Justine Bateman may have become a household name in the 1980s as Mallory Keaton on Family Ties, but that’s not why she’s this week’s Five Questions With… featuree. Not only has most of her recent acting work — from appearing as “herself” on Easy to Assemble to co-starring in the latest Level 26 transmedia experience — taken place in the web space, but she’s also a writer, producer, digital production consultant and net neutrality advocate. (Oh yeah, and she’s speaking at this year’s NewTeeVee Live — for which I’m sure you already have your ticket, because you’re cool that way.)
Below, she talks about the difference between user-generated content and professional web production, and explains exactly why she (still) thinks TV is dead.
1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?
I don’t think anything is holding back anyone. I think only the innovators are going to continue pushing the envelope with tech and content delivery and the content itself. Personally, I’ve begun to stretch and bend the storytelling form itself because with Internet delivery. I can lay out the story, deliver the story in a multi-level fashion. There are others who have been doing this in different ways and I think it’s a practice that should be expanded.
The delivery of scripted content on TV or in a movie theater is very linear and “two dimensional.” Online (as we all know), there are multiple ways to allow the audience to experience your story. In fact, I wish the computer screen were a holographic cube that sat on your desk with intersecting lines into which you could stick your fingers and touch the points of the story you want to see/expand.
The challenge for innovators is educating those people who want to support innovation, but aren’t in a position to risk thinking too far outside the box, to have the courage to see the “safety” of being innovative online. The “safety” being that with innovation you keep pace with internet users, your target audience (obviously).
2. What industry buzzword do you never want to hear again?
Not a buzzword, but a mindset, an assumption about online scripted content. There’s still this belief that user-generated content from YouTube three years ago is the model or the “standard” for Internet content: The length of video, the quality of the camerawork and editing, etc. There’s a place for all that and I’ve seen some terrific material come that route, but for professional filmmakers, the Internet is this amazing opportunity to really push ourselves creatively and produce projects that exceed what we could do under traditional media restrictions.
But, just because we don’t have to rent a camera from Panavision, pay for film and processing, or rent editing bays, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to pay the people who do this professionally. Great cinematographers, writers, directors, and actors can produce remarkable work that can affect and sometimes change lives and they have rates of employment just like anyone else working.
This is not to take anything away from UCG or from the current YouTube stars, for example. I very much respect what they’re doing and am continuously impressed and inspired by their ability to cultivate audiences. I hope to meet them all someday.
Professional scripted content is just a different type of content and sponsors and studios and even smaller production companies should understand the distinction and not assume that a cast and crew filming an hour-long film can be done with any budget similar to a popular video blogger’s last 60 minutes of content. It’s just a very different type of project.
The Internet is a distribution portal, not some planet where suddenly nobody needs to make a living.
3. If someone gave you $50 million to invest in a company in this space, which one would it be? (Mentioning your own doesn’t count.)
A consumer electronics company that’s looking beyond 3D to the next level of home entertainment (i.e. holographic delivery of content). I believe that there will not be a “tipping point” for the sale of 3D TVs, where everyone has one. Rather, the next time families invests en masse in a new home entertainment device, I believe it will be holographic delivery of content. I know there are some working furiously on AR tech for next-level filmed content delivery on mobile devices and I think holographic delivery will be the rage in the home.
4. What was the last video (that you weren’t personally involved with) that you liked enough to spread to others?
5. WILD-CARD: When Chris Albrecht and Liz Gannes first spoke with you in 2008, you declared that “TV was dead.” Two years later, do you still feel the same way?
Absolutely. TV production and distribution is not a growth industry. The business grid as we knew it in traditional media used to be absolutely the only game in town. That business grid has been irreversibly altered and a new business grid has emerged that is growing at such a rate that it will overwhelm the old one very soon. Now there are many business models for shows, many distribution points and entirely new ways to deliver the content technologically.
TV as we knew it is absolutely dead. There are still shows in production, still ad buys being made, but the numbers these shows get are a small fraction of the ratings these same type of shows used to command. The amount of TV shows produced annually decreases every year. The amount of people employed by TV shows is far less than it used to be. All these decreases are steady from year to year. Traditional TV is not “in a slump,” it has been steadily declining.
What will supersede traditional TV production and delivery is more multiplatform shows that have different designs not only in their very structure, but in the manner of delivery. Needless to say, all this will be done through IP addresses and viewing shows via a cable or satellite connection will fade away.
But, hey, AM Radio is still around.
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