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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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Curation for the Win

November 10, 2022

I’ve written a few times about the need for more/better curation when it comes to film, and how this is a perfect and underexplored area for brands (and nonprofits, and yes, film fests could do it better year-round). But the last time I wrote about it in depth was in 2019, and that’s a lifetime ago, so here we go again! The notion of curation being important is nothing new of course, and if anything, it’s an overused term these days, but surprisingly few brands are actually embracing it in their toolkits. Mailchimp has been embracing the concept, and they’re doing a pretty darn good job of it as well – one which others should follow, copy and improve upon because I remain convinced that this has more potential for success than making new movies (although the two combined are a power move, hint hint).
Mailchimp Presents is currently promoting the Collection for the Curious series on their site. It’s a great, curated selection of five films – Finding Vivian MaierThe Black Power MixtapeCave of Forgotten DreamsBeetle Queen Conquers Tokyo; and Brimstone & Glory – which are all available free on their site now. Full disclosure – Mailchimp has been a client and I use them to power this newsletter, but I haven’t been involved with this series and love it independently of my work with them, and haven’t spoken with them about how they’ve set this up (yet). But I love everything about it. They’ve been doing this for a while now, and the Presents series includes previous film packages, podcasts, series and collaborations with festivals like SXSW, where they brought shorts impacted by the covid-shutdown to their audiences. 
It helps that Mailchimp can do this with some authority – I do know that their Presents team includes people with actual experience programming film festivals, studying film at the graduate level, and they have some consultants with programming and distribution experience – but the general idea could be duplicated in ways specific to the ethos of other brands pretty easily. And it’s something that people need – we all have too much stuff to sort through, to find the best stuff to watch. And while every film on this curated list had a pretty successful run, all of them can use more attention. It’s a win-win-win for the brand, for filmmakers and for audiences. 
I’ve never understood this phenomenon of making vs. programming/curating. Ok, I do. Everyone wants to be a director. Making movies is sexy. Curating or programming them… not so much. Except, to those in the know (every distributor wants to be a programmer, every programmer wants to do acquisitions, every director loves to guest curate, etc.). But the world does not need more films – we get tens of thousands every year, and that’s not counting what we actually watch, which is series. What we need is more trusted voices helping us narrow down the options to the best stuff to watch, and the things we might have missed. And weirdly enough, a lot of people trust the brands they trust to bring them good ideas. Like film and TV recommendations. Even better – for free! 
I could quibble with some of the extra things I think Mailchimp should add to their curation, and I have a ton of recommendations for what brands should do here as best practices. Among them – things like touring the films, (re-)opening them in theaters, doing more earned media, curating channels on streaming platforms, hosting live stream screenings and Q&A’s, tying them to select fest sponsorships, or launching their own festivals (see Docker’s Classically Independent Film Fest from 1999 for example), and… oh, I could go on for days, but you get the point. But, step one is just doing it. Which Mailchimp is doing quite well, and others should follow their lead.

Stuff I'm Reading

Censored? London premiere of Andres Serrano’s Capitol attack film pulled for being 'pro-Trump': American artist and photographer Andres Serrano (known best for Piss Christ and other transgressive art) released his first-ever film, Insurrection, about the Jan 6 U.S. Capitol riots. “I’m taking you there. I’m locking you inside those people, like it or not”, Serrano writes. But on Nov 7, Insurrection was pulled from its London premiere for being ‘pro-Trump.’ While Serrano is certainly not pro-Trump, he does seek to paint a more complicated portrait of the man: "[Trump is] whatever you want him to be; he’s your enemy or your friend, your devil or your saviour. He’s good and evil or maybe just good or evil. He’s the reason for your dreams or your despair. He’ll play whatever role you want him to. He can be the uncle who exhausts everyone at the table or he can be your Santa Claus.” “To say this film is ‘pro-Trump’ is like calling me a Jesuit priest. I’m not pro-Trump, I’m pro-art and sometimes art is not only open to interpretation but it’s also subject to misinterpretation.”  The Art Newspaper’s Anny Shaw brings us the news. (GSH)

Survey: SVoD satisfaction in decline: J.D. Power conducted a survey in July 2022 of 1,287 US adults who shared their viewing preferences, usability challenges, and plans for their future use of subscription-based services. Here’re some key findings: (1) Despite the COVID-19 pandemic slowing, quarantine viewing habits persist. 60% of streaming households subscribe to 4+ services, up from 57% in June of 2021. Growth, however, is slowing down – 82% of streaming households will likely not add more services to their roster; (2) despite increased subscription fees, the average reported monthly household spend on all streaming services has remained relatively consistent at $54 in July 2022 vs $55 in June 2021 thanks to bundles and add-ons; (3) Netflix is still a favorite among the public followed by Prime Video and Hulu. Head to the link for more details. (GSH)
Branded Content
Focusing on Brand Marketing vs Search - the AirBNB example:  Many brands debate why they should focus on things like branded entertainment, which at the end of the day is asking why we should do more brand marketing vs hard product marketing. The WSJ has a great article about how AirBNB has shifted the majority of its budget away from search and more towards brand marketing, and how well it has worked, and the link has been taking over my social feed for days now. They didn't shift all of even most of it to brand entertainment, mind you. But they did focus on related items, and films were part of it, and what they're finding is that the more they build native trust in the brand, the better their overall results. More thoughts to come, but this one is worth reading and thinking about for a bit. (BN)

The lawsuit that could rewrite the rules of AI copyright: A class action lawsuit alleges that Microsoft, GitHub, and OpenAI’s creation of GitHub Copilot relies on “software piracy on an unprecedented scale.” And it’s true that companies are making a killing by training software on copyright-protected data. Specifically, “Copilot has been found to regurgitate long sections of licensed code without providing credit… on a massive scale,” writes James Vincent for TheVerge. On the one hand, advocates for the technology believe the suit will negatively impact what AI is ultimately able to do. Others, however, say AI systems shouldn’t be exempt from the law and need to remain accountable. What’s clear is that regulation has fallen behind innovation, as usual. Click the link to read an interview with Matthew Butterick, the man behind the lawsuit. (GSH)

Movio wants to make your marketing videos with generative AI: Movio is a 2 year-old startup that’s using generative AI & other machine learning frameworks to make videos that feature human avatars that speak. The product will be sold to marketers who’ll be able to pick a template and choose a hyper realistic avatar to be the company’s ‘spokesperson.’ Avatars are only depicted from the shoulders up (full body to be expected in the years to come). Check out what Movio can do at this YouTube link. It looks pretty user friendly which is amazing. Rita Liao for Techcrunch has the news. (GSH)

The Self Delusion - the Stories we Tell About Ourselves: I haven't read this book yet, but it's top of my library queue now (yes, why buy from Amazon when there's a library for this stuff?!) Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist from Emory, has a new book called The Self Delusion, which is about how the stories we tell ourselves (and others) about ourselves, are essentially a delusion. This would apply to what we tell ourselves, as well as what we collectively tell ourselves about ourselves through movies and media, too, and it's pretty fascinating stuff. Frank Rose reviews the book for the WSJ here, and I plan to follow up on this soon. (BN)

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