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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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Of Museums, Mergers and Monthly Users

September 29, 2021

The big news this week was the opening of the Academy Museum, aka the Death Star, or as its architect wants it to be known – The “Soap Bubble, or dirigible”. Let’s hope it has more staying power than any of those; count me a skeptic. Or wait… the really big news this week was the imminent merger of CAA and ICM, bringing us to just two, oops, three major agencies in the game. Or wait, the other big news this week was that TikTok passed 1 Billion monthly users globally, just this week. The fact that all of these took place during the same week must mean something, right? Why yes, indeed.
Let’s start with the most Instagram-able news - the Academy Museum. Many of my LA based friends have already attended and have posted mostly glowing reviews, especially of the fact that the updated version of the launch includes many references to the less than glowing diversity record of Hollywood. So, I’m sure they’ll disagree with me here. I have not visited yet, but my first impressions based on the photos and press have been…less than excited. I mean, didn’t we already try launching a museum of Hollywood back in the 90’s with Planet Hollywood? And they even had Cap’n Crunch Chicken going for them, but it didn’t pan out so well. Second, I don’t remember being exactly surrounded by crowds whenever I went to the history of the medium exhibits at MoMA. Sure, the Almodovar screens look nifty, and Tim Burton type shows sell out, but I’m a little skeptical that crowds will keep coming once they realize there’s no roller-coasters in that dome. Last, hasn’t your art-form essentially died become irrelevant by the time you open the Museum to it? And further, wouldn’t this idea be cemented by the apparently super-long speech Ted Sarandos gave praising film while his company kills it makes more TV shows? That link has a paywall, and no, I don’t really blame Netflix for the death of movie-going, but many Academy members sure do. It’s definitely all a bit weird…kinda like Planet Hollywood, no?
Then of course there’s the big merger. We now have two gigantic agencies and UTA. I’ve seen a bit of hand-wringing over this consolidation online, but as I’ve written before – the big roll-up is to be expected post-pandemic. This is exactly what happened after 1918, as once smaller businesses became the major Studios, and I was so sure of it happening again that I tried to raise a gazillion dollars to be part of the fun, but I failed and am still here writing this newsletter! This is just the beginning. It’s also in direct-relation to the launching of the Academy Museum, as the business shifts from a theatrically-led business – and mainly a diversity of film styles, if not actual diversity – to one led by streaming, and what looks to be like more promises for actual diversity, but mainly in mediocre TV shows. Not that the white-guys leading these agencies signify any acknowledgement of the diversity aspect, but they’re definitely feeling the sting of the major changes hitting the business, and that’s why they needed to merge. Most people are chalking this up to the need to merge to negotiate better fees for talent in a streamer dominated world. True, but it’s really because there’s so much f-n money out there right now, and the tea-leaves are so clearly indicating a sea of red ahead, that you’d better get rich before it all burns down. It’s hitting the suits first, but will trickle down to the rest of us soon enough. 
Film won’t die, mind you, and neither will theaters. But they’ll both be more associated with museums than any of us would like to currently admit. And that’s mostly because of item number 3 – TikTok hitting 1-billion users this week. It’s not TikTok that matters – though it does, of course – but what it represents, which is the rise of and dominance of participatory culture, which I’ve also been going on about for years.  I was raised on movies, in theaters, and was happy to just sit back and let myself be taken on the journey. I still love it. But today’s audiences aren’t even audiences anymore – they see themselves as part of the making of the meaning of culture. And they don’t really want to lean back – at least not often. You see it in everything from games, to fan culture, to YouTube, and yes, of course to TikTok. It’s a paradigm shift – back, actually, to how audiences used to behave before “high” culture said we should all sit-back and enjoy our shows (back then, Theatre and Opera) not participate vulgarly in them. This is all old news, of course, but it’s finally hitting the film industry, and it’s pretty fun to watch as everyone tries to figure out how to make money off something their own kids don’t want to watch… because it’s not interactive, and thus, not “fun” to them. Heck, they might go see it in a Museum (and the centerpiece of the Academy Museum is… a movie theater for rent) someday and marvel at how we used to watch these things called movies. But the only way to make a business out of this stuff, in the digital age, currently seems like via consolidation. So, expect a lot more of that in the coming months.  

