Sunday, January 31, 2016


It's my birthday this week. Another year older. More time on the clock that adds only questions and less answers.

That's the great lesson, actually. The older I get, the less I see black and white in circumstance. The world keeps getting greyer.

It's why I have to shake my head at people sometimes.

We complicate things beyond all reason.

Instead of discussions, we have debates; where someone must win. Barely anyone can comprehend the idea that they may have been incorrect. To change course in the face of overwhelming fact feels too much like surrender.

But most of life is lived in that grey area between absolute certainly and complete doubt. What is so horrible about changing your mind on a subject in the face of meaningful persuasion?

Take the DVD as an example. I honestly thought they would be dead as disco by now. Eviscerated by online services and piracy. However, they endure.

And not just endure. I was speaking with a senior home entertainment executive recently, who stated quite clearly that DVD is still the lion's share of the home entertainment business. A very high revenue business, in fact. The numbers were staggering.

So, as much as my expectation was that the physical medium was on the bullet train to extinction, I can now see a lifespan of AT LEAST another five years. I may end up being correct about their ultimate demise, but that's not the point.

The point is that I'm improved for being open to a different view, and for changing course.

Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to readjust their perspective.

The trouble with forecasting the future, you see, is that some people can't help becoming too invested in their predictions.

Camps start to form. The world is conveniently split into binary outcomes (like that ever really works). Allegiance strings are pulled to bully the rank and file into a particular team.

"You're either with us, or you're with them."

Soon, the entire endeavor becomes about reputations rather than growth. Pride over pragmatism.

The situation has become so absurdly adversarial, that it's even being parodied with articles like The Onion News' James Cameron Says Future Of Movies Will Be Watching Them Sitting On His Lap.

Hilarious. The best humour always has a vein of truth.

Satire aside, the real James Cameron has indeed weighed in on the future of cinema:

"I think there will be movie thea­ters in 1,000 years. People want the group experience, the sense of going out and participating in a film together."

But he's not alone in offering an opinion:

"In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict."
(Martin Scorcese)

" long as you have filmmakers out there who have that specific point of view, then cinema is never going to disappear completely. Because it’s not about money, it’s about good ideas followed up by a well-developed aesthetic."
(Steven Soderbergh)

"You’re going to end up with fewer theaters, bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost 50 bucks or 100 or 150 bucks, like what Broadway costs today, or a football game....There’ll be big movies on a big screen, and it’ll cost them a lot of money. Everything else will be on a small screen"
(George Lucas)

"We’re never going to be totally immersive as long as we’re looking at a square, whether it’s a movie screen or whether it’s a computer screen. We’ve got to get rid of that and we’ve got to put the player inside the experience, where no matter where you look you’re surrounded by a three-dimensional experience. That’s the future."
(Steven Spielberg)

"I don’t know what these new stories are going to look like … but I’m creating the tools now to hopefully figure out what the language and narratives of this new evolving storytelling canvas eventually will be.
(Chris Milk, creator of the 'Occulus Rift' immersive gaming headset)

All makes sense to you now? You can see a vision of the future?

Clear as a cataract.

Which is exactly the problem. We lose meaningful insights trying to out-manoeuvre the entrenched agendas.

How can we break through this unproductive Ying and Yang discourse?

First, you can (and should) avoid closing your mind to different perspectives. Your warning lights should flash whenever a subjective world view is presented as empirical fact. As an example, take this recent opinion piece on the worth of short film making: 'Avoid the short films trap'.

The genus of the article was the opinion of Producer (and, ironically, prolific short filmmaker) Raquelle David, who said:

“Australian writers and directors that have made one solid short film need to stop making more...Seriously, stop. Focus on the feature or high-end TV concept and work with producers that will help you realise it.”

"Stop your approach. Do it this way. My method is definitively correct."

(warning signs flashing)

Here's the grey, and far less absolute truth.

In the arts, there is no one-way to do anything. If a filmmaker takes ten short films to develop their ability to make a great film, or one, what does it matter? It is the artist's creative journey to experience. Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

But not you. You'll be the one with an open mind.

Second, beware the opinion that doesn't mention the end user experience.

Notice the only perspective above that mentions the audience is James Cameron?

The rest talk about the technology, the economics, the cinemas, and the filmmakers. Even Ms David speaks only in terms of Australian filmmaker's careers, rather than whether AUDIENCES want short films (or want filmmakers who have honed the quality of their work through shorts)

How was the audience so overwhelmingly overlooked? Everything depends on these people!

The success or failure of cinema. The growth and acceptance of more realistic video games. Action on climate change. Equality for women. Humanity for refugees.

The shape of the years to come. All bound by the whims of the populus.

Any prediction, including those on the future of entertainment, that doesn't ground itself in the strength of an audience experience creating demand is flawed. It's all about people!

And people are unpredictable.

People sometimes want passive story experiences, like a film.

But sometimes those same people want an active experience, like a video game.

Sometimes they want a subjective story experience, something immersive, like 3D or the Occulus Rift headset.

And other times, they want to experience a story as an objective viewer, glimpsing into a world, like their favourite episodic show.

How do you satisfy that one, complicated, person with a single, binary solution or prediction?

That's the only simple answer in this whole nuanced discussion: you don't.
It's why trying to create a zero-sum debate on the important questions, with winners and losers, is a pointless over-complication.

Because there's only one real truth.

We're all in this for each other. Like it or not.

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