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anactofgod 818 days ago | link | parent

The original post ends by asking the wrong - and an extremely limiting - question.

Technological innovations of camera/film/projectors (and later broadcast & receivers) made motion pictures possible. These came first. The current "Hollywood" production-distribution-revenue model came after, as a result of the economics of what it took to make motion pictures profitable. So, "Hollywood" is less the entertainment, and more the means by which that entertainment is produced and distributed.

Therefore, if one wants to "Kill Hollywood", one doesn't doesn't do it by asking merely "What's the most entertaining thing you can build?" One does it by changing the economics in a way that renders "Hollywood", at least in terms of current studios-distributors-theaters (and studios-channels-Xcasters) model, untenable.

The question to entrepreneurs that the original post should have concluded with is "What can you make that makes making and distributing engrossing entertainment (whatever form that may take) cheaper/easier/more accessible/more capable/more profitable/more easily funded?"

Unless your interest does lie specifically in investing in the entertaining things. Cool. Innovative entertainment may result, but I wouldn't expect any of those investments to result in the thing that "kills Hollywood".



foxit 818 days ago | link

This post nails it. You're talking about disrupting two things, neither of which are entertainment: distribution of finished goods (external), and the system within that's been in place since the fall of the studio system in the '60s (internal). Neither of these things have that much to do with entertainment. Technology has made being a filmmaker far, far cheaper than it used to be even in the heyday of indie film in the 90s, though there is still a high financial barrier to entry to pay for all the quality things you need on a set (oh, an idea!). Entertainers absolutely embrace innovation, both creative and technological. It's structures that don't.

Here's two specific targets: Creative Artists Agency and the Screen Actors Guild. Good luck.

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foxit 817 days ago | link

I have two general ideas. Steal them. I don't have time to implement.

1) Find innovative ways to reduce production costs. Production is expensive. Unimaginably so. This can be things like: a) Redesign physical set equipment. Ex: Set lights are expensive; a single light can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Design a new light that takes advantage of modern LEDs or something, or that can be deconstructed to serve multiple lighting functions (beyond what exists today). b) Design automation to replace physical support crew on the set. Payroll is an enormous cost. Ex: Invent a tracking system that would make the boom mic not require a person to physically move it around to follow the actors. Yes, mechanization would eliminate jobs - such is the nature of creative destruction. c) Innovation in use of set design and photography to make things look much more expensive than they are. A shining example of this was how Orson Welles shot Citizen Kane. Another example is what Spielberg did with the nonfunctional shark in Jaws. For those two, you're probably going to have to check out a book to learn how they did it. And more recently the impressive-looking but cheap sets and photography in Underworld (2003). These directors did unbelievably good things with constraints. Find a way to systemize this. To study what could be made cheaper, look at films that cost way too much, and see how each shot could've been cut down to bare bones - the absolute minimum dollar amount required to make the exact same look and effect.

The most choking example of waste I've ever personally witnessed was on the set of Van Helsing (2004) in Prague. The entirety of Old Town Square was cleared, about a hundred security held people out around the perimeter, and giant cranes and lights lit a scene of Hugh Jackman leaping in the air. What was the end product that appeared in the movie, you ask? A two-second shot of Jackman leaping in the air above some cobblestone. The whole thing could've been accomplished on a 10' by 10' mockup of cobblestone in a studio, or a cobblestone street somewhere cheaper to rent the entirety of than the Old Town Square of Prague.

2) As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, marketing costs are gargantuan. You have to get eyeballs on your enjoyable entertainment. I watch independent film. The difficulty of going into a little-known film, even one that's received some good notice, is that I generally don't know a thing about it. People enjoy trailers. Create trailers. Once production is complete, making a trailer for it is essentially free - it requires the software you used to edit the film and your own time and effort. Run strings of trailers for unknown films on IFC. Run a 30-minute block of 30 to 45 second teasers with links to the film's site, where you have the 2 1/2 minute trailer and more information. Get eyeballs on productions. Right now getting eyeballs on productions is forbiddingly expensive. Revolutionize it. Cheapen it.

I don't think innovating other entertainment will kill Hollywood any faster. You have to innovate the film industry itself. Every human culture throughout history has enjoyed watching performers enact a story, of some kind or another. Moving pictures of performers enact a story isn't going anywhere in popularity. There's a reason it's such a profitable industry. Technology has advanced to the state it's in today where moving pictures of performers enacting stories are easily viewed the world over, but I don't think you should think about changing the type of entertainment so much as the mechanics of the medium.

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DanHulton 816 days ago | link

On the set lights/LED issue - designing a new light that uses LEDs would probably INCREASE the cost, not decrease it, since LED lights are currently more expensive to produce than the alternatives.

That said, if instead you had a company that provided the rental of these lights at a lower cost that normally paid to purchase them outright, perhaps you could offer lower cost lighting with modern, less-breakable technology.

Of course, LED lights are a different type of light from incandescent, etc. anyway, so it's possible that they'd be totally unusable anyway.

Still, a really interesting thought.