Stuff I'm Reading


Distributing your Film Panel, Nashville Film Fest: I'll be speaking on this panel about distribution at the Nashville Film Festival, this coming Friday, Oct 1st at 6:30pm with some smart folks. Description from the organizers: If your film is finished and no one is around to see it, does it make a difference? Let’s discuss how to navigate the distribution landscape so you can get your film out to the world. Join us as we talk with the folks who help deliver content to the world— whether putting butts in seats in a theater or attracting eyeballs to screens through streaming—our experts know how to connect your work with an audience.

IATSE Strike Explained as Hollywood Faces Biggest Union Walkout Since World War Two: The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) prepare to strike due to "excessively unsafe and harmful working hours, unlivable wages for the lowest-paid crafts and consistent failure to provide reasonable rest during meal breaks, between workdays, and on weekends." Behind-the scenes workers are among those most negatively affected. But social media is playing a significant role in gaining workers support as well as the confidence to strike. The takeaway: Costume designers, camera operators, makeup artists, prop makers...everyone behind the scenes need to be taken care of. You literally can't make a movie without this team, and every producer I know is supportive of this strike (their beef is mainly with the bigger studios. etc.) We can expect delays with television projects and movies as Hollywood decides how to handle IATSE’s demands and make amends. Newsweek’s Emma Nolan has the story. (GSH and BN)

The Producer Rate Sheet: Dear Producer has published a great new tool - the Producer's Rate sheet - which is intended to help producer's set some guidelines around what is fair to pay for their services, many of which are requested for free, often. It's a great start, and I hope it leads to some standards. 
Branded Content

Calm Meditation App Doubles Down on Kids’ Content: Calm — the mediation app — is the new source of content for kids at bedtime. They’ll feature bedtime stories told by a host of characters from DreamWorks Animation (i.e. Kung Fu Panda characters), Illumination Entertainment (i.e. Minions) and more, and is also developing in-house original content narrated by celebrities. For $70 a year, Calm subscribers can explore a range of bedtime content for kids and adults, with new episodes/ stories released on a weekly basis. Branded storytelling is increasingly popular, and Calm is putting it to sleep! Variety Reports. (GSH)

This TikToker Gave Brands the Refresh They Didn't Know They Needed: A TikTok user named Emily Zugay recently uploaded a satirical video in which she redesigned famous logos, attracting millions of views and comments, including some from major brands. She has no background in publishing design. Check out this article in Adweek for the author’s meditations on the history of logos and their shifting meanings and relevance today. The takeaway: We’ve talked about TikTok a bunch in this newsletter, and a central theme we keep running into is that TIkTok loves normal people with relatable content. It’s the “mediocre”, unpolished nature of TikToks that makes the platform so special. Brands looking to connect with TikTokers should embrace this mediocrity rather than shy away from it.  (GSH)


This Hot Esports Video Gaming Company Is Poised To Become A Major Player: Repeat Technologies is the largest Esports platform to date. So what makes them special? “Repeat is unique in that it is the only platform that can host up to 2 million players in a single tournament. All other platforms have a limit of a couple hundred players,” explains their CEO. What’s more, Repeat’s tournaments can be hosted asynchronously, meaning gamers don’t have to wait to compete. “Repeat’s all-in-one tournament platform allows brands to quickly and easily launch ad campaigns that can reach millions of gamers across the world. Brands can be sponsors of tournaments and offer prize pools.” The market opportunity is enormous and brands are starting to take note. Forbes/All Business Have the Story. (GSH)

New Social VR Platform Debuts With an Immersive Muse Concert You Can Watch with Friends: High quality Virtual Reality music concerts are now a thing, brought to the world by Stageverse, a VR platform founded a few years back. This week, Stageverse hosted the hit band Muse on their virtual stage where they performed Muse: Simulation Theory concert. Multiple viewers were able to watch the performance in 3D from 16 different viewpoints (some right on stage next to Muse leaders) with 360˚ rotation. The experience makes you wonder about the future of VR and film. I’m sure one day viewers will be able to (virtually) march aside their favorite action heroes amidst a raging battle or sit across from their favorite actor in a coffee shop. Ben Lang at Road to VR has the story. (GSH)

(Note that (GSH) indicates articles written by Sub-Genre's Gabriel Schillinger-Hyman, not Brian Newman)
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