The film industry is a big family of creative people all working together to produce a unique story. However, there are big problems in the family that have to be addressed and fixed otherwise the film industry as we know it today, won’t be the same in the years to come.
Below are the most pressing issues that are undermining creativity, people’s aspirations and the value we place on film itself. Can these problems be solved? Not overnight, but ignoring them and not finding solutions to make things work for the best, would be tragic.
So what are these problems?
1. The devaluation of film as a product
Film is becoming less ‘valuable’ as streaming content on mass erodes the pricing model of physical items like DVD and Bluray. With current technologies, filmmakers are able to get their films out on VOD faster to their audience but there’s a catch : People are paying less per stream than they would a physical product. As VOD ‘cheapens’ the physical product, this is the biggest challenge and problem that has to be dealt with, and it’s unavoidable.
If the price of a film falls too low, then the film producers, set designers, film directors, editors and so on, will all feel the pinch. Even a film financier will be left with smaller returns if the numbers are too low and that will have a direct impact on film production as we know it.
It’s not just film crews that will feel the pain either. PR companies, distributors, actors, caterers, hotels, travel companies and so on will feel the knock-on effect.
2. Film franchise fatigue
A major problem this year at the box office was the overload of franchises and sequels. There was disappointment over the summer about the quality of films and it’s been a lacklustre year for releases partly because original storytelling has been on a decline.
It’s no secret that the franchise model is still lucrative, but the over-reliance of this, is creating a detrimental effect on the whole business. Some would argue it’s encouraging piracy. On the forums ahead of ‘Expendables 3’, the viewpoint was that ‘the movie sucked anyway’ and didn’t have enough value for people to want to see it or buy the film.
Audience expectations, if low, will undermine box office receipts across the whole film business. Standards need to be kept high otherwise people will see film devalued again and it will affect everyone.
3. Lack of government grants for short films
Government grants are an important contribution to indie filmmakers as well as big productions but there appears to be a reluctance to invest in short filmed content. Perhaps this is because turning a profit on a short is seen as impossible, and it’s not an export format that can earn money at the box office but, short films are today’s most important communication tool.
Some might argue that the feature film as a format itself is becoming extinct. Well, there’s a reason for it, but that doesn’t mean that short filmmakers should be punished and not supported to preserve the status-quo. In fact, shorts can bring a lot of public interest to places, people, products and so on. This is where a profit can be made.
4. Tax breaks that don’t help smaller film productions
Again, tax breaks seem to favor bigger productions but don’t give much help to lower budget films. In France and the UK there are funds available but in the US, there is very little help for those making indie films and that’s a tragedy for content diversity.
The film industry shouldn’t just be about making huge films with million dollar budgets. There a niches, and smaller audiences that want a different kind of content too. Where is the help to make these films really take off?
5. Runaway digital piracy affecting filmmaker profits
Digital piracy continues and the problem isn’t solved. ISPs can make a difference in blocking sites that host illegal content but the laws and the public discord over how to do it, is stopping the process. No one wants to inhibit the freedom of the web, but people shouldn’t be impoverished by theft either. This is a must fix, and it’s far from being resolved.
6. Lack of access to content in different markets
One of the big problems with film releases is their availability in different markets. Films have different release dates and windows in different territories but the web centralizes the audience to the point where not having content available in all regions on the same day is detrimental. With all the advertising dollars spent on film marketing campaigns in different regions, there is so little focus on the reality : That even if you market 100% of your content to the US market, you’re going to get people in different countries looking at that as well and demand gets created elsewhere. The web has no borders, so film releases shouldn’t have them either.
7. Long working hours and pay issues
Another problem for film professionals is the lack of regulation on working hours and pay. Making a film is not a 9 to 5 job and of course, shoots can go on for as much as 20 hours in extreme cases, but there are no realistic overtime provisions or laws that help filmmakers retain a minimum salary.
8. Film crews not knowing their legal rights
A majority of filmmakers have no idea what their actual rights are as workers or even on the intellectual copyright side. This poses a challenge as there are people out there that can abuse this lack of knowledge to get their way. Unfortunately some rogue producers have treated their crews badly, paid them virtually nothing and even endangered their safety by breaking all these rules. People are scared to come forward, don’t know how to deal with these problems or are too afraid to stand up to abusive practices.
There should be no instance where anyone working in film is being treated badly or bullied and feels that they can’t do anything about it.
Are you working in the film business? Are you satisfied with the way things are right now?