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My idea to "Kill Hollywood" (rsbrown.net)
239 points by rsbrown on Jan 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments

Its a good idea because it brings in a level of transparency. But I'm not sure if it'll make a big dent on Hollywood.

Why do some movies do well and others don't? There are a lot of reasons. But if we were to simplify, there are 2 things that matter more than the rest.

1. The buzz factor.

Reason why studios pay $20 million to a well known celebrity is because they know it will generate the buzz and create expectations.

2. The story and the experience.

Once the movie is released, and the first wave of viewers go and watch it, then it all depends on how good their experience was - for the buzz to sustain.

To beat Hollywood, you have to become better than them at telling good stories well, and creating buzz that lasts to make money out of it.

You absolutely have to become good at monetizing the buzz. Only selling the movies for 99 cents is a bad monetization plan. You will never be able to fund a movie like Avatar. And if you can't do that, you'll never be able to take on Hollywood.

If I were to develop a plan to beat Hollywood, it would center around creating buzz. How to use the new media to generate buzz.

Maybe create a new incentivized market... a whacky idea like: the first hundred thousand people who watch a movie can share in its profits.

"You will never be able to fund a movie like Avatar. And if you can't do that, you'll never be able to take on Hollywood."

I don't have to make an Avatar to beat Hollywood. That's fighting fire with fire. We can fight fire with water. If a consumer watches one of my studio's productions instead of watching Avatar, we didn't just earn $0.99 -- we also stole a $10.50 purchase from 20th Century Fox.

I'm betting that when given a cleaner, more enjoyable alternative to the mandatory commercials, overpriced fatty junk food, and general awfulness that the current moviegoing experience has degraded into, we can steal a fair amount of business.

>If a consumer watches one of my studio's productions instead of watching Avatar, we didn't just earn $0.99 -- we also stole a $10.50 purchase from 20th Century Fox.

That's not how the economics work. Consumers have a level of disposable income. Just because they spent 0.99 on your movie doesn't mean that they won't also spend $10.50 on Avatar. The allocation of disposable income is not based on price as much as quality.

Secondly, $0.99 vs $10.50 is a failure in signal theory. You immediately signal to the consumer that the value of your movie is far less than most other forms of entertainment. The reason why the $0.99 model works for music on iTunes is that all songs are priced the same. There is no signaling of quality between songs. The 99 cent model works for iPhone apps is that it is low enough of a cost to value to risk ratio that it's worth 99 cents to try something out. If it is bad, there's no real loss to it. There's little opportunity costs associated with it.

But you can't sell a $10M budget movie at 0.99 and make a reasonable revenue.

> Consumers have a level of disposable income. Just because they spent 0.99 on your movie doesn't mean that they won't also spend $10.50 on Avatar.

The number of movies people see isn't limited by their disposable income, it's limited by the number of movies they want to watch. If they get one for five dollars instead of twenty they're probably going to put the change on their mortgage or their car, or maybe their spending on food will increase as they realise they have a little more money to play with.

What they won't do is go to four times as many films as they otherwise might. I'll grant that demand is elastic, but it's not a linear relationship. Reducing the cost of film viewing in this way will absolutely reduce the amount of money spent on it.

(That disagreement aside, I think the rest of your post is pretty reasonable.)

At that price its no real loss to skip the movie either. You can always watch it 'later'.

You get checkmated here by the Holly wood buzz machine.

People will go with their mainstream aware friends for the major holywood release over your movie. They will watch your movie independently, later.

As has been said in this thread, the only real competiton is time - Holly wood is dying already, because they are fighting for time, which is being eroded by video games, mmos and the likes of zynga.

> If a consumer watches one of my studio's productions instead of watching Avatar, we didn't just earn $0.99 -- we also stole a $10.50 purchase from 20th Century Fox

Why would the consumer not just watch movies from Fox too? Especially since if he only pays you $0.99, he'll still have plenty of money left to give to Fox.

I would argue it's a matter of time more than money. I treat a theatre trip as a social event, which means I have to get a group of friends together. There's only so many hours in evenings and weekends when people can get together, and I'd rather not spend all of those hours watching films. Therefore my upper limit is driven by time rather than cost.


There are only a few waking, non-working, non-chore-related hours in the day for most people. I can't keep up with all the movies I would be interested in seeing as it is.

Which is why it's difficult to beat Hollywood for those few movie-watching slots. Your time is more important than the $10-15 more Hollywood will charge over an alternative production. So your alternative has to compete in something other than blockbuster special effects and well-known actors. The likely suspects are originality (e.g., Blair Witch Project) and story (Sling Blade).

Have you been to the Alamo Draft House in Austin, TX? I can no longer watch movies in any other theatre (and I live in San Francisco now, so this means I don't watch movies outside of my home). They have solved all of the problems you mention in the last paragraph, and it's amazing.

You're in luck!


Book your assigned seats online, buy alcohol and quality food there or bring your own, no children at many showings, no ads, etc.

>I'm betting that when given a cleaner, more enjoyable alternative to the mandatory commercials, overpriced fatty junk food, and general awfulness that the current moviegoing experience has degraded into, we can steal a fair amount of business.

This is a very important and overlooked part of their machine. The cinema distribution model. If I remember correctly Hollywood charge an astronomical amounts to theater for showing their movies, I think it eats almost 100% of the ticket price. Cinemas then make their profit by selling overpriced popcorn and sugary water.

A new start-up could also focus on an alternative distribution model aimed at smaller theater with more reasonable license prices. This way theaters could focus in the movie experience instead of selling crap to noisy people.

Or forget the cinemas and just go for watching online. Lots of money there.

At 1. isn't that like saying MTV is the king-maker for hits, which is very top-down? Right now I'd say Youtube can be a king-maker, and is much more bottom-up.

My point is I think the strategy can succeed against Hollywood. Who knows, we might even start seeing innovative movies out of this. Right now 75% of the movies released every year are remakes or sequels. Not a whole lot of innovation.

You start with this model and if your successful, you'll be able to fund Avatar too.

This would never work. If anyone is going to "kill hollywood" they need to address the massive costs associated with producing a movie not the money raising. If movie production could be taken down from $100m to $500k then that would be the game changer, but even that ignores huge barriers and reasons Hollywood exists.

To "kill" Hollywood people need to address the costs, not the money raising. Crowd sourcing $1m is close to impossible, crowd sourcing $1m on a regular basis is even harder and crowd sourcing $10m+ on a regular basis? never going to happen. Even if it was achieved once or twice, as soon as a movie doesn't meet expectations the idea will fall apart, if costs are reduced to much lower levels, losing a crowd sourced $500k because the movie sucked is much more palatable than $10m.

Studios inflate production budgets so it appears the films lose money in order to cut out investors/producers/etc from net profit participation. The studios make their money on distribution and by charging exorbitant rates. A lot of money goes from one pocket to the other of the same company at these exorbitant rates. Here's how to cut:

- Studios charge production overhead fees in excess of 35% reducing significantly the amount of money spent on the actual production

- Studios charge interest in excess of 20% on all expenses incurred in development, production and development

- Producers are required by the studio to contract with vendors they either partially own or have pre-negotiated rates with the studios

- Example, Technicolor pays Universal $25 million at the beginning of the year to be the exclusive lab for all Universal productions. Then Technicolor charges inflated rates to Universal. The $25 million offsets this and the result is the production budget is artificially (i.e. criminally) inflated.

