In another time, another world, each studio made 200 movies a year and had 20 executives.
Today a studio makes less than 20 movies a year and has 500 executives. They own too many parking decks and too many billboard companies. They’re awash in overhead and it’s pinning them down and they know it. To make them the villains though, anyway, is to make a severe mistake for ourselves. Our job is going to be to develop the muscles and the systems and the goals and the vision to be part of the new world and to think entrepreneurially.
We, as an industry, can create in the next ten to 15 years (which are coming anyway regardless of what we do) hundreds of small, well funded companies that will sit alongside and eventually replace or realign the six giants that we all bow to now. There will still be large untenable dogs in the fight, don’t get me wrong, but the alternative entities will be so slim and strong that the giants remaining will by necessity trim and reshape themselves.
In the coming age, with the help of digital theatrical distribution and fiber optic home internet viewing and new filmmaking technology, small sturdy companies will raise financing by being able to look investors in the eye and show them how the waterfall will and will not lead back to them. We will be able to show businessmen and women with a reasonable certainty a game plan that will comfort them and make creative partners (movie stars) more than willing to work for the spoils rather than the up front demands that cripple the process.
This all will happen. These new companies will come.
You may disagree, you may have data and facts and know business-affairs people with secrets and truths and have been to dinner parties I haven’t, but I am right. There will be many, many, micro-studios. Micro networks. They will be small, well-financed groups. Groups of A Level talented people with long solid resumes. Some filmmakers will even have what I refer to as their own "macro-studios."
I will. I’ll build around myself a small group that will make, finance, market, distribute and sell my films in perpetuity. Instead of raising $15 to $20 million for an independent film or show, we’ll raise $40 or $50 million for the filming and the marketing, and it’ll be an easier deal to make because it’ll be built on sound business structures. We will make the product, farm out the different aspects of distribution to talented veterans that used to work in the world of the studios and now work on their own parsing out their services one or two or three films at a time. The exhibition expert that used to run some giants exhibition will book the theaters for us and take her piece off the top for a handful of micro- and macro-studios a year, and she and her lean little outfit will do better than they did when they got the weekly check from the mail kid with the shiny cart that now owns the new Google.
We’ll hire on seasoned pros for the marketing strategy, the posters, the trailers, the premieres and the junkets. We’ll do things one at a time or maybe three at a time but we’ll have laser focus and coiled passion. Our distribution will be pick-up services we bring on, for which we’ll have no overhead. Pay as you go. We’ll do everything the studios did, we’ll test, we’ll focus and retool, and when we’ve made all the educated guesswork we can make, we’ll dive into cold water and swim as fast as we can. We’ll sell our own home video on our own sites to the world’s flat screens and living rooms and we’ll gladly let other well heeled sites sell our wares as well, but in the end, it will be our wares that we never give away.
We’ll sell less. No doubt. But we’ll have more.
For creative talent, more companies will bring more options.
With more options will come more leverage which will bring respect, more respect will bring more trust and more trust will deliver better work. Better work will be rewarded. Even your insider dinner party data knows this as the truth.
Quality will come back in vogue. Word of mouth will once again be the true sales force of the entertainment sector. Blogs and sites around the world will send their loyal readers to our films and shows and we will pay them for the leads. A well-made film will pay out virtually forever and, as I say, quality will be rewarded with long-tail longevity. As businesses grow, mom and pop internet shops will spring up with big weight from loyal readers/buyers, giants will obviously also grow like Netflix and iTunes and the smaller companies we build will furnish them product that they will gladly sell without ownership.
My point is that we need to get ready for all this. As talent, we have spent too much energy these last few years on what studio heads make (in fact the big dogs on our side make a hell of a lot more than the studio heads) and on what Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep said about SAG, when we should be spending time on how we can bring our dreams and ideas onto the physical plane.
We need to build a new fever to create a new world that will work with and then replace the world that is here now. We all need to think really big.
We’re in planning distance of a new day. Start planning.