I was reading a post this morning on the future of book publishing and some great points were brought up that reminded me of why the same opportunities now available to authors are also available to independent filmmakers. I think the future of publishing as it stands now is in big trouble and so is the future of film distribution, for the distribution companies, not for the filmmakers.

The post comes on the heels of the BookExpo America in NYC where many came out lamenting the state of publishing by looking at figures that show ebook sales are out performing physical copies already, having only been available for Kindle and the like for 33 months. This is not going to be unlike the sales for digital streaming and downloads of movies versus physical media very soon. I do think the iPad and the new similar devices are game changers for film. As much as we all have our egos and fantasies that people will still prefer to go out to see a film on the big screen, the harsh reality is that many (MANY) will just as soon curl up on the sofa or in bed and watch something they just downloaded onto their personal device. Are you making films that speak to that reality? I think indies are uniquely positioned for that; small, character driven stories ideal for the small, portable screen.

One publisher in particular embraced these changes saying “Not only are books receiving more media attention, the new technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity to engage readers. Audio and video enhancements offer authors the ability to reach a reader like never before. Social networks allow readers the chance to discover books they would never have found. Touch screens let children interact with books or play games related to the story. Educators find that reading assignments come alive as all learning modalities can be engaged. Three-dimensional graphics and spoken text transform plain words into dynamic new worlds. The book itself is being reinvented,” said David “Skip” Pritchard.

Here, here. The same advancements are available for film. In fact, transmedial properties could be embedded in the small screen experience. Alternate storylines could be explored from a menu option, geolocational apps that immerse the viewer in the story as it is happening on screen. A real opportunity to engage viewers in not just the passive experience of watching a film, but offering interactive ways of exploring the story further, seeing any source material (book adaptation) or historical data behind the film (a biography of a real person), providing ways they can help with a cause (for a social justice documentary), or even gaming aspects built around the story and characters. DVD and cinema experiences don’t offer this level of engagement and it will become more and more expected from an audience. The main jist of this is that a distribution company won’t be the ones making these things available, talented writers and filmmakers will.

It will open up new business opportunities for those who can adapt. Instead of figuring out physical production, companies will spring up to help with the technical aspects of the interactivity components. Instead of keeping films away from reaching audiences by being a gatekeeper, companies and individuals will provide services for finding niche audiences and helping to form relationships with them. In fact, I would suggest that distribution companies immediately start shifting their focus off of providing content and onto cultivating audiences, being the curators for specific content instead of a catchall of content in a library of titles. Many of you will fail to do this and business will end for you. For those who have developed online social skills and technologically creative minds, there will be a strong demand for this.  The ability to deliver content in any way it is demanded (physically for the holdouts and digitally for those seeking immediacy) is the new way forward for filmmakers and companies that can provide this will flourish.

I do not believe even for a moment that indie film is dead. Indie film will always survive as it is the basic need of storytellers to make work and share it with others. I do believe that there are momentous changes already happening and will continue to happen. Are you able to adapt and flourish?

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