Industry Report: Distribution and exhibition
Hyper Island Master Class – Mobile Media
- For three intensive days from Monday March 26, the progressive digital media training organisation Hyper Island welcomed 15 media professionals to its London office to hear expert presentations. The intention - to find progressive methodologies for generating new revenue streams using the smartphone.
The possibilities provided by social media are still being explored, but in parallel we are seeing an explosion in ownership of smartphones that equips people with ways to develop these online relationships in real time. This has major ramifications for the relationship we have with people who are trying to sell us something. A phrase that emerged in the aster class was “data is the new black gold”. Allusions to the wars fought in the past over oil were not intended as exaggerations, as the monetary value of this data – the usage statistics of our online lives, our preferences, tastes, location, age, gender and desires – will surely rocket to such status in the future's knowledge-based society. Like it or not, you are telling companies who you are and what you like to buy, and it is this activity that will come to define how you consume and who from. This data is valuable to companies, and monetising it will be the key to success in this new market.
Andy Sandoz, a British advertising creative, introduced the class to a way that this data can be used as part of a marketing campaign that suits both the producer and the consumer – apps. On the principle that a phone is equipped with these tools that can sell brands, why should a filmmaker not use them to build a deeply personal relationship with their audience? Of course it is a filmmaker's own decision whether or not to use Twitter, but to have your own words literally in your audience's pocket to carry around is an opportunity to involve them in a project that will become the norm.
The web developer and digital start-up consultant Per Hakansson introduced the class to a way that the web can bring an audience and a film producer closer together, crowdfunding, through the kickstarter.com website. This is a web platform with which film-makers, games developers and artists can advertise a potential project to the public who will then pledge a small amount of money to help the project in return for a credit in the finished piece. Some finished projects were shown to have raised several hundred thousand euros, surely enough for an independent feature film.
The master class always returned to this idea of innovation - ideas that may seem outlandish today could be the norm in the future. The founder of Hyper Island, Jonathan Briggs, wants film-makers to embrace the potential uses of mobile technology and social media, citing the example of the American comedian and filmmaker Louis CK, who is releasing a stand-up comedy DVD completely independently sold through the internet, using Youtube to whet his audience's appetite.
Can we envisage European auteur filmmakers crowdsourcing their cast or a distributor offering an app to its audience to nominate theatres for a new film based on the audience's location? Whether people would really watch movies on their phone or tablet is also currently part of the debate but Briggs also recognises the enduring and unique appeal of the cinema experience. All these ideas and more were mooted in the master class' fertile brainstorming sessions.
The taste of the audience for European film is broad and ever-changing. However, the question of how well mobile technology is implemented in this sector remains. We are being urged to look to the music industry as an oracle for innovation in the face of changing times, how did they respond to satisfying the audience's need for music faced with the new digital frontier? As ever, we will surely take our cue from the filmmakers themselves.
Cineuropa interviews Jonathan Briggs, co-founder of Hyper Island and master-class speaker.
What was the inspiration for starting Hyper Island?
Jonathan Briggs: A dissatisfaction with traditional education in this particular area. Lots of people learning to be artists, technologists and business people. Very few people are learning all of those things so it was about mashing up all these skills. The three of us who started it all shared the view that this was an opportunity and Lars Lund then said I think I've found a building and some support. I flew over to the place, fell in love with it and said 'yeah let's do this'.
Did a pan-European attitude dictate how the courses turned out?
Yes, I think the Swedishness was very important. The school is based at a Swedish ex-prison and therefore it has the great things about that, being well-designed. Sweden has always had a reputation for great design and as digital emerged and a big start-up culture that arose there. It was a very fertile place to start. There was also nobody there saying no you can't do that. For a traditional academic such as me it was difficult to imagine how we would have done it in the UK. It's often easier to do something away from your own home. You can try something out in isolation. My hope was that Hyper Island would be something greater than a school simply out there. We always wanted visiting speakers to come and enjoy the place and then activate the same thinking that we had engendered elsewhere. We didn't expect it to be as successful as it has been, but we were lucky. We hit the zeitgeist and suddenly we had people willing to come and fly in from all over the world to teach our students and spread their ideas out into their future brands, companies and agencies.
What role does mobile have to play for European film audiences?
The expectation of the audience is that the media is going to be multi-platform. There will still be a place for sitting in a dark room to watch a film for two hours but increasingly people want to engage with the creation process more. I love things such as Twittermentary, where there is social media construction of a documentary with multiple people involved. This is not the end of a single-minded creator pursuing their own ideas, that's still going to happen but I think we've got to get European filmmakers to explore other methods, such as crowdsourced casting and writing and to really consider how best to engage their audience using the technology in the devices that are available.