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People, by nature, have some interesting things to say. Here are some of my things. Some about acting. All about living ...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"It's time User Generated Content grew up ..."

I read an the article about 'A Swarm of Angels' crowdsourcing film production, and am hugely encouraged that there are groups pushing new business models in the film making world.

First, unequivocally, the rules and technologies for media production, marketing, distribution, and profit have changed. And (this may sound elitist, but I really need to make a point) I would argue 95% of the world doesn't see that. Things like Web 2.0 are leaving people who don't adapt in the dirt.

I'm an actor. But I'm also a technologist. And a bit of a futurist. And I've been nearly crawling out of skin at the clusterf**** of missed opportunities between technology and media content (which is much bigger that just eye-candy special effects).

Seriously. I've got people that don't even understand what these ancient things called blogs are. And I've even had Biz folks suggest my Website and blogging's "not that critical a part of your personal marketing campaign". I find it very hard to regard those folks. But I do pay attention to (and get a hold of) those production, marketing, advertising and other houses that -- never talking to me -- use my Website and its posts to further their marketing at a grassroots and community level, build buzz, teach classes (at Harvard, no less), and so on. Those are folks who get it.

And while there are these ridiculous baby step battles being fought on the fair use and DRM put-down side of the house, and tepid Web site offerings for film and media distribution (YouTube? Please. That's Sooo 2005), it looks like 'A Swarm of Angels' is doing the appropriate techno / marketing / distribution / fair use leapfrog.

Back to 'A Swarm of Angels', which is the brainchild of Matt Hanson, a UK filmmaker / producer / author. The goal is "to 'crowdsource' the funding, production, and distribution of a $1.9+ million dollar movie" -- putting the principles of open source software to film making.
"The idea is we become a self-sustaining entertainment community with an unprecedented amount of freedom over the films we create."
And there are some other big guns advising: Cory Doctorow (culture advocate and technology futurist), Warren Ellis (writer of graphic novels, short fiction, novels, television, animation, screenwriting, journalism), and Tommy Pallotta (film producer behind A Scanner Darkly, etc.).

To play, you pay a ~$50 non-expiring membership fee (it's in UK pounds-sterling, but PayPal will do the conversion for you), and you then get to participate in the creation and other decisions for the project, created under the auspices of Creative Commons licensing.

At a high level, here's what you get for your money:
"In return for their investment, 'angels' get to have a say on all aspects of the creative process, access exclusive content, and in some cases even become part of the film crew. As the project progresses, the aim is to recruit 50,000 'angels' (hence the million-plus dollar budget). The finished movie will be released under a Creative Commons license so that it can be shared and remixed freely."
But you get other benefits. They'll be building the film crew as much as possible from the membership. You get to influence and greenlight a film. You get media and downloads along the project's way.

And it's totally screwing with the current distribution / revenue model, eschewing it for the chance of a greater creative payoff:
"Our project is about a Return on Entertainment, rather than a Return on Investment. If it's about a capital return then that interferes with creative decisions, and the fact we want to give it away, and let people remix it. My emphasis is on creating a model for cinema that can produce more distinctive creative work rather than being boxed into commercial genres in order that it make its money back."

It's not that it won't make money, per se, but that's not its restrictive goal.

And Hanson's parting shot:

"Here's my big pitch… If you're sick of being sold 'product' by mainstream media, and are serious about the power of the web and social networks to create cultural change then you need to become a member of the project. A Swarm of Angels is a revolutionary process to create the future of film. Join, and you can make it happen."
If you do want to join -- do it quickly. They're getting to cap the first 1,000 attendees with special privileges, and they're near that cut-off mark.

And, yeah, I'm a member.


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