Sidebar: The Relevancy of Answers

A Day at the Park

A Day at the Park

A very interesting find.  Very apropos to the mantra of EYESthatHEAR:

“What’s the point if a wrong answer will stop you from returning to the right question.  Although sometimes people have no questions to return to… which is usually why they defend them, with such strong conviction.

That’s exactly why I am extra cautious with all these big ol’ answers that have been lying around, long before we came along.  They bully their way into our collection without being invited by any questions of our own. We accept them just because they have satisfied the questions of so many before us… seeking the questions which fits them instead…

My favorite kind of answers are those that my questions give birth to.  Questions that I managed to keep safe long enough to do so.”

~ Kostas Kiriakakis ~

I believe there are ultimate, universal answers that define our existence.  However, those dynamic answers are connected to a myriad of questions, purposed to challenge how we look at those answers with our finite understanding.  We think our little answers ARE the explanation of that universal answer but, when challenged, our little answers can be smashed into irrelevance. They are deemed insignificant and inadequate.  When found wanting, too many cast both the little and ultimate answer to the curb, disregarding both as a collective ‘wrong.’  But in reality, our answer to, or understanding of the bigger answer was the one in error – not the ultimate thereof.

Much to think about.  Much to “see with our ears, and hear with our eyes” differently.  Each time.

Crowdfund in 30 Seconds: The New Wave “Elevator Pitch”

Over the past 5+ years, ambitioning creatives and entrepreneurs have sought funding through a historically different platform.  In 2008, Time Magazine titled the method ‘crowdfunding.’  Being that it’s not a new development, floods of campaigners have cast their nets widely and indiscriminately.  Unfortunately this creates glut, distracting backers from finding serious projects worthy of contribution.  So how does one grab attention quickly and effectively?  It happens in the first 30 seconds.  Kissmetrics presents an infographic detailing the importance of a well-crafted video. The first 30 seconds of any video set the tone and answer the question, “Why should I keep watching this?  Why should I care?”  I bring up video in conjunction with crowdsourcing because you cannot reach your full potential without it.  Plain and Simple.  A video is essential to your crowdfunding success.  It’s kind of like online dating.  The ones who haven’t posted a picture are quickly, if not instantly through search criteria, filtered out.  It’s not important how I know this, only that I do.  Let’s just say that I’ve done my research.

‘Net surfers lack the patience for long, drawn out introductions and pitch feeds. If a campaign doesn’t grab within the first 30 seconds, the audience will move on.  This doesn’t mean a campaign isn’t any good, but that the package lacked attractive wrapping and alluring accouterments – not to be mistaken with frippery or ostentatious adornment.  But the invitation for contribution must be palatable and savory, at best.  It’s the first thing backers see.  You only have one chance to make a first impression, and so it better be solid – it better be good.  Here are some “goodness” rules of thumb:

1.  Pick the Right Platform.

Some of the crowdfunding sites out there are: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Kiva, Peerbackers, ChipIn, Sellaband, and Pledgemusic, to name a few.  Each has its own unique niche. For example, Kickstarter leads the pack with over $100 million in contributions towards filmmaking alone. Peerbackers was created to help business owners garner funds for startup or expansion costs, and Kiva works intercontinentally with microloans to “help people create better lives for themselves and their families.”  In theory, all three could be tapped for, say, a documentary on the effects of Kiva, empowered by a newly created small business venture.  But Nicole Fende on a podcast called, “SmallBizFinance,” suggests narrowly focusing your campaign and driving it forward through strong marketing strategies.  It’s important to research which option will be the right fit for right now.  Start with one platform and diversify later, if need be.

2.  Research Other Campaigns (competition).

There are 42 pages of campaigns on Peerbackers; 5 categories of film and video on Kickstarter; and Sellaband has helped over 80 artists or groups through more than $4 million from investors.  Crowdfunding is a big deal – and a successful one at that.  Know what you are up against.  Listen, watch and research what already exists or has achieved success.  The only way to stand out is to know where you stand – and what stands next to you.

3.  Script. Plan. Practice. Polish.

The newness of the platform does not negate the need for quality and detail.  Developing your presentation is no different than preparing a pitch.  Gordon Firemark of Entertainment Law Update reiterates the importance of preparation and due-diligence, saying:

I am often consulted by film and stage producers who tell me they are ready to start work on raising the financing for their films/ plays/ musicals, or what-have-you, but often as not, as we get to work, it becomes clear that they’re not as ready as they think.” 

Package yourself for success.  Assuming you take yourself and your project serious, treat the preparation of your campaign the same.  Remember: first impressions will never happen again.  Get it right the first time.

Additional Links of Interest

Sen. Brown Law Proposal:

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/11/scott-brown-next-steve-jobs/2/?utm_source=Contextly&utm_medium=RelatedLinks&utm_campaign=Previous

Craig Newman: Crowdfunding fraud??

