Film Production And Digital Transformation

Film production and the industry is changing constantly since its very beginnings in the 19th century but the digital transformation is a fundamental change like nothing before. Most of all there are unparalleled hopes and fears; on one side this is the Yukon, the great gold rush, on the other side it’s overwhelming if we do not commit ourselves to a constant learning process we don’t survive.

Digital transformation can mean a lot of things. There is no simple definition. It’s both a challenge for artists as production companies or any distributor. Endurance Entertainment GmbH approach was from the beginning to be an open-minded learner. Being in Berlin and in a constant exchange with digital companies some insights formed over the last years. There are no golden rules here, but things appear to become more clear over the time and we might find a sort of a “survival guideline”:

I. First of all, any discussion or any attempt to adapt means a lot of organized thinking. Since the early years, things got easily mixed up often in public panels. A good example is video-distribution. Even it’s very obvious content produced for platforms like Youtube is a completely different thing like Netflix. It’s true that change is constantly happening and it takes some effort to be informed about new business models or new platforms.

II. Second, don’t be intimidated because you are not a digital native and ask questions. A lot of film producers didn’t have the time or see any sense in investing their precious time to understand what a multichannel-network is or how they should develop an online marketing campaign. Today, there are many possibilities for digital marketing but we need to know if it serves the intended purpose. Even if you don’t want to do your social media work yourself it’s always good to understand how it works. If we understand something it enables us to ask the right questions.

III. The 4K Age – Anything is possible: Yes and no. Digital transformation in the first place is a massive change in technology. Not so long ago at the time of “Super-8” there was an eternal border between the “amateur” and “the professional”. That changed (even if some people will protest here), but its good to differentiate. Basically, there are a huge variety of standards here. And its true that smartphones and DSLRs can do amazing things and yes we can do the edit with freeware. The question is what do we want to achieve and/or what is the client’s expectation. This means we need to do our homework and have the necessary info about our equipment before we make choices, i.e. DSLRs might do great pictures but could pose problems in VFX-postpro.

IV. Try harder. If we like it or not but digital transformation requires more technical understanding for many professions in the industry. The producer today needs technical knowledge and you need to be a fast learner. This is often a frustration for people who want to use things and not always to learn “how to”? The experience is that many technologies need time to understand or some attention but learning-by-doing works more often better as expected when we overcome the first difficulties.

V. Long-Term Commitment: sometimes it appears that efforts with video/film in the digital world do have no clear business models or being completely unpredictable. It’s true there are often very short time spans or anything appears fast-paced but it’s also true that successful format development often needs a lot of time.

The conclusion is that it’s always better to be active rather than waiting for what is happening.

This was about scratching the surface. In the blog section of Endurance Entertainment GmbH more will come up about Film and the digital age hopefully helping professionals as interested people.

Tech And Storytelling: A Question Of Definition.

Many events and discussions dealing with “Tech And Storytelling” like the previously mentioned talk in the “Future Dimension Of Production” leave the impression that it is necessary to be very clear what we mean with “storytelling” in the digital era. “Storytelling” has gone a long way from campfire tales to complex fabrications in the digital era.

Traditionally, we think of a writer telling a fictional story in a novel or the writer of a screenplay developing a storyline and a script when it comes to storytelling.

But storytelling as a term is now used in a much broader sense. “Storytelling” is now used in meanings were there isn’t any longer any connection with some written material or even fiction.  It appears in context with 360 video or virtual reality for example.

Therefore it seems crucial that we are very clear about what we mean by storytelling in a specific context. We need to use and understand terminology in context.

It becomes particularly important when it comes to “Tech and storytelling”. In the traditional ways of filmmaking “tech” doesn’t play a big role in the creation of a story(idea) or in script-development. Even more, writers were not supposed to think about too much about camera angles, equipment or what kind of digital effects will be involved.

We think of development and production as a linear process: creating an idea, concept, storyline, treatment, script, packaging, pre-production, production, postproduction and submission.

It is indeed difficult to think there are other options exist because film-making is a controlled process with a differentiated structure in financing.

Looking back a few years “storytelling” in the TV and in the Movie business was all about “development” when books beginning with Syd Fields “Screenplay” came out and a whole development industry with consultants, classes, workshops etc. emerged. The development people were concerned about dramaturgy, three acts, character-arcs and psychology became a religion.

There was a belief that by watching and analyzing films some sort of “natural laws” could be derived. The result was often predictable, formulaic films with too much psychology. Even today the development process is often ruled by consultants or developers without technological awareness.

However, there is indeed a change in workflow. Independent filmmakers work in news ways and the availability of cameras and software like editing software is fundamentally changing the way of creating.

Today it is indeed possible to try things in a technical way before the writing process is finished. What we need to be careful about is in what kind of context it does happen. Traditional production workflows for a bigger cinema film and TV-fiction-projects will always need a solid script, simply because it is necessary for any further planning like the calculation.

In the alternative filmmaking, we see that it is possible to figure out new ways due to the availability of equipment and also the broad access to knowledge. If we want to try some simple compositions we could do a test run with little effort and perhaps some help from YT-tutorials.

Here it is also possible to get into a “feedback process”: technical simulations of a scene or an effect could actively stimulate storytelling and improve the creative process.

In some cases, it can be interesting to do something without the typical script-development process and learn a unique “film language” where things are expressed, which can’t be put into words. In good cinema films and also video productions there was always a level which wasn’t on the paper.

Thus the new development of “tech and storytelling” is a chance to revive filmmaking by exploring the medium’s own and unique language.

This is not about finding a new success formula since we have seen the problems with a narrow-minded formulaic development approach.

The best way might be not an “either-or” thinking but an open-minded approach to filmmaking.

In any way the “terminology in context” is crucial: we should know first what storytelling exactly means in our specific project and what is the role of “tech” in our creative process.

Furthermore also traditional film and TV-production should benefit from strong awareness about the “tech-side”: productions can be much more efficient if there is not only a script-evaluation but an early consideration of VFX and further on. Shot-List can be sent to the VFX-supervisor for a first evaluation. This can be also a creative process with considering potential alternatives.

Endurance Entertainment GmbH has experience in both traditional storytelling and the technical side of filmmaking. When it comes to non-traditional film production we can help to identify what exactly the storytelling process in a given project means, for example, audiovisual content for platforms like social media.

Further posts will be dedicated to being helpful in understanding “terminology in context” in different fields of production.

Peter Engelmann