Netflix future

I just got a blu-ray DVD player, but the really mind-blowing part of it isn’t the quality. I haven’t even watched a blu-ray dvd yet. It’s that it is networked and I can watch Netflix movies on demand.

There is no question in my mind that this is the way of the future. It is completely convenient, gets the movies and TV up onto your TV and – I would have never bet on this one – you pay for it.

I’m not going to describe the mindnumbing process of how it works. It just works. And it’s easy. You can watch pretty much any movie you want right away. The quality is good and will probably get better. What more do you need to know.

Netflix does movies. That’s probably all they should do. (I think it’s a good thing that they got out of the production business). In the perfect world, we could get all of the video we want on the TV, which I think should mean some form of channel-guided system.

There’s really no need to watch youtube on your widescreen TV. Part of its charm is its lousy quality and the shortness of its clips.

There seems to be some effort, maybe forced by the studios, to keep hard drives off of our TV sets. Streaming is, I’m guessing, supposed to provide us with the answer of how people can get content and pay for it, without copying it all over the place. It’s a rental model, not an ownership one.

I can see this working to an extent, but eventually, as I’ve said before, the hard drive is going to get there whether they like it or not. They still have to figure that problem out.

Plus, I have no idea how Netflix pays the studios, but even if they pay them a lot, they don’t have that many subscribers. That number is sure to skyrocket this year, but it’s still not going to provide that revenue stream all on its own. This is a taste of the future, right now, but it’s just one taste. There are surely more flavors to come.

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Where did all the stars go?

Last week was an awful week for the film business, but you might not have noticed some of the biggest examples of Hollywood’s self-destructive ways.

I’m sure everyone noticed the train wreck that was the Oscars last night. But did you notice that it was a completely geriatric affair? There was hardly anyone on stage under 35. In the audience, the only ones under 30 were the kids of the stars. Remember that little sketch of Wall-E finding the Oscars tape (a VHS?) in the wasteland of the future? Wasn’t that a little too accurate, or prescient, or something?

There are so few big stars under 30 right now. Who cares, right? But the system that finances films, especially independent films, requires stars. Basically, what has happened is that this requirement of stars in independent films has prevented a new wave of stars from being produced.It used to be that an independent film would have an unknown cast.  What’s the point of doing a film for cheap if you still have all the requirements of a studio film?  Remember when it used to be the golden standard of the art film to use “no stars!”.   An unknown star in an independent film today is tomorrow’s Julia Roberts.  See the problem? Now we have no new generation of stars.  The only stars you can take to the bank and get your film greenlit are over 35 and most are hovering around 50.  It’s just one more problem facing a filmmaker trying to get his film funded.

The next IPOD…

I’ve been downloading a lot of films lately and it gets easier and easier. It is not easy right now to put them on your TV, however, but there are some options for that too.

HOW LONG BEFORE THAT SET TOP BOX COMES ALONG AND ALLOWS YOU TO PUT ALL THAT FREE STUFF ON TV EASILY, LIKE THE IPOD DID TO MUSIC?

Remember, there were other mp3 players there before the ipod, but the ipod made it easy. Looking at the options that are out there now, I’d say we are at the same point.  You can do it now, but it’s not quite there. You can do it, but it’s work.

Someone is about to make it very easy.

There is a train coming down the tracks toward the film industry in the form of this box and I don’t see what’s going to save it.

I’m still not sure

The trouble with blogging is that you just put it out there without giving it time to think about what you’ve written. When I write a script, every line is gone over a hundred times before I send it out to anyone. These blogs are just thrown out there, usually without much thought.

That last thing I wrote about what I’m trying to do with this blog was dumb, if only because it took the fun out of it for me. I like ranting about whatever I feel like ranting about. I don’t want to have some mandate, or even a reason for writing this stuff. Then it starts to feel like work.

Most of this stuff is written just to get it off my chest. It’s not like anyone reads it anyway.

blogging

I wasn’t sure what I was going to blog about when I started this blog. All I knew was that I didn’t want to review films on it.

