Past examples of "disruptive technology" or innovation that changed the course of history are: the printing press, the steam engine, the automobile, the light bulb, the airplane, television, Napster...Today we have Google, Ebay, YouTube, Skype and Facebook.
At the recent Webby Connect Conference held this October in Laguna, a whole panel was devoted to the discussion of how this "disruptive" technology has profoundly impacted the way we use the web, view entertainment and communicate with one another. Never before have we had the readily accessible ability to exchange ideas and images with one another across the world unfettered.
Companies the likes of YouTube and Skype have set a standard for an evolutionary phase of interactive media and also, importantly, for the way we access and consume media.
Hollywood "Insiders" and Hollywood "Outsiders"
Ensconced in a Hollywood insider's perspective, these innovations may feel threatening. From my own self-professed Hollywood outsider's perspective, these media innovations feel liberating. And the reality is, there are a lot more of us Hollywood "outsiders" than "insiders."
When Martin Luther used the printing press to print copies of the Bible en masse, the Word became accessible to the masses. They just had to learn how to read.
What YouTube and its clones have done is not all that dissimilar. The creation and distribution of the video image is now open to everyone. We must just learn how to operate a video camera and a computer. "Broadcast Yourself," after all, is their motto.
What's exciting to note is that there are Hollywood insiders who are not shy about embracing this evolutionary change.
John Dahl, director of You Kill Me, starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni, released in theatres last June and now out on DVD as of October 9th, is an example of this unabashedly positive embrace of innovation.
Speaking on a Master Panel at this year's Palm Springs International Short Film Festival he commented, "I wouldn't mind being like Prince...that is, studio optional. I just watched 30 hours worth of films here -- competent films, different voices. I think the public is interested in more diverse forms of entertainment. There's a bigger appetite out there for tastes and discretions than what's made available."
Music and Movies
Dahl says he sees a potential parallel development happening in the distribution of film as is happening with music distribution. This October saw Radiohead release its new full-length album, In Rainbows, digitally via the band's own website. You can buy the disc box or the digital download only at Radiohead.com. The band asked fans to "pay-what-you-can." Most fans have opted to pay between a $10 and $20 price point. This translates into successful marketing and distribution from any standpoint, but especially one that must only partially incur manufacturing and shipping costs. Digital downloads, beautifully, do not incur manufacturing and shipping costs.
"I think maybe the same thing that happened in the music industry will happen and is happening in film. One day filmmakers won't need studios. You can go online and reach an audience without a studio," comments Dahl.
John Dahl's successful film career as a writer-director spans over two decades. His credits include Kill Me Again, starring a young Val Kilmer and Michael Madsen; Red Rock West, with Nicholas Cage and Rounders which starred Matt Damon, who, while shooting Rounders for Dahl, was nominated for an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting.
Dahl's recent dark comedy, You Kill Me, was the closing night film for the CineVegas film festival this summer and it also enjoyed a wide summer release through IFC Films. The film boasts Luke Wilson and Bill Pullman in its stellar lineup.
"Studios are the conduits for the content. There are about 8-10 companies that decide what gets out to the public. There's a culture of media executives who decide what gets out and what doesn't. It's kind of like the NFL," he says.
"It would be nice to see more diversity. People want more diversity -- you see that in YouTube," continues Dahl. "If you knew who the people are in the media who are calling the shots...the public might not be aware, really, of what's actually available," he concludes. "Hollywood lives in a complete and total bubble. There is no diversity. They all think, talk and say the same thing."