By Rob Millis
Hollywood and New York came together in Las Vegas this week for the largest event in technology and entertainment, the Consumer Electronics Show. The future of film has always been determined in part by what happens at CES every year. The massive industry conference helped launch VHS, LaserDisc, DVD, Xbox and every other major technology used to distribute and watch movies. Canon, Avid, Sony and every other major supplier of production tech demonstrate their latest and greatest in Las Vegas too.
This year though, at least for independent producers, the most important thing happening at CES has been the IAWTV Awards show and related Entertainment Matters conference. The International Academy of Web Television joined forces with CES to create a unique track of conference programming and bring the leading web video awards show to Las Vegas. This convergence of independent producers, online distribution and Hollywood is a huge step forward for independent producers, writers and actors in every medium.
So why should this matter to independent filmmakers? Because for too long the bubble of the film world has insulated filmmakers from changes happening in their own industry. As the worlds of online and offline media converge, there is no better way to understand where the film industry is headed than to learn from the greatest innovators in film and video — the web producers.
The goal of most early web series seemed to be for the actors and producers to build a career in television or on the big screen. It’s only natural that online media has become a farm club for production talent in television and film, but the opposite is now true as well.
The tables have turned in recent years, particularly after the 2007-2008 WGA writers strike, a mass of studio talent began experimenting with new ways to create great programs outside the studio system. One of the most influential productions to come out of the writers strike was the collaboration between Joss Whedon, Neil Patrick Harris and web celeb Felicia Day on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, taking an online concept to full film production and creating a cult classic in the process. Since that time, Kevin Pollak, Will Ferrell and plenty of other household names discovered that cheap production and rapid distribution can liberate you creatively, while immediately building a more engaged fan base.
Technical production talent has been thriving online as well, thanks to the freedom of experimentation with new production tools. From cameras and sound gear to editing software and video players, new tools are in the hands of online innovators long before they make it to film sets. In fact you can be certain that some of the best production gear shown at CES this week will be used in online productions within days.
A few weeks back I tweeted that every independent filmmaker should find an experienced web producer, buy them lunch, and listen to everything they say. This received more of a response from web producers than it did from filmmakers, which is really a shame, because the filmmakers have the most to learn.
The shortcut to this, without having to pay for lunch, is to join the IAWTV and stay in the loop by connecting with the online production communities on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from a bunch of web nerds.
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com