- Example, studios may make a producer pay 40 cents a foot for negative film processing vs 15 cents normally, or up to $4 per foot for release prints vs $1.50. (this data is old)

- A fair system using digital cameras and related technology (e.g. visualization, digital 3D mapping), along with digital distribution to cinemas, should reduce the production and distribution cost of a major film to a few million. +advertising

Same things happens with marketing. The studios will advertise a film through their TV network, all while controlling the prices and limiting net profit participation for the outside investors and producers. All this is a clear case of financial fraud and is known as - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_accounting

How is it that studios get away with this on such a regular basis?

Because everyone keeps letting it happen. It's not illegal (yet) and the actors go for it. Acting is like gambling... Lots of people dream big, but only a few actually make it. Most of the dreamers are willing to risk everything for that chance. They'll sign any contract that gives them a chance at making it, and they think not signing a bad contract will mean they'll never work. (And that's probably true.)

The music industry works the same way, in regards to the actual content producers.

Pet senators?

I don't think Hollywood as a monolithic creatures should be killed by another monolithic creature, even if it's a lot more efficient.

I think Hollywood can only be killed by a thousand cuts. Make websites, companies or tools that do one thing very well, and better than that part of Hollywood. Then, when enough of these companies are built to replace every part of Hollywood, this whole cluster of companies can end up killing Hollywood.

Two major budget components are people (lots of highly skilled professionals) and set construction.

Props and wardrobe could be revolutionized with cheaper CNCs and apparel machines and better and cheaper creative content design software - which is being currently done (Zbrush + DIY CNCs), but someone still has to design the stuff.

Here's a possible implementation of your idea that could help get the ball rolling.

1. Get a group of wealthy investors to select a well-known director and film that they would like to support. Ideally the people in charge of the creative side would be open to trying alternative business models.

2. Try to work out a reasonable budget to produce the movie. The overall cost should be much less than usual due to the complete lack of middle-men.

3. The investors provide funding to create an awesome trailer for the movie.

4. Using this trailer, the movie producers crowd-source funding for the movie. If this funding falls short, the investors are obligated to cover the difference. However, if the funding exceeds the movie's budget, the investors are rewarded accordingly.

5. The movie is completed and released into the public domain.

This is indeed the single biggest problem -- the cost of producing and marketing a broadcast/theater quality feature is spectacularly high. Technology will help, but we need to see it come down by 1-2 orders of magnitude.

Other film industries around the world routinely put out more movies with less production costs than hollywood. Might not be the exact quality but many have been getting better to the eye the last 10 years alone.

I took a look at my recently watched movies (specifically the low publicity / small names) and they all have budgets (when listed) of at least a few million dollars. Hell, this movie called "Rise of the foot soldier" had a budget of $4m and only did a couple of hundred thousand income: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0901507/ and it had no big names, or maybe this is just "Hollywood accounting"?

Foreign productions are still in multimillion budget ranges, even the cheapest ones that are somewhat at hollywood standards.

Doesn't Kick-start (in aggregate) routinely raise that type of money?

Nope, they rarely make over $100,000 and those that normally do offer a tangible return: http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/most-funded

What you're proposing is no different than most independent production companies. LA is flush with such businesses already; I've worked for a few of them. Another indy production house is not the solution. I said it in the previous thread, and I'll say it again: What's needed is a contemporary Roger Corman. http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/cormansworld/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Corman#.22The_Corman_Film...

Hollywood has backed itself into a corner using the exact same methodology that you outline in your new studio: both assume that films are widgets, and great ones can be reliably produced with high frequency if the secret formula is discovered. No such formula exists. Every film is a one off, and many of the biggest hits were perceived as certain flops before their release (Star Wars), just as many sure things have tanked (Cowboys & Aliens).

As I've said before, the solution isn't to become more cautious, but more bold. You studio should be based around locating new, young talent (writers, directors, actors and producers), giving them steady work in exchange for reasonable salaries (kids right out of film school are thrilled w/ $30K a year) and creating an environment where said talent can work on a high volume of projects over a short time period with limited commercial risk. No one should ever feel that failure on any particular project will result in a ruined career - the omnipresence of that fear is what has given rise to timid film-making in the mainstream. Projects should be shot in under two weeks, and should have budgets ranging from $10 - 100K. You should be designing your studio to accommodate modest returns, while accounting for inevitable flops. Never presume you know what will sell, and you might make it.

Film-making isn't a business. Film-making is an art. The best art is achieved via iteration: practice, release, refine, practice, release, refine. Build a studio designed to lose money for two years. In the first year, plan to attract at least 50 young directors, 100 young actors, and 100 young writers. There's no shortage of talent in LA (300 hungry young artists step off the bus in LA every day) but sifting the wheat from the chaff will be exhausting. Do the work, it will be worth it. Build a production schedule geared around low budget genre films, produced in 12 days and costing an average of $35,000 a piece. Ideally you'd be releasing 50 - 75 films a year. Over the first two years of your studio's existence, you'll have released 100 - 150 films. With each film, you'll be able to try new and different release and marketing strategies. You'll be able to gather detailed audience feedback on each film, and at the end of that two years, with a mountain of data behind you, you'll start to have a very strong idea of what sells and what doesn't. What kinds of films your audience is interested in, what kinds of actors, plots and situations they enjoy, and how you can produce films with those elements in the cheapest, quickest way possible. In the third year of your studio's existence, you might start to break even. In the fourth year, every major studio will be begging to work with the radical young talent that your studio has done such an amazing job at cultivating.

In other words: Step One, collect underpants.

Nigeria ("Nollywood") is the world's third largest film industry (behind Hollywood and Bollywood). Nigeria has a US$250 million movie industry, producing about 2500 films per year. Nollywood might be worth studying as a film industry structured in a different manner than Hollywood's "make a few big bets" business model.

Filmmakers typically fund their own films for about US$20,000 and shoot in one week. Over their career filmmakers may direct 100-150 films. New movies are sold in street markets on video CD and VHS directly to customers. Piracy is not a big worry when a director is releasing new films every couple weeks.

For more info, I recommend the documentaries Nollywood Babylon, This is Nollywood, and Welcome to Nollywood.

What you're describing sounds very much like "a YCombinator for the film industry." Did I get that wrong? I really like the sound of it, not least because it might also be the best chance for increasing the quality of what comes out of the film industry. But, like YC, it would need some serious talent and some serious money behind it.

Exactly right. As a film person, I've always been incredibly jealous of YCombinator and the amazing talent that it cultivates. A project of its kind, geared around films and storytelling, would do wonders to change the landscape of Hollywood.

The film industry has this, often financed by major studios. Usually they consist of giving promising young producers budgets of $200k per project, and letting them loose to choose almost anything they want. They in turn look to develop projects that are potentially viable in both old and new spaces, ie TV and the web. So far the people I know who do this have survived all of the budget cuts simply because the studios have no other idea what to fund.

That would be fantastic. Forming some sort of relationship with Netflix to kick-start distribution would be a great idea as well.

Dreamworks SKG tried this a few years ago. it was founded by 3 of the most highly experienced, connected and talented industry visionaries in Hollywood. Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. 2 of them are billionaires and 1 is worth over $700M.

