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Momentum: Recapping Dallas

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Last Saturday I was part of a panel at the Dallas International Film Festival about creativity on the web.

Short, one-off viral videos have driven interest in original content for the web. But with the introduction of hi-def, web-based players, cheaper high quality cameras and increasingly savvy viewers we may be approaching a watershed moment: a time when the web is the final destination for high-end material. Is the web a viable outlet for creative, original content?

Matt Bolish (Dallas IFF): Moderator

Justin Muller: Dream Factory

Jessica Rose: Lonely Girl 15

Joy Gohring: DateAHuman.com

Tina Santomauro: Atom.com

Nicholas Robinson: Vuguru

Moderator Matt Bolish did a great job focusing our discussion. I had a few opportunities to chat with Matt prior to the panel and was happy to see he shares the same enthusiasm about the digital space as I do. On the panel, we covered all sides of the digital content creation equation – development, marketing, and distribution. I always welcome an opportunity to discuss the future of our industry. This panel was an excellent chance to do so with a bright and talented group. The audience was similarly engaged, and while they all wondered how to make money (We’re working on that), they were excited about the possibilities. My fellow panelists and I all agreed, before the panel started, that the answer to the core question was, obviously, a loud YES – The web is a viable outlet for creative original content.

It’s to be expected that a panel about content creation on the web, by people intimately involved, will go in the direction that it did. The most encouraging and surprisng conversations were the ones I had with everyone else at the festival. The volunteers and general festival-goers ‘got’ what I am doing and see how important the digital space is becoming. I don’t think that would have been the case even last year. Sometimes it takes a one-on-one conversation to drive home the point that there are high quality, engaging stories being told online. If I can get one new person to tune in, that’s a success.

While the Streamys may not have gone over very well, the overwhelmingly positive reactions of everyone at Dallas is encouraging. As long as we push forward and work through the obstacles, an incredibly promising future awaits. You can check out DIFFs recap here.

Success, Failure, Lightsabers & Awards: Moving on from the 2010 Streamys

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The first film festival I ever entered was a statewide German competition called Sprachfest (The cool kids in central Maine took German for their required language class). I, unfortunately, was horrible at German. My recipe for a good grade, as it often was, was to make a movie. I wrote a script in English and had my more competent friends translate and act. It was a high concept schlocky comedy called Gilligan’s Winter Island. Titanic meets Gilliigan’s Island. With a lightsaber battle for good measure, mostly because I just learned how to rotoscope.

The night before the festival I was ready to export my masterpiece via the Iomega Buzz. All you old school filmmakers remember that piece of crap. And, as is often the case with deadlines and technology, the Buzz died.  6am quickly rolled around and the technical difficulties were only getting worse. I rolled with the punches, setup a tripod, and filmed the computer monitor as I played back the film fullscreen. Scan lines and all. It was the only option. I couldn’t walk into Sprachfest empty handed and disappoint my classmates, teacher, school, and an easy A.

My eyes were closed the second Winter Island started to play. How embarrassing. The only source of redemption? The lightsabers. Thank God for them. As we all know from George Lucas, special effects can save any horrible movie. I won third place (Out of pity I’m sure).

This is a long and roundabout way to get to my thoughts about last night’s Streamy Awards. But anyone who has ever created anything knows things go wrong. It’s how this world works. Both the audience and the creators have to eventually roll with it. Because of that, I’ll give the Streamys a pass on the technical front. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Sadly, technical issues were far from the only problem. The primary purpose of the Streamys is to show the world top tier digital content and to explain, by exceptional examples, why this new form of entertainment is high quality, here to stay and to be taken seriously. Our time to shine.

I’m all for self deprecating humor. It’s a great way to hide the tears show how down to earth you are. But it’s vital to take a step back and look at the big picture.  The positioning of digital content is how the rest of the world is going to perceive it. If the awards say web content is crap, then that’s what everyone else will think. Subpar production of the show itself is just toxic icing on a undercooked cake.

Granted, there IS a lot of junk out there on the web. It’s an inevitable result of a totally open ecosystem and to be expected. Roll with that. The Streamys must showcase whats great and shout from the rooftops YES, WE HAVE AMAZING CONTENT. Until WE take ourselves seriously, NO ONE ELSE WILL. A high profile host like Paul Scheer was great exposure, but the way he was used only heightened the problem. Control the things that are under your control. To have Paul’s script mostly make fun of web content is beyond counter productive. And frankly it’s overdone. Yes, we all get it that no one is making a lot of money. Yet.

Speaking of money, we need to be appealing to advertisers. What are they going to think now? Our awards show was filled with profanity, nudity, technical problems, and disgusting behavior. If we are to survive and ultimately thrive, we have to be smart from the beginning. Treat this like a joke and we’ll be treated like jokers. I can’t imagine how upset some of the brands involved with the awards must be. We ALL have a responsibility to show them this was isolated. Felecia Day, as always, was spot on in her acceptance speech. It’s unfair that she had to go on stage to accept the award while fighting back what must be an avalanche of  incredible frustration.

For those of us who live and breathe this world, the entire night was a slap in the face.

I was sitting behind Chris. This was not planned and he was rightfully pissed off.

The good news is we can only go up. I hate to bust out a quote from the Big Boss, but

Succeeding is not really a life experience that does that much good. Failing is more sobering and enlightening.

Recovering from failure is often easier than building from success.

- Michael Eisner

I can’t begin to comprehend how complicated running a live production like the Streamys must be. The TubeFilter team are all top notch and should not be the sole recipients of the blame. We are in this together. It’s everybody’s fault. Luckily, that means everyone can work together to ensure this never happens again. 2010 can be a landmark year for digital content. Let’s learn from this failure and move forward.

On a final note, thank you to the incredibly talented people who won and were nominated. People like Bernie Su, Mark Gantt, Jesse Warren, Felecia Day, Randy and Jason Sklar, Brett Register, and Jeremy Redleaf (Who should have been awarded on Sunday, not Wednesday) are top notch creators who are serious about this space. Thank you all. Oh, and don’t put the Crafty winners and nominees in the balcony. They are a big part of this and should have been down in the main area.

In the meantime, I’ll work on creating a real life lightsaber just in case we need another distraction. It’ll beat naked geeks. Or at least scare them away.

Written by Nicholas J. Robinson

April 12th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Accelerating Toward the Future of Content

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Three years ago I was Fresh Off the Car, having just graduated from Syracuse, and completed the pilgrimage to Los Angeles. I was at a bar (Most likely El Guapo, since everyone starts there. It’s like the  WME mailroom of LA bars.) and got into an… altercation with a lovely lady about the future of entertainment. All comments about my choice of bar conversations aside, I claimed we were five years from a complete entertainment transformation via what we refer to as the Internet.

Today, that leaves me two years to say, in my best Nikki Finke, TOLDJA!

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