06/20/2011 03:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Future of Film: Is Context the New King?

By Katharine Relth

During the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival, several unique conversations in the Tribeca Talks: Industry series were organized as a way to inspire industry professionals, thought leaders, and Festival attendees to think about the present and future of filmmaking in new, innovative ways. Offering something different than the traditional screenings and director Q&As we so often find at film festivals, the 2011 Tribeca Talks series featured discussions on new methods of documentary distribution, the serious business behind entertainment, and how social media is changing the way we conceive storytelling.

The social media topic provided for a rich discussion that appropriately took place simultaneously in one of Tribeca’s many venues and within a chat-enabled live streaming channel. After the Amplify the Message: Social Media panel had culminated, the deluge of audience questions began on topics from monetization to interdisciplinary strategy. As the moderator of the chat room, I involved the people watching online—some from as far away as Brazil and Africa—in the discussion as well, allowing those not present in the room to be truly connected to this event.

Marc Schiller, CEO and Founder of Electric Artists, Amplify the Message brought together media creators and influencers from the worlds of filmmaking, social activism, and education to share their social media knowledge, strategies and experience. Joined by director/screenwriter Rider Strong, social activist and transmedia consultant Lina Srivastava, and the President and CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy Howard A Tullman, Schiller gave voice to his distaste for the phrase “content is king.” This small statement began one of the more intriguing discussions of the panel: What is content now? And if content is not king, then what is? Relationships? Self-promotion? The audience?

Answer: None of the above. According to this panel, CONTEXT is now king.

This idea initially came from Tullman and was echoed in different ways by the other two panelists. Tullman asserted that “if a message is delivered in the right context it’s more important even than the content, certainly in terms of reaching the kinds of people we want to reach.” This is true for most content creators, and especially for short films that don’t receive the same promise of distribution as feature films. Rider Strong understood that when cutting the trailer for his short Dungeon Master, “The content had to change because [the web] was an entirely different context for a trailer.” Srivastava elaborated by explaining that content delivery is “not that flat structure any more; content is how you tell your story.”

And that’s what social media strategy is all about, isn’t it? Contextualizing a targeted message for a specific platform delivered to a select audience. Unlike the days of television and radio, what you say no longer reigns supreme, but rather how you say it. In fact, context may have always been king—we just didn’t know quite how to define that ruling force.

We’ve pulled a clip from the panel so you can watch and decide whether you agree with Strong, Tullman and Srivastava for yourself. And for those of you looking for inspiration, the panelists also offer some of their favorite personalities, companies and organizations that are doing some really interesting work in their own corners of the web.

Take 9 minutes out of your day to watch the following clip—it’s thought-provoking, to be sure!

You can also watch the video in its entirety at the Tribeca (Online) Streaming Room.

Cross-posted from the Future of Film blog at, where leading filmmakers and

experts within the film industry share their thoughts on film, technology and the future of media.