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Future Forward

Future Forward
 

I was recently asked to give the keynote graduation address at my former alma mater Trebas Institute in Toronto, a private school focused on film & television, recording arts and entertainment business management. As with all commencement addresses the protocol is to focus on the future and to theoretically provide some sound advice for the graduates. I don’t know how successful I was but I do know that the graduating classes were very motivated and I’m sure they’ll go quite far regardless of my thoughts. (Update my colleague thinks I should change this to in spite of my thoughts).

The process of looking to the future and trying to make sense of an ever changing, always shifting industry like television is a worthy endeavor. To be effective you have to look to the past for guidance and analyze the present for perspective. This is a powerful exercise and one I naturally try to undertake from time to time when charting the course for Re:Source Media. Of course no one has a crystal ball and our industry perhaps more than others is never static; it simply never stands still. However I do think there are trends and opportunities that must be understood in the years ahead in order to succeed.

Go East

The world is changing, economics and financial opportunities are moving and the energy and enthusiasm of the creative industry is looking eastward. We’re living in the midst of the biggest demographic shift in the history of humankind; the movement from rural to urban populations in Asia. And with this comes tremendous opportunity because as Asia rises so too will the fortunes of creative thinkers and technology innovators.

Hollywood produces about 500 films per year that reach an audience of slightly more than 2.5 billion people globally. By contrast Bollywood will usually release over 1000 films per year that are seen by well over 3 billion viewers across the globe. While Bollywood’s box office and home exhibition receipts don’t rival Hollywood’s yet, the opportunity to reach millions, to hone your chops making popular and well distributed movies, and to innovate exists in India. In the more mature American market it is simply harder to break in and make your mark.

Likewise the television industry in Asia is going through something of a renaissance. As millions move from poverty to the middle classes their consumption patterns are creating a growing demand for lifestyle TV. Asian broadcasters know that North American Producers have skills in producing aspirational, experiential television and as such they are constantly looking for western content creators. And it isn’t just Asia that has these opportunities.

My advice is to live abroad for a year. Learn Mandarin, join an Internet start up in Singapore, create documentaries in Dubai or produce commercials in Sao Paulo. The world is a big and beautiful place and all creative minds should experience it. New graduates will have a better chance of landing a hands-on job and more experienced professionals will be able to open their minds and expand their horizons in these emerging media markets.

Technology is Your Friend (well sometimes)

When we started Re:Source Media the fax machine was new, our first computers had only 1mb of total storage and cameras weighed about the same as a Smart Car. But fast forward nearly a quarter century and our company’s production facilities are amongst the best in the world. Technology is the great equalizer. My iPhone has more storage and processing power then our first computer-based edit suites. Everyone can have access to HD or even 3D creative tools but that’s still not enough. All too often Producers count on fresh technology to overcome tired creative and that’s always a mistake.

The tools you use to create simply cannot mask problems in the original creative. A great camera won’t make a lousy script entertaining and all the special effects in the world won’t compensate for a flawed premise. Yes Michael Bay I am looking at you. So our advice is to always focus on the product not the process, concentrate on getting the final results and not on the tools used along the way.

Brand Yourself

In the age of social notworking you can and should actually use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Linkedin, etc for more than just posting funny memes. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year the web is alive with chatter, with discussions, with viral videos and so WITHOUT EXCEPTION all creative people need to embrace social media in all that they do. For us, we use every available tool to connect with our audiences around the world and to build larger communities of interest.

Do you love wine? Then you can access our Wine Portfolio TV series on CNBC World, online at www.wineportfolio.com, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, as well as on our constantly updated mobile IOS application available through iTunes. If you like to travel our Pinterest initiative will post great travel advice and our Flickr and Instagram accounts offer wonderful pictures from our shoots around the world. We’ve worked hard to curate and create timely, focused and relevant content for users who want a deeper connection with our media brands.

Note that term… media brands. We don’t just produce HD TV series but rather we create media brands. We don’t just post automatic updates to our Twitter accounts, we actually engage in conversations with our fans. And I believe each and every content creator needs to as well. The Internet is about identifying niche audiences and building loyal communities. How will this all work actually make you money? Well that’s a great question that will have to be the subject of another post because frankly I am not sure yet, but I do know that you have to play the game in order to win the game.

There will be many trends and technologies that will change our industry in the years ahead but one thing is certain, there will never be a substitute for hard work and good ideas. And there will never be a better time to create. So let your imagination run wild, stay current and enjoy the ride ahead. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

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