Real News for iPads and Filmmakers?

It goes way beyond guys using iPads to read e-mails, rehearse scripts, and watch demo reels. Here’s how…

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.

Stephen Elliot, author of "Adderall Diaries" on iPad

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.

Touching Stories from Tool

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?

How Important is Branding in Games and Films?

What am I doing today to develop that level of trust and comfort and influence with a specific audience, through the things I create?

I admit that articles like this discourage me somewhat.

The Spiteful Critic: Branding, Games, and Films

In this particular article, Lewis Pulsipher emphasizes the game world. It’s a great discussion of the realities of the power of brands to attract audiences. There is tremendous power, credibility, and trust in known identities. For large segments of audiences for every kind of media, they are attracted to the known. Even a person’s perception of quality is influenced by brand awareness (see the article’s study on McDonald’s food and kids in taste-testing). It is more difficult, and expensive, to introduce something new and different, that’s why game companies and film studios turn out ‘based-on’ products and sequels. They hesitate to take a chance on a property where they have to introduce entirely new characters and stories when they can exploit the existing interest of a large group of people who are already fans. This makes perfect sense.

But, most of us don’t have access to those kinds of stories and properties. Where does that leave us?

Of course, there are segments of audiences that actively seek out the unknown. These people might even intentionally avoid major brands. For these people, the idea of eating at McDonalds, buying coffee at Starbucks, or seeing a film in the ______ franchise is anathema. I would say that I tend that way, but I do have my brand favorites, like my Mac computers. I probably respond to Apple’s marketing in much the same way a kid might respond to McDonalds’. They have me hooked in some way. Is that an entirely bad thing?

For smaller content creators like me it can be a daunting task to even imagine cracking a general audience market. However, every creator, no matter how small, should take the time to understand and develop a brand identity. We live in a world, if guys like Seth Godin are to believed, made up of tribes Рeach with identifiable interests, needs, and places where they hang out.

It should be possible for almost anyone to create products that speak to specific tribes, that are of value to them, and products that develop trust and credibility with them. As we create for that niche, we have the chance to create a brand out of products that speak in similar ways, have similar values, and give that audience the same feeling that kids get when they eat at (or think about eating at) McDonalds; or, perhaps, the feeling I get when I enter an Apple Store. The best brands feel like home, or even better, to their audience. They make you feel like you, or like you want to feel if you were the best you there was.

So what am I doing today to develop that level of trust and comfort and influence with a specific audience, through the things I create?