Independent filmmakers have a lot to think about. Beyond getting the right shot, the best take and an award-winning performance from the actors, they also must have an eye to post-production editing and then the marketing and distribution of the film.
But that’s not the half of it. Even before a single actor has been hired, filmmakers will have already spent weeks and months raising money to produce the film and working out how it will be distributed. In other words, the filmmaker has to be artist and business person combined.
Owning the whole process from start to finish of course needs a dedicated team of professionals and that’s costly, but there are new ways of doing things that cannot only be imagined but accessed now.
Just as the cost of the actual filmmaking has been reduced so, for example, it is possible to shoot high-definition video on a smartphone, this can also be extended to the all-important storage, distribution and monetisation of a film, and even the marketing.
Disrupting the disruptors
Before delving further in that regard let’s consider for a moment the film industry from the vantage of the music industry. Both have been disrupted in their different ways. That disruption has changed the corporate configuration of industries and how product is delivered, but it hasn’t displaced incumbents, although it has reduced their pivotal industry roles in some cases.
The rise of Netflix and YouTube has widened the gamut of available distribution channels and the way the product is consumed.
In both the film and music arena, we are used to the idea of consuming on our own terms, when we want and what we want. This is undoubtedly a beneficial advance for consumers but the control over the product produced by the artists is to a greater or lesser degree still ultimately in the hands of a centralised platform or other distributor.
Spotify and Apple Music haven’t freed the artists, far from it. However, there are today more channels available to the music artist other than, as in the past, waiting for the record company to press the vinyl or burn a CD.
Filmmakers can take control
However, the positions of the recording artist and filmmaker are radically different when we consider the issue of taking care control of the whole process we cited earlier.
The aspiring singer or band, as we mentioned, has other channels. It means they have the option of going direct to their audience if they so wish, by streaming from their own website say, or accessing the gig circuit in their locality – starting small yet aiming high.
For the filmmaker things are not so straightforward.
Let’s assume the little matter of making the film has already been ticked off the list. The expense involved, regardless of how ‘low budget’ a film’s production costs might be, it will still likely require viewing at scale for a profitable return on investment to be achieved.
True, in the internet age the filmmaker has similar channels available to them as the music artist and could, for example, try streaming from their own website, but the bandwidth would be crippling.
In reality, the indie film company will need to get on a platform that can deliver the distribution service for them in addition to accessing the traditional distribution networks required to get a film seen in a movie theater.
Unfortunately, that means handing over to the platform strategic aspects of the control of the critical monetisation area, not to mention the risk of an inadequate storage system exposing intellectual property to theft and the complexity of managing revenue, payments, rights and other contractual matters not just on one platform but probably on a few simultaneously.
Decentralising centralised platform streaming
Blockchain technology has a solution for these problems and holds out the promise of ushering in a new wave of disruption that displaces the centralised platform or corporation and potentially puts power in the hands of the content creator in a way that was not previously possible.
Just as there are projects in the music arena that are working on decentralised platforms for recording artists, so there are similar in the film industry, which will benefit the creator, and also the viewer.
Enter stage left StreamSpace.
In the same fashion that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have just about killed off the DVD industry, StreamSpace represents the leading-edge of a blockchain-based disruptors with their sights aimed at upending streaming video on demand (SVOD) industry. The global SVOD industry has 200 million subscribers and this is projected to grow exponentially.
The starkest expression of the problems for filmmakers described above is the salient fact that the vast majority, as much as 80%, of the films made go unseen, weeded out by the centralised gatekeepers, be it Hollywood studios or Netflix.
Filmmakers and audience in the front row
StreamSpace’s decentralised distributive model lets consumers decide what they want to watch. A consumer simply funds their smart contract and spends it on the films they want to see.
For the filmmaker they can upload to a decentralised server system that chops up the films and stores it across the network, making piracy pretty much impossible.
Monetization is handled with a smart contract that takes the money in, but also manages the output to those who need to be paid, from actors to crew to marketers. All of this takes place in real-time, so there’s no waiting for YouTube or Netflix – if they deem to host your indie film – to pay out.
StreamSpace also provides a venue for filmmakers to crowdfund their next offering, which also acts as a marketing vehicle for future product.
Also, the transparency of systems such as StreamSpace’s means analytics can be easily captured and, importantly, quickly acted upon. For example, you can see what part of your audience is in a country that speaks a different language to that used in the film, and which is the most popular foreign-language locale. The filmmaker can use this information to prioritize which language to produce subtitles for first.
Streaming at scale for filmmakers and aficionados alike
To be really useful, a network must reach sufficient scale for networks effects to kick in, so that Metcalfe’s law can work its magic.
StreamSpace has a technological vision that could achieve the required scale, and co-founder and chief executive Robert Binning is confident they can deliver for both the creators and the consumers, opening up a world of talent and art that deserves to be seen.
The feedback loop this could unleash is exciting, as mainstream audiences get introduced to a world beyond the latest formulaic blockbuster, such as The Commuter [my brother is in it], enjoyable as that might be.
Those arthouse films audiences (or rather the centralised studio of platform) didn’t think they would like, may turn out to be a joy to watch, in turn attracting more money to a richer more diverse base of films.
StreamSpace wants to help that happen. “Our goal is to become the world’s leading destination for innovative film content, with a deep catalog that will enable personalized viewing experiences and that will be rewarding for our core customers: creative, independent filmmakers and film aficionados,” says Binning.
For filmmaking sake, let’s hope they succeed. Their crowdsale is live. Get a ticket for the show.