DreamWorks had come close to bankruptcy twice.the studio suffered a $125 million loss on Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, and also overestimated the DVD demand for Shrek 2.In 2005, out of their two large budget pictures, The Island bombed at the domestic box office, while War of the Worlds was produced as a joint effort with Paramount. They eventually ran out of money. DreamWorks scaled back, stopped plans to build a high-tech studio, sold its music division and got out of the distribution business. They eventually ran out of money and sold the company to Paramount pictures. The deal was valued at approximately $1.6 billion, an amount that included about $400 million in debt assumptions. it's a lot harder to start a studio than you guys think.

Of course, there's Pixar. but you need a SJ and a John Lassetter to create something like Pixar.

Dreamworks and Corman's AIP/NWP both produced films, but that's where their similarities end. The differences between the two can be summarized by "scale" and "intent."

In terms of scale, Dreamworks was designed to compete directly with the majors. They focused on tentpole pictures produced at Big Six scale. Even with their substantial financial backing, this meant that a single flop could (and did) jeopardize their company. Corman's films, on the other hand, with their minuscule budgets needed only draw a fraction of the business of a Dreamworks release to make a profit and so very rarely (if ever) showed up as a "loss" on his books. Corman's films rarely hit it big, but because of their relative costs, they never had to. Modest returns were sufficient for him to draw profit margins astronomically beyond those of the majors.

In terms of intent, Dreamworks was set up primarily to produce and release the films of its founders, who tended to trade in prestige films, and their desire to produce only Oscar-level films tended to paralyze their production ability; excessively high standards ruined them. When they did get a film off the ground, they tended to bet too large (out of desperation) and lost as frequently as they won. The exact same thing happened to Coppola's Zoetrope when he let himself run amok on One From the Heart.

The lesson from Dreamworks (and Zoetrope) is to manage your risk. Never put yourself in a position where a single failed project can ruin you. Similarly, never produce a film that requires broad mass market success to avoid total financial failure.

American Zoetrope failed because Coppola was self-financing movies people didn't want to watch. Dreamworks failed because they had too many big-budget box office failures AND, because they were a new studio, they did not have a library of old movies that can support their business.

>never produce a film that requires broad mass market success to avoid total financial failure.

You'll avoid financial disaster but you'll never "destroy" Hollywood with this mindset. Copolla and Roger Corman disrupted the movie industry but they did not "destroy" Hollywood.

"For Apple to win, Microsoft doesn't have to lose." - Steve Jobs.

You won't destroy Hollywood by creating a few new studios. But you might change it. That's really what people want to achieve.

your new studio will not disrupt Hollywood if it runs out of money. that is my point. your new studio has to be able to compete with the existing studios. You have to compete with Dark Knight Rising, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Twilight, Pirates of the Carribean, Spiderman, etc. and you have to do it every week, every month, every year for as long as you can.

No, you'll compete with Quentin Tarantino, and the Cohen Brothers, and they don't put out a film every week.

Anyway, you've named some of the best high-budget movies over the last 10 years. They don't release an Avatar every month.

How was Dreamworks anything like what he described? His proposal sounds closer to Asylum or UFO to me.

Its never THAT simple. Harvey Weinstein did the same thing. Still costs him millions to produce a movie and had to strike distribution deals with major hollywood studios. He eventually ran out of money and almost went bankrupt.

Question is whether it used to be harder. The story you tell are all big operations requiring lots of cash to keep afloat. New studios can run at fairly low cost especially with the post production power we have today.

Is there any actual evidence of this? I'd be really eager to refute this, but I'd be more interested in learning it was true. Most "New Studios" I know fall into the exact same trap that their predecessors have fallen into because none of the major players in this new breed of studios are doing anything different. You can streamline things as much as you want but you still run into the same systemic issues that plague the whole industry.

That because they are playing the big studios game. They shouldn't, they should play their own and find their own market.

Post production cost may be cheaper, but then you have to deal with distribution , marketing, PR, salaries for your cast ($20M per picture for a big movie star), crew, script, Etc.

And then you have to convince millions of moviegoers NOT to watch high budget competition such as Dark Knight Rising, Transformers, Twilight, Spiderman, etc.

Then you need to have something Millions of people want to watch this is the hard part :)

And then you'll kill Hollywood.

Sure you have to deal with those things, but the point was more that big studios have big cost and need high returns to be satisfied. (Everything from property, salaries to paying star actors)

Small studios don't need as high a return.

This is in many ways a Clayton Christensen (The Innovators Dilemma) opportunity.

Producing high quality movies as ultimately a question of people and skills. There are plenty of both that can't get work anywhere else.

I don't understand why I would have to convince people to not watch those movies? They are still being sold today and people are still watching non-hollywood movies.

If it becomes impossible to be profitable with big productions then hollywood will kill itself soon enough.

Not really. YCombinator invests < 25,000$ for < 10% stakes in early-stage startups, some of them already showing traction and revenue. To kill Hollywood, you'd need to invest 1000x that, for projects that are be contrast much risker, and that don't benefit from the advantage of teams being able to "iterate" quickly if things don't work out.

With the rather off-the-cuff operating strategy I outlined above, your annual operating budget (including staff and production costs) would be ~$14 million. Initial start up costs (focusing mainly on equipment buys) would be about $4 million. This would get you 75 feature length films a year.

In total, producing our studio's first 75 films would cost $5 million dollars LESS than the total production cost of just one of this weekend's wide release films (in this case, Haywire, made for $23 million). Go see Haywire, and think to yourself about a) whether that movie really needed to cost what it did (bear in mind that the majority of its costs were sunk into the logistics of shooting abroad in multiple Euro locations and filling out its secondary cast with A-list talent; were the locations and secondary cast essential?) and b) whether or not you might have been more interested in the film had it been produced w/o studio constraints (meaning more nudity and explicit violence; a "hard R" or NC-17 as opposed to the film's "soft R" rating).

the problem is good films don't sell as well as Movies

I wish I could upvote this more. It's what would change the landscape more than just about anything else.

As I mention below, there's examples of companies that crank out product quickly and very cheaply (UFO, Asylum, etc), but they really don't care much about quality.

But set up something like this with some people who could aim high on low budgets, and with say 5 million bucks over 2 years turn out 100 films. None of them would be blockbusters, but some of them would find substantial audiences.

Self-distribute online, set low per-film purchase prices, and maybe some sort of subscription for the true fans. Work hard to get the breakout films to wider distribution. You would break even in time, even if only 1 in 10 films were hits.

Experiment. A/B test. Set a culture of innovation. Invent processes, gear, whatever was needed to produce the films faster and cheaper. Be the lab.

You could actually hire pretty pro crew for below the line work since you'd be spreading the cost of any individual over say 20 films a year.

You'd lose above the line people along the way. The super talented would get picked up for more money elsewhere. That would be factored in, though, you'd just bring in new people. And the films that brought the people that left their fame would just be worth more then.

There's nothing I'd rather do more than exactly this, personally. It'd be fun and full of great challenges and rewards.

This is what Netflix should do. For the cost of one large budget HBO style series, they could produce two or thee films or series a month, and then build on the ones that are most successful.

Hulu (which is ironically owned by big media) is doing this, announced last week.


Netflix is already funding new content, including resurrecting Arrested Development.


I think you are undervaluing the impact the distribution channel could have. There are no indie production companies with a worldwide distribution mechanism.

You also mention how looking at data is impossible for artistic endeavors like film making, then turn around and talk about mining data from your releases. I actually tend to think your original comment, that you can't mine data, is accurate. Any model to kill Hollywood is going to have to deal with the fact that some films will go viral (what the Internet calls a blockbuster) and others will tank.

I think you are undervaluing the impact the distribution channel could have. There are no indie production companies with a worldwide distribution mechanism.

