View this email in your browser
Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Weekly musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

In This Issue

Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media


Past Newsletters


Keep Up With Brian:


Ten (Big) Trends

June 6, 2024

Sometimes it’s good to step back from the business fundamentals (my last few Film 101 posts), and look at the bigger picture. What are the trends and themes that define this moment? What should we be thinking about as a society in terms of where culture is now, and where it’s going next? As they say, you can’t predict the future (you can invent it), but I think most things about the future will be shaped by some combination of these ten trends, and they’re relevant to all aspects of society, but for us, I’ll mainly focus on what they mean for the arts, for films/media, and those of us working in these spaces.
  1. Superabundance
We’ve been living in an era of Superabundance for a long time now. We have more content, more art, more information, more news, more everything coming at us from every direction. We used to live in a world of (often artificial) scarcity – it was expensive to buy, shoot and transport film; you once had to learn to develop photos in a dark room, or hand grind the pigments for your paint. Less people could afford to go to college, they could get those few white-collar jobs, or become a professor and make a living wage. Less people could afford to get on a plane, and go crowd every National Park, and fill my Instagram feed with professional grade photos. Less people could become a prompt engineer and get AI to feed itself off the history of all of this stuff, and make so much more of it that we already don’t even know what’s real or fake in that mountain of junk coming at us. It’s not going away, we’re only getting more, of everything. That’s the world we live in.
  1. Attention Economy
Because of this superabundance, we live in an attention economy now and have for quite some time. People have more options for what to do with their time, and where to put their attention, and their attention is as valuable to them as money. In fact, social media companies have stolen that attention and that value and made fortunes, but we still have more attention to value and to give. Most of that attention used to go to conversation, to reading, and then to gin and vice, and then it went to movies and art, and now it goes mostly to social media, gaming, YouTube, and a lot of places other than where it used to go. If you aren’t getting people’s attention, you disappear and don’t matter anymore, so you feed the abundance with your own posts, keeping the cycle going (unless you’re smart enough not to care anymore, but who are those people?). Most of us just keep adding to the abundance, while trying to get attention – the most valuable commodity today.
  1. Future is Find
That’s why in an attention economy, the future is find. I coined this phrase 10+ years ago, and what I mean by it is this – the history of the internet has been search – looking for great stuff, which is what Google was great at, and they figured out how to monetize it and are now one of the biggest companies on the planet. If the history was search, the future is find – because finding what you want is increasingly hard. The needle in the haystack problem. Those who can help us find the best stuff, and connect us to the people we’ll most like (intellectually, romantically, artistically, demographically, and on and on), and steer us to the things we didn’t know we’d love – they will own the future of the internet/world. A lot of this will be done by curation. A lot more might be done by AI robots. Many have tried to do this via the algorithm, but that’s often more of a form of frustrated search, stymied by false intelligence and rarely leads to finding the best stuff – but some of it will be done by smarter (AI fed) algorithms. None of it will be done by advertising, but some of it might be done by trusted brands. Some combination of this will be the underpinnings of the next biggest businesses on and off-line.
  1. Atomization/Polarization
Something else happens in a world of superabundance, and an attention economy. Because you can’t find what you want, you start to dig yourself into very specific niches, and join sub-groups. Everyone atomizes into millions of groups connected by very specific interests. In more benign ways, it can be great – you find your fellow travelers, and I can spend hours online communicating only with others who care about classic cinema, or obscure jazz, or opera, or reality TV, or layman’s quantum physics, or stoicism, or the latest diet-fad. In less benign ways, it means entire subcultures can exist who just want to tear down the government, or distribute child porn, or work together to hack into the electrical grid. And once I get into these sub-groups, I can choose to listen only to others in that group, and we can share our own culture and mores, our own memes, make fun of others not in that group, or even start to hate anyone not in our group. You don’t like my music? You must be a heathen, and a Republican too, where were you on January 6th? You get the point, because you read this newsletter- I’ve got your attention and we are a tiny polarized sub-group who know something others don’t, right?!
