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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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Tridemic Time

December 15, 2022

As we head into the end of the year, every Zoom/Teams/Meet/Chime meeting I’ve joined starts with a discussion of who is sick from what. Or is interrupted by a kid home sick, or someone is off camera as they recover from being sick. The tridemic is hitting the US hard, just as the industry tries valiantly once again to somehow visit home for the holidays before heading to Park City to get sick together. We hope
But it’s not just runny noses, fevers and coughs. Everywhere I look, I see ominous signs of three, with tridemics hitting different aspects of the industry. In the film world, we have the tridemic of streaming fatigue, theatrical malaise and the chaos of massive cuts at nearly every buyer, which is giving us a flu where nothing is moving in the business – nothing is selling, nothing is moving forward, things are getting cut even after they’ve been greenlit…another tridemic. 
Digging into the theatrical malaise, you have the tridemic of audiences not showing up for highbrow films, which feeds into distributor’s narratives that theatrical has died, but with exhibitors arguing that the distributors have abandoned them with lousy terms, too short of windows and no attention to which screens work in which markets (or some variation of this). As a consumer, you have the tridemic of not having much you want to see there, or it disappears too quickly, or competes for your attention with blockbusters like Avatar, and that’s an easy decision for most audiences… go the way of water. 
If they go at all. Because with inflation soaring, a recession on the horizon and the actual tridemic upon us, why risk a movie when you can save money at home, where you’ve already spent enough money on at least three streaming services that should give you all the media you need. Of course, they’re cutting the cord, churning through services as they hit season three’s finale, or switching to AVOD/FAST channels for free. 
And of course, the industry is seeing those AVOD/FAST channels as the future. You know, because with a recession looming, an ad industry cutting back and/or switching to where the eyeballs are (TikTok), and an ongoing preference by consumers to not be interrupted, they’re sure their channel will be the one to capture those few dollars spent in the sector. And over in branded entertainment land, we have another tridemic hitting us with recession fears (again), leading to a focus on the short-term thinking of product marketing over brand building (films), which leads to a cut in those divisions.
Tridemics everywhere. Yikes, what a way to end a year or three (the Covid years… thus far). I guess we can take solace in the notion that good things also come in threes! Maybe next year, which is less than three weeks away and is twenty-twenty…three, we’ll find ourselves gearing up for new horizons with Sundance, Berlin and… CPH:DOX. And we’ll find new business models, which pay creators what they deserve, to make quality films. And we’ll figure out how to save arthouse theaters, film festivals and indie producers in one fell swoop. 
Ok, I’m not sure we’ll do all of that, but I remain optimistic that these tridemics will pass, and I remain eager to find solutions to these issues… perhaps by brainstorming with others, in small groups of three. In the meantime, mask up, avoid the tridemic(s) and enjoy the holidays!

Stuff I'm Reading

Congress Makes a Movie: The House Select Committee on Economic Disparity made a movie about economic disparity during the pandemic, as part of a new strategy to bring different storytelling methods to get out a report that might get buried in the news. As the NYT reports, “Grit & Grace: The Fight for the American Dream was directed and produced by Oscar Guerra, an Emmy-winning producer with the PBS program “Frontline,” and features the stories of three Americans. The project, which cost $200,000, was an effort to break through polarization and allow the personal stories of struggling Americans to address the “political rage” across the United States over the economy, said Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the committee." The 30 minute film doesn't have a ton of views yet, but it's a cool thing to check out. (BN)

Another Day, Another Web3-Kickstarter - Paris Hilton and a16z back NFT artist pplpleasr in $7M fundraising round for Web3 video platform Shibuya: Digital artist Emily Yang, well known in the crypto community for her NFTs is building a Web3 service that will let filmmakers finance and distribute movies by relying on fans rather than the Hollywood studio system. Her blockchain-based film platform, Shibuya, is now valued at 50 million, in part thanks to celebs like Kevin Durant and Paris Hilton. At first, Yang’s platform will be centered around animated films. Her first film, an anime short called White Rabbit, is being released in installments of three to five minutes. Fans have the option to purchase tokens to influence the film’s development, kind of like a ‘choose your own adventure.’ The takeaway: Yang is using a Web3-based business model rather than relying on an unpredictable and often confusing film industry. “If I was to go about this traditionally, I’d need to get Hollywood contacts,” she said. “Now, I don’t need to wait for anyone to say yes.” Jeff John Roberts for Fortune brings us the story. Special thanks to Diana Williams of Kinetic for sharing this article with us! (GSH) (BN: Although I'm sure she'll agree with me that there's not much new here, but it is a slow news week).

 AI is finally good at stuff, and that’s a problem: I (BN) wrote about ChatGPT and AI last week, but in case you missed it and want more about it: Artificial intelligence is starting to rival (if not surpass) human ability. You’ve probably seen it with OpenAI’s text-to-image art generation software or with Lensa AI’s incredible digital portraits. They also make decent conversationalists, better than a handful of humans I know. See for yourself and chat an AI here. But while AI is getting really good at what it does, it’s still not without its flaws. For instance, the chatbot is easily tripped up by riddles. It’s also comfortable making things up (like a story, when prompted)… which is weird when you stop and actually think about it. On a darker note, bias seems to be built into its very core: An earlier rendition of Open AI’s chat-bot generated Islamophobic content and had concerning things to say about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, notes Rebecca Heilweil for Vox. As of now, AI is not all-knowing. It makes “mistakes”, and sometimes dangerous ones. It’s getting more efficient and accessible every day and it’s so good at what it does that it’ll change the structures (in education, medicine, the arts…etc) that we’ve taken for granted every day. Check out Heilweil’s piece for more details.  (GSH)

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