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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
Semi-frequent musings on indie film, media, branded content and related items from Brian Newman.

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Brian Newman & Sub-Genre Media

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Ethics and the Arts

Holland Carter (in the NYT) has a good run down of the ethical issues facing the arts world now, from stolen antiquities to whether you accept money from pill pushers or arms dealers when you run a museum. It’s worth a read to get the full scope of the argument, which comes down to we need more protests and thought about these issues.
It shouldn’t be much of a conundrum to just do the right thing. But I guess those ethics get harder when running a museum is not unlike firing up a vacuum cleaner in search of dollars – you tend to suck in a lot of dirt.
Speaking of vacuum cleaners sucking up dollars, there’s Silicon Valley and Hollywood, and they have their own ethical issues. Just this week, Indiewire ran an article about whether or not Hollywood will leave Georgia now that they’re getting closer to banishing abortion. The answer: of course not. Hollywood only takes convenient, cost-neutral stands. The film world is saving too much money to take a stand in Georgia. We can call it a complex issue, or just admit this truth.
Similarly, no one cares about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi when they take Saudi Arabian investment money, which AMC is taking, along with many others in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. There’s been little lasting outcry about that, and I have to admit I didn’t think about it when I went to AMC theaters recently, or when I took my last Uber, so I am a bit guilty of muddying these waters as well.
Of course the answers aren’t actually all that easy. As I look at the debates on the Sackler donations to museums, I find it just a touch ironic that those same protestors don’t seem to mind grants from the foundations of former crooks and robber-barons. As I’ve said before, the arts are fine taking money from dead capitalists, just not from those still breathing. There’s no clean money in the world, but you can at least try to do things a better way.
Meanwhile, over in brand-land, where I currently live, we have plenty of examples of brands trying their best to get this stuff right, and make the world a better place. This week’s Guardian article on Yvon Chouinard is a good example of a brand (Patagonia, a former client) doing the right thing. And while Chouinard thinks no one else is joining the fight, I see plenty of others doing more than just green-washing. A lot of brands/companies are responding to the push from consumers to do the right thing, and seem a lot less conflicted about it.
I find it interesting that my brand clients seem to have a better sense of ethics these days than my film and art-world ones, but I guess that’s the new world we live in.

Stuff I'm Reading

AI Eats the World - Modeling edition - people keep telling me actors are irreplaceable, but I'm not so sure. In the lead up, someone has created an AI that can generate fake models modeling fake clothes. Watch the video. H/T to Daniel Miessler's Unsupervised Learning.

What's up in the Doc Marketplace? Anthony Kaufman has a great story covering every angle in IndieWire this week. I don't usually link to Indiewire - because you all read it already, right... - but this one is a must read. Especially interesting - IDFA announcing the end of their signature Central Pitch, and his take on what's working and not. I recommend this for everyone - filmmakers, producers, buyers and brands thinking about the doc space.
Branded Content
Carrie Brownstein on How Portlandia Launched her Branded Content Career: Much like the Kenzo short she directed, which put the story first as opposed to the brand, Brownstein endeavors to work with more brands that are “interested in doing things that feel like there is a connection with the audience that transcends the product itself.”
Spotify launches voice-enabled ads on mobile devices: an interesting look at how ads will engage in new innovative ways in down the line. And remember how people used to tell you how important cell phones would be and you didn’t know what they meant? That’s what’s happening next with voice, so this is pretty important.
After Streamlining Web Presence, Vice reportedly raises $250 million in Debt Funding: Vice rolls on, but my take is that Vice has been in the dead-pool for quite some time now (but investors and branded content deals may keep them zombie-live for a bit longer).
P&G is Moving Heavily into Branded Content - and the Drum has the interview w/ Marc Pritchard (their Chief Brand Officer), explaining why - to engage consumers more creatively. He also explains that in an OTT streaming area, they need to go “"back to the future" … with a 'brought-to-you-by' message upfront, rather than integrating into or overtly advertising within the series.” Which leads me to believe that the “back to the future” analogy will play out for awhile and lead us right back to… interruptive advertising as brands inevitably try to differentiate once again. But let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Verizon announced it has bought 5B and is bringing it to market - I’ve been lucky to meet producer Rupert Maconick via BrandStorytelling, and watched this film at their last event - it’s a great doc about nurses leading the charge in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the early days (they noticed something was going on), and I’m glad to hear it’s found a great home. It will apparently come out under the RYOT label, and be tied to their LGBTQ+ initiatives. Kudos to all involved, and I can honestly say - watch this one when you get the chance.
Copyright © 2019 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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