Independent publications had made quite a dent into the world of books, and into some other forms of art as well. On the other hand, I’ve had the feeling that the movie scene is a bit stale the last few years… and it led me to think whether a shake-up is coming.
All the other art forms…
I’ll start with an exploration of the other art forms for comparison. While art will always require an investment, some forms were more free than others (think bards, for example).
In modern times, art became more open to people both as creators and consumers, but still with many hurdles. Recording studios for music costs money. High-quality cameras for high-end photos cost money – and while you can be a hobby photographer for a low cost, there will be a quality difference.
Writing was, for a long time, quite closed. In the first half of 1900s, mass market paperbacks made reading more reachable for the general public, but it wasn’t until the ‘digital revolution’ and the current state of e-books to made books as easily reached. The story of ‘digital revolution’ and ‘indie revolution’ in books are long ones, so not something I’d delve deep into today, but I’ll mention it on the way.
Of all the art forms, there are two with major production costs: videogames and movies.
While independent video games exist, they’re often small projects. Movies require actors, people behind the camera, a story, a place to record them, a lot of time in post-processing… a lot of costs on both time and money that make anything longer than a short animated clip almost impossible to do with just a small group of willing people. And even as technology progresses, this barrier is unlikely to vanish.
The parallels between movies and traditional publishing
If there’s one thing that movies and traditional book publishing route share, it’s the low will of risk. This is understandable – both avenues bear a major initial investment. And while there’s a tier difference (thousands of $ in case of books, millions in case of movies), I think they end up in a similar ratio.
For that reason, unknown authors (whether of a book or a movie idea) face a tall wall to get across, more so without contacts or major savings to ‘encourage’ their project. Tested concepts tend to be sure bets and if an author can work several stories in a genre that can generate a lot of money within a specific audience, it’s an easy way in. No matter if you write tens of books (such as Cassandra Clare) or produce a lengthy series of superhero movies (MCU). Sequels and spin-offs are way too easy to sell, with much lower risk.
This, however, brings an issue for those not sharing those tastes. I think this is a major present-time issue with movies as the target audience for major movies is often teen-YA-NA, with a narrow choice of genres. Books, due to self-publishing, had overcame this hurdle – because self-published authors face much lower entry cost (often just the cover design) and the major challenge is visibility, which can be tackled over time.
The change many people had surely noticed was the surge in TV series. They can go into more detail than a movie (as the cumulative runtime of a series is longer), thus not skipping as much – something many book-based movies suffered from a lot (even the last Harry Pooter book, despite being split into two movies).
Yet, for the same reason, the costs are much higher and thus it needs an idea that’s even more foolproof to get green-lighted.
Still, back in early 2010 when Netflix began, some people thought that streaming might be the future. Just a monthly subscription at the same price as a single cinema visit. And many companies took up the chance over time, eventually leading to this situation.
For someone living outside of the USA, it took years before even the first companies started their service in my country. And then they all did pretty much at once, meaning that I’d not know where to start even if I knew there are things that’d interest me. (Apart from the Witcher series, I guess. I know where I’d find that.)
Silver screen controversies
Movies and series both had hits and misses. If a well-known movie or series doesn’t get at least some degree of controversy by either lacking actors of minorities or by having them in a role that’s not a good fit, it’s a small miracle. There are vocal groups on both sides and at least one of them will always be there to cause a ruckus, whether it’s for not being inclusive enough, or for being inclusive for the sake of being inclusive and disregarding the original (often book) source.
I’d like to wrap this post up in something that’d be a real closure, but I’ve failed to find it.
On one hand, I’d love to believe that the coming of streaming services was a hint that the movie ‘world’ can also evolve, and that there will be content produced even for people not in the main cinemagoer age range.
On the other hand, the entry costs are unlikely to go away. Maybe even go up – tech getting better will allow for better special effects even though some of them may stay limited to cinemas for the common people (such as 3D movies).
And maybe the lengthy search for one’s movie tastes will lead more people to writing – because if the movie you’d like to see isn’t there, you can always go, write the story, and dream it up.
This was a different topic than I usually cover, but I’d welcome your thoughts just the same. What do you think the future has in store for movies? Will they face the revolution many other art forms did, or will they be the last one standing with just one or two traditional ways of creating them?