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Where Is The Innovation Model in Film?

An indie producer offers the ultimate challenge for filmmakers: Seize this time of uncertainty to evolve the medium!

I just got back from LA (which is where I both attended film school and spent the majority of my professional life until about a year ago) and something struck me this time that had never occurred to me before: there is no model for innovation in Hollywood.

Most of the younger folks in the biz express frustration that the "system" is resistant to change, particularly the type of change that might render some people's entire professions obsolete.

Where is The Innovation Model in Film?And I get it - the fear of change is natural in every entrenched industry. No one wants to be faced with the possibility that large amounts of human and cash capital investments might be lost.

But I think what saddened me the most is that the creative people - writers, directors, producers - people shaping the content are so terrified of the forces of the market (and audiences) that they seem to be more conservative than ever in their creative choices. I'm sure the same was true of the artists who worked in silent films, when talkies came along, and of the unrivaled film industry when television came along, and on and on...

When I consider what has driven change in entertainment over the years, I see seismic shifts due to technology or social disruption that the industry then hobbles to catch up to. Very rarely do I see an instance of film innovating from the inside. And I'm not talking about 3D technology either. I'm talking about creative shifts - experimentation WITHIN the medium of film.

The French New Wave changed film in a very radical way; it was a push within the medium that spoke to the era. And it changed the way in which storytelling in film had functioned until that point. This is an example of artistic innovation within the medium - introducing new ideas into the lexicon and pushing the possibilities of film further. I acknowledge that the movement came from outside the "establishment" and only slowly seeped into the way mainstream films were later made and viewed; BUT the movement was a real, working consideration of film as a process and a form, as art that evolves.

We are in a very different predicament today. Filmmaking itself as we know it may be approaching obsolescence and there is little happening inside the medium that is a direct response to this issue. The fact that blockbuster movies are looking and sounding a lot more like videogames is a strong indication that without meaning to, the medium will experience inevitable, perhaps accidental change. However, without the minds of artists whose job it is to think these ideas through and experiment with what film *could* be in the future, we will accept a mishmash that is little more than the residue of innovation in other kinds of creative endeavors like gaming and interactive play.

As those who follow me know, I am a huge proponent of platform agnostic storytelling - I am after all, a transmedia storyteller. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate and respect the specificity and art of each individual medium. I love reading books and I adamantly believe that the experience is like no other. I don't read because there's nothing to watch. I read because I love *to read*. I play games when I want that experience. I go to concerts when I feel like I want to be surrounded by the energy and life of the audience and band. So while I am fully committed to working with connective storytelling, I am still a filmmaker who would like to find a space in which filmmaking as an art can grow deeper, more meaningful and expansive as a medium.

If film is to survive, we need to aggressively experiment creatively with the medium. That is our job as artists, and for the folks who make money off the work, they too must understand that innovation is not a choice - it's that, or perish.

And beyond survival, I have to ask: isn’t innovation exciting to artists? I think it is. Let’s get cracking.

This post originally appeared on Film Futurist.


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