What I would like it to be now, and what I think it has become, is a view of the film industry from the audience’s point of view. I make films and I know the business and I’m educated in how this stuff works. It seems to me that there are not that many people who know the industry, but also live in a place that the industry caters to. I live outside of New York, and I sneak into the city once in a while to see a film, but, mostly, my only choice is a multiplex. That is the only choice for most people outside of New York and LA (and even in those cities).

The people who work in the film business as a whole view their customers with contempt. It is evident at every stage of film making from the script selection to the exhibition. People in Independent film live in a world that is segregated from their audience, a world where people have an appreciation for art films, see a lot of international films, and even get to go to film festivals all the time. Most people don’t do that, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to watch good, artful films.

So this blog will mostly talk about how films are provided and then seen, and the problems that the industry faces because they are doing a lousy job. I don’t see a lot of people doing this.

When I have another film in production, I’ll obviously change this. Possibly, I’ll have another point of view and be able to do something about it. Until then, I’ll keep spouting off with my small readership.

As a side note, I’m going to move the Stinky Monkey Manifesto to my website, where it is probably more appropriate.

To the NYT

The New York Times has an outstanding tradition of reviewing all of the films that play in a theater here, and a deserved reputation of quality criticism. Yet an increasing number of quality films are not getting the attention they deserve simply because there is no place for them in the Times’ current format.

A film gets a release in New York because a distributor chooses to release a film in New York. The fact is that many distributors choose to release their films here simply because they get the review in the New York Times. It has nothing to do with the quality of the film. It has to do with the quality of the review. If it plays in a theater, it will be reviewed by the New York Times. A distributor can take a good review from the NYT to the bank, but even a bad review means that it garnered the attention of the most wide-read and well regarded paper in the country. If it can make it there, it can make it anywhere. It is a de facto seal of approval.

New Yorkers have a wide variety of films that they can choose to see in a theater, foreign films and domestic, independent and films from Hollywood. But New Yorkers live in a rarefied world. The rest of America hasn’t had any options beyond the multiplex for years. The cinemas that used to offer an alternative to Hollywood are gone. If someone in Peoria, or even in Cincinatti, wants to see a film that wasn’t made in Hollywood, they get it on DVD. People – New Yorkers too – increasingly watch their movies on large, widescreen TV’s with theatrical sound.

But while the audience has changed its viewing habits, the New York Times seems stuck in its old ways. If a film didn’t get a release in the theater in New York, and instead went straight to video, it will not be mentioned in the New York Times.

Straight-to-video is a term that got a bad reputation in the 80’s. They were the B movies of their day. This stigma remains today. But times have changed. For most people, the stigma of straight-to-video evaporated a long time ago because all of the films they see are straight-to-video. They simply have no other options.

I suggest that the NYT adds a DVD Review section, in the tradition of its Book Review, and in a similar style. This could be a monthly addition to its Sunday Edition, depending on the quantity and quality of the films that the editors would choose to review. I can’t imagine that advertisers wouldn’t cough up the change to pay for it. Like the Book Review, inclusion in the DVD Review would mean that, even if the film was not very good, there was something notable about it, something that deemed it worthy of discussion. Like the Book Review, the decision to include a film would be the decision of the editors, not the decision of the people selling the film.

This would have a major impact on the quality of films being distributed in this country today. There is a perception in this country, perpetuated by Hollywood, that films are measured by their budgets and their box office. In this scenario, it is the “small” films that get lost, while the “big” films dominate. The irony is that the “small” films are the films with the big ideas while the “big” films rarely have any ideas at all. These “small” films would have a much better chance of being seen, and getting made, if a paper with the integrity and influence of the New York Times found a way to include them in their critiques. Imagine if these films were measured by the quality of their ideas and not by the size of their marketing budgets. If they were, maybe they wouldn’t be called “small” films anymore.

Anyone agree with this?  It couldn’t hurt, could it?