These days, nearly everyone has the means to produce video content now and distribute. You can shoot top-quality HD video on a DSLR camera. You can edit on your laptop and then load onto YouTube, where your content will be available for the whole world to see in a matter of minutes.
What does this mean for people looking to make careers out of producing video content, whether it be feature-length films, for television, etc.? It means it's all currently a big clusterf@#k, though that's not necessarily a bad thing, as conflict usually produces results. Allow me to make sense of this in a roundabout sort of way, as that's currently where my mind's at after attending the Produced By Conference this past weekend on the Fox lot, put on by the Producer's Guild of America.
I can't call it the "PGA" as that to me is golf, although I would like to talk golf for a minute. Back in April of 1997, Tiger Woods burst onto the scene, won his first Masters, and pretty much instantly made golf popular to the masses. I'll admit, I jumped on that bandwagon around the time. I was looking for a hobby and since I used to have an all right baseball swing and some friends played, I figured what the hell.
I became O.K. at golf, just good enough to play on my high school team for a year. In retrospect, my passion wasn't in the right place. I was more into the idea of improving my golf game by improving my equipment than by improving my swing. And the golf equipment was AMAZING! The late 90's was a time of a golf equipment revolution. Every new driver promised to hit the ball straighter and further than the last. Each new wedge promised more backspin, the balls were claimed to fly farther and land softer, and many of these new products actually delivered. They also delivered to larger audiences, as more people were watching golf because of Tiger.
What does this have to do with producing video content? Bear with me. "Paranormal Activity" was shot on an HD handheld camera and went on to gross over $100 million at the box office. The Duplass brothers shot their first feature, "The Puffy Chair," on a Panasonic DVX-100A, and now they're making studio features starring John C. Reilly and Marissa Tomei. Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture," shot on a Canon 7D, won this year's Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at South by Southwest. A generation of filmmakers are shooting features on the same or similar equipment. This, to me, is not that different than seeing Tiger hit a 300+ yard drive with a Titleist (in '97) and saying "I want that Titleist driver so I can be in a position to do that."
Thing is, we're not all Tiger Woods or the Duplass Brothers or Lena Dunham. The equipment doesn't give us any competitive advantage whatsoever unless our game is already tight.
It is absolutely a major boon to be able to produce amazing images at low, low prices, but understand this is also both a blessing and a curse. Never before has there been so much clutter to stand out amongst if we truly want to forge careers as content producers.
For me, perfecting my swing is continuing to improve as a storyteller (especially in regards to story structure) and maybe even more importantly as a marketer. And this is why I'm attending conferences like Produced By...
(Check back for part 2, in which I actually write about the conference. Also, take a peek at my first feature, Bad Batch.)