Every indie studio has a worldwide distribution mechanism. It's the web. Stream to laptops, Roku boxes, apple tv, Google tv boxee tv etc. build audience on there and if you're popular you can get into traditional distribution channels.

This is a great idea.

Imagine a film-making business with the same allure for arts graduates that Google etc have for comp sci graduates. Like you say, being payed $30K+ straight out of film school is quite attractive, especially if it's at a place famed not for the politics and ladder climbing of Hollywood, but for creativity and freedom. A place where you get to try out new things and be bold with your art. Maybe even have a 10% project...

I love the Google comparison. To me, "Kill Hollywood" doesn't mean kill the movies we all love, but kill the politics and ladder climbing that keep new and unique voices from growing and finding an audience.

This is guerrilla film-making. It's gutsy, but it doesn't pay. There's no market for it. Maybe digital distribution channels will change it - or is already changing it. But the conventional channels discard this approach. Nothing new here.

Guerrilla film-making is when you make a film in your parents' basement using a VHS handicam and your brother's lego collection. For $35,000, using modern production equipment, it's entirely possible to produce a genre film that meets (and often exceeds) the production and narrative value of any major studio film (http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/coldweather/).

If you're saying that there's no market for compelling stories efficiently told, then we better batten down the hatches. I'm pretty sure Revelations lists that as one of the six signs of the Apocalypse.

Hey jamesgatz, would you email me? scott -at- rsbrown -dot- net

Your proposed ideas are, in fact, almost exactly what I had in mind with my original post (though my arbitrarily chosen $10M example may seem contradictory). I'd like to discuss further.

Just sent you an email.

It sounds like you're describing the studio system of early Hollywood (of which I admit I have very limited understanding, most of which comes from watching Singing in the Rain). As I understand it, the directors, writers, and actors were employees of the studios, and studios produced dozens of films on a rapid cycle.

Assuming that really is the best model for the future, how do you prevent the new Hollywood from turning into the old Hollywood again?

Build a production schedule geared around low budget genre films, produced in 12 days and costing an average of $35,000 a piece. Ideally you'd be releasing 50 - 75 films a year.

Interesting. I greatly enjoy tacky high school / college movies (think American Pie, Superbad, Fired up!, that kinda thing), and I would love if there were a LOT more of those on the market. I can't imagine that they are very expensive to make either.

I cannot comment on your proposal as someone with film industry experience, but as a consumer I would give anything to have such a studio. I especially like the high volume, genre based approach. I'm just so bored by so much of what is produced today. I could easily see myself spending more than current theater prices to watch a new movie every week, even if I end up not liking half of them.

What you are suggesting in turn is in fact the old studio system where a studio had contracts with everyone from stars down to dressmakers and technicians. For a variety of reasons, that has given way to the current model where artists and technicians are not guaranteed income beyond one film.

In the contemporary marketplace, where the only starting options for nearly all young filmmakers are unpaid internships with zero real creative opportunity, a three year contract at $30K/yr to direct, write and edit feature length films would be a no-brainer. Steven Spielberg doesn't have a contract with Universal because he's already Steven Spielberg. The guy who's going to replace him has no clout yet, and would jump at a an exclusive three picture deal, no matter how low the pay. There's a reason that Roger Corman never lost money, and it's probably related to his focus on fresh talent.

What do you feel about a kickstarter like system to fund creation of content?

The thing about Kickstarter is that it fosters the unhealthy kind of competition instead of collaborative creation. The point of our studio is to grow creators. Set up a playground where people can run free, where taking risks and falling on your face are encouraged. Kickstarter often rewards projects that look like something that already exists - things on there do well if they're slightly novel versions of proven projects. And the thing about truly new ideas is that they don't look like anything you've ever seen before. Our studio would chase those ideas, and the people who dream them up.

EDIT: My big thing is that a kickstarter like project wouldn't be geared around in-house talent. That's what made Roger Corman (and the golden age studios he modeled himself around) special. All the talent was under one roof.

That's what IndieGoGo is.

There really isn't anything revolutionary or innovative in this. It's basically the same exact model as Hollywood with different players.

In addition, if the only distribution model is online streaming at 0.99, you'd need to sell 10M views to just break even. Yes, this can be achieved for a single hit, but for every single one to break even is similar to the current model.

One of the key things with the internet and technology is that: 1) Technology has enabled talented artists, filmmakers, and musicians to produce high quality content at a reasonable costs. Take a look at all the quality production that is around on the internet. 2) The internet has enable low cost distribution and discovery service. This means that we can increase the number of distribution channels for much lower cost than the existing model.

Because of these two facts, this enables smaller productions (you don't need $10M revenue if your cost is $30k) and more niche audience. Think of all the long-tail movies that do not get made because the target audience is too small; these would become economically feasible with internet distribution.

The indie film industry follows this similar model. A lot of indie films are low budget films made by students and budding stars. These films and talent are then discovered by the big budget studios and brought into that fold. (Think of the indie film community similar to the open source community in tech.) They are often looked down upon by the big budget studios and the community is looking for that one opportunity to break big. They have as much distaste for the Hollywood model as the tech industry does. There is a huge opportunity in bringing them into the fold of the startup industry to counter Hollywood. Provide them a clear path of success without giving up much of their rights or stake and they'll surely jump at the new approach.

Lastly, the internet is a great talent discovery. Look at the number of mega stars that have been found on YouTube and other websites. The problem is that once someone becomes "Internet Famous", how do you turn them into "Real Life Famous". People like Justin Bieber have no choice but to fall into the hands of the existing production model.

Provide your consumers (in this case the movie production and the movie consumers) with a better product and all else will follow.

tl;dr -

1) Embrace the Indie Film industry -- they are desperately looking for a partner in taking on big studios. They have already been in this fight for years, that we have only recently just joined.

2) Use technology to assist in discovery.

I think this is it, technology can help to bring smaller indie players out (as it already has been doing).

I think the way the OP wants to monetize it wouldn't work well either (and with their method file sharing remains a problem rather than a benefit). If indie films were also able to partner up with theater systems (like Regal) they could charge less for public performance and also lower ticket price. Having theaters as a main source of income also allows file sharing after release to benefit the performers and directors for their next films.

"Think of all the long-tail movies that do not get made because the target audience is too small; these would become economically feasible with internet distribution."

I can think of a few popular books that I would loved to see get turned into movies. Their fanbase alone would make these minor successes.

This will not work. The problem has and will continue to be distribution and marketing, not content production. Any disruption to Hollywoods market space must center on finding a new distribution and marketing model that can attract the current content producers. Only by separating those two entities can you really disrupt the space.

Right now the people who distribute the content are also the ones who own the rights to it. That is why you have seen such a move towards limiting the rights given to consumers of the media. There was a time when a movie house bought the reel of film and played it as much as their hearts desired. they actually made money off the tickets. That was then shifted to have the theaters pay a portion of each ticket sold to view the movie , removing the ownership right of the theater. Now the theaters don't own the movies, make no money off tickets, and are dependent on the studios for all the marketing. If you as a theater owner tried to buck the trend they would just stop giving you the privilege of screening their films and your out of buisness.

There is a great symbiotic relationship between theaters and studios that just making new content won't disrupt. If you want to "kill hollywood" you need to focus on that problem first, once content delivery and distribution are separated you will open the market for a new generation of content companies.