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eric-hu 816 days ago | link

I interpreted his LED idea to mean that a lighting system could use multiple types of LEDs, providing video data in specific frequency bands. Software filtering could be used to isolate these, then recombine them in different proportions to get the right 'feel' in color.

If different types of LEDs were positioned far enough apart, you could possibly achieve different lighting angles from one scene-shot. Compare this with shooting a scene multiple times while having the crew reposition lighting. Such a system would indeed be more costly, but could reduce human repetition.

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mickdarling 815 days ago | link

I read halfway through point number 1 and I thought "robotize the studio." Think of a new studio that is infinitely configurable with lights and cameras, and all controlled by software. Kind of a Holodeck but in reverse, or a blackbox theatre where the point is to record everything that goes on in the studio and configure that recording, maybe even something similar to a 3D scanner but with full motion cameras. 3D Models and location overlays could be inserted more easily because all the details of the original shots are already recorded, and can be adjusted after shooting.

What this is would be a standardized studio room, that would only require the director and actors on set. Every other specialty could be done in post, and thus allow them to work on more projects at once. Better skilled people, doing more work, drives quality up and lower costs. Win:Win

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ithought 816 days ago | link

I can cut 40% of a film's budget just going outside of the studio system. Plus more with technology you reference.

Studios want the films to appear to lose money so they can keep all the profit. They control distribution and inflate production costs >35%, move money from one pocket to another etc all to limit the net profit participation of equity holders.

My full comment explaining it- http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3498112

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sanjiallblue 818 days ago | link

Okay, you started out very sensible and then took a pretty sharp left turn with targeting CAA and SAG. I was hoping to ask if you could elaborate on your thought process to help us better understand your viewpoint.

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foxit 818 days ago | link

I'm not saying that I want CAA and SAG taken down - SAG in particular was formed to protect performers from exploitation - but rather giving examples of monolithic, nigh unto impenetrable structures on the internal side of the current Hollywood system that would likely have to be disrupted to alter the Hollywood of today.

I'd much rather paint a giant target on the MPAA's back. But disrupt Hollywood and you disrupt the MPAA. Make them toothless.

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vrish88 817 days ago | link

Don't forget the infamous Film Actors Guild.

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beatle 817 days ago | link

You need to be in the content, distribution, marketing/PR, talent (writing, acting, tc.) business to kill Hollywood. Thn You need to have billions to pay movie stars, scripts, movie rights, distribution, marketing, crew, equipments, etc. you need to have distribution, marketing,etc. muscle worldwide. Then you need to deal with agents, publicists, cast, crew, writers, etc. unions.

You can disrupt technology, but its hard to disrupt content (there are exception ofcourse (3D, IMAX, Pixar,etc.)

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ctwk 818 days ago | link

I agree that the question is limiting, but not necessarily wrong. By creating a new form of entertainment, one can take over a portion of Hollywood's revenue pie and that in a way will create havoc for Hollywood, but not necessarily killing Hollywood since there will be bound to be people who likes Hollywood productions (especially since Hollywood has the finance to fund multi-million dollar productions in a whim).

What Hollywood fails to do is to listen to the voices of common people like me and you. Over and over again, Hollywood has produced films that fail to deliver and blame it on piracy. The point is that there will still be people who wants to reward quality content (or at least this is what I believe) and there needs to be a way for current technology to show this. We need to create a technical platform to reward quality content and show Hollywood the light! I have proposed a startup idea somewhere on this page on how to do this, as well as a way to entertain people like you and me. I would love to hear your input =).

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_delirium 818 days ago | link

> By creating a new form of entertainment, one can take over a portion of Hollywood's revenue pie

That's what the videogame industry has done, isn't it? Their total revenue is now actually larger than Hollywood's. It's not clear it's greatly harmed Hollywood, though; it's possible people are just choosing to spend more total money on entertainment, rather than videogame spending displacing film spending.

It's possible some future form of entertainment will compete in a sense that's more directly a substitute for Hollywood's entertainment, but it's not clear to me that that'd necessarily be the case, unless it were literally a substitute in the sense of just being an alternative financing/distribution mechanism for standard films.

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jeffool 817 days ago | link

The "video games are bigger than Hollywood" claims are at best wrong, and actually bullshit. Those claims are made from comparing the entirety of the Games Industry to the US box office, which is only Hollywood's first pass at profit making.

Consider second run theaters, on demand and rental, physical purchase, digital purchase, broadcast rights, and THEN consider licensing for clothing, toys, and everything else.

Games are nowhere near the size of Hollywood. They just don't bother correcting people who make those claims.

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ctwk 817 days ago | link

The video game industry is indeed bigger than Hollywood but that doesn't mean that it cannot become any bigger to harm Hollywood. As long as the content is engaging and fun for viewers, it will eventually eat into Hollywood's revenue pie.

