Writer, publisher & film-maker
Will crowdsourcing change the $2 trillion global entertainment industry? You bet. Here’s why. There are three important trends in the video content space that we should pay attention to: there has been an explosion in the creation and consumption of video content, the duration of video consumption is becoming shorter and the audience is the creator is the audience (the rise of the creator consumer). Today, anyone with a smartphone and the desire to make a film can easily create and share video content. And I can see my 10-year-old daughter doing this everyday.
She makes videos using her iPhone and shares them with her friends, and wider the world. And she does not do it for any monetary benefit. She does it for fun. It makes her happy.
Futurist Gerd Leonhard says that if you want to know the future, look at your children. What are they doing? What they do today will be the future tomorrow.
That’s why I believe that the above-mentioned three trends in video creation and consumption are set to change the way films are being made and consumed. I am not claiming that people will stop making or watching mainstream films. The blockbusters will exist but there will be an explosive growth in the creation and consumption of alternative (to mainstream) content.
What is creating this perfect storm?
The growth of digital media platforms (such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar in India), along with the growing rate of mobile penetration, is creating this perfect storm. That’s is why so many mainstream filmmakers and actors (such as Sujoy Ghosh, Shishir Kunder, Manoj Bajpayee, among others) are turning to making short digital content (short films, and web series, for example) for digital platforms and almost every Bollywood production house worth its salt—from the Rajshrees to the Yashraj Studios—is either getting into digital content creation or is developing its own digital platform.
What is going to happen next is collaboration among all the players of the ecosystem (creators, talents, funding parties) at a scale never seen before. This was not possible even three or four years ago but today, as we get into a hyperconnected world, it is becoming possible.
Besides cloud, mobility and the Internet, the growing acceptance of the ‘shared economy’ is playing a critical role too. Think of Uber Pool and Airbnb. Collaboration cuts away the inefficiencies of the traditional models, reduces cost and brings benefits to every participant. We will see the same happening in the filmmaking space. The horde of new talent, the millennials and the post-millennials, will not knock at the doors of the titans of the entertainment industry in Mumbai or Los Angeles—an industry which is walled, and is controlled by powerful middle men (casting agents, financiers and moneybags, for example). The talent will straightaway go digital from their dorms and drawing rooms and will be found (and groomed by the likes of Maker Studio, owned by Disney).
Crowdsourcing—a monumental shift in the future of film and media.
Crowdsourcing is going to be big because the greatest resource for filmmakers is their community—they will fund and consume what they like. Gone are the days of the old saying “if you build it, they will come”. The new dictum is: “if they want it, they will help you build it”.
How is crowdsourcing and collaboration for films happening today? Let us look at some global examples. Amazon is putting scripts online and letting the crowd vote for the stories they would like to see made into a series, and the ones with the most votes are the ones that actually get made.
Documentary filmmakers like Tiffany Shlain are using crowdsourcing techniques to put together films that are global in scope. Fimmakers upload video to the web, and it becomes part of the edited film. For her film Connected, Shlain had more than 100 different endings and she asked the users to translate the film. It now exists in 65 languages. Shlain believes that in the next few years, everyone on the planet will be connected via a mobile device. Her institute, Moxie, has created a Cloud Filmmaking Manifesto that aims to create more global collaboration via mobile films.
We are already seeing crowdsourcing in fundraising, aided by social media. We see very regularly how filmmakers and fans come together to raise funds for films at crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Wishberry (in India).
For example, actor James Franco turned to crowdsourcing to help a collection of young filmmakers raise $500,000 to adapt his short story collection, “Palo Alto.” “Veronica Mars” set off a Kickstarter frenzy three years ago by collecting more than $1 million in just four hours, setting a record for the site. Soon after, Zach Braff raised $2 million in four days.
In India, actor Kunal Kapoor, along with Varun Sheth, cofounded crowd-funding platform Ketto, and is reportedly set to launch two funding campaigns on the platform for Marathi and Malayalam films. Since 2012, Wishberry has held 66 crowd-funding campaigns for films, which is 28% of its total projects, the highest. Well-known film director Vikramaditya Motwane is an investor in Wishberry. In 2015, Wishberry helped fund Rs 41 lakh for Sanskrit animated movie Punyakoti, which was based on a Tamil folklore. In 2013, Kannada thriller Lucia became the first crowd-funded regional film to raise Rs 51lakh in 31days.
Another example of overall crowdsourcing is 50 Kisses, a film created by the London-based filmmaker Chris Jones and hundreds of collaborators from around the world. The film, which includes 50 scenes built around a Valentine’s Day and a kiss, was an initiative created by the London Screenwriters’ Festival to connect emerging screenwriting talent with emerging filmmaking talent. “As I’d written a number of books in the Guerrilla Filmmaker’s Handbook series, and because of my involvement with the London Screenwriters’ Festival, I’d noticed that there was a disconnect between both groups of people,” Jones said in an interview. “Writers were often not getting their work produced… which is so critical to their development as a professional. Also, filmmakers were not really working with writers simply because they didn’t meet them. We thought this would be a great way to connect the two groups of people, by launching this challenge to writers to submit a two-page script, set on Valentine’s Day and featuring a kiss. The best 50 scripts would be released on the Internet so any filmmaking team in the world could make a version of that script, and we would select the best films and connect those films together to make a feature film. And that’s what 50 Kisses is: it’s a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced, crowd-created, crowd-distributed, crowd-written, crowd-everything-ed narrative feature film, set on Valentine’s Day and featuring a kiss in each story.”
I have no doubt in my mind that crowdsourcing is the future of filmmaking. The only problem today is that the entire filmmaking ecosystem—from scriptwriting to finding talent, from funding to production, and finally distribution—is fragmented. We hope to change that with the launch of a platform like Filmwallas.com that aims to converge the ecosystem to facilitate collaboration among the stakeholders of the filmmaking community, including the professionals and the amateurs, the insiders and the outsiders, the achievers and the dreamers. The time has come for the democratization of dream-making (that is, filmmaking), underpinned by the disruptive wave of crowdsourcing.
Zafar Anjum is a Singapore-based writer, publisher and filmmaker and is the founder of Filmwallas.com.