Tech #13: The Impact of Electronic Media

As far back as the Super 8, the idea was tossed around that the movie industry would become revolutionized by easy access to video cameras.  In a sense, the affordability of these hand held cameras did have an impact - primarily in the independent film "revolution" of the 1990s.  Clerks and The Blair Witch Project made millions (and are cash cows that are milked to this day) and neither would've been possible without affordable video equipment.

But this particular change in the movie industry isn't what interests me.  What blows my mind is the fact that special effects at the level of Transformers will soon be easily produced on your iPad! Imagine millions of pimply-faced pre-teens in their parent's basement making big-budget-looking sci-fi films... .will the landscape of the film industry be completely and irreversibly changed forever? I think the answer is absolutley yes.

I'm sure many of you are thinking, "Hold on there, partner. You still need a big budget to market the film." .....Well, stop thinking that. The possibility of making kick-ass films without an insane Hollywood budget can't help but revolutionize the industry, because amid the thousands of schmucks making ridiculous movies about bionic chainsaw wielding nymphos, there's bound to be the next George Lucas in the mix who would've never had the opportunity to see his or her artistic vision see the light of day.

This can't help but have a positive impact.  No longer will a writer or director's artistic vision be suffocated and destroyed by accountants and financiers without a creative or innovative bone in their bodies. (However, you can't help but wonder whether this will level the global playing field a bit, making Hollywood lose its edge over production studios without comparable access to giant wads of cash.)

And for you naysayers out there, think about what new technologies have done to the print media.  Centuries old bastions of the printed word have been brought to their knees by cheap electronic substitutes.  Not too many years ago, I'd have to compose Retrospace on a typewriter (remember those once ubiquitous devices?) and make copies of it via carbon paper - and there'd be no pictures unless I got the notion to draw something with my trusty Bic pen.... or maybe grab some scissors and glue to apply some pictures hijacked from a newspaper or magazine.

Retrospace Headquarters circa 1973
But no matter how good it was, there'd be no way to get Retrospace to the masses.  I could labor for weeks over a single post, but still only be able to share it with a handful of people.  Without big financial backing or a monstrous signature loan, I'd be shit-outta-luck.

Fast forward to 2011, and I'm able to sit here leisurely typing and sipping my coffee and get this post out to tens of thousands of people in a matter of minutes.  If you'd have predicted this as late as, let's say, 1992, people would've pointed and laughed at you.  Not to brag, but rather to make my point clear: my entire staff is composed of one person (me); however, my circulation is literally ten times that of the local newspaper which employs hundreds of folks and spends millions on office space and equipment.  Go figure.

Heads up: I'm taking applications.
And a final thought for those still skeptical about whether tech can change the face of the film industry, I'll ask you to think on what's happened to TV news.  World events from the historic to the mundane are recorded with our phones; TV news crews have largely become obsolete. Now that news events are covered better via Twitter and blogs, it's been downright painful watching the "news leaders" struggle for significance.

The stations don't bother with actual footage and breaking headlines; instead, they rely on an endless stream of talking heads speculating, conjecturing, hypothesizing, and arguing.  When there's a riot in Cairo, a hundred cell phones already have the footage uploaded, and another thousand blogs and tweets are filling in the details.  Meanwhile, Fox News and CNN have special guests Kid Rock and Beyonce in what promises to be "unpredictable, lively, entertaining fun!"

Bottom Line: New technologies have been game changers in both the print media and TV news media; they have taken down long-time behemoths of their respective industries.  The same will happen in the film industry. Mark my words.  Gilligan has spoken.


  1. John Nolte has been saying this for a long time. He's now the editor at Big Hollywood.

    PS, love the picture of Junior and Lisa. I grew up watching Hee Haw every Saturday night at 6:00.

  2. Our nurse maid - yes we had a nurse maid, insisted on watching Hee Haw every Saturday night. Then, after we had endured an hour of that, she made us watch the Bobby Vinton show. It was only after the completion of these two terrible programs that were we allowed to watch what we wanted: The Carol Burnett Show and the The Bob Newhart Show. Now THAT was entertaining television.

  3. It's weird you've mentioned the riots in Cairo, because the talking heads have been talking about how social media like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook really really helped facilitate the riots and revolts.
    PS, if there was an actual Retrospace office to put in applications to, I would. :)