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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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Entrepreneurial Producing, in memory of Steve Golin

Two weeks ago I was asked to speak at Ira Deutchman’s class at Columbia University along with Karol Martesko-Fenster of Abramorama and Eric Kohn of Indiewire. Many of the students were aspiring producers, and they asked many smart questions about building a sustainable career.
I mentioned to them that I’ve always felt that Steve Golin had the right idea with Anonymous Content - where he produced Academy Award winning films, but made most of his money by being nimble -  making advertising and branded content, producing TV and episodic shows, and from their management business. Little did I know that he would pass away just four days later, and the film world would lose another great one. John Singleton just passed away this week as well, which was a devastating loss for the business, and he was quite the entrepreneur too (directing movies big and small, TV and producing as well)  but that’s another post.
The WSJ had a great article about Steve’s business model back in 2016, and I reference it in my pubic talks all the time. The article was written just as Spotlight and The Revenant were headed to the Oscars, and it pointed out that “It’s the result of a multitentacled business model and a perpetual willingness to pivot quickly in response to shifting industry dynamics.” Commenting on his Oscar noms, Golin said  “I wouldn’t want to make my living doing them.” Nope, he made his money, and his career, by being a multi-hyphenate, entrepreneur - not too precious to do work that pays the bills in order to survive.
That’s what I think any aspiring indie producer needs to do today - diversify your income streams so that you can pay the bills and afford to make the “one-off” artistic films you love. And there’s never been a better time to do that than now - every platform is making “content,” every brand is making films, and new business models are being built daily. It can be easy to fret when it’s harder and harder to stand out from the crowded field but as Steve Golin was in the middle of exploring when he passed away- it’s also a time of opportunity for smart producers.

Stuff I'm Reading


Facebook is moving into CryptoCurrency, which is big for media, and everything else. - The WSJ reports (paywall, so check Gizmodo for a sampling) that Facebook has been meeting with big banks and financiers about launching ‘Project Libra,’ which will involve a digital token/cryptocurrency scheme that allows everything from in-app payments to a new system to monetize your likes and ad-watching. I’ve been writing about blockchain and what it means for media for a long-time (Since 2014), and this is huge news. Think Facebook is a big monopoly now? Just wait til you can get reward points (like Skymiles) for watching an ad, and then apply those points to buy a product. Or maybe you share my film’s trailer and get points that allow you to watch my film for free. Or take the next step, and maybe you only “pay” for the minutes you watch, and I get paid in return based on those minutes, with my points convertible to cash, or maybe worth more as further payments for more films.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The holy grail, so to speak, has always been that digital tokens and crypto- will work even better once we’re tethered to a new generation of digital devices. Think Oculus, and the new Oculus Quest. Facebook will know a lot more about what you truly watch or play with, how you interact and for how long, and all of this is data that can become monetized (tokenized) and used by Facebook, advertisers and others. A lot more to be said here, but that’s another post as well.
Ten minutes is all you need for Nick Hornby’s latest creation - more proof that Hollywood has finally woken up to the ten minute episodic trend, as SundanceTV follows Quibi into solid 10-minute creative films. While this trend is about a decade late, it’s about time, and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on both under-funded short films and branded content to up their game.
Avengers and the Content End-Game - Matt Zoller Seitz has a magnum opus write up this week on the convergence of episodic TV and cliff-hanger movies and how “content” has now beat “cinema,” and what this means for our historic art form of one-off narrative films. As he says, they still exist for now, but “as a knowingly retro experience—the audiovisual equivalent of writing a sonnet, or painting with a brush and  watercolor.” Somewhat depressing, but Zoller Seitz is taking the long-view and has good thoughts about what might come in the future. A long but essential read.
The future of film streaming is a lot like music, which is not good - as Darren Hemming’s writes, Music Streaming Services are Gaslighting Us In a wonderful analogy, he compares music discovery and listening today to going to an indie record store in the Nineties to pick up a new album, and the record store employee hitches a trailer to your car filled with thousands of new records you can never hope to listen to: “You can’t store this stuff, very little of it is familiar, and mentally you’re overwhelmed.” Much like music today, and pretty much the same for film. Silicon Valley has fooled us into believing that access to everything is a good thing (and that it is sustainable for any artists). His solution- “Focus on spending a bit more money on artist channels that actually benefit them in a meaningful way. We need an equivalent to the Fair Trade mark in coffee; means to understand that when you spend money on an artist, they are the main beneficiary and not the platform.”
Still can't figure out Netflix's long-term goals? I think it's simple, but the Conversation proposes maybe it's really a data play, with lots of implications.
Rooftop Film’s Summer Slate is Up and Tickets are for Sale: Live in NYC, or visiting his Summer? Then don’t miss the Rooftop Films Summer Series. The schedule is live and impressive.
Branded Content

AirBNB is moving into film. They don’t seem to have any strategy, but they’ve done well with their magazine, so let’s give it some time. The cynical side of me thinks this was just a PR ploy to downplay Marriott launching its own competitor to AirBNB, and Marriott also makes films...but nah, that can’t be the case.
The TribecaX Awards were announced this week, and while I wrote about my dislike of brand film awards last week, they remain one way to find the good stuff. Kudos to my friend from BrandStorytelling, Angela Matusik at HP who won for Best Episodic with History of Memory, Directed by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason, two very good filmmakers.

6 Ways OTT is shaking up the TV Landscape from Nudity to New Ads AdAge reports on how advertisers and broadcasters are thinking about OTT. One interesting take - a need for more localized OTT options.
Copyright © 2019 Brian Newman, All rights reserved.

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