I believe that currently, in order to "kill" Hollywood, the first step is to shrink the role of the middlemen by enabling content creators to distribute and market their content effectively online. In fact, the internet has provided a great way to do just that (it is the perfect distribution and marketing channel)! All of us are constantly sharing and reproducing the content and this helps expose users with all sorts of content. Now if there is a startup which focuses on "following" and "chasing" the content and sell products related to the content itself, I believe that many users will buy the products that interest them. For instance, when we watch "Mission Impossible" we may be interested in the music tracks, the movie DVD, the clothes that the characters are wearing, toys & merchandises etc. If more products are being sold, this is a reflection of the quality of the content itself. Product companies would then want to sponsor and fund for quality content creators to carry on producing content. Apart from that such a platform may allow more quality content to be placed on Youtube where users are abundant!

The next step is to make content interactive. PG mention "what are people going to do for fun in 20 years instead of what they do now?" and I thought of the notion of having the viewers of the content to dictate the direction of the show and making the content engaging that it makes me feel like I am part of it. Currently in many games (esp rpg) I decide the route/path that the character follows and this leads to different game endings. This can be applied to movies as well. A movie can have 4 parts and after each part, the movie may request me to buy a certain choice (eg. the character has 3 roads to choose, which do you choose and this will dictate the progression of the story) or product (there are 3 guns to choose, buy 1 from your local store lol! and key in product keycode or something). This can tie in very well with the idea on paragraph 1 where product companies can help sponsor for the video production.

What do you think about these ideas? I am working on idea 1 and I would be keen for some feedback and would love for people to contribute to this startup. Hit me up!

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mcartyem 816 days ago | link

How do you know users will want to buy products they see in movies?

How can you make content producers make content interactive?

How can I one get in touch with you?

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ctwk 816 days ago | link

email me at centurion_tan@yahoo.com

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jfno67 818 days ago | link

It's not the amount of money spent, it's the time available. They probably fear far much the time spent in Facebook, casual web games, youTube, etc... Those are only starting and they see what it means for revenue in the future.

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jamesgatz 816 days ago | link

Films aren't entertainment. Films are stories, and stories are primal.

Farmville is entertainment. Memes are entertainment. Entertainment is distraction.

Trying to fight stories with entertainment is a losing battle. There's a reason that despite terrible profit margins (4-9%) six studios have had a lock down on narrative filmmaking for nearly a century. It's an incredibly stable industry, and the stories of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe if you conjure up the right form of short-term brain crack, you'll be able to "destroy hollywood." If you really think that the secret to sniping the Big Six is building a better, faster Nyan Cat, well then . . . be my guest.

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jamesgatz 816 days ago | link

I'm not sure if this thread is dead at this point, but I want to put forward my suggestion to founders. What you should really be trying to to do, is found a new AIP or New World Pictures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Corman#.22The_Corman_Film...

You want to create a place dedicated to locating and attracting young talent (directors, writers, actors, and producers) that's capable of producing high volumes of low cost product. You want to design a golden era Hollywood studio for the modern age.

This studio would have two main components. Production and distribution. The production side is essentially a no brainer. You grow a pool of talent, and you keep that talent working 8 days a week, producing a diverse slate of low cost filmed entertainment on an aggressive schedule. Ideally, pictures would take 12 days to shoot, and would have budgets in the thousands instead of the millions. You'd be producing so many stories, that you could afford to make them highly specialized in their appeal - you wouldn't have to generate "four quad" films, you could instead afford to cater to smaller audiences but satisfy those smaller audiences more completely. People have tuned off Hollywood films in the last decade because those films have become too focused on mass market appeal - in having "something for everyone" they have instead produced stories with something for no one. The idea of our hypothetical studio is to reverse that trend. Tell stories that only appeal to select audiences, but REALLY appeal to those audiences.

This leads to the second half of our hypothetical studio (and frankly, being a filmmaker and not a businessman, the half that I have less competence with): distribution. This would in fact be the more critical and difficult component of the company to build, because it would be the side dedicated to identifying, locating, and reaching those smaller, more specialized audiences. Our creative talent - the writers, directors and actors - tells the stories, and our distribution team gets those stories in front of the right audiences. It wouldn't take long for a deep and sustaining feedback loop to develop between the two halves of our studio - close communication with our audiences would give the creators more guidance in learning what works and what doesn't on screen, leading to better stories which would grow a more dedicated audience or fan base. In their own ways, this is what Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon have done by reaching out to and learning from their fan bases.

The hypothetical studio I've outlined is exactly what golden age studios did to great effect before theater ownership became a losing battle and the star system began to crumble. In the modern era, we have the advantage of dramatically lowered distribution costs - a computer in every home - but the disadvantage of a greater signal to noise ratio. But this system - small studios producing a high volume of targeted stories at low cost - has proved repeatable and profitable. You could make the argument that Corman, with AIP and New World Pictures, saved Hollywood filmmaking during the New Hollywood period by using exactly the system I've outlined above to locate and nurture new talent while maintaining a high profitability.

So anyways. That's what I think. We shouldn't be focused on producing a new form of entertainment. As consumers, we don't really need or want a new medium; the bump and decline of 3D sales has proved this, I think. Novelty only carries you so far. What is needed is instead a more economically savvy model, focused on generating stories geared towards smaller audiences that will embrace those stories more passionately. We need a studio that will take as it's battle cry "We'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than 100 people's ninth favorite thing." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAFo3kONbdE) You need a new Roger Corman. I am, of course, always available for the job.

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