  1. Multiplicity
Simultaneous to all of this, our world is waking up to our multiplicity. We’re becoming more diverse. We’re (slowly) starting to understand variations in gender and sexuality. We’re seeing less relational distance between ‘othered’ people – and are less accepting of the marginalizations “we" used to accept. It’s not enough to think just of diversity – multiplicity helps us include different forms of ability, variations on different spectrums. We contain multitudes… so to speak. A larger group of people are now demanding to be part of what used to be a small group, feeding on its self-imposed scarcity. And each of these diverse cultures and multiplicities can connect across borders, communicate more broadly, and find common cause. They can also atomize into more sub-groups – take any demographic (pick one from the census), and you quickly find that term encompasses multitudes, and leaves out multitudes. It means that what were dominant cultures are no longer. And it’s not going away, either – only expanding. Which is why you see the fights we see over borders, over culture, over things like DEI, and even over what’s considered popular music, or what should be put onto film or streaming. People in power don't like to share it, or wake up to reality, but it also can't be stopped, and we're better for it (but we all know that, right?). 
  1. Riches in (Connected, Sizable) Niches
There used to be a mainstream culture. We had three television channels. We went to the same movies, enjoyed the same past-times, laughed at the same jokes. This was never completely true, of course, but it was a myth that had enough reality to it to make for a few folks making riches by serving the masses. But now, we’ve atomized into gazillions of niches, and there is no one dominant culture. Something can go “viral” and get hundred of millions of views, or billions of streams, and at the same time, millions or billions of others don’t even know it exists. Your band could always be big in Japan, but now your movie can be a big success amongst an entire diaspora of dispersed audiences, and make millions, but never be written about in the New York Times. Everything is now about finding your niche. And niche doesn’t have to mean small – there are entire under-served, large niches, and finding those and serving their needs leads to riches now. In the film world, that’s what Tyler Perry figured out decades ago, and it’s what Angel Studios has figured out today. And it’s what every artist needs to figure out if you want to thrive in today’s attention economy. Because today, these niches are globally interconnected. I can trade rare vinyl with collectors in Belgium or Nigeria. Over 400,000 people heard about films premiering at Sundance this year and added them to their Letterboxd watchlists during the same week as the festival, but will have to wait for our globally dispersed, not inter-connected film system to slowly release those films across territories, and by the time that film gets across the world to New Zealand, half those fans will have forgotten about it. What were once truly small niches – because every fan of something lived in tiny, unconnected pockets across the world – are now super niches, because those fans are interconnected, can share information with lightning speed, and they suddenly add up to sizable audiences (or political movements, etc.), but only if we start to build systems that allow these groups to more easily coalesce and share the great stuff they’ve found (you know, let the internet work like the internet should).
  1. Participatory Culture
That globally interconnected fan base – that large, underserved niche – is also not just a consumer anymore, but also a creator themselves. They want to be in a conversation with you, with one another, and with the rest of the world. It’s no longer a one way street. It’s all about participatory culture. It’s not just a trend, it’s part of who we are now. It’s why gaming is so popular (and always has been), and it’s why social networks are popular, and why those like TikTok that encourage interaction and which allow things to start as one thing and morph into millions of other things, are more popular than the culture we used to have – like a movie, where you watch it, but your interaction is more limited (but not nonexistent). I’ve written an entire newsletter post about this recently, and it was an entire section in a chapter I wrote for a book once, so I won’t go on much more here. But those who embrace participatory culture will be more likely to succeed in the new economy than those who resist it. Which leads us to the next point.
  1. The Creator Economy