I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if he just described the current state of Hollywood (except for the "straight to stream for 0.99$" part). Hollywood is a business after all. And they clearly have some silly algorithms at work picking potential blockbusters. I've heard rumors that even part of the scripting is algorithmic these days (component based).

Of course "we" could improve on the algorithms, but such a thing is not a startup idea in my opinion. A startup idea would be a specific way to improve upon the algorithms.

"And they clearly have some silly algorithms at work picking potential blockbusters. I've heard rumors that even part of the scripting is algorithmic these days (component based)."

There's nothing that sophisticated at work, I assure you. Hollywood has "creative executives" who read the scripts agents send them, and then evaluate those scripts by hand. Some are better at this job than others. Some are legitimately good at it. (Full disclosure: I held this job for 5 or so years of my career; I'd say that I was ok at it).

Scripting is done the old-fashioned way, as well, by humans using specialized word processing software (Final Draft for screenplays and teleplays, Scrivener for novels). This software helps writers sort through some of the elements they've been using, i.e., by saving character names and locations, and returning those names when called. And the programs have templates and auto-formatting. But nothing that actually does the writing for you. Not yet, at any rate. (Full disclosure: my brother is a screenwriter, and he's pretty good at it).

The challenge is that Hollywood does not have a halfway decent way of predicting or forecasting what will succeed and what won't. It is possible to judge good work from bad work, and to coach writers in improving their work. And there are "rules" of story structure, plotting, and so forth. But these are just structural. Very few people have any sort of gift for making calls about what will, or will not, succeed at the box office or on TV. Sometimes legitimately great material fails, and often legitimately atrocious garbage succeeds wildly. It tends to be a crapshoot.

I would suggest that, if we're interested in disrupting Hollywood, we stop focusing on a hypothetical, universal audience, and start focusing on niches. We have the technology now to deliver content to those most interested in seeing it. Netflix, Amazon, etc., do a very good job with collaborative filtering. The future of the content distribution business starts with interest-based segmentation, IMO. The sooner we move away from people's best guesses as to what will work for whom, the more readily we can adapt to the delivery methods already at our fingertips.

there are "rules" of story structure, plotting, and so forth

Since you evaluated scripts for a living, can you tell us some of those rules?

For the legitimately curious, I'd recommend starting with anyone from the ancient Greeks to Chekhov. For more basic, and perhaps more practical guidelines, I'd recommend anything by Syd Field, William Goldman, Robert McKee, or J. Michael Straczynski. Those are sort of the time-honored classics in the how-to genre of screenwriting and story structure.

A few tidbits, and by no means comprehensive:

- Typical screenplays weigh in at around 90 to 120 pages, and most of the time, execs prefer a screenplay to hover around the southern end of that spectrum.

- A screenplay usually follows a three-act structure. If we take a 90-page (roughly 90-minute) screenplay as a template, then the first act is the first 30 pages. The second act occurs from roughly pages 30 to 60, and the third act roughly from pages 60 to 90. Typically, there's a key turning point or reversal halfway between each of those acts, too.

- The stakes get higher as the story progresses. The protagonist makes a crucial decision around page 30 which sets him off on his adventure. Shit hits the fan between 30 and 60, at which point, the protagonist realizes what he must do to resolve the situation. But then shit gets even worse, and the hero's in serious peril (physically, emotionally, or what have you). The final ~30 pages represent his final push against the antagonist(s), with a climax occurring around page 75 to 80, and a denuement from 80 to 90.

- Each scene must move the story forward in some meaningful way. This doesn't have to be overt or action-based; even a dialogue between two characters should create and then resolve something. This can be very subtle, and it's hard to notice in films. But the difference between a scene that moves, and a scene that drags or is pointless, can become readily apparent when reading a screenplay.

- Subtext: characters have personalities, goals, motivations, agendas, desires, and intentions. They don't overtly state these goals or intentions in dialogue. Two hallmarks of bad dialogue are 1) expository dialogue, i.e., dialogue that serves little purpose but to explain things; and 2) dialogue in which characters broadcast their intentions. Characters speak in their own voices. In bad dialogue, all the characters sound the exact same. In good dialogue, the characters have different ways of speaking, seeing things, etc.

- Good plots involve interesting characters that make interesting choices. The plot stems from the actions, or reactions, of a character to his circumstances. Things don't just "happen" to the character. He makes choices, and what happens next is a consequence of those choices.

- As a corollary to the above: interesting things happen when good characters make bad decisions. Think of Frodo and the ring of power. It would have been a pretty boring book (and movie) if he'd just kept the damned thing in his pouch the whole time and never put it on, right? In fact, I'd recommend Peter Jackson's first of the three LOTR movies to anyone wanting a crash course in screen plotting. It's a long movie, and it does slow down from time to time, but it's amazingly structured. Nearly every scene flows logically from the next, and in a subtle way. Every scene is the result of someone's decision, and the tension escalates accordingly.

- The Golden Rule: show, don't tell. Don't use expository dialogue as a substitute for action (and, by "action," I mean characters making interesting choices and doing interesting things. "Action" does not necessarily mean fight scenes or car chases). Don't use narration if you can avoid it. Narration is lazy. Sometimes people have broken the narration rule to great effect (i.e., when you have an unreliable narrator, or a narrator who provides humorous color commentary) -- but 9 times out of 10, narration could have been better substituted by story.

Each scene must move the story forward in some meaningful way

Matt and Trey of South Park describe this brilliantly here:


(Just brace yourself for the annoying "OMG it's Matt and Trey" production of the clip.)

I'd be pretty interested in what properties are used as attributes for modeling a potential movie. I'm guessing they don't work.

This idea clearly presents a lack of understanding of how the film industry actually works, and in turn, is presenting nothing new. Making movies isn't part that needs disruption.

Regardless of what your thoughts are about Hollywood, it's filled with a bunch of very intelligent, and very well connected people, with very deep pockets.

Iterative improvements here and there is not going to cut. Posts like these are obtuse show a general lack of understanding.

This idea to kill Hollywood is ridiculously misguided. There's nothing terribly wrong with Hollywood; I mean, it has a somewhat facile outlook that goes along with championing the individual over the enterprise - but this isn't the worst bias in the world.

The reason it's misguided is that Hollywood isn't the problem. The problem is the system of lobbying the government and the way the government operates to respond to this lobbying. Killing off Hollywood and replacing the dumbass IP protection fanatics with Hacker News will look like the same old problem of replacing one form of tyranny with another.

As a footnote, given what one assumes to be an audience including a lot of system analysts, the near-complete lack of this point of view is making me doubt my sanity. ;)

What goes around comes around. We delivered streams for DEN [1] over a decade ago, and any number of new "studios" since.

The problem we see is wrong headed thinking around distribution. Everyone wants to be an event, to drive TV or blockbuster sized audiences for a quick big win. The Internet isn't about that. The Internet (see amazon.com and books) is about breadth and depth of choice, made available to a wide enough audience that the quality of choice makes financial sense. Monetize that, and you've defeated Hollywood.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Entertainment_Network

I think that very few directors would want to forego the possibility of their film appearing in theaters. Films are designed for theaters and to those who make films, the home-theater experience, which increasingly consists of a laptop on a bed, is a paltry imitation.

Why would something like this necessarily forego theaters? I suspect that a studio built like this could work out licensing agreements with theaters, and that theaters might even become more profitable and affordable because of it.

While yes a theatre experience is more "grand" I think I'm not alone in saying that I've watched more movies at home in the last year alone than I have spent on theatre tickets. What they'll lose in "quality" they will most definitely make in quantity. Ease of access to the content will lead to higher viewership.

