I am getting to the point where I yawn when I read another article about how the iPad is taking over some new industry niche. Are there still people for whom it’s news that people in Hollywood are embracing iPads? I guess this article in the NY Times: Pitching Movies or Filming Shows, Hollywood Is Hooked on iPads is still news to some people.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a filmmaker and I love my iPad. But I think the real news goes way beyond guys using iPads to read e-mails, rehearse scripts, and watch demo reels. Another article in the NY Times got me thinking much more about the paradigm shift brought on by mobile devices – and it wasn’t even talking about films. Here’s the article in the NY Times: Blurring the Line Between Apps and Books.
The article describes some new book publishing paradigms that have come out of what I think of as a synergy between e-books and social media. What authors are now able to do is publish their work in apps rather than ‘traditional’ e-book formats. By ‘traditional’, I mean Kindle, Nook, and the like. By making the book an app – a standalone application rather than part of an e-reader library – they are able to connect more solidly with their readers. They can do things like add conversation groups directly to the book in the app, rather than on scattered web sites and blogs. They can connect with reader fans to let them know what they are working on, etc. Especially for authors who write for smaller ‘tribes’ of readers (not the NY Times Bestseller authors) it means they have a way to understand and connect with their readers and vice versa.
For a filmmaker, what’s more exciting, guys reading scripts on iPads, or the potential for filmmakers (like the authors in the second article) distributing their work in a way that gathers a community around them? I was reading the article this morning and imagining a small consortium of filmmakers who produce films of a similar genre – let’s say short thrillers. What if they got together and wrote an app to deliver their films and connect with their audiences? The app gives them connection and control that other on-line delivery methods don’t. Maybe this is happening but I know mostly about the various web communities who are trying this.
I did download an app that is a set of short films called: Touching Stories that brings together four short films by a group of filmmakers. Perhaps this is the kind of thing that will become more common. It got some press when it was released earlier this year, but not much. Their shtick is interactive movies. They work OK, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by them to the point I’d want to become a fan or anything. I think some of the filmmakers have real talent, but these films felt like novelties. And, the app didn’t take the important step to gather followers or begin conversation or connection. I think that was a missed opportunity.
What would you do if you could distribute your film as an app rather than merely a download or DVD? What opportunities would that present?