheaper to buy and operate than today’s fuel-based cars. Consumers will still own their cars and will have multiple car models to choose from.
This reminds me of People PC, which offered a free computer with an ISP subscription, very briefly in 1999. It wasn’t very successful; they eventually dropped the “free” PCs and made it just another ISP. People PC, Project Better Place and mobile phones are all basically financing plans. Most people get financing on their cars anyway.
It’s worth noting a few differences between the above models and the razor blades:
Razor blades are relatively cheap, compared to a car. If you don’t like them, it’s no big deal to throw the whole thing away.
Razors don’t come with a contract specifying a minimum number of blades.
You can still use your razors with other compatible blades.
With all that freedom that shavers have with their blades, the companies still somehow manage to keep us buying over-priced blades. They innovate by adding more blades, vibrating and changing the color of that little strip of lotion or whatever. Maybe the free car people can learn from this and find a way to make it work without following the cell phone model?