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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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May 9, 2024

It’s been another week where I feel like I’ve met with a dozen producers who are about ready to throw in the towel, because getting films made in today’s market has gotten so hard. I’ve also met with filmmakers who are shocked to learn that even though their film has played X number of great film fests, no one is interested in buying it, and with others who are accepted into some great festival, but sales agents want to wait to see “how things go” before getting involved. And then on the corporate side, there was news like the NYT cutting backon its documentary ambitions (presumably this doesn’t impact NYT Op-Docs as of now?), and that Zaslav is ready to make even more cuts over at Disco-Brothers, even as his pay keeps going up. Lots of doom and gloom, per usual. 
There are also some bright spots, of course. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I also know a lot of folks building new tools, launching new ideas, and creating new systems to replace the old ones that are falling apart. One of these great new things is coming to us not from some scrappy start-up, but from a major corporation – Tubi, which is owned by Fox. While they are small and scrappy compared to Netflix, no one would call them underfunded… or unoriginal, but probably unorthodox, and what they’re doing now is something I think all of us should be paying attention to, bigger and smaller companies alike. 
In fact, Tubi is one of just a handful of places where I’m consistently seeing good things and hearing good news. As I’ve written about here in the past, and as has been covered all over the media (here’s twice in the NYT for example), Tubi has been doing some interesting things in its programming. And this week, they made one of their smartest moves yet, launching their new Stubios program. Stubios is their new “fan-fueled studio” where “creatives” can pitch ideas for new movies and shows, get feedback from their fans, build up an audience, get “greenlit” by the crowd, and then if that show hits a viewership threshold, get an automatic renewal for a second season. Pretty cool, right?
You may think this sounds a lot like Kickstarter or other copycat crowdfunding schemes, and to some extent it is similar (A similar recent project is the Angel Studios Guild, which I’ve written about before), but a key difference here is that if the crowd approves your project, Tubi steps in with financial and production support, and they bring in creative support from Issa Rae and Color Creative. It’s not only about the fans donating or investing in your project with money.  They’re investing their attention, and their own ideas and feedback, and Stubios is listening and augmenting that voice with its own creative help and support.
What’s key to all these good ideas, and what everyone should be noticing if you haven’t already, is that they’re embracing participatory culture. It’s not just about creating a fan base, it’s about letting your audience participate in the creation, and curation, with you. It’s a conversation, really, between artist and audience. And in the case of Stubios, the audience, the artist and the studio. I’ve been writing about participatory culture for a very long time – here’s a chapter I wrote about it for a book back in 2011, for example, but it’s been taking a long time for the film world to finally wake up to it. Sure, there have been a few examples (Four Eyed Monsters from 2005, anyone?), or more recent things like Bandersnatch, but for the most part, it’s been gaming, VR, XR, and live-event type folks who have been the early adopters and leaders in understanding participatory culture. 
What folks need to understand is that participatory culture isn’t just one trend – it’s a definitive part of who we are today. It’s what people expect. Just like we live in an attention economy (oh wait, another chapter from 2011), we now live in a participatory culture. The more you – or your company, or your art – embraces this part of our culture, the more success you are likely to achieve. People want, and crave, that interaction. It’s why things like TikTok and Facebook are so damned successful, of course, but it doesn’t mean everything needs to become a social network. People still want to lean back here and there – like they’ll do when they watch a Stubios movie on Tubi in the future. Or like they do when they go to an Angel Studios movie in the theater. But a substantial portion of them want to participate more – like attending tonight’s Angel Studios Illuminate Event (May 9, 2024) – where they can learn more about the projects they greenlit through the Angel Guild. Their movement is not only about faith-friendly films, either – it’s about building a participatory machine. Which is what Tubi is doing with Stubios, and what I think anyone who is creating anything new for film should be considering – how do I make this more participatory? The better you answer that question, the better your odds of success today. 

Stuff I'm Reading


DocuMentality To Release Report on Mental Health in the Doc Industry On May 17 w/ Virtual Launch Event.: DocuMentality is releasing a comprehensive research report on the state of mental health in the documentary filmmaking community. Titled "The Price of Passion: How Our Love for Documentary Filmmaking Impacts Our Mental Health," the report reflects findings from a series of focus groups with filmmakers from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada and additional sessions with funders. The report delves into the profound impact of the documentary film industry on filmmakers, examining broader cultural aspects, working conditions, and personal consequences associated with this dynamic field, as well as participant suggestions on how to create a brighter future. Join the virtual launch of the Price of Passion report to learn more about what the research shows and what the next steps are. RSVP here or visit

Nonfiction Producing Fellowship Applications Open Now: Netflix partnered with The Blackhouse Foundation to launch the Nonfiction Producing Fellowship, a year-round program that gives 5 participants experience on a Netflix unscripted series, doc, and/or sports. The fellowship is supported by the creative equity fund, Netflix’s 5 year, $100 million commitment to invest in underrepresented creatives. Apply now here, and learn more at Rebecca Sun’s piece for The Hollywood Reporter.(GSH)


Branded Content

Stubio: Tubi’s “Fan-Fueled Studio” & A Home For Brands (?): On May 7, Tubi launched “Enter Stubios,” “an initiative that grants Tubi’s young audience a big say in generating the original long-form content they’ll want to stream (Ethan Alter, Adweek).” Creatives can pitch their own projects (to become “Stubiorunners”) and Tubi watchers can cast their opinions about multiple aspects of a young creator’s film/series. “Essentially, we’re passing the camera to anyone who has a story to tell, and we’re putting the…power into the hands of the viewers,” explains Tubi CMO Nicole Parlapiano. Stubio will also work with brands to explore “endemic integrations (Parlapiano)” “like featuring a product or service in the preproduction content or via a larger role in the finished film or series (Alter).”  “It could be one brand sponsor for the whole thing, or it could be on a project-by-project basis (Parlapiano).” Ethan Akter for Adweek has the news. (GSH) Per the big story above, but in case you missed it! (BN)

Short Docuseries from BMW’s Zero Filter Awards: Check out this AdAge article  to watch four short films directed by Stevo Chang and presented by BMW’s Zero Filter Awards which spotlights the next generation of queer individuals “full of optimism, strength, and the ability to express themselves in ways that previous generations could not.” The activists featured are Danez Smith (award-winning author and poet), Gavilán Rayna Russom (artist and scholar), Justin Tranter (Grammy nominated singer-songwriter), and Bamby Salcedo (President and CEO of TransLatin@ Coalition). (GSH)


Old Gun Factory Meets AI to Reduce Plastic Waste: An old-gun factory-turned lab in New Haven, CT may hold the secrets to eating away our plastic waste. The bottom line: A startup called Protein Evolution is harnessing AI to engineer enzymes that can break down plastics and turn them into a material they call Biopure which is indistinguishable from petroleum-made polyester, all without creating microplastics. Protein Evolution has signed development agreements with 5 fashion brands and is looking to scale up. Check out Amy Feldman’s piece for Forbes to learn how it works. (GSH)

As The Podcasts Evolve, Creators Must Weigh The Pros and Cons: As platforms like YouTube and Spotify invest in products that make it easier for creators to merge audio with video, podcasters are beginning to weigh the cost-benefit of producing video podcasts. On the one hand, there’s a growing market for watchable podcasts: A poll from Morning Consult released in Jan 2024 found that 32% of Americans prefer listening to podcasts with video — that rises to 46% among podcast listeners who listened to a podcast in the last month (see more research in-article). On the other hand, creating video would significantly add to a podcaster’s production cost, not to mention, adding video would alter the medium itself: Podcasts are “very intimate… And if all of a sudden you have lighting and cameras and you have hair and makeup, you might lose some of that,... You don’t want the fundamental creative of the thing to suffer, just because you’re trying to exploit it on other platforms…. But then if that could help you find millions of more listeners, well then maybe that’s a worthwhile trade off (anonymous podcast executive).” Sara Guaglione for Digiday has the news. (GSH)

NYC to Dublin Portal Open Now: A new sculpture that combines technology, sociology, anthropology, and art created by went live on Wednesday at the Flatiron South Public Plaza in New York. At 3.5 tons and 11.5 feet tall and wide, the piece allows people from NYC and Dublin to interact with one another in real-time through a 8 x 8 foot portal (or screen). The project uses tech from Video Window, a British company that originally created software to create virtual work environments (let’s hope the portal remains secure and only accessible to Virtual Window!). Check out Ron Miller’s piece for TechCrunch for more info. (GSH)


GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
I realized that I'm not going to be able to keep up with this new concept of a "pool of the week," because I'll run out of pools that I've visited too soon! So, I am switching this up for now to the obvious solution -Pool of the Month. This is a little experiment I'm trying here before turning this into something bigger. Thanks for indulging me with your patience, and the nice (so far) comments back. This week's pool is another one from Sydney, Australia - Wylie's Baths - established way back in 1907, and probably a close second for my favorite pool I've swum in the world, just after Bondi Icebergs (last week's pool). This photo is from my trip there this past year, when I was on the jury for SXSW Sydney.
Much like Bondi, Wylie's is built right into the side of the Ocean, and you get massive waves and you're swimming in the ocean, but with walls separating you from the sharks (!) and other stuff. But here, you have an actual reef in the pool, with tons of tropical fish swimming around, and supposedly there's even an octopus (I didn't see that on this trip). They come out with a bucket every few hours to remove spiny sea urchins (and put them back in the ocean). And the waves can get crazier than at Bondi - we saw at least two people get swept over the wall onto the outside rocks while we were there, and the lifeguards had to rescue these folks, and they had some nasty scrapes. There's a great pool deck - when the waves don't overtake it (that happened too), and upstairs there's a restaurant/coffee shop and locker rooms. This is a bit more rustic, and there's no bar, unlike Bondi. But it is one of the best swims you can do, and I think the flight to Sydney is worth it just for this and Bondi alone - but don't worry, Sydney has multiple other pools (I'll post more in the future), and I guess you could do some other things, too. I was there in October, which is the start of their Summer, but the water was still cold enough that I was going full wetsuit (see the photo here, that's me), but I was among just 2-3 people bothering with that - all of the locals were in their bikini swim trunks and thought I was a crazy American - which I am, but I was staying warm. (BN)
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