On killing Hollywood

Paul Graham recently published a new request for startups titled Kill Hollywood. It is definitely worth reading. The motivations behind such thoughts are clear. Filesharing is not killing the movie & TV industry.

“What’s going to kill movies and TV is what’s already killing them: better ways to entertain people.

Better ways to entertain people. This thought has been sitting in my head for the last couple of days while I’m just a stones throw away from Hollywood & have a pretty good view of the Hollywood Hills from outside my window. The RFS goes into more detail about games, apps, the possibility that exercise might take over, but to think broadly and figure out where the entertainment of folk are going to in the next twenty years.

The studios are making less profits because the way Hollywood is structured. This is why Sarah Lacy says to kill Hollywood, you’ve got to learn their game. Someone like Ryan Kavanaugh is using math to beat Hollywood at their own game — you may have seen Relativity Media, and that’s the company who’s funding many successful movies today. Sarah Lacy sums up the content game that will help us win against Hollywood fairly well:

“The lesson: Eyeballs aren’t equivalent to one another. For Hollywood to be killed, the Internet needs to focus on a metric other than eyeballs. It’s not about mass, it’s about good. That’s absolutely anti-YouTube and anti-Farmville and any other content which we expect to be rapid, mass and disposable. Disposable content isn’t bad, it’s just not everything. And as long as that’s all that the Valley is putting out, we won’t kill Hollywood.”

There is an experience of going to the cinema in where I am happy to pay USD$12 or RM25 for a seat. In the USA I believe in the ratings system, but in Malaysia where I watch most of my movies I feel cheated by the censorship board. But I still go and spend cash because there’s an experience. However I’ve noticed my TV & movie watching habits have changed — I wrote about how I consume Hollywood in 2011. I believe that in Malaysia (and most of Asia), one is forced towards looking at content via filesharing. Because Hollywood hasn’t grown up and they believe in making money from regions, delaying releases by regions, etc. Traditional models.

Of late I’ve quite enjoyed watching the Sundance channel on cable. On Friday in the USA Today, Robert Redford, founder of the channel and the film festival had this to say: “With the new technology creating all the voices and noise from bloggers and tweeters, it’s chaos,” Redford says. “Where are you going to get the real truth with so many loud voices barking? I look to documentaries as almost investigative journalism.”

That covers a set of genres. But independent films rarely cover comedy, action, etc.

People get entertained by different things. At different times. Some days a romantic comedy makes sense. Some days a chick flick is all that gets you going. Then you’ve got days when action is all you crave. And the list can go on…

So what are better ways to entertain people? Games? Interactive movies? How does everyone get paid fairly when you get away from the big studios? Do production costs then go down when you bypass them?

This is why people love the Cheezeburger Network. Or 9gag. These are new ways for people to entertain themselves. However the metric there is eyeballs and the content is disposable. People need substance to entertain them. I once said that paying $10 for Plants vs Zombies provided me with a lot more entertainment on my iPad than going to maybe 2-3 feature length movies.

I’m still thinking about different ways for people to consume media. Different ways for people to sink their time in. And I presume I’ll be thinking about this for long.

As an aside, don’t assume that independent media folk get “new media” either. Classic examples in Malaysia would be Nasi Lemak 2.0 and Relationship Status. Nasi Lemak 2.0 stars the controversial Namewee, who not only made the movie on the cheap (independently), he went on to getting it in cinemas and also at the same time did the entrepreneurial thing of in tandem getting it showing on cable TV. This subsequently got his movie pulled from the cinemas in question, rather abruptly. He disrupted the cinemas and the cinemas reacted in their traditional methods to pull his movie. But even today, you can’t buy a DVD or download a digital version… Even if you’re willing to pay for it (I know I am). More recently, Khairil M. Bahar made Relationship Status; however still with the traditional model of going to the cinema. No DVDs. No downloadable digital version. Its worth noting that I’d pay RM35-40 for a digital download (though I don’t think that might be everyone’s price point – experimentation needs to happen clearly).

Its sad to see that even young independent film producers aren’t moving where their audience is moving to. They’re thinking like studios are thinking. They need to be disrupted. After all, these Malaysian producers are forgetting that there is such a large portion of the Malaysian diaspora spread across the world whom are unlikely to step into Malaysian cinemas anytime soon. Imagine a day when I can read a review about the show, then automatically click on a link that allows me to either stream the movie now or download a copy. If it is a service that has my credit card details on file, this is a seamless process; if its individuals, I just checkout via PayPal, and am either seeing the movie on my TV or waiting half an hour or so for the download so I can pop it on my iPad.

Back to the drawing board. There are better ways to entertain people. There are better ways for consumption of media & content.

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  • Antony Curtis

    You said: “But independent films rarely cover comedy, action, etc.”
    I say: “StarWreck 6 is an example of community created independent film which covers comedy, action, etc.”

  • Anonymous

    Hi, there. Khairil of Relationship Status here. Excellent post and I agree with you wholeheartedly, though I’d like to say that though ‘Relationship Status’ was released in the cinemas which one would argue is the ‘traditional’ route, I personally don’t see anything traditional about it and the DVD’s, digital downloads, even blu-ray will be popping up over the coming months (and surprisingly, digital downloads and streaming are the trickiest ones to pull of at the moment).

    New media has always been on the forefront in my mind but there’s a reason why the movie was released cinematically first which will be uncovered in a full post on my blog on how the film was released, the upcoming home-viewing formats and all the trimmings. It will be posted this Thursday or Friday, and perhaps that’ll give you some hope that some of the indies are attempting in their own ways to go the 2.0 route.

    So please don’t feel sad, sir, and don’t take this comment as a defensive gesture in any way, but I felt the need to comment because I feel that your comment that the indies are thinking the way the studios are thinking is an assumption based on the fact that the movie came out in the cinema first. I can honestly say for myself and my movie that ‘thinking like the studios’ is the last way I’d go about thinking about Relationship Status, and quite a few of the other indie filmmakers I know would argue the same about the way they go about their flicks.


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