Participatory culture is why we see the rise of the creator economy.  I almost kept this within the participatory culture bullet point, but as Evan Shapiro points out, the creator economy will become a half-trillion dollar industry by the end of this decade. As he also points out, the creator economy is Not the same as influencers. The creator economy is made up of everyone who creates – which is just about everyone now. I’m doing it here with this newsletter (even though I don’t directly monetize it). Anyone making videos and posting them online is doing it. Anyone making and sharing their art – be it music, fine art, anime, graphic design, comics, animation, dress-making – this list could go on forever. All of these folks are small pieces of the creator economy. A small percentage of them – the 1% - become huge, like Mr. Beast (who has more subscribers than Netflix now). But a lot of others are able to start their Substack (this isn’t one by the way, but people keep congratulating me on my Substack…), or launch their channel, or their podcast, or their Flickr feed, or their shop on TikTok, and more of them than you’d think are able to make a living from it. They are now competing for your attention with Hollywood, with gaming, with everything else in our superabundant world. That’s why even good curators – think Reese Witherspoon with her book club (not her as an actress, only) – are now part of the creator economy as well. And each of these creators is more interconnected, more multitudinous, more of a sizable niche… and all of the above. Which is one of the main reasons the old media/entertainment world is having such a hard time these days – because we only have so much attention, and there’s so much good stuff coming at us from the new creator economy.
  1. Values, Authenticity, & Experience
A funny thing happens in this super-abundant, super connected world. All of these things fighting for our attention, also make us crave authenticity more than ever. We want less fake news, less fake stuff, and more “real” things. Just like Walter Benjamin told us, the “aura” of the real thing, the original artwork, the true outdoor experience, becomes even more important the more its virtual version spreads online. Your Instagram post of that artwork becomes the one I need to visit. That meal, the one I need to eat. That hike, the one I need to experience. That restored classic film you wrote about on Letterboxd is the one I need to see at the MusicBox Theater. It’s why repertory cinema is having a moment, and it’s why you have to wait in line to get to the top of Mount Everest. It’s also why people – younger ones in particular – want their favorite brands to stand for something – to show their values. Why they want their employer to do the same – if we’re going to give our attention (which includes our time and our work hours) to something, it better have meaning, and bring me more joy than I can get from just spending that same time online doing something else. The irony is, you have to embrace the attention economy things that seem like time sucks – scrolling through or posting to TikTok, etc. – to focus one’s attention on those “real” things of more value. It can twist your brain a bit, but it’s why artists who are embracing participatory culture and becoming part of the creator economy are succeeding – because they are easier to find, and then we might go offline to catch their performance, or pay to go where they went, or share their same values. And it’s why I might find the perfect place to unplug for a week only because I spent a few hours very plugged in before I bought my plane tickets. Things that demand our attention – a long book, or a long movie – can only get discovered via the same attention economy we are escaping in their enjoyment.
  1. Converged
But wait, I’m at trend number ten and I haven’t mentioned the metaverse, or ChatGPT, or VR, or robotics, or… never fear, convergence is here. Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, XR, even things like Neuralink, or robots like Sophia are part of an entire category I’m calling convergence (until I think of a better name… got one? Send it to me). Each of these is a distinct thing, an entire field of thinking, but they’re also slowly converging. Soon, I’ll be able to think about a movie and it will appear before my eyes, without a camera being used, or a headset being worn. And I’ll be able to walk through it, and interact with the characters – if I want to, I could still sit back and enjoy the show – and someone else can take that world and change it into a new one, add their own voice, and share it again. Both/all of these creations will inform some AI which will allow someone else to experience it some other way. As these worlds converge, we’ve been developing a new literacy, what Greg Ulmer calls electracy (for electronic literacy), and that informs a new politics, new religions, new ways of being. We’re not fully there yet, but we’re all building this stuff together by way of the other 9 points I mentioned above, and the mix of the ones here (AI, VR, etc.). Thinking about where this converged world might go would be smart right now, because we’re building it without being fully aware of it yet – and that’s when you build the next big thing, the next business model, the next… next. But that might need its own post! 
Those are the ten trends I see shaping our culture now and for the foreseeable future. I might post a bit more about each trend in the coming weeks, if people would find it helpful (let me know). And let me know where you agree, disagree, and what you think I missed.

