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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Weekly musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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The Year to Pioneer

March 31, 2022
(sent a day late this week, as I've been recovering from an apparently non-Covid cold, apologies)

Throughout this week, my conversations have continued back to the sand getting stuck in the gears of our business. Just like my conversations at CPH:DOX (documented in last week’s newsletter, here), everyone is focused on what’s not selling, or not moving, or how their phone calls aren’t getting returned, or who just got fired (those two losses hurt), or what divisions just closed down (that’s just one of several this week), and so on and so forth. Not that this is new or anything, but everyone’s getting a little frustrated that the bad news continues. 
But the conversations I’ve enjoyed having were with folks who are taking this all in stride, because they never expected the turmoil to end. They aren’t saying “oh, this is all cyclical,” either, because it isn’t actually. They know that what really happens is that turmoil comes around in cyclical patterns, but out of each period of turmoil, a new paradigm is born, and the time to pioneer for that future is now, while everyone else is seemingly stuck. As one friend said to me – this is the year to pioneer.
For every call/zoom I’ve had that is doom and gloom, I’ve had two more that are about building something new for the future. I’ve had three conversations this week with people launching start-ups that are building new tools that connect films to audiences in smarter ways. I’ve had another zoom with someone who is documenting all of the great things being pioneered in the climate space – a place more filled with doom than our industry, normally, but where lots of people are refusing to get stuck in the negativity, and are building tools for the future. We brought in a new client who wants to build something cool (to be announced soon) – always a good sign when you’re also seeing layoffs around every corner. I’ve spoken with people who can’t raise money for their films, but they’ve been able to raise money for new business models that address the problems in our current system. And I’ve heard from numerous folks who are bringing people together to discuss these problems and take some action towards solving them, or making them obsolete by building around them. And I was heartened to see that in the UK, policy makers are finally starting to realize they can use regulation and policy to change the game – in this case, by regulating streamers and making sure that there’s a public interest in what’s made and distributed online, not just on the airwaves (if only the US would follow suit).
I thought all this creative experimentation and thinking would have happened during the height of Covid, and we’d be seeing it all come to fruition right now. But I was wrong – we all just had to deal, to survive, for those few years, and the big changes are starting to happen now. This is becoming the year of people getting unstuck, picking up the tools and building new things. Of changing lanes, as I hinted here two weeks ago. So, if you are reading the news and listening to the conversations about the doom and gloom, just remember – that’s when it’s time to build something new. It’s the year to pioneer. I can’t wait to see what everyone builds.

How On-Screen Storytelling Propels Climate Action

Exciting Sub-Genre news! The last two years we’ve been working with The Climate Pledge on what’s become a truly exciting six-part documentary series called FUTURE FORWARD, which showcases inspiring stories of the work companies are doing to preserve our planet. The six films, FUTURE OF FARMING, FORESTS, FLIGHT, BUILDING, WATER, and TRANSPORTATION demonstrate the power of industry to reshape the way we do business and reimagine life on the planet. 

On Tuesday, April 4, 5pm EST join the six award-winning filmmakers behind the FUTURE FORWARD series for a live-streamed interactive conversation on the use of storytelling and cinema to propel global climate action. Moderated by Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner of Global Optimism and Architect of the Paris Agreement, this panel will include Laura Checkoway (Edith + Eddie, The Cave of Adullam), David Darg (Body Team 12, Fear Us Women), Senain Kheshgi (producer of the series and - The Diplomat, Project Kashmir), Ondi Timoner (DIG!, We Live in Public), Samia Khan-Bambrah (Accidental Activist, The Innovators), and Cynthia Hill (A Chef's Life, Private Violence). You can register for the event right now at this link. We look forward to seeing you there!  The films will also premiere the same day on the Climate Pledge website, on Amazon Prime and FreeVee, on Documentary+, and on JetBlue flights (and some gates!) (GSH)

