by Larry Jordan
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens must work in media. These are challenging times for anyone that wants to earn a living in the media industry. Creating high-quality work when you don’t care about income is easy but not when you need to make a living.
No one would dispute that these are challenging times. Challenging in terms of audience viewing behaviors shifting from traditional broadcast and cable to OTT, challenging in terms of generally descending budgets, challenging in terms of technology, challenging in terms of how millennials deal with television, challenging in terms of audience tastes, challenging in terms of deadlines and never-ending competition. I think we abound with challenges.
During December, my weekly podcast – Digital Production Buzz – I interviewed producers, cinematographers, editors and post-production folks looking at the state of our industry. At the end of every interview, I asked: “Given all the challenges in our industry today, is there hope?” Here are their Reasons For Hope:
PRODUCER: BOB BAIN
I mean, here’s my position on that. If you’re not optimistic then you shouldn’t be in this business to begin with; or any business for that matter. I think the real winners are the ones who can use that optimism to their advantage.
It’s always going to be challenging, by definition. It’s dynamic. And I believe that if you maintain your optimism and you’re willing to work at it it will work out for you.
POST: TERRENCE CURREN
Let me give you a split answer on that. I think it’s great and I think it’s terrible.
I think that this is great. When I started out back when I was 12 years old, I worked in my neighbor’s yard for six months to earn the money for a wind up 8-millimeter camera. It was so insanely expensive and it cost me three weeks allowance just to shoot one three-minute silent roll of film. If I had the tools now where you have a camera on your phone, you can shoot whatever you want, you can edit it yourself, then distribute it to the world – I would have been in heaven. So from a storyteller’s standpoint this is the best of times possible.
From a business standpoint of post-production, of trying to make money off of that, this is really not that great a time. The pool of people who are willing to, or have, the extra money to spend to pay you for your expertise is shrinking. The large facilities are still doing “Game of Thrones,” but the amount of the other work — that whole middle ground area that we all used to work in — a lot of that is just people going: “Well, it’s good enough if I just do it on the computer myself. It’s not great but it’s “good enough” and that wraps back to the original problem.
So from a business standpoint it’s not great. I wish I was starting out as a storyteller. I’m not happy being a post-house owner now. If that makes sense.
EDITOR: WILLIAM BOODELL
I think what keeps me hopeful is story-telling and loving that. As long as you understand story, characters, themes, ideas, rhythm, you know, the things that are [effective for story-telling].
A lot of people like to focus on the technology, and the technology is fascinating, but there’s a rabbit hole of things that you can dive into and not really pay attention to what is actually central to editing: which is writing with images and sounds and talking to other people with these things.
So what keeps me hopeful is the knowledge that I know that I can do that, seeing other people do it well, knowing that there is an art to it, that it’s not just button-pushing. That people can pay button pushers if they want or they can pay people who tell stories and that keeps me hopeful.
PRODUCER: DAVID TILLMAN
I hope so. I think people still have the appetite to watch stuff, even more than they ever did. I think there is a larger number of people that want to watch things.
I think you’re right that media has certainly changed a lot. First with DVR and now with streaming services; people cutting the cord on cable. But, like I said, people want to watch things. They want an escape from reality. They want to learn about things. Especially with documentary. I think you can to say all these things are changing but in terms of documentary, there’s probably never been a better time.
So I’m hopeful that as the landscape continues to change people in our industry figure out ways to adapt with it and still find the money to make great shows. And so keep going. But, you’re right. It’s certainly something to keep your eye on and have your finger on the pulse and roll with how things are changing.
CINEMATOGRAPHER: NANCY SCHREIBER
What gives me hope is that the younger people are coming up in droves with great stories, [which are] very imaginative. Because of the digital revolution, and because cameras are so accessible, many younger people are able to make shorter content, shorter films and get recognized. These minds are out there helping make our industry more exciting.
Hopefully, though, the older generation will still be embraced in there. There’s nothing like experience. We still have our great minds and passions.
So I still am hopeful that all generations will be able to be relevant and creative. That’s my great hope that we’ll all be able to be thriving and that industry will continue to be as exciting as it’s been in the last few years.
You can read the rest, including Larry’s final thoughts on hope for the future at LarryJordan.com. All the best wishes for a very successful New Year!