It’s the year to year transition favorite pastime of nearly everyone, so here’s my list of predictions for 2015. You can look at last year’s list here, and while I didn’t get everything right, by my count I was correct on 6/10 so that’s not too bad. Up for 2015:
1. Branded Content will spread into Fiction Feature Films: Last year I predicted a flood of branded content, and I was right. I also participated in this myself, helping Patagonia with DamNation. But most of these efforts have been around short form narrative and documentary content. I think this year will see many more brand attempts at feature fiction films. It’s been done before, so this won’t be new, but I think we’ll see some new distribution models tried out as well.
2. More VC money for quality content: VC’s and investors generally have stayed far away from content. It scares them and they’ve been ripped off by it too many times. But in the past year, we’ve seen a lot more investor activity around content, and while most of this has been around what I’d loosely call “new journalism endeavors,” I think this year will see more activity around creative videos, documentary endeavors and even fiction narratives. There’s a lot of money out there looking for a home, and I bet some of it lands in content soon.
3. Facebook will launch original content: I’ve been saying this for years now, and some people seem to finally agree with me – Facebook is a network, and eventually all networks need content. While they did pull out of the Newsfronts, ending a lot of speculation, I think it was just about timing. My hope is that they’ve looked at all the competition out there, and how much of it is just more crap, that they decided they need to come out in a big way and do something different. I have some thoughts on what this might be, but that’s for another post. For now, my bet is a big push in late 2015.
4. Someone will launch an (attempted) Netflix killer: And it won’t be any of the existing players in the current video space. If you’re a film fan, Netflix pretty much sucks now. Tons of great films have been dropped, many great films don’t even get licensed by them at all anymore, and there’s a serious need in the space for a good Netflix competitor for films. There are many people attempting to do their own SVOD plays now, and many others doing well with sell through and rental, but I don’t think any of them can really compete. But lots of people with deep pockets see the need, and someone will move into this space this year. My bet: someone buys an existing platform that isn’t doing so hot and throws a few hundred million into ramping it up quickly.
5. We’ll see the first real global ultra-VOD release: I would’ve expected this last year, or the year prior, but this industry is slooooow. But this year, someone will buy global rights to a film, figure out how to market it to its audience globally and will launch it digitally around the world day/date and prior to any theatrical release. They’ll probably have to skip places like France, where this is pretty much illegal (really) and many countries won’t make a dent in revenues, but it will work well enough that others start to try it. But for this to work, prediction 6 has to come true.
6. We’ll figure out film marketing in the digital age: We’ve pretty much figured out how digital changes film production and distribution. Go figure, just 10 years ago, people debated this shit on festival panels regularly, but it all came to pass. What we haven’t figured out yet is how it changes marketing, and how to do it right. Yeah, we’ve got social blabbering covered, and plenty of people ruin my web video experience with pre-roll crap ads, but we all know – none of it is working. But we’re starting to see some good examples out there, and someone will put a few of them together and figure out how to make this all work to build enough buzz for a film that it can enter the cultural conversation the same way it used to in the (probably mythic) past. If they do, then we can stop relying on four-walling the Quad just to get a NYT review, and that shit can’t end soon enough for me.
7. Chris Dodd will be ousted from the MPAA: I have nothing against the guy personally, but I can’t imagine you can fuck up as bad as he did this year on the Sony debacle and keep your job. As I said on Facebook earlier this month: Jack Valenti would have never let this unravel so poorly. As soon as the Sony case started spiraling into Korea land (and this may not even be true, but the perception was all that mattered here) he should have been acting like the ex-government official he is and jumped on the phone with government and heimat-security officials to avoid giving in to this threat while remaining safe; he should have coordinated with NATO (theater owners, not the other Nato) to avoid this disaster in advance; he should have been doing diplomacy between the studios to avoid having one of them screw it up for all of them. Just a top of my head list for any qualified person in his position. The exact threat might be “new” but the problem was obvious for months if not longer. To my mind, the top Sony execs got blindsided but are getting too much blame, when it should land right at Dodd’s feet.
8. Life Itself will win the Oscar: Oscar predictions are tricky business, and while I’m not going out on a limb with this one (I am picking a favorite), it’s a chance to be unequivocal in my support. While I’ve always been a fan of Steve James and Kartemquin, I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. It’s not even my favorite documentary of the year, which is Particle Fever, but I was completely swept into the story, and think they’ve not only made a great film here, they’ve made the one film that might overcome the old Hollywood prejudices against Ebert (see the film) and actually win. It should. There are many great contenders, but this film was one of the few that made me think hard about my life, and think harder about how film encourages empathy (a subtext of the beginning of the film)., which we could all use a bit more of today. I hope this prediction is spot on.
9. This will be an important year for Net Neutrality: We had a lot of attacks on net neutrality in 2014. While those were pushed back, many of the lobbyists are now pressing the same issues we killed at the federal level down at the State and municipal level. With a presidential election coming up, the Republicans and Democrats will both be pressing their versions, and given that the Republicans are better at (Evilly) crafting the issue under new terminology that resonates with voters even when mind-numbingly wrong, we can expect them to gain some ground (They’ve been generally anti-net-neutrality). Meanwhile, all of the filmmaker support organizations are asleep at the wheel, so our voices won’t likely be heard on this issue, and literally nothing else could be nearly as important to the future of how our films get seen. Let’s hope we can at least follow the leaders in the tech space and help keep net neutrality alive a bit longer.
10. The Interview Experience will Boost Calls for Sharing the Numbers: I’m biased here as many know I am working on a film numbers project now, but among the many things that came out of The Interview disaster was that it became glaringly obvious to many more people that we know almost nothing about what’s being made on VOD. Mainstream press started to comment on this, the public started wondering why the heck we don’t know more about what’s being made on which platforms. I suspect we’ll see even more industry, press and public calls for bringing more transparency to the numbers, and it’s about time.
Those are the ten things I see in store for 2015. I suspect a lot of other things (privacy, hacking, world politics, etc) will see many more important developments, but that’s what I see for film. What I’d like to see happen probably won’t: To my mind, there hasn’t been a single invention that has changed culture the way Kickstarter did since the time of their founding. Literally nothing. I’d like to see someone launch something equally game-changing in 2015. It wouldn’t be anything to do with the crowd, but rather something that takes advantage of the net and the zeitgeist in a similarly game-changing fashion. I hope someone launches whatever this is in 2015, but I won’t be holding my breath, and I have no idea what it could be – or I wouldn’t be working in film!