That makes sense when it comes to the business end but essentially you have to convince good artists to work with a far lesser medium for the sake of "higher viewership".

The path to killing Hollywood has to start from an understanding of how/where they make their real money. The post does a good job with a third of that answer-- Hollywood contracts are notoriously one sided so adding consistency and transparency to the process might create the appropriate incentives for creative talent to leave that model. In theory, that approach is already in full swing (see the independent film movement).

The other two thirds of the story are the international market and merchandising.

Even the worst film end up making money abroad. And those markets don't necessarily have access to the web. So addressing the how of international distribution (the non-web answer) will be a must.

And then to be genuinely disruptive, the last third of the solution needs to address merchandising. There needs to be a clear path for everything from action figures to cereal boxes. This one can't be done in isolation of other markets so an alternative ecosystem needs to be created.

Hollywood, megavideo and lessons I learned about charging for content online!

I have a popular documentary site which has been around for many years, streaming full length docs for small beer, it pays the hosting costs basically. But what I learned over the years that in order to survive (i.e pay the bills as hosting / streaming content is relatively expensive) is that you have to adopt the Megavideo model, i.e charge for content only after people are addicted to it. They used to force payment after 60 free minutes. I struggled to make any cash with a paywall system and only when I switched to pay in video system did it start making money. Clearly the megavideo model worked as they had 6 million in assets ceased apparently (poor sods).

I built the concept out into a standalone system in Flash and its at karsa.co.uk but for these days it would need to work in html not flash.

You have 7 ideas here, all plausible but untested. If you want to make progress you should write down why you think each idea is essential. Or what would go wrong if you didn't do each idea. What would go wrong if you charged iTunes prices instead of 99 cents?

I think this idea has a lot of strong elements to it. However, the issue that sticks out the most to me is the pricing model. $.99 per viewing? That would make making a profit incredibly difficult. It just isn't realistic.

Instead, I think a price closer to renting a movie on demand would work better with a bargain price for each view after that. Perhaps $2.99 or $3.99 for the first view and $.99 for each view after that. And then maybe when the viewer gets up to a certain view count, each view after that is free. This way, you can gain a profit with less viewers while also instilling loyalty in repeat viewers who are most likely to spread the word.

Aside from the API/streaming stuff, this is how crap is already made. Troma, Olson Twins straight to DVD, Tyler Perry, etc.

I am probably wrong, but aren't we risking a lot by using such a strong language as Killing an industry? Sure there are hundreds of mean studio executives who want to do nothing but maximize their own profits, at times at the expense of newer and in many ways better industries, but there also are thousands of others whose livelihood depends on the industry. Thousands, who might have been otherwise neutral or supportive of our cause, but not if we visibly and purposefully strive to kill their source of income.

Propaganda is something we aren't the best at, but Hollywood most definitely is. They might be aiming at destroying the tech/internet industry but they have been very cautious in choosing the right wordings so as to avoid any direct attacks (except a few who patronized 'nerds'). Even if they are using old school cliches that mean nothing if careful deductions are used, but most people would not care taking the effort. Most people would see that there are two groups fight - one that says they will save American jobs and livelihood while preventing them from illegal drugs and their children from pornography while the other group is trying to kill and entire industry. Sympathy can be a very strong tool, especially in elections (I am just saying this based on movies/popular culture - I have zero first hand experience about US elections/political atmosphere).

We should probably be careful that we do not end up just winning battles and lose the war - and there is no way that this is going to be a short one.

hmmm, production budgeting and scheduling pretty much works already like what was described here, even producers (executive ones, not line) and directors have a performance stake. Maybe there is a perception that productions are lavishly spending in drunken stupor (probably because of showbiz associated glitz), but almost every ship is run really tight in productions - real tight.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Each movie or TV show is a startup, even if all are within a single studio/production company. You can't magically run out of budget and simply ask for more money. When that happens, you might get money to finish up, but you'll also be out of work and you get managed until project is finished. Every single item gets budgeted. Most money drains happen when deadlines are slipped, since when freight train of principal photography starts it costs serious money to operate and can't be stopped. Sometimes it can really be out of producers control (special weather needed, permits suddenly in trouble, actor dies...), but it rarely happens and every major production has insurance coverage for situations like that... but when it happens you get managed. And nobody likes that, it can tailspin the situation towards evil and gets your rep tarnished.

Also, $0.99. While it would be nice, simple arithmetic calculations on average budgets and viewings sing a different song.

I agree - there are strong points here.

I'm not sure if this was intended or not, but I think you are describing YCombinator for Movies + a distribution platform to support it. At least as I read it, these are the two strong thoughts that come to mind. The biggest issue with Hollywood is its lock on distribution chan nels - this is where the biggest opportunity for disruption lies IMO.

Perhaps YCombinator + OpenHulu(API) is the magic you are looking for? Keep thinking, I think this is in the right direction.

The two ideas that come to mind to "Kill Hollywood" are 1) Louis CK and 2) HSX.com.

The best example of how to "Kill Hollywood" is Louis CK. What used to go to middlemen like distributors instead went directly into his pockets, and it decreased the price for his fans.

The content providers, like Louis CK, need to come up with their own money, and then they get all the money. Take the distribution networks out of it. Charge fans a minimum amount of money, ie. $5.

The only difficulty with a movie is that the "content provider" is very distributed. There's the writer, and then there's the actor, etc. With Louis CK, it was all the same person. With a movie, it's a lot different. Not sure how exactly that would be split up, but only because I lack any familiarty with movies.

However, funding movies could use the concept from HSX.com where you can buy shares in a film before it comes out. The value of the box office receipts ultimately is split up amongst all the shareholders, etc. This would create incentive for people to get a prospectus for a movie, ie. the script, the actors, etc, and then make informed decisions and buy shares of a movie. This would give funding to the movie, and also create a good secondary market for people to gauge how well a movie will do.

Louis CK can only "Kill Hollywood" because he's already a product of the system. He had a popular TV show on a popular TV channel before starting his experiment.

The problem that "Hollywood" solves isn't simply financing and distribution, it's letting lots and lots of people know that your product exists and convincing them that they really really want to pay lots of money to see it.

Why not just browse successful kickstarter film projects and do this with stuff that people have already made? Wouldn't that be faster way to see whether it can work?

I think this suggestion kind of misses the point: the evolution of mass culture, at least over the 20th century, has moved from radio, to movies, to TV. The biggest growth in recent new media has been video games, and now, online social services and games. Coming up with a new way of making Hollywoods product isn't going to kill Hollywood - a NEW product that eventually replaces Hollywoods products will, or at least relegate "films" and "tv shows" to the status of radio and newspapers.

What series of incremental improvements (an inevitable wrong-turns) will bring us to that next paradigm of entertainment and culture? Will screens necessarily be part of the equation for that next leap? Will we accept passively soaking in this media, or will our participation be required?

We can think of experiences like ST:TNG's Holodeck or Neuromancer/Snow Crash's plugged-in immersive metaverse as science fiction, but so was the idea of full-color screens that respond to your gestures or verbal commands not so long ago. The YC challenge to all of us dreamers is what intermediary steps are needed to make a Holodeck a reality? Then, how do we start building the first of those?

To paraphrase Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons universe... "Stealing movies is a victimless crime... like punching someone in the dark!"