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/12/crowdfunding-big-thing-fraud/

Nat.l Endowment for the Arts:

http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/02/the-nea-responds-to-kickstarter-funding-debate.php

Film Crowdfunding Success:

http://www.boiseweekly.com/Cobweb/archives/2012/03/01/crowdfunding-responsible-for-31-films-at-austin-festival

Entrepreneur Magazine “How To”:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222813

Five Successful Crowdfunding Campaigns:

http://exclaim.ca/Features/Spark/five_successful_crowdfunding_campaigns

Small Business Trends:

http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/04/small-business-financing-sec-eases-crowdfunding-regulations.html

Save the Cinema: Taking Responsible Action

Part three of the three-part series, “Revival of the Fittest: Evolution of the Movie House Experience.” (See Part two)

The success of a movie theater depends upon customer satisfaction, but customers aren’t simply satisfied by the movie itself.  It is a uniquely enveloped experience that entices people to buy a ticket.  Else why would movie watchers leave the comforts of their own home cinema?  There is not enough incentive nowadays to draw any substantial crowd to the theater.

Surrounding the film must be features the audience does not have at home.  For instance: pseudo drive-in viewing rooms give a uniquely vintage seating arrangement, or places like the Cinema Grill in Colorado offer event hosting and full dining experiences.

Theaters who are short on ideas for in-house rebranding can turn to companies like The Screening Room, who take charge of revamping and renewing the appeal of existing theaters.  The Screening Room’s sole mission is to re-invigorate the movie-going experience through conceptually developing boutique cinemas.  “Boutique cinemas combine the magic of the movies with the natural appeal of a coffeehouse, café or wine bar to create a true destination spot.”  Alternatively, if ambitions are greater than simply boutique, visionary cinema owners can take inspiration from San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki, where local curated art, rotated quarterly, hangs on the walls.  A truly posh experience.

Most notably, theater owners like AMC take a socially conscious approach.  Teaming up with the Autism Society, select AMC theaters are set up as optimal viewing experiences for families of autism.  Called The Sensory Films Program, screening room lights are lit and sounds are kept slightly down.  “Guests are allowed to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing, creating a safe and accepting movie going environment for individuals who might otherwise never be able to attend a movie due to the challenges of autism.”  According to the Autism Society, families are allowed to bring dietary-specific foods, and AMC’s strict “Silence is Golden” rule will not be enforced.  Through the support of AMC, Sensory Films show in 33 states across the country, where many grateful families can take their autistic child to the cinema – without fear of reprisal.

Whatever the persuasion, there is no reason to let drowsing dogs lie when it comes to the economic downturn of the movie theater business.  In other words, there are no excuses.  Business is about ownership and innovation, and there are plenty of examples to glean from.  We’ve spent time examining the root causes of this ‘crisis,’ dispelling any grounds for entitlement the general public (and theater management) may think they have.  Now is the time for action – especially with the increasing threat of movie house closures.  At this point, accountability lies with the responsible and informed.  I propose megaplex cinemas outfit their screening rooms with multi-functional resources to support options like a Cinema Daycare or Cardio Cinema.  To promote particular films or campaigns, open a thematically geared gift shop to encourage point-of-sale purchasing.  Whatever the solution, the point is that they exist.  With a little creativity, there is great potential to turn this movie theater mess into a silver screen miracle.

Who’s Fault Is It, Anyway? Examining Root Causes to the Movie Theater Industry’s Deconstruction

Follow-on to part one of a three-part installment, “Revival of the Fittest: Evolution of the Movie House Experience.”

In 1948 the Supreme Court ruled big film industry control over the movie business violated anti-trust laws.  Because the major Hollywood studios vertically controlled production, distribution and exhibition, the oligopoly prevented competition within the marketplace.  Although loosely enforced (if at all), the divorcement decree still exists today.  With the FCC recently relaxing rules against cross-ownership between television, print and radio, and the new era of digital distribution and exhibition growing strong, there is reason to wonder if the restriction on Hollywood vertical integration is even relevant anymore.  Lifting the ban would allow Hollywood to once again bolster up movie theaters, bringing back the customer base that is waning.

But is it really their responsibility to intervene?  I think not.  After the divorcement of production/distribution and exhibition, the relationship between Hollywood studios and movie theaters compartmentalized.  Production companies draw crowds in by focused marketing on a particular film, while owners of movies theaters are responsible for facility advertising and sustainment.  This relationship passes accountability of the movie theater over to its management team as a separate business entity.  Movie theaters are their own business.  They are not entitled to “bail outs” by the production company.  Their profit-loss margin is just that – theirs.

The truth is that more and more theaters are closing their doors across the country.  But if you look closely at each as a distinct entity unrelated to its product (the movie), you have a service-oriented business that is individually responsible for inventory, advertising and market relevance.  No matter what the business, if that model does not make changes with its industry, their failure is inevitable.  Most movie theaters are not doing much in regards to service improvements, hence the growing number of closures.  We can lament that one of the world’s favorite leisure activities is fading away, but it’s not simply because of changing times.  American movie theaters are fading away because of bad business management and virtually no brand development.  Result: no brand loyalty and decreasing relevance.

