It’s throughly disturbing how accurate this flow-chart can feel as you trace its permutations through with your finger… And yet I cant help but baulk at cynicism. I declare there has never been a better time to be a screen media practitioner because there has never been so many screens to make stuff for…!
But Don’t get me wrong. I’ve also long declared the so called ‘DV revolution’ to be bogus. Low-end costs came down but mid and high-end really did not; quality production is still costly, time-consuming, complex and difficult. There are more opportunities for production and delivery certainly, but to believe there has descended some utopian digital filmmaking democracy is deluded. As is the oft-cited notion that we are “in a period of un-precedented change”. The creative screen media industries have ALWAYS been in a state of perpetual change. Nothing born of the internet is nearly so radical as the birth of Radio was to a Theatrical culture society. No digital camera so great a herald of change as the Leica 35mm or the Bolex was to the photographers and filmmakers of the time. In the digital age the quality that seems so often missing is ‘perspective’.
Yet, I see this point-of-view not as fuel for cynicism, nor as rain on the exciting digital parade. Rather a levelled headed way to see through the hyperbole, an articulate way to see the REAL opportunities shrouded by marketing hype, guru speak and internet forum chatter.
The real facts as I see them are:
1) There has never been more screens to make stuff for.
2) Never been fewer middlemen between your creation and your audience
3) No tangible limit to how much media people will consume
4) This is the most audience-centric age we’ve ever seen; one built of Responding to rather than Dictating to the viewer.
5) And There has Never been a period more conducive to collaboration and working with the people you Want to work with rather than the people you Have to work with.
Hence for all the implied cynicism inherent in a humorous flow-chart like this, I cant help but be optimistic.
The problems, frustrations and cynicism - on the part of old-salts and newbies alike - seems to emerge most around the idea of Jobs and Making a Living. We may arrogantly say theres never been better time to be a filmmaker, but for the great many who aren’t and cant make a living from it, this may sound like a hollow declaration. To this I simply respond by saying that the creative screen media industries Do Not Owe Anyone a living… No art form ever has. Perhaps its the word ‘Industry’ that’s the problem. When we call it an industry we imply a right-to-work, a right to a living. The simple truth is that if everyone everywhere stopped paying for art and nobody ever got paid for making it, art would none the less still be made… Its’ scale and form may alter but creation is so much a part of our human DNA that creative endeavor will persist with or without an income. This fact alone tells us that the word industry is perhaps misapplied. And so to the idea that anyone is owed a living from the arts is a delusion.
If you want to make stuff, there are unprecedented opportunity to make it and for people to watch it. If you can make a living from it, great. Thats a bonus. But its not something the ‘industry’ owes you. Never has and never will.