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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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Almost There

January 4, 2024

Look, just up ahead, do you see that light at the end of the tunnel? Can you see just around the bend, and are you catching glimpses of something shiny and new? Hearing rumblings of something big coming this way? Can you just about smell it yet? Or are you just wondering WTF I’m rambling on about now? We’re officially in 2024 now, and I sense big changes just around the bend. 
But to be honest, that’s exactly what I thought was coming back in January of 2023, which I wrote about here. Let’s just say… I wasn’t wrong exactly, I was just ahead of the curve a bit, per usual. I think last year was about everyone coming to the same conclusions – that we were f-k’d and needed new thinking. But the problems were so big, we needed an entire year of thinking, so that we can start building all the new ideas in 2024!  And lord knows, I’ve seen/heard a lot of new ideas in the past year. As I wrote last week, most of them will fail, but you don’t get anywhere without trying and failing, right? That’s what all the start-up types tell us, at least. 
And I truly do feel change is in the air. People I know are building and launching new things. Others I know are funding new things. Brands I know are back to trying new things. I’m excited to get back to Park City – Sundance, BrandStorytelling and Slamdance  (and my daily morning swims at Silver Mountain) – because I am certain I’ll find out about even more new things in the works. Not that we’re completely done being f-k’d, mind you, or that we won’t need more smart, collective thinking in 2024, but I think now it can be coupled with a lot more simultaneous action – building new things. And that’s exciting.
Sure, we’re gonna keep seeing some crazy shit in the film business – there will be more mergers, more layoffs, more cuts, more consolidation, less films in theaters, smaller audiences than expected, and I am 100% certain we won’t see any return of normal. But if you’re still hoping to return to normal, you’re probably not reading this newsletter often, or you’d know that normal is never coming back. We’re building something new, and it might become the new normal, but it won’t look much like anything from the past. It probably won’t even be built by many of the people who used to be in the “room” back when things were normal. Most of it will be built by entirely new people, many of whom won’t care/know what used to be normal, which is how they’ll help us get to somewhere new. And a little piece of it will be built by some of us, crawling out of the ashes of the old normal into whatever’s about to come in 2024. And that oughta be fun! So, here’s to the new normal - just around the bend, but hopefully not too far down the road, in 2024. 

Stuff I'm Reading

Despite Pledges, Major Studios Fail To Produce More Films By Women and People of Color: In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, major studios, networks, and producers said they’d commit to tangible racial justice and inclusion efforts. But a report by USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative finds that the entertainment industry’s pledges to support inclusion are “performative acts” and “not real steps towards fostering change.” And despite women-directed box office hits like “Barbie” and “Cocaine Bear,” women directors are still not getting the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Key findings include: (1) Only 26 directors (22.4%) of the top 100 grossing movies in 2023 were from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups; (2) Only four women of color (3.4%) helmed one of the 100 top-grossing films of 2023. Three of those women were Asian; (3) The percentage of women of color directors in 2023 was essentially unchanged from 2022; (4) 116 directors were attached to the 100 top-grossing domestic films in 2023, but just 14 of them were women; (5) Universal Pictures hired four female directors in 2023, a high among distributors. Takeaway: “One film or one director are simply not enough to create the sea change that is still needed behind the camera. Until studios, executives and producers alter the way they make decisions about who is qualified and available to work as a director on top-grossing films, there is little reason to believe that optimism is warranted (USC study authors).” Give Brent Lang’s piece for “Variety” a read for more numbers and takeaways. (GSH)

Unpacking DOC NYC: Anthony Kaufman provides an in-depth, critical examination of DOC NYC, touted as “America’s Largest Doc Film Fest" over at Documentary mag. Exploring mixed sentiments (concerns and satisfaction) from within the documentary community, Kaufman discusses DOC NYC’s ability to deliver on promises, barriers of entry and high attendance costs for filmmakers, its motivations and commitment to community, and its for-profit status under AMC Networks. There’s a lot to unpack here, so head to his piece for the full picture. (GSH) Ed note - Anthony's been on a roll with good articles on the business, with two other big pieces lately. You can see all of them here. (BN)


AI Predictions for 2024: Generative AI blew up in 2023 and will continue to be a dominant force in 2024. Forbes contributor Ron Schmelzer anticipates that in the new year, vendors will capitalize on AI trends by incorporating it into a multitude of products, leading to a shift from AI euphoria to AI realism into potential dissatisfaction as AI tools might not deliver as expected. Generative AI will be incorporated into products that will lead to unexpected and unconventional uses — i.e. in toasters instead of spreadsheets — paired with a cognitive dissonance from the general AI-using public (“why is it taking you months to build an AI solution when I can do something right now with my generative AI thing in a few minutes?”). We’ll also likely see tougher Generative AI laws and regulations that stem from concerns about bias, copyright problems, and truth challenges. Lots more in Schmelzer’s article which you can find here. (GSH)

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