Undeniably, the cinematic form is in flux. The boundaries are being blurred with a proliferation of experiments and innovations — many of which have been created by our panelists. While the future is hard to predict, this much is clear: we will see more participatory, interactive experiences alongside the traditional linear, passive feature film formats. In the near future, the form will cross multiple platforms, mix and match a variety of art forms (film, gaming, theatre, to conceptual art), and most significantly, be more integrated into our daily life experiences. Despite the preeminence of technology today, the good news is that what will really matter is powerful story-telling and experiences that are authentic and unique, even ephemeral. Creators that fixate on the platform or technical tool will miss the mark.
There are two big uncertainties, however, in allowing this experimentation and innovation in the form to flourish and be part of the mainstream. We want your thinking on how these can be resolved to benefit the artists, the audience, and the business entrepreneurs in the new ecosystem.
1. Business model innovation
Perhaps the biggest innovation that needs to happen is at the business model level, which will be a recurring theme throughout this series. At present, there a few ways to aggregate these creations and creators. Right now these are being done at film festivals, and on a case-by-case basis, which drives up inefficiencies in finding audiences and transaction costs. Even though shorts and other forms are now gaining currency, the default industry thinking —especially within studios— is still the 80-90 minute feature film. Most executives still view all of this transmedia stuff is a side-show and irrelevant, mainly because they can’t see the revenue stream (yet). This kind of denial or dismissive incumbent mindset is a classic indicator of disruptive innovation. Telecoms thought the same of texting; Kodak thought the same of digital photography; Microsoft thought the same of the Internet… the list is long and distinguished. Sooner or later, a new marketplace will be created to create and connect audiences, and it will look very different from the “command and control” business model we see today. The critical uncertainty is: how fast will this happen and to the benefit of whom? As our panelists discussed, the solution space for this is potentially in the emerging Sharing Economy. If creators could share audiences (never been done in this industry), share best practices (fear of failure gets in the way of this), and share infrastructure than a new ecosystem is more likely to emerge.
2. Balance between passive and interactive entertainment
The other big unknown: how do people want to interact and participate with the creation and production process — from collaborating to shape plots and characters to crowd funding and distributing. As we mentioned, we will still want to see feature films. This kind of escape, the thrill of submitting to the imagination of another, will always be in demand. Rather, the question is how much and under what conditions will people want to get interactive? Our panelists suggest some criteria: when people want to make meaning, to contribute to a cause or create impact; when people want to find community and express themselves. Our question to you — the crowd — is help us flesh this out. What will this balance look like? What are the optional conditions for transmedia? For interactive experiences? And is there an emerging typology for these kinds of interactive experiences?