Film Production And Digital Transformation

Film production and the industry is changing constantly since its very beginnings in the 19th century but the digital transformation is a fundamental change like nothing before. Most of all there are unparalleled hopes and fears; on one side this is the Yukon, the great gold rush, on the other side it’s overwhelming if we do not commit ourselves to a constant learning process we don’t survive.

Digital transformation can mean a lot of things. There is no simple definition. It’s both a challenge for artists as production companies or any distributor. Endurance Entertainment GmbH approach was from the beginning to be an open-minded learner. Being in Berlin and in a constant exchange with digital companies some insights formed over the last years. There are no golden rules here, but things appear to become more clear over the time and we might find a sort of a “survival guideline”:

I. First of all, any discussion or any attempt to adapt means a lot of organized thinking. Since the early years, things got easily mixed up often in public panels. A good example is video-distribution. Even it’s very obvious content produced for platforms like Youtube is a completely different thing like Netflix. It’s true that change is constantly happening and it takes some effort to be informed about new business models or new platforms.

II. Second, don’t be intimidated because you are not a digital native and ask questions. A lot of film producers didn’t have the time or see any sense in investing their precious time to understand what a multichannel-network is or how they should develop an online marketing campaign. Today, there are many possibilities for digital marketing but we need to know if it serves the intended purpose. Even if you don’t want to do your social media work yourself it’s always good to understand how it works. If we understand something it enables us to ask the right questions.

III. The 4K Age – Anything is possible: Yes and no. Digital transformation in the first place is a massive change in technology. Not so long ago at the time of “Super-8” there was an eternal border between the “amateur” and “the professional”. That changed (even if some people will protest here), but its good to differentiate. Basically, there are a huge variety of standards here. And its true that smartphones and DSLRs can do amazing things and yes we can do the edit with freeware. The question is what do we want to achieve and/or what is the client’s expectation. This means we need to do our homework and have the necessary info about our equipment before we make choices, i.e. DSLRs might do great pictures but could pose problems in VFX-postpro.

IV. Try harder. If we like it or not but digital transformation requires more technical understanding for many professions in the industry. The producer today needs technical knowledge and you need to be a fast learner. This is often a frustration for people who want to use things and not always to learn “how to”? The experience is that many technologies need time to understand or some attention but learning-by-doing works more often better as expected when we overcome the first difficulties.

V. Long-Term Commitment: sometimes it appears that efforts with video/film in the digital world do have no clear business models or being completely unpredictable. It’s true there are often very short time spans or anything appears fast-paced but it’s also true that successful format development often needs a lot of time.

The conclusion is that it’s always better to be active rather than waiting for what is happening.

This was about scratching the surface. In the blog section of Endurance Entertainment GmbH more will come up about Film and the digital age hopefully helping professionals as interested people.

BOXOFFICE 2019: THEATRICAL IS ALIVE BUT IT NEEDS A CHANGE OF SYSTEM

2019 was an 11,4 Billion Year with huge successes as AVENGERS – ENDGAME and STAR WARS, SKYWALKER. It had also the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all-time: JOKER.

Despite many commentators that screamed that the theatrical business is dead due to the rise of streaming platforms, theatrical is pretty much alive. According to Comscore Box Office was 4% down from 2018 figures but proved the stability of the business.

There were also highly impressing independent “Originals” in 2019 like PARASITE. A lot of good talent is now working for streaming platforms nevertheless there is strong artistic value in theatrical films.

2019 proved again that genre films can generate reliable box office successes like CRAWL, MA, SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK or IT(2).

Nevertheless, changes are important to guarantee the future of the theatrical business.

More Originals

If we look at the list of feature films in 2019 we see franchises and the exploitation of trademarks that were generated in the 80ties. Furthermore, many movies are based on books, comics, games or they are remakes. Decisionmakers are afraid to trust filmmakers and writers when it comes to original ideas and original content. However, if the theatrical business needs one thing it is daring fresh ideas not something we have seen before.

This applies also to the art itself: Feature film for the theatrical business was once an innovative form of creativity. This is what we see today on streaming platforms. Feature films again should be innovative and sometimes provocative. Particularly if it comes to the theatrical business in Germany, a fundamental change of system seems necessary.

Memorable films

What we also see – again particularly in the local film market in Germany – is a lot of product but very few movies which are remembered after a few years. We miss the quality of milestone films like Werner Herzog’s productions or Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films. The rerun of the excellent German horror classic LAURIN by Robert Sigl 30 years after the original release showed us what a memorable film is. This is what feature films should be: They should be not mere visualizations of some book or game but they should be “films”: this means encouraging the art of cinematography, montage, directing. They should be unforgettable visual experiences.

Long Term Development

Memorable films are films with long term value. This needs a commitment to long term development. If there is one thing endangering the business it is the short-windedness: Decisionmakers want fast developments and don’t think in longer timespans which were once the strength of Hollywood. There are cases where a script was written in five days and became a success. However, the most important filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch develop their ideas and themes often for a long time before the film is made. Original ideas need time to evolve. Endurance Entertainment Gmbh is dedicated to providing quality with long-term developments.

Change of system

The films of the last years proved that the talent is there. There are also high-skilled specialists in any field of the film production from VFX to editors. They come from any background, they are young or old, they come from any country. The limitations of success artistically and commercially is a problem of the ruling elite. The feature film industry – again Germany is the most prominent example – has becomes too much a “friends and family business”.

A Film is about artistic and commercial success

In the last years, there had been many demands about quotes or so-called “green productions”. Of course, the business should be fair and everyone should be treated equally. Same chances for everyone. It is also fine if film productions are aware of ecological issues. However, we shouldn’t forget what the aim of production is: It is the artistic and commercial success of the movie. This should be the ruling principle. A mass of new obligations doesn’t create a better world and producers or filmmakers need the necessary freedom to make the right artistic choices.

Peter Engelmann