- Let's imagine this plan was executed and turned out to be successful. And let's imagine the studio generates some very big hits.

- Now, imagine that, even though the movies only costs 99 cents to stream, people pirate them anyway (the same way people pirate 99 cent iPhone apps, but, unlike pirated apps, anyone can watch the pirated movies -- not just people with jailbroken devices).

- Suddenly you'll have millions of people using torrents to get bootleg copies of your movies... enough people to where you can't get investors and others their needed financial returns unless you try to put a stop to it.

My question: How do you put a stop to it without becoming Hollywood allover again?

That, to me, is the big issue here. So either you come-up with a theft-proof way of distributing movies or you try to stop it. Or shut down your business.

And adding interactivity to them is not the answer IMHO. I need my passive entertainment and so does everyone else who chooses watching a movie or tv show over playing a game at any point during a day.

The issue with paying 99c is not cost, but convenience. What I really want is for movies & music to be tacked onto my existing internet/phone bill like extra call charges.

I think he has some good ideas, but still contains the major flaw that the movie industry still has: A publisher. The publisher/producer maybe was a good idea when spreading an idea was still hard, and we had a lot of mass markets.

Even computer software was distributed through a publisher at the beginning (for example VisiCalc), but it just doesn't work.

Game developers for example seem to slowly get that they don't need a publisher but a distribution platform. Steam is a good start in that direction (but I think still too selective). If there was a platform that would handle distribution, payment and awareness, we could get a lot more movies that won't be big hits, but instead cater to the minorities. Because this is where we are heading. The music industry a really feeling that hard. There probably won't be any "Beatles" or "Rolling Stones" anymore, because distributing and spreading the word about some niche music in that niche circle is getting easier and easier.

And I think this will, in the end, be what will kill Hollywood, because there won't be a movie anymore that grosses multiple million dollars.

This kind of reminds me of the Wreck a Movie service (http://www.wreckamovie.com/) from creators of the Star Wreck movies. They say it best themselves:

"Based on the experience of creating the Star Wreck phenomenon, Star Wreck Studios has developed a Web platform that is designed to harness the power of passionate Internet communities for creating short films, documentaries, music videos, Internet flicks, full length features, mobile films and more. www.wreckamovie.com is a social community, simple workflow and marketplace that builds communities around film productions. It helps get films done faster and at a considerably lower cost through crowd-sourced work on production tasks and online resourcing of expertise and corporate funding. The communities developed in production will also create a viral social marketing force that will get films seen through the hundreds of existing online and standard channels."

Interesting discussion. Most of the ideas in this forum have been suggested in one way or another - including the idea from the original post. I posted some thoughts on the original YC 'kill hollywood' manifesto on my blog as well - which debate whether or not Hollywood can really be killed. (Spoiler - I don't think it can be, although I agree with what YC is saying). http://blog.kingtoledo.com/2012/01/kill-hollywood-not-so-fas...

I've also come up with a pretty compelling way for Hollywood (the TV business in particular) to embrace the new opportunities of fragmented communities and distribution. It's called micro-cable, and it's something that I think bridges the strengths of both the new digital world and the established Hollywood infrastructure. http://blog.kingtoledo.com/2011/12/micro-cable/

Aren't people overthinking this problem? The studios have shown their hand; they're wearing their weakness on their sleeve. The thing they're most worried about is piracy. If you stop paying for their product, they believe they will fail.

Either you stop consuming what they put out, or you find a way to get it without paying. That's what will "kill Hollywood".

A believe many people enjoy movies and don't want to pirate them (I am one of them). They won't pirate and don't want to abstain from movies, so the only option is to provide a credible alternative entertainment that doesn't involve sending money to those who lobby against us.

I believe this idea makes the same mistakes as many others trying to solve this problem. You're trying to fix a broken model by adapting a few of its pieces. But you're not looking at the big picture and trying to see how the pieces play together, or if you even need them.

Simply taking a Hollywood movie and trying to finance it with $0.99 per view will be just a Hollywood movie financed with much less money. Of course I'll have no hard data, but my hunch would be that this is far from viable.

The problem is deeper than that. The truth is that the Hollywood model carries with it many years of overhead that could be avoided today. Instead of doing slight changes we should be reviewing the the whole production pipeline and get rid of unnecessary dumb pipes. Technology can improve or even remove some of the steps. We need to make content creation cheaper, make it accessible to more creators.

Look at the startups at youtube.com/create such as xtranormal or GoAnimate. "If you can type you can create an animation". Just like wordpress brought journalism and written publishing to the masses. Technology can make the same for other mediums of communication. * If we build easier and cheaper tools, that anyone can use. Then we can turn more people into content creators, which reduces costs. * If we get rid of the whole silly copyright fundamentalism, then we can share content pieces between different productions. So creators don't need to reinvent the wheel each time.

Short version: instead of trying to come up with innovative revenue models to support over-expensive outdated production models. Let's keep building better tools that keep cutting costs down to the point that sane revenue models can support. I believe that in the future. Millionaire budget production content won't exist anymore, but it will be better than current ones, because we'll be using better tools. So stop trying to bandage what's broken, we're supposed to be killing that by building something better :)

I was nodding along until I hit #5 - pricing films at 99 cents, without any variation for the length of the work. That'd be like if both songs and albums cost 99 cents each. All you get is a race to the bottom with a lot of short derivative work.

$5 strikes me as a more reasonable price, as demonstrated by Louis C.K.'s successful experiment.

Hollywood is going to die not because we make a better studio (which would be a cool achievement anyway).

They will die if you just make better games and story telling systems.

Heck if someone just took dwarf fortress and got it to a stage where peoples fortress histories were converted into fantasy novels, you would have an endless fantasy novel generator/plot system, which would be worth the time to read.

Beat hollywood by competing on time. I don't know what the correct term is, but thats the leading edge/the place where the real battle is being won.

Whatever starts taking over the spare time people have, will displace all the other entertainment media out there.

I'd vote on video games, as one of the better attack vectors to approach this. And not the Micro transaction system (which is basically a casino/skinner box and now completely evil) but rather a system like EC2 which allows people to punch beyond their striking capacity.

>Think of it as "Moneyball for movies" -- that is, what types of successful film productions does Hollywood tend to undervalue in favor of large, expensive (and tremendously risky) blockbuster attempts?

Thing is, this has been done, and the results probably aren't what you want to hear. Hollywood actually produces fewer family and broad-appeal genre films than the market can handle. (Check out this book: http://www.amazon.com/Hollywood-Economics-Uncertainty-Routle... )

The reason for this mismatch between what the market can handle vs. what actually gets made is that Hollywood insiders actually do want to make dramas aimed at adults, which have a much smaller market than, say, animated kids' movies.

Consistent pricing is a very bad idea. It eliminates a lot of important market signalling forces.

Pretty cool idea, but i'm not so sure about the $0.99 pricing, seems pretty undervalued/cheap.

Except at two shows a day, that's $60 in a month. Already more than my current cable bill with 200+ channels.

If you count what you watch, or more likely an average US TV viewer watches, per day, that could be ten or fifteen half hour or hour shows. Over the course of a month that's considerably far more than what they are currently paying for cable.

A more viable plan might be for the return of 'soap operas' with advertisers specifically sponsoring TV shows.

* I know soap operas aren't totally dead, but their original funding model is.

Agreed; perhaps a tiered approach where people who buy early get a lower price but with limited quantities of the discounted tickets available.

