Have we entered an era marking the beginning of the end for traditionally consumed media?
Iconic celebrated film directors who have now moved to TV, such as Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, and Steven Soderbergh all seem to think so.
Times have changed. We live in the era of accessible outlets and mediums to consume what we want, how we want and most importantly of all, when we want it. The new order of mobile phones, internet, laptops, game consoles and other technologies, is how many younger and older generations now watch films and series.
People no longer have the patience to wait weekly to see their favourite shows. Downloading recently became so popular that the creators of “Game of Thrones” announced their delight at being the most-ever downloaded TV series. They stated that this was good publicity for their show, and in fact, increased its popularity.
As a result, new and existing TV and film production companies have branched out into providing shows that are exclusively available online, and have made whole seasons and whole series accessible for viewing.
Viewers these days want more than just a weekly tease and a cliff-hanger ending at the end of each episode. They want to dive into the depths of great characters that they can enjoy over six, seven, eight, or more seasons – and they want to do it whenever they choose.
We are now firmly in the era of “binge” viewing.
Individuals and groups binge on entire seasons and sometimes even whole series of a show in one night, or over a short span, because of availability, accessibility, and instant gratification. In short: because they can.
The advantages of this new era are tremendous for both new and established writers and filmmakers.
One fortunate upshot is that by not being tied to a mainstream TV channel for a weekly outlet, filmmakers can make a web-based series, miniseries, or film and upload it directly to the internet, immediately reaching their niche.
More indie filmmakers, TV directors, and screenwriters are adapting. They’re creating web-based series consisting of episodes lasting between 5 and 10 minutes according to what the public wants to see. Plus, the numbers don’t have to be as high as mainstream TV demands in order to satisfy advertisers.
Mainstream broadcasters have often rejected writers and filmmakers whose ideas cannot immediately be deemed as commercially viable; so called ‘minority interests.’
As such, crowd funding opportunities, including websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, offer an innovative way to raise funds for producing film or mini-TV series. The target market themselves help make the movie. If you love it, and you want it, you can fund it.
Production company giants such as Netflix and Amazon Studios are competing with the low cost indie film makers who have a much more direct relationship to their audience through social networks, which are fast becoming the most important element in (predominantly) younger peoples’ lives.
Traditional broadcasters have been forced to acknowledge that filmmaking talents are increasingly opting out of mainstream outlets of distribution in order to create and engage with their own tailor-made audiences – audiences that the mainstream want, and soon might need, to access.
One great ‘reverse’ success story is Blue, a show about a prostitute who keeps her working life a secret from her teenage son. Blue began as an online, web-based series of ten-minute episodes, and now airs on mainstream satellite and cable television globally.
So, returning to the original question, the answer is no, the internet era hasn’t marked the end of traditionally consumed visual media.
What the internet era has done is: develop new channels and avenues for consuming entertainment; open up a plethora of opportunities for independent talents; and allow offbeat artists to outskirt the dominance of prolific, omnipotent distribution companies.
Now is the time for filmmakers and writers to have confidence and courage in developing their visions, however idiosyncratic they might be.
Fitting in with the crowd – or rather, with mainstream broadcast criteria – is no longer necessary.