No more is a film enough to draw a crowd.  People opt to stay home if all they want to do is watch a movie.  Not to mention films aren’t promising enough anymore to peel people away from their 42-inch flat screen plasma t.v. and endless trips to the snack bar (the kitchen).  Some theaters are turning to outside agencies in an effort to develop marketing strategies. For example, West World Media out of Connecticut specializes globally in exhibitor and venue-marketing services, strategically directing customers back into dimly lit caves of fantasy.  Yet at large, the issues plaguing movie-houses are internally rooted: lack of ownership.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  The popcorn is still bad.  The floors are still sticky.  The prices are too high in relation to the non-experience movie-going now is.  If more theaters would take on projects like facility overhaul or strategizing with project specialists externally, they might have a fighting chance.  Thankfully some places in America have gotten a clue and are actively enhancing the theater’s appeal. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema employs a chief creative officer solely responsible for creating unique programming events.  Fox Restaurant Concepts marries film and dining into a boutique experience.  Other major chains are following in suite by offering special dinner seating elevated above the general audience.  There are many options available that do not include dependence on Hollywood for hand-outs, and practical business sense eliminates excuses for entitlement.  The success of a movie theater is dependent on the creativity and management of its owner.  But having a handful of specialty theaters will not save the theater experience as a whole.  What other projects can be implemented to “save the clock tower?!”  A problem is only worth pointing out if possible solutions follow.  In part 3 of the “Revival of the Fittest…” series, we’ll talk about infusing the portals of escapism with new life.

Andrew Dunn: Arcade Coin Pusher (2005)

Creative Retaliation

What I find interesting about market trends, shifts and factors is that it’s a constant battle between regulation and de-regulation.  According to Gerben Bakker of the University of Essex, kings and national rulers regulated the economic landscape of entertainment during earlier centuries.  This left travelling troubadours and seasonal entertainers out on the fringes while principalities controlled the legitimate theatres of the larger cities.  In the mid nineteenth century, western society moved to de-regulate entertainment.  As innovation increased through inclusion of all variables so did demand.  This meant more money.  Cue the re-entry of regulation and standardization.  Left- and Right-brained minds begin their battle for the reigns, trying to control the profit by controlling the product.  But as we should have learned from history, systems only work temporarily with regards to creative industries.  Creativity retaliates with change as the living, breathing organism it is.  The only option is to shift towards the moving target in hopes of knocking down a few pennies from the tray.

Arcade Coin Pusher

Control vacillations persist between movie moguls and cartels seeking to monopolize filmmaking profits.  But as soon as there seems to be a “standard operating procedure,” ‘creatives’ come in and “muck up the system.”  Oh wait… I mean progress it exponentially and dynamically. Yet still to this day the, “but this is the way it’s always been done,” mentality wars with innovation and transformation.  Right now we are seeing an identity shift from ‘traditional,’ and I use these terms loosely, to ‘non-traditional’ forms of exhibition and delivery.  For example: moving from film to digital; DVD to download; and from the box office to the Internet. But as the saying goes, “the only constant is change.”  This is especially true for the film industry.  Demand today revolves around mobility and accessibility.  Additionally, Video on Demand (VOD) and instant web access are emplaced to mitigate piracy.  A huge factor influencing the move from film to digital is cost: dollars and sense [sic].  Production costs are outrageous, making online distribution more sensible as a cost-efficient alternative.  And now cameras capture imagery at comparable, if not better quality than film.  But demand screams the loudest: audiences like the way it looks and they want to see it now. Once again we are experiencing creative, innovative and demand-driven change.

So what’s the buzzword for today?  Collaboration. Gary Goldstein wrote in the 2011 “Future of Film Summit” that the evolving culture of film elevates individual accountability for all aspects of filmmaking, and all parties, “albeit reluctantly, are selectively 
beginning to partner up on projects.”  Up-front financing is becoming increasingly scarce, and brand-marketing tactics integrated within films are sources of significant underwriting contributions.  The newest financing trend involves crowd-funding through online solicitation sites.  Goldstein says innovators with carpe diem attitudes and “a true wild west indie filmmaker attitude, will fare better” in this new filmmaking model. But ‘indie’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘low-budget’ anymore.  It simply means non-studio.  Today’s filmmaking trends remind me of the film, Field of Dreams (1989): “Build it and they will come.”  Goldstein says experts predict cowboy filmmaking will increase funding, distribution and resource streams as filmmakers venture out on their own.  This comes in response to the ever-increasing audience despondency with Hollywood and its products.  Because the industrial systematic state of filmmaking consistently disappoints the clients they are servicing, the people want a change.  It’s the circle of life all over again (Lion King (1994) pun intended), and the left-right-brain battle resumes.