Stuff I'm Reading

Branded Content
Levi’s To Cast “Diverse” AI Models: A few days ago, Levi’s partnered with digital fashion/ AI studio to create a cast of AI models that represent diversity in terms of skin color, size, shape, and age. “While AI will likely never fully replace human models for us, we are excited for the potential capabilities this may afford us for the consumer experience (Levi’s global head of digital and emerging technology strategy).” On the one hand, I can see how it’d be incredibly useful and/or liberating for online shoppers to be able to create or select from a broad range of AI models. I can also see how it’d be much easier for retail companies to use AI models in the future (they wouldn’t have to deal with real humans, real contracts, real photographers…etc). But on the other hand, do we want to live in a world where real people/models that embody multiple levels of diversity are put out of a job thanks to glorified AI tech? In conclusion… I get what Levi’s is doing, but I don’t love it. If they want to fix a representation problem, why not just employ (real) diversity? Jess Weatherbed for TheVerge has the story. (GSH)

Brands in the Metaverse: Disrupt or be Disrupted: The metaverse is predicted to generate between $4-5 trillion across consumer and industrial-based businesses by 2030. It’ll be a vital channel for brands to engage with consumers and vice-versa. With physical-world interactions waning during the pandemic, brands like Gucci established a permanent presence inside of Roblox, featuring a garden, café, and virtual stores where players can purchase Gucci wear for their avatars. Allison Ames for The Drum points out that in this post-physical world, Gucci has succeeded in creating community and brand engagement. She notes that “while a large portion of Gen Z has not yet established the income to independently afford Gucci products ‘in real life,’ Gucci Town enables this audience to experience the brand within the metaverse. This, in turn, creates affinity and brand love. As a result, Gucci is now one of Gen Z’s top two favorite fashion brands. This proves that brands can engage with consumers in new ways even if they’re not actually buying physical products”. Ames’ takeaway for brands: “If you don’t start to disrupt this space ahead of your competitors, this space will most certainly disrupt you.” Read on for her advice on how brands can enter the metaverse carefully and meaningfully. (GSH)

Daniel Miessler’s Predictions For The Post-GPT World: Daniel Miessler, author of “The Real Internet Of Things” writes a pretty amazing piece about what happens to tech and society as a result of an AI boom, so check it out for the details (spoiler alert: we have 24/7 AI personal assistants and AI therapists to look forward to). He also touches on future employment (yes, thousands, if not millions of jobs that exist today will be obsolete tomorrow, starting with knowledge workers). But it’s not all doom and gloom. Miessler predicts AI will unleash a creativity explosion, one which will bring millions of undiscovered, under-resourced geniuses out of hiding and into the limelight. How? AI will “remove many of the advantages that Steven Spielberg has over Takashi Noshimira, who lives in a small rural town in Japan, who is a creative genius….. [and] equalize the playing field massively.” His takeaway: “It’s going to be traumatic, and it’s going to be wonderful. Humans weren’t supposed to be punching a clock at a desk job or a factory anyway.” (GSH)

Banning TikTok Doesn’t Fix The Actual Problem: You’ve probably seen and heard a bunch of ban TikTok news this past week, so I’ll cut to the chase. Karl Bode’s piece for TechDirt tells you pretty much everything the press isn’t talking about (but definitely should be): (1) “[B]anning TikTok doesn’t actually fix the problem you’re claiming to fix if you’re not willing to regulate the data broker space more generally. In large part because Chinese and Russian intelligence (or U.S. governments seeking to avoid warrants) can simply pay data brokers for sensitive information anyway.” ; (2) TikTok isn’t the problem. It’s a general refusal to regulate the data broker space. “Every app on your phone, every website you visit [...etc] track everything about you in granular detail. That data is then hoovered up by an intentionally confusing data broker market where any idiot with a nickel can buy access to it. Claims that this data has been “anonymized” (and therefore completely safe) are monumental bullshit.” Notice how banning TikTok fixes absolutely none of this!? ; (3) ​​”The folks making the most noise about TikTok are not interested in fixing the actual problem. They don’t want empowered consumers opting out of lucrative data over-collection by U.S. companies, nor do they want the U.S. government forced to obtain warrants.” This is a strong point Bode makes here, but I think he’s giving our (dinosaur) politicians a little too much credit… It's extremely evident from the congressional hearing that our congressmen have like zero tech literacy. (GSH)

GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
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