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

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Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media

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What's the State of Social Impact Entertainment?

What's the State of Social Impact Entertainment? Well, the Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment and UCLA have 186 pages of thoughts about that in their new report on the State of Social Impact Entertainment.

I’ve just barely had time to read the majority of it, but think it's a must read for everyone who cares about this space, even though I have some problems with the report. First, as summarized by the LA Times, the report analyzes a variety of social impact projects and identifies some keys to success: "The report identifies some common characteristics among the successes of social-impact entertainment: a strong focus on the story, a deep knowledge of the issue, strategic alliances with key partners and clever distribution plans to connect with viewers."

I think the report is a pretty good summary of where the field has been, who is doing what and what has worked - at least anecdotally. My issues are somewhat minor: it’s surprisingly thin on actual data/measurement; it's too focused on Skoll funded programs (even for a report funded by Skoll) and what I call the "doc mafia;" and if it's going to bother to include new forms like VR and short form video, it should also include more about creative uses of social media. 

But it does give a few good examples of what looks like real impact/change. And with filmmakers, foundations and now even brands wondering how to have an impact, and whether or not any of this shit works, it's a welcome addition to the ongoing dialogue. I'm sure I'll have even more thoughts as I finish reading this thing, but I recommend you add it to your reading queue (oh, and it has pretty "state of the field" maps, like the one I linked above). 

Stuff I'm Reading


Want to learn about people doing cool shit in the film business? Disrupting the status quo? Listen to Film Disruptors, the great podcast by Alex Stolz. I’ve been meaning to plug this for awhile now, but I’m behind on my podcasts to be honest (how does everyone keep up?). Every week or two, Alex interviews people doing some cool, disruptive stuff in the film business. And because he’s UK based, he has a decidedly less American focused lens, which I find refreshing.

AMC Cracks the code for Movie subscriptions: Theatre attendance is up and they’re not about go out of business, quite the opposite in fact. Turns out that copying MoviePass works well, especially if you charge even more for the subscription.

Meanwhile, MoviePass announced a new business plan, that kinda seems like the old plan. But I bet they're not done disrupting just yet. And it did make their parent company's stock climb 40% to just over a penny!

Netflix has a message for Hollywood: Make room for others. Nicely played Netflix, and true as well - leave the Roma debates aside, no one out there is pushing diversity to the top of its agenda like Netflix. And they aren’t just doing it to look good - they have the data, and it must be working. Time for others to follow them and “make room” for more diverse story-tellers and stories.

And Slate thinks Netflix should truly respect cinema and let us watch the f-n credits already. Gotta admit, while I disagree with Steven Spielberg in his arguments against Netflix, I loved this little article which makes a good point about what a creativity destroyer their system is, or as the writer puts it: "But until Netflix lets its customers actually watch an entire movie, no one should ever be expected to keep a straight face when they say they love cinema."

Apple's move into Hollywood is not going so well, especially because of intrusive execs, says the NYPost of all places. Apparently, development folks are angry that Apple is so worried about being family friendly, and has a lot of notes. My take: That's par for the course when a platform is protecting a brand as important as Apple, and there's no need for them to fund the next Breaking Bad. On the other hand, with reports that CEO Tim Cook is getting heavily involved, one can only hope he isn't ruined by Hollywood the way Bezos has been, or he'll be featured in the Post a lot more often.

Stephen Follows has a great breakdown of how a film's costs change at various budget levels. Worth a look if you want to see if your film budget is on target percentage-wise.

Changing of the (Avant) Garde - We are losing and have lost two of the most important figures in American avant-garde cinema - Barbara Hammer and Jonas Mekas.

Barbara Hammer's Exit Interview in the New Yorker is a must-read for anyone who knows her work or cares about the history of avant-garde and/or LGBTQ cinema.

Sky Sitney recently penned a great Obituary for Jonas Mekas in the latest issue of Documentary mag online (he passed away just before Sundance). Given that she grew up around Jonas, she brings great perspective. If you don't know much about Jonas, read his obit in the NYT or their wonderful series about aging where he was featured many times.
(Knowing Barbara, she might yell at me for putting a story about her next to one about Jonas, but that's another article...)
Branded Content
AdWeek's Arc Awards for Branded Content ran online this week, and will be celebrated at SXSW this weekend. Some great campaigns here, including P&G's "Words Matter" piece done with CNN's Great Big Story (which I reported on before), and a nice long form doc from the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau about songwriters that looks very interesting, It all Begins with a Song (I haven't seen the full doc  yet). Read/watch the full list here. At minimum, this list serves as a good “State of the field” report.

Is Netflix moving into Ad-Sales and AVOD? Well, this guy on LinkedIn thinks so, and claims they're hiring for the Unit. If that's true, then we truly created the internet to make a better TV, I guess, which is a shame. But when you're bleeding (borrowed) money like Netflix, you've got two possible new revenue sources - ads and branded content, and they're already doing the latter. 
Thrive announced new hires for its branded content push, which is focused around health/wellness and experiences/events. Will be interesting to see where this goes.

Net Neutrality Back in the News & Congress

Ajit Pai has been trying to ruin the internet before we do it our own damn' selves, and now Congress is trying to stop him. The new Save the Internet Act has been introduced to do just what it says (and TechCrunch sums it up well). Want to add your voice by contacting your Congress-person? Click here.

Copyright © 2019 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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