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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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Tomayto, Tomahto

Nov 9, 2023

The world is literally falling apart around us, yet half of us are still phoning it in, as if tomorrow will remain the same. Meanwhile, some ten percent of us are fed up and dialing for a new future. But while all of us (that ten percent) are on the webs searching for tomorrow, none of us seem to be speaking the same language. It's much worse than tomayto, tomahto, because we aren't just saying the same thing, differently. We are all defining the problem differently, and when I say apple, you see banana(s), and someone else is thinking of Orange Julius and someone else is thinking of launching a new Starbucks or something.

Not only do we not speak the same language, but we also don’t see the same future. That’s a huge problem on the global stage – which I am not addressing here, to be clear – but on the smaller one as well. It’s a big problem if you think our goal is just to get back to the good old days when Sundance premiered your film before Netflix bought it and your investor took all the credit and walked the red carpet while you were in the bathroom debating some crap with the publicist prepping you for an Academy campaign you’ll lose and hate doing… versus doing something different, like… I don’t know, getting seen, being part of the cultural conversation, being remembered, and being relevant anymore. 
Me, I’m more interested in some of the other conversations I’m having lately.  They usually start with some version of this – “Hey, we were just at that same convening of people wanting to save the Opera, but we both said something that made it clear we both realize that the world has moved on to something new, let’s talk about that instead.” And we do, and we can paint a beautiful map to the future – and there are no logos or apples or Max’s or + signs on that picture, but there are a lot of people with open arms, waiting to see some good films, art, games, and combinations of all this stuff. We can stop trying to build a better fax machine and say – hey, it’s 20fucking23, why do I need Netflix at all? Why isn’t this conversation about a protocol versus a platform (h/t Dan Sickles)?  Why aren’t we embracing all of this change and taking it all in a new direction? 
That’s what I find so refreshing about Angel Studios – they focused on what the tech could let them do, and went outside the system instead of trying to work within it. That’s what I suspect will happen over at Edglrd as well. They’re acknowledging the current state of culture and are building for that, instead of for yesterday. I’m hoping that’s what is brewing over with the Color Congress folks as well, as they dream up some new futures. That’s what more of us need to do as well, and what I’ll be trying to do more of – with my clients, my projects, and in this newsletter, in 2024 – build for the future. Because I don't even want to go back to the past.

Stuff I'm Reading

Obituary: Doug Jones, Beloved Indie Film Programmer: A veteran of the independent film scene, Doug Jones passed away on Nov 2. His contributions to the development of film culture in the U.S. cannot be overstated: Jones served for 12 years as Associate Director of Programming for the Los Angeles Film Fest, was the Artistic Director of the Overlook Film Fest in New Orleans, was Executive Director of the historic Images Cinema, and worked as a programmer for numerous major film festivals. Take a moment to read his touching obituary by IndieWire’s Dana Harris-Bridson and Wilson Chapman. (GSH) Losing Doug, an old acquaintance from the film world, was very tough, but seeing how many people he inspired was also touching. Which was also the case with this week's NYC tribute to another light we lost recently - Jess Search. One can only hope to inspire as many people as they did, in so many different ways. (BN)
Branded Content

Map the Gap Makes Nature More Accessible: While most of the world is mapped on Google Street View, hiking trails rarely are. That’s why Yeti, who viewed the lack of click-of-a-button hiking maps as a barrier to access, embarked on a project called “Map the Gaps.” They got a handful of their brand ambassadors to gear up in Yeti equipment, map hiking trails with their GoPros, and upload them to Street View, where everyday users can use tap-ahead and 360-degree view functions to move through the landscape. So far, they’ve only mapped 15 trails, with more likely on the way. My takeaway: It’s a pretty cool project for a couple reasons: (1) Placing these maps on Street View takes some of the scariness out of hiking and makes nature more accessible; (2) Getting Yeti coolers, backpacks and more on Google Maps is pretty genius product placement. You can head to Tim Nudd’s article for AdAge to check out a Map The Gaps promo video.  (GSH)

Connected TV Viewing Habits Across Generations: New research from Magna Media Trials and Samsung Ads reveal insights into different generations’ connected TV (smart TV) viewing habits. Brands & advertisers looking to capture audiences in different life stages should take note…. Here’re some of the findings: (1) Both Gen Z and millennials spend over half their time consuming video content on connected TV, a stark contrast to Gen X and Boomers who watch mostly on broadcast and cable; (2) Gen Z and millennials are attentive to ads at completely different hours of the day and night; (3) Gen Zers are more open to advertising during viewing sessions that last multiple hours, while millennials are most receptive to ads in viewing sessions of less than an hour; (4) Gen Z prefers consisting messaging from advertisers while millennials were more receptive to brands that showed multiple creative variations over the course of multiple ads. Head to Parker Herren’s piece for AdAge for more detail. (GSH)

A.I. Regulation is a Balancing Act: Columbia law professor Tim Wu writes an important New York Times opinion piece about A.I regulation after President Biden signed an executive order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. The bottom line: Government needs to evaluate hypothetical (potentially science fiction-driven) risks versus real A.I-driven harm. Wu writes that however tempting it may seem, “to regulate speculative risks… would be unwise, for two reasons. First, overeager regulators can fixate shortsightedly on the wrong target of regulation…. Second, pre-emptive regulation can erect barriers to entry for companies [that aren’t Google, Microsoft…etc] interested in breaking into an industry.” Instead identifying and acting upon actual A.I harm – the clearest of which is human voice/image/video impersonation – is key. The White House disastrously failed to regulate social media in the 2010s:  “With government sitting on the sidelines, social media technology evolved from a seemingly innocent tool for sharing personal updates among friends to a large-scale psychological manipulation.” Let’s hope we can get ahead of the ball this time. “To its credit, Mr. Biden’s executive order is not overly caught up in the hypothetical: Most of what it suggests is a framework for future action.” (GSH)

Most Information On Disinformation Is Misinformation: Mike Masnick for TechDirt writes an interesting piece about the misinformation that surrounds disinformation. Citing experts in behavioral economics, Masnick’s central point is that “tons of people seem to believe that disinformation is this all powerful force that drives people to do things they never would have done otherwise, in absence of the disinformation [but] there is little evidence to support this.” Of course, disinformation is very real and has powerful consequences — and the social media outlets that’ve amplified the issue certainly capitalize from it — but “as we’ve seen over and over again elsewhere, the issue is often less about disinformation turning people into zombies, but rather one of confirmation bias. People who want to believe it search it out.” Masnick concludes, “we need to stop thinking of people as easily malleable puppets. They’re not. They’re human beings with complex beliefs and motivations and reasons.” More detail here. (GSH)

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