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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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Stormy Indictments

April 6, 2022

Collect Park used to be a beautiful pond, Collect Pond, which was the main water source for early Manhattan. As more White Men started to gather around the lower part of Manhattan, they threw their garbage and waste into it, and some dead horses, and slowly turned it into a fetid swamp. It was neglected to the point where it was eventually paved over and turned into a park that no one visited. They built a giant prison next to it called The Tombs. It used to be the halfway point of my walk home every night, and I can tell you that it’s usually as empty a corner of Manhattan on a usual day as the Four Seasons landscaping business. So, of course, that’s where Marjorie Taylor Greene decided to hold her non-event of a rally this week for the Orange Man headed to the Tombs. And as I watched this shit-show from afar (meaning from the pages of a print newspaper), all I could think about was how much this freak show of a sordid tale resembles our film industry. 
Ok, you caught me. I’m a whore for attention, and just used the indictment title to get yours. Which pretty much covers everyone in the orange man saga, and this post is not about indictments. Or is it?
All of us just wanted to avoid this nightmare of a movie, but the industry, the powers that be, and the media all tell us we need to pay attention. The only people who showed up were the die-hard crazies, and…. more media. But if you walked a block away, no one was paying attention to the circus except for the circus performers. And more to the point, just one block away from Collect Park is the DCTV Firehouse Theater, dutifully showing some important documentaries to people who actually want to learn something, follow the “real” news and maybe become better citizens while escaping the madness that is what’s in the “news” and popular on the streaming giants of today. 
The disconnect between what most of us want, and what we get is just as dismaying when it comes to films as it is when we look at our politics. It felt to me like a repeat of what we see on Netflix or Hulu (or Roku, or…) versus what audiences really want. Or a replay of the Oscars most years. More misplaced attention, driven by a bunch of Boomers who are out of touch with what America and the World want, and who just want attention for themselves. 
Bezos has Prime because he wanted a new girlfriend. Sarandos has Netflix because he wanted to be more than a disc salesman. Zaslav wants to wine and dine with celebs while making trash television. Your agent at WME/Endeavor owes their paycheck to wrestling, not movies. The buyers at each of the streamers are all looking for the same crap, chasing an audience they barely know, even with their mountains of polling data. And all of them try to break through the noise by… making more noise. Instead of making what we need and don’t know we want, which is more substance, more quality and more nuance. But instead we get something none of us want. Or deserve. All in the quest for more eyeballs, more ratings, and all of it based on some sense of titillation and amusement. 
Everyone at the protest and counter-protest was giving an Oscar-worthy performance, while knowing no one really cared about the issues, they just wanted to give everyone a show.
Sound familiar? To me, it sounds just like the movie business as of late. Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist in disguise, and we are just getting what we deserve. I’d take that bet as a gambler over my hopes and dreams. But I know one thing – no one is being served by this three-ring circus, be it in politics or movies. It’s time for us to collectively change the channel in both our politics and our industry. 

Stuff I'm Reading

Netflix and Marketing - Breaking Through the Noise by Pushing Content that Can Pop: Marian Lee, Netflix’s newest chief marketing officer, is subtly rewriting marketing strategy and delivering the streaming giant promising results. First and foremost, Lee is interested in creating waves around individual titles rather than focusing on the branding of the streaming service itself. Take “Wednesday” for example. Under Lee’s  leadership, “Wednesday” became the second most-watched English-language series on the service, and it’s no surprise: A “What would Wednesday do?” campaign became incredibly popular in local markets around the world, Wednesday’s signature dance over “Bloody Mary” blew up on TikTok, and “Wednesday” promo could be seen everywhere before and after its premiere in airport security lines and in the Uber app. The takeaway: Despite Netflix’s decision to introduce an ad-tier and crack down on password sharing (petty, right?), their marketing tactics are indicative of an evolving strategy evidently required in our extremely saturated and competitive streaming marketplace. Nicole Sperling for The New York Times has the story.  (GSH)

Hollywood Freaks Out About, But Might Gain From, AI: The WSJ has a pretty good article from Jessica Toonkel and Sarah Krouse on the current thinking around the good and bad of AI in Hollywood. When Paramount's tech chief showed the bosses what might happen to the IP around SpongeBob - anyone could MidJourney the character into any scene in seconds - they started to pay attention and get worried. But that same chief is now an evangelist for the potentials as well - as are many who are figuring out that while it makes our hoax of a copyright regime crumble, it also unleashes a lot of potential creativity and cost/time savings. This story just won't go away... so we'll keep updating you on it here. (BN)

Branded Content
Notice the Lack of Brand/Film Articles Lately?: Me too. I've published some news updates on what we're doing with clients, because I am biased enough to think they are newsworthy. And I could be wrong; maybe our projects suck too. But I've not seen much else coming out of the brands and content space that is worth writing about for at least six months now. Prove me wrong and send me some links, but I might have to retire this part of the newsletter if some brands and their reps don't step up their game soon. (BN)

Moving Public Art, Correctly: When artist Elyn Zimmerman’s 225-ton sculpture of granite boulders was in the way of the National Geographic Society’s development plans, it was trucked across Washington, D.C. and given a new life at American University. Rebecca Ritzel for the New York Times writes a piece about the displacement and re-allocation of public art. She contemplates, what happens when you move public art (logistics aside)? How does a change in context shape the art and what happens to the space and people it’s moved to? Read on for the story of another work that took on a new life after it was moved from the Seattle Police Headquarters to the University of Virginia. (GSH) 

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