I just got back from Park City last week for the 2015 Sundance and Slamdance film festivals - shameless plug: check out Dan Berk and Bobby Olsen's indie thriller BODY, which premiered at the lesser revered of the two showcases on January 25th. It was my first time out for what most industry participants consider the filmmaker's Mecca, and it did not disappoint. There is an energy and inspirational undertone that extends far beyond that which E! broadcasts from the red carpet. Surely Brad Pitt and James Franco buzzing about Main Street does lend mainstream credibility to the festivals, but if you had the curiosity to look past that glitz there was an immeasurable amount to be learned about where the business of content creation is and, more importantly, where it's headed.
In between scuttling from one sponsored coffee lounge to another, and the occasional festival screening you might chance into a favorable waitlist position for, there are countless panels, talkbacks, and discussions where the brightest and most talented minds in content creation are willing and eager to share what they've learned while entertaining people via screens all over the world. My top three takeaways from said scuttling:
1. It's not film, or television, or a web series, or...whatever - it's CONTENT. The lines separating what have historically been considered different distribution platforms and mediums are blurring more and more with each passing moment. The length of your content no longer pigeonholes it into a particular series of distribution windows and platforms, and gone are the days when a creator - be it a company or individual - can (or at least should) be closed off to a certain type of content. The most progressive content creators I saw in Park City had a wide range of ideas for numerous platforms, audiences, consumption methods and lengths - just as ready to pitch an idea to quench the three-minute attention span of a corporate audience as they are with a ten-episode concept intended for mobile device consumption.
2. Virtual reality is finally here. Really. "Google cardboard." Google it. They were present throughout the festival at a fascinating virtual reality exhibit (part of the New Frontier Sundance initiative), handing out what amounted to a cardboard View-Master that you can strap your smartphone into and go on a full-out VR experience with. The associated content available for download is only of the most neophyte level, but it's a foothold on the summit toward genuinely immersive VR content that we had yet to find. To top it off, that was the most basic example of VR tech that was available for the festival goers to take for a spin at the exhibit. It gives me a headache to ponder the logistics of producing content where the audience has access to a three axis, 360-degree image, but there is an audience clamoring for it if you can stomach producing it.
3. There is no such thing as budgetary limitation in the present content creation landscape. There is an ongoing conversation that has raged for a years now that it gets cheaper to go out and shoot your content, that technology is more accessible and easier to use. One of the most buzzy films at Sundance this year was Sean Baker's Tangerine, which was picked up for distribution by Magnolia and will be getting a "traditional" nationwide theatrical release later this year despite there not being anyone you could call "box office" in the cast. AND IT WAS SHOT EXCLUSIVELY ON IPHONES. You still need a great story to put in front of the device you're capturing it with, and an intelligent marketing plan to get it in front of an audience, but the "hard part" that used to come between those content creation bookends is truly a thing of the past.
Josh Folan is a producer, writer, director and actor with professional credits dating back to 2005, prior to which he studied finance at The Ohio State University. Filmmaking highlights since founding NYEH Entertainment in 2008 include BODY (2015 Slamdance premier, co-producer), All God’s Creatures (2011 Hoboken Int’l premier, best screenplay and actress nominations, writer/producer), it’s just One line (2012 Film Racing NYC 24 Hour Film Race finalist, writer/director/producer), and What Would Bear Do? (writer/director/producer). Also an author and contributor to the independent filmmaking blog community, he penned the low-budget indie case study Filmmaking, the Hard Way. You can follow him (@joshfolan) and NYEH (@nyehentertains) on twitter and facebook if you’d like to keep up with his coming soons.