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Sub-Genre Media Newsletter:
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Changing Lanes

March 15, 2022

I spent the better part of this past weekend/week at SXSW, which was good to get back to after a few years. I had skipped it a bit prior to Covid, and then had a client’s film premiere get cancelled because of it. This year (as I posted last week), we had a lot of client events and premieres there. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and glad to be back, and the town was packed both with SXSW goers and the millions of new Austin-ites, generally. Not that everything was rosy, more on that below. And I’m writing this on the plane on the way back, which is filled with a lot of sneezing and coughing (my mask is on), so we’ll see what spreads. But it was my experience at the Austin airport that inspired this post – specifically, switching lanes, instead of following the herd.
I try to be all Clooney Up in the Air, and take advantage of things like Pre-Check, Clear and generally packing light and moving fast, so I was going that route, of course. But the line of people exiting Austin was pretty long, and even the Clear, Pre-Check, JetBlue premium queue was crazy. But the Clear staffer told us that if any of us would just walk two minutes further away to the non-Clear, non-Pre-Check line, it was empty and would save us at least 20-30 minutes. No one would listen to this advice, clinging to their precious status – but for a longer queue. So, I sneaked over, skipped the crowds and was seated at the Salt Lick having BBQ and a Shiner in less time than it would have taken to go “premium” through security. All you had to do was get rid of your wishes for elite status, and take a detour, and your life actually got better.
That to me sums up the film business right now. Everyone is crowding in line, trying to premiere their films at Sundance/Cannes (mainly) or SXSW/Tribeca, because those give you status and prestige and feed your ego. But the lines there are jammed, and the secret paths to breaking through and feeling special are also clogged and not working. You have your CAA or Cinetic attached (insert any other name here, of course), but they can’t get you a sale either, just like Clear was letting me down. And then no one gives a flying F-K that you are who you are, and your ego is the only thing that has been fed. 
And that’s why/how filmmakers are screwing themselves, by staying invested in the dream for their egos instead of going to where the action is, or could be. Or to be honest – which you can’t do with the TSA – just making a new lane altogether. Ironically, this was exactly the conversation I was having with an accomplished producer – and whose chats with me have inspired at least one other column before. They pointed out to me that after doing a lot of work to disseminate info about the realities of the state of the field to filmmakers, nothing had changed, because filmmakers didn’t want to know the truth, they just wanted to feed the ego and go for that Sundance (etc.) premiere and the dream of how things used to work. 
We need that one gate agent telling you – hey bozos – skip your status and go down the aisle to a new future, and it might even be easier and more rewarding. I’m trying to be that gate agent now. Because if you’re stuck standing in that line, you’ve already lost – someone else already took a limo to a helicopter to a private jet and landed hours before you in the utopia you’re flying coach towards, but probably on the wrong route, a week later than your reservation. The plane left, that ship sailed, and you should have probably built a different itinerary altogether. 
Because under all the cheery faces at my meet and greets, I’d sit down with someone from some different part of the business, and after a drink, we’d always get to that moment where both of us had to admit nothing is really working in this business, and we need some new paths to the future. Which – if you don’t already have access to that private jet – probably means building a crazy ship that looks like something out of Glory at Sea (Benh Zeitlin’s short, fyi) more than something fancy and Sundance and Oscar focused. But no one is watching those things anyways. EEAAO deserved its win and did well for what it is, of course, but does your cousin in middle America know it exists? Nope; mine neither. 
That’s why it’s time to stop focusing on status, and just change lanes. I'll be talking about this at CPH:DOX next week, too.

Stuff I'm Reading

Martin Scorsese: Director, Actor, & Restorer: The Film Foundation is dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and exhibition of classic cinema. Founded by Martin Scorsese in 1990, it’s brought back to life over 950 films. The foundation’s mission is urgent: Nearly 75% of all silent films have been lost because of the film itself – nitrate film is extremely flammable and decomposes with age and its successor, acetate film, though less flammable, deteriorates and fades quickly. “I particularly enjoy younger people seeing these [restored] films. And whether their reaction is, 'I reject it completely, I hate it,' or they become inspired and make some beautiful works of art that enrich the lives of the whole world, this is what we're here for, to enrich each other's lives through art (Scorsese).” Check out the article to learn about his incredible efforts to restore film, and view before-and-after restoration stills and videos of classic works. Ben Tracy for CBS brings us the story. (GSH)

Streamers To Bring To Life Australian Local and First Nation Stories With “Revive”: “Revive,” a 5-year government strategy that aims to boost Australia’s arts, entertainment, and cultural sectors will require streaming giants Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon to invest in local productions, with a particular focus on First Nation voices. The policy states that “unlike free-to-air broadcasting services and subscription television, [the big SVOD players] have no requirements to make Australian content available on their platforms. The ready availability of mass content produced in other countries… risks drowning out the voices of Australian storytellers.” Details are still being negotiated, but new regulations/quotas will likely be introduced in July of 2024. Danielle Long for The Drum has the news. (GSH) And we could use some Government action like this for carriage of local cinema - and diverse cinemas - in the US and other countries, too. (BN)

Reminder - I'll be Speaking about the Future of Film at CPH:DOX: I'm headed over to CPH:DOX this next week (after a quick work trip to London) to give a keynote at CPH:DOX called Embrace The New. From the program: “Being distributed doesn’t mean being seen... in a time of turmoil in the documentary ecosystem, we need to put aside our fears, give up on antiquated systems and build something new for the future. What could that look like, and what steps do we take to get there?" I hope to present some possibilities there, and will report back here soon after the event. I plan to be provocative, but I suspect that will lead to interesting conversations that might change my mind or the direction of my ideas, and inspire new thoughts to be shared. I find that giving these talks gives me more info back - in response - than I might give at first in my talk, so (in theory) it's a win-win for all of us! (BN)

Microsoft Pumps $$$ Into OpenAI And Lays Off An Ethical AI Team: Microsoft recently went on a spree and laid off 10,000 employees across the nation. According to Rebecca Bellan for TechCrunch, among those casualties was a whole team dedicated to ethical, responsible, and sustainable AI innovation (we’re doomed!). The timing doesn’t feel great – the company is pumping billions of dollars into its partnership with OpenAI and the systems in place that would normally get Microsoft to pump the brakes on a sketchy AI product look weakened. Members from the ethics and society team say they were let go “because Microsoft had become more focused on getting its AI products shipped before the competition, and was less concerned with long-term, socially responsible thinking (Bellan, TechCrunch).” (GSH)

Losing Hope For The NFT: Meta Gets Out While Others Hang On: What is the future of the NFT? A Meta spokesperson confirmed in an email to The Verge that it “will end its test of minting and selling NFTs on Instagram as well as the ability to share NFTs on Instagram and Facebook in the coming weeks.” It looks like the company will refocus its efforts on improving Meta Pay and creator monetization on Instagram Reels. Despite Meta’s imminent exit, other players like Reddit, Starbucks, Sesame Street are still investing in what looks like a dying market. Jay Peters for The Verge has the news. (GSH)

There are Spy Cameras the Size of a Grain of Salt Now: Wow. I'll just leave the link here, because you can think of the implications - and the upsides - on your own. (BN)

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