Here's my idea for making crowdsourced movies that might actually be good:

How about doing movies with a Richard Linklater's "Slacker" like script? In the movie, characters are followed for a few minutes and then someone in the last scene of that segment will continue that movie interacting with a completely separate set of people and so on and so forth. Rent it on Netflix to see what I mean. This kind of movie could be crowdsourced. Someone writes the script. Many want to be actors shoot segments. The winning entrants film short scenes where they call each other on the phone to move the movie along. It's like Redditt the movie. Would somebody please do this idea? Please :).

People have talked about indie movies and how they have no choice but to go to Hollywood to help them get exposure.

My impression is that film-makers depend on Hollywood not only for the distribution but also for the funding to make the movie. If indie movies go to Hollywood not for the funding (because they're already good at making quality movies for cheap) but for distribution, then I think we have an opportunity.

We should offer an online way to distribute these indie movies.

Say I built a website that offered to host indie movies online for pay-per-view.

The distribution system would be transparent. Say you've made an indie movie. You let me host it online and charge viewers to watch it, and I give you 80% of the revenue (or whatever is necessary for me to cover costs and make a small profit)

I'd probably screen movies for quality and hand-pick the movies I allow for viewing on my site (like literary magazines or existing film festivals). It doesn't matter if I have relatively few movies on my site if they're all good (and I keep releasing more of them). The site will market itself: people will constantly check back for good movies and tell their friends about this site.

This won't stop Hollywood from churning out blockbusters, but we can keep indie movies from falling into their hands. One problem is bootstrapping the site but we might be able to convince good indie film-makers who don't want to be part of Hollywood to allow us to distribute their movies (and thus establish the site).

It turns out a website like this already exists (possibly others): http://www.indiemoviesonline.com/

There are several problems with their site which I think can be improved. They don't provide enough "buzz" for their movies. No trailers. No big pretty posters. It looks kinda like Youtube. They also give out the movies for free.

Summary: I think with proper execution it's possible to create an online pay-per-view indie-movie website without too much effort (except you need to contact filmmakers). Such a site would provide an alternative to Hollywood for certain niches.

The only way we can get hollywood to innovate is to make a convincing case that by innovating they can make more money.

At 99c a pop, you would need _billions_ of views to compete with the income of a blockbuster [not to mention innovative] film like Avatar, which according to Wikipedia made nearly $2.8 billion. If you look at the most popular YouTube videos, you'll find things like Justin Bieber's songs with about 700 million views. Making the generous estimate that about a tenth of those viewers would pay for that content, you would make about $70 million, which is orders of magnitude less than what they do now.

You could however make quite a lot of 3min music videos for the cost of an Avatar (237m according to Wikipedia). If it cost 2m per video, you could make 100 for less than the cost of an avatar, and even if only half of these made the 70m you mention, you'd still have grossed 3.5 billion.

Sure, but you're not going to get 70 million people paying 99 cents for a one time stream of a 3 minute music video in the foreseeable future.

A better comparison point would be YouTube's HD video list, which perhaps more closely approximates the production values an independent filmmaker might aspire to. The top HD videos on YouTube mostly have <10 million views. And they're short, and free.

A lot of negative comments here. This should be expected. Revolutionary and disruptive ideas never start with much buy in. That's what makes them innovative.

Remember when people thought it was impossible to put a computer in every household?

The key difference here is you're talking about commoditizing human creativity, which is what a large fraction of a typical film budget is paying for.

I can't help but imagine this easily devolves to funding porn. The films are cheap to produce, can return a great deal on their investment, and have a large audience ready to pay money to watch from the web already.

To challenge the model, you need to find a way to reduce distance between story-telling and the audience.

In the late 90s, television became a good place for creative people to work, because the industry gave writers freedom to break moulds that had contained them before. e.g. Buffy finished high school and went on to a next stage of life.

I'd focus on finding a way to deploy compelling stories so that they could be consumed for portables, browsers or airline screens on long-haul flights.

I've suggested that statuary licensing for video streaming[1] would be something that all tech companies could agree to support, and that Hollywood would hate.

I think it fits well with the "0.99c/view" model proposed here.

[1] http://nicklothian.com/blog/2012/01/18/why-the-tech-industry...

Why streaming only? I should be able to download it to any device.

Also, don't forget to ban region locking: if you want to change or beat Hollywood, have the movie available as soon as possible to conveniently purchase and play from every country when you want on any platform from. Then you're really changing the game and are a viable alternative to torrents.

Because a key part of the plan is that you aren't buying it for 99c. To buy the content and watch it many times, you'd have to pay more, but he doesn't address that. (He should, though.)

The big problem here is choosing the good films based only on the concepts.

Otherwise I really hope someone can do this. You could possibly set the price point higher though?

I'm not even sure that heavy advertising would be needed for the individual films, so long as you managed to attract a user base who expected high quality films they wanted to watch on the home page.

The reason movies get shown in movie theaters is because they help sell popcorn.Helping (local non"AMC" or "Regal" ) theaters make more money via a different film funnel could probably contribute. Maybe finding a mechanism where average people make money by showing movies might help as well.

I wonder if you can truly approach movies like start-ups. What would it look like to build an MVP for a movie? Is that the script? How do you get enough people to look at it to truly evaluate the concept? Perhaps this is why books that sell well are made into movies - proven customers.

I had an idea of my own, but it actually outgrew size of single comment, so I made a blogpost; it can be found here: http://emempi.blogspot.com/2012/01/better-world-for-movies.h...

I'm sorry but this just describes a list of wants without providing any insights into how Hollywood already works, and then prices things from a consumers perspective.

Hollywood started off as studios where actors are essentially employees. They own vertically integrated enterprises which included distributorship as well as cinemas. (Read up on the Studio System).

This started to break down as studios gave certain actors a "star" billing and some actors become independently recognizable and started working as free agents. The trend persisted with now entire teams are assembled virtually on a project by project basis.

On the distribution side of things, secondary markets became increasingly vital. Cable, DVD rental, PPV, DVD sales and international distribution have overtaken box office takings.

The free-wheeling internet has proven to be a problem because some people who are watching movies at home are no longer accessing these through the monetizable channels like rentals, but instead are doing this through the free/unauthorized channels. I don't really know the size of this problem, as I personally don't like the idea of being shaken down by the MPAA or RIAA. Besides, I don't have the time.

Therefore to solve this problem for Hollywood, one working theory is that people don't mind paying a certain amount for the convenience of watching movies where they want it, as long as the price is "reasonable". This is Apple's model.

However, in general, the current way of negotiating individual distributor agreements represent a high degree of friction, and that locks out potentially creative ways for studios to earn back their investment.

If movie makers were to securitize its prices, alternate channels will flourish. I envision it more or less like a mechanical license.

One formulae may be based on days since first released and the size of the screen, and whether it is PPV or multiple viewing.

Then it is up to repackagers like DVD-makers, movie theatres, and online channels to reach the viewers. Repackaging may involve adding ads before and after the movie (brings down the cost of viewing), or even during the movie (as in TV).

If such a pricing evolves, I can see devices such as Roku offer a "legal" way to view a movie even if the user has downloaded it from a torrent. For instance, a user may be prompted whether they wish to deduct the price of the movie from their account in exchange for indemnity if they were prosecuted for illegal downloading.

In the big picture of things though, movies are a huge time drain on society. I, for one, would rather see people having to pay to watch movies. My relatives in Asia who regularly buy pirated DVDs from street stalls watch way too much movies and fritter their lives away.

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