Tag Archives: filmmaking

The Age of Streaming Services: Then, Now, and Beyond [Exclusive Interview Inside]

Previously published on The Artifice.

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SOURCE: Vidooly

“My family are huge TV watchers. We will, unfortunately, subscribe to everything”, states an anonymous comment made by a viewer in a public survey.* It is common to feel impotent towards new movies and tv shows releasing online every week. The Internet made content accessible for the public, but the catch is that the viewers feel the need to keep up with it all both financially and otherwise.

Streaming is replacing the beloved TV in the average household. Whether it is Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, (or all three!), there is a guest in the house who will literally cut the cable, and, it may be here to stay. So, how did the average consumer welcome streaming without a visible transition? It started with a live internet video by some tech company nerds in 1993. It was a poor attempt that used up half of the available bandwidth of the entire internet. In 1994, the New York Times referred to the Rolling Stones as “the first [major] rock band in cyberspace” to promote their music to millions of streamers. As you can imagine, there was some controversy about who was first and what should’ve been written in Rolling Stones’ press releases. Fast forward to 2005, Saturday Night Live (SNL) released its first video short on Youtube, right around the time that the service started becoming popular. In 2007, Netflix (NFLX), previously known to be a mail-order service, introduced its on-demand platform and became an influencing figure as both a content-producer and provider. Today, the same company has 24 Oscar nominations (2020).

The Inevitable Death of Television

The Universal TV Problem is perhaps rooted in its adaptable nature. In the 40s, the black chunky boxes found their place in the American home and made their debut a little later internationally in the 70s. As Media Theorist Neil Postman discussed foreseeingly in the 80s, the average family (despite their income) started positioning their couches to face the television. And the television found its purpose as the entertainer, silence-filler, and now, a mere accessory.

Our brains spend too much uncommitted time in front of the television to truly commit to its information. The television is rapidly dying along with the broadcast news. We retain less and less of what we hear and even forget where we heard it from. It is not to say that there weren’t any attempts at bringing different content with a monetary cost like subscription TV—However, nothing seemed to help the fate of once adored television.

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What Now? A New Place for the Televisual Content

While the traditional network executives have been busy planning detailed marketing strategies, streaming services are releasing a notable number of original shows every month. The subscribers are seated to be entertained by different content continuously, leaving no time for boredom and rewarding a few of the eager viewers with the binge-watching curse. Yes, the entertainment machine takes a new form in 2020, however, the viewers have all freedom they would need to make the choice on their exposés.

Binnur Karaevli, the director-producer, and screenwriter of Netflix’s critically acclaimed The Protector [Hakan Muhafiz], stated in an interview (Vancouver, BC) “Future is really the streaming services. Of course, the networks will continue, but right now, we have Netflix, Amazon [Prime], Apple [TV], and recent additions like Disney Plus and HBO Max.” Karaevli is the first Turkish filmmaker to score a deal with Netflix (NFLX), the global market leader. Netflix is projected to have an 86.3% penetration in the US market.

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The Protector Season 1
SOURCE: log.com.tr

Streaming Services: An International Powerhouse

Streaming services are writing history while the