Stuff We're Reading


The Brown Dog Premiere: We're so happy here at Sub-Genre to be working with WeTransfer's WePresent and some great artists to release The Brown Dog this year. The film premieres this week at the American Black Film Festival in Miami, near simultaneous with its premiere here at the Tribeca Festival on June 14, 15 and 16, and then at Raindance in London. There will be a lot more news on this one soon. 

The Brown Dog is a short-animated film starring Michael K. Williams (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire) and Steve Buscemi, who also serves as executive producer. The film is directed by Nadia Hallgren & Jamie-James MedinaThe Brown Dog represents the last featured performance (narration) of Michael K. Williams, who tragically passed away in 2021. It is also Nadia’s narrative directing debut. The film also features an original score by Tyshawn Sorey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. 

Synopsis: On the coldest night of the year, a night watchman clocks into his lonely security booth in the empty parking lot of an upscale apartment complex. Voiced by Michael K. Williams, the character — identified only as “NOBODY” — spends his nights composing endless security logs to stay awake. "What will these bizarrely acute observations amount to?," NOBODY asks, as abandons his post and goes in search of a mysterious brown dog. (BN)

The State of SVOD: IndieWire contributor Tony Maglio writes a couple articles about the state of streaming today. In this one he discusses Netflix’s film/TV acquisition and subscription trends post COVID 19. The bottom line: Netflix is pumping the brakes on acquiring new films and series — they acquired 7,700 films in the 2nd half of 2023 which is 20% lower than what the service had in the first 6 months of the year. A similar trend was observed in the number of TV series they acquired. At the same time the streaming giant added a whopping 22 million subscribers in the 2nd half of 2023, thanks to their crackdown on password-sharing. Despite incredible subscriber growth, Maglio points out in another piece for IndieWire that Netflix doesn’t inspire the most devotion compared to other streamers. In fact, Amazon Prime Video has the lowest rate of subscriber cancellations in the industry with an annual churn rate of 8%. By comparison, the Discovery+ churn rate is an embarrassing 43%, followed by Apple TV+’s 40%, Paramount+’s 24%, Disney+’s 21%, Max’s 17%, Hulu’s 15%, and Netflix’s 9%. (GSH)

Branded Content

Tribeca X Panel: Uniting Artistic Collaboration and Strategic Distribution for Lasting Influence: Next week, I'll be at the Tribeca X conference of the Tribeca Festival, joining Damian Bradfield, the co-founder and chief creative officer of WeTransfer to discuss how brands can work with artists to reach audiences and have greater impact. Or, as the organizers say it: "From film to art or music, new patrons from the corporate world have reimagined what is possible for creative storytelling in the brand arena. While the opportunities to create inspired and impactful content are immense, pairing corporate DNA with the right storytelling channels can be a delicate balancing act. Join the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of WeTransfer Damian Bradfield and Brian Newman, founder of Sub-Genre, for an eye-opening discussion on what happens to branded content once the artist has done their part, how brands can use the art of storytelling to bolster their value proposition, and how picking the right avenue for distribution can help bolster impact and influence. In partnership with WeTransfer" I just can't wait to hear from Damian about all of the great things WeTransfer is doing for artists in multiple disciplines through their services, and through WePresent. Learn more and join us at Tribeca X by clicking here

MountainFilm + REI Co-Op Studios + AMC Theaters: What could be better than this combo? Adventure films, day/date in multiple cities at AMC with backing from REI (and with filmmakers getting paid up front and from the door, btw)? Sub-Genre helped negotiate this one, and we'll all be among the first ticket-buyers as well. From the press release as seen in BoxOfficePro (among others): "AMC Theatres, the largest theatrical exhibitor in the United States and in the world; REI Co-op Studios, the outdoor specialty retailer’s in-house content division; and Mountainfilm, one of North America’s longest-running documentary film festivals, today announced an all-new content and marketing partnership that will bring a collection of festival-favorite short films to AMC locations across the country this fall. 

Premiering on September 28-29, adventure lovers can enjoy Mountainfilm Adventure Shorts, presented by REI Co-op Studios, at 100 AMC locations throughout the United States. This special event includes a selection of curated short films that appeared at the 46th Mountainfilm Festival during Memorial Day weekend." info and Tickets here. (BN)

Cinema Ad Firms Go From Rivals To Allies : The two main cinema ad firms, National CineMedia and Screenvision were hurt when they lost their access into Nielsen’s data feeds right after the pandemic and are now collaborating to get their data streams back in front of media planners. CineMedia and Screenvision partnered with cloud-based mobile and location tech firm The People Platform to integrate their joint cinema audience data into Nielsen’s Respondent Level Data feed for the first time. Their aim: To get their data in front of media agency buyers, position cinema advertising as a viable option alongside other video formats, and regain lost ground. Takeaway: Their partnership highlights the importance of adaptability and alliance-making up against a dynamic media landscape. Ivy Liu for Digiday has the news. (GSH)

Fortnite Renaissance: Epic Games’ updates to Fortnite Over the past year enkindled a teaming ecosystem of digital creators who brought their communities and marketing dollars of the brands looking to reach them to the platform. It’s 2024 and Fortnite is having its ‘YouTube moment,’ meaning its creator economy is thriving, much like YouTube’s did back in 2015, according to Agatha Bleuzen, managing director of gaming at Cherry Pick Talent. For one, an increasing number of eyeballs (around 50%) are trained on creator-made games (rather than the game’s older “Battle Royale” mode) and secondly, “Fortnite has become a playground for brands trying to reach gamers and Gen Z at scale — largely without any direct involvement from Epic itself… [Brands] are partnering with creators, paying them tens of thousands of dollars to both develop customized branded experiences and integrate brands into their pre-existing virtual worlds (Ivy Liu, Digiday).” Her takeaway: “Fortnite is quickly transforming from a video game into a place for customers to live their lives, and brands are at the forefront of that shift.” Check out the full Digiday article here. (GSH)


Republican Suburban Seniors — The Real Superspreaders of Disinformation: A new study in Science suggests that older suburban Republican women  (not kids or internet trolls) are the worst, most impactful spreaders of disinformation on social media. The research found that although the number of “supersharers” seemed low, they had moderate to large followings. Mike Masnick for TechDirt writes, “None of this is to say that there aren’t Democrats who share fake news (there are) or men (obviously, there are) or young people (again, duh). But there appears to be a cluster of older Republican women who do so at a ridiculous pace. This chart below [see image] is fairly damning. Even as the panel had a higher Democratic component, Democrats were much more likely to share “non-fake” news (“SS-NF”) as compared to fake news or, and much less likely to be “supersharers.” “It’s frustrating that the policy discussion is mostly dominated by some of that older generation who really, really, really wants to blame the tools and the young people, rather than maybe taking a harder look at themselves.” Masnick leaves his readers with a question: Will the issue of disinformation and misinformation diminish as younger, internet-savvy generations grow up, or will new issues arise? Check out the full article here. (GSH)

Highrise Reopens The Metaverse: Highrise, a virtual platform for creators and social connectivity enables creators to build intricate multiplayer experiences, events, and other environments for participants to enjoy. The platform is home to more than 2 million monthly active users, 70% of whom are women between 18-22 who play 90 minutes a session on average. What differentiates Highrise from other virtual ecosystems? “If you look at Roblox and Epic Games, their DNA is very much gaming. The social is almost kind of tacked on" Bernstein notes. "We're very much focused on the social - how do people connect with each other? (Highrise CEO Anton Bernstein).” What really caught my eye are their contests called “Highrise Concepts” where users can submit sketches, and the Highrise art team produces the actual items to be sold, sharing revenue with the creator. You can learn more at Ian Shepherd’s article for Forbes. In the meantime, his takeaway is “Highrise is well-positioned to unlock new possibilities in the metaverse era. As the boundaries between virtual and real worlds continue to blur, platforms like Highrise could very well shape how we build communities and forge relationships in the digital realm.” (GSH)

GSH = Articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman (BN)
Like This Newsletter? Subscribe & Past Issues
Copyright © 2024 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.