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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