Saturday, December 29, 2012


Last year, I noticed that columnists and pundits in December started reviewing the year that was rather than thinking about what was ahead.

I thought this was an exercise in futility. Like being the person you saw a film with, who then quotes the film back to you like you haven't seen it.

In response, I reviewed 2012 instead. That was in December 2011.

Now, before we start on 2013, how close was I with the 2012 review?

I'm not going to tell you. That would make me a hypocrite.

I do have all the answers and research on how close I was with my 2012 predictions, but I'll only share them if enough readers ask for it in the mailbag. (P.S. You can subscribe to the direct email version of this newsletter at Only subscribers receive the coveted 'Tales From the Opening Act' Mailbag)

So, now that we have survived the Mayan calendar scare, what can we expect in 2013?

2013 will be the year where big problems are solved...or...they won't be.

If no solutions are found, these big problems will turn into bigger problems.

I am, of course, referring to the US 'Fiscal Cliff'. Watch this space, because if the Americans can't get something sorted out, they will face huge automatic government spending cuts that will ripple throughout the world economy. Everyone, including the slowly recovering film industry (particularly the acquisition and film financing side), will feel the impact.

Luckily, or unluckily depending on your world view, this can be solved via political negotiations within the US. Hold your breath.

2013 will also be the year where the technology for online video streaming improves. There have been many reported problems with the quality/usability of the online streaming platforms, with customers 'switching off' if the platforms are not intuitive and reliable. This problem will be fixed in 2013, mostly as a result of the need for survival by the stronger platforms, given that more and more competitors are entering the market (e.g. Amazon and HBO). This can only be a good thing for consumers.

As a result, more of you will buy your music and movies online. I know some of you will shake your head at this, but the global data, showing big increases in online content purchasing, doesn't lie. For a quickly growing number of people, onlinepurchased content is the highest quality, safest and easiest way to get your movies, TV shows and music.

On that note, watch the online video wars really heat up in 2013. The battle for your hearts, minds and eyeballs is coming. Netflix, the American video streaming provider is expanding worldwide and even commissioning a new series of the hit show 'Arrested Development' so that it has exclusive rights to show it. But rest assured, the other big hitters (Disney, Apple, Amazon, HBO) all want a piece of their pie. The counter-strike will come, which again is only good news for consumers, who love content at a reasonable price.

Most surprisingly, 2013 could really be, and I can't believe I am saying this after watching 'Daredevil', the year that Ben Affleck wins his SECOND Oscar. It will be as a director, not an actor however, for his film 'Argo'.

While the hot favourites, if there is 5 nominations for Best Picture, are: 'Lincoln', 'Zero Dark Thirty', 'Argo', 'Les Miserables' and 'Silver Linings Playbook'; I think 'Life of Pi' will squeak in and pip 'Argo' for the Oscar.

As far as the biggest grossing film of 2013, it will be tough to predict given the number of franchises releasing new installments. 'The Hobbit 2: Desolation of Smaug', 'The Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire', 'Iron Man 3', 'The Wolverine' and 'Thor 2: The Dark Worlds' are all being released in 2013. Based on two very good trailers, the big surprise could be 'The Man of Steel', the Superman reboot. If I had to bet at this stage, however, I would give it to the 'Hobbit 2', based on the size of their in-built audience and the record box office returns on the first installment this year.

I could go into the suggested declining relevance of film and the Oscars at this point, but I will save that for a later date, because I am not convinced. Save to say, a major debate in 2013 will be the fact that films deemed as 'successful' are drawing roughly 10% of the audience size of single episodes of major television shows like 'Breaking Bad'.

And then of course there is China. The worst kept secret in the world.

China is very near to an awakening of their middle class to mass consumer culture and content providers worldwide are literally drooling at the possibilities to sell movies to the Chinese. Watch for 2013 to be the first year of consistently large box office returns from China, flowing from the 2012 quota increase in foreign films allowed to be shown there.

In Australia, the National Broadband Network (NBN) will start to switch on in urban areas, finally delivering internet speeds that the Swedish have enjoyed for the last decade. Better late than never, I guess.

The NBN poses a paradox of enormous risks and possibilities for the Australian film industry. If we are not ready in 2013 with ways to deliver reasonably priced content to our audience, then they will turn to piracy and the NBN's high internet speeds will make that easier than ever. In that sense, 2013 will be an enormously important year to make sure that people form the habit of purchasing their content, rather than the tendency to steal it.

On the Australian awards circuit, look to 'The Sapphires' to sweep the Australian Academy awards in January. I'll be there, so I may be able to celebrate or eat my words in person.

So, what does this interesting and complicated picture of 2013 mean to you, exactly?

First, for everyone, it means this will be a tumultuous year. So question everything, even this newsletter.

The landscape has shifted so much, that there are less and less gurus in the world. That doesn't mean that there is less information and fact, however, so there is no excuse for you to be uninformed and have your opinion led by the whim of others.

We live in an information age.

Use the tools at your disposal and prosper. Or be apathetic and fail.

Second, for film and content makers, the paradigm shift is creating a new normal of ABUNDANCE. The world is becoming saturated with content, to the point where people can't keep up with the amount of film, television, music, theatre, books, etc; that are being released.

So, film and content makers must start to respect marketing. You must learn everything about it and be strategic with how you use it. You must think of marketing as a tool to find that audience who will love your work. Otherwise you are just shouting in a crowded room.

Third, film and content makers must cultivate an audience. Connect with your audience. Find out who they are. Communicate with them. An audience who looks forward to your work, and who promotes you through their enthusiasm for your art, deserve to be thanked and rewarded. Having them is the difference between releasing one movie, and a long term career.

And finally, know that, despite the economic despair on the news, there is plenty of money floating around the world and good quality content is being demanded at greater rates than ever before.

This huge demand is wonderful for filmmakers, content makers and audiences alike.

The removal of barriers between us, brought about by the rise of the internet, is having far-reaching social, political, economic and cultural consequences.

2013 will be a year that the dust settles on some of these changes, and the picture is slightly clearer for the years ahead.

But you have to stay active and informed, to benefit from these opportunities.

It is hard work, but the rewards can be substantial, financially and existentially.

It's a great time to be alive, at the cusp of something new.

Thank goodness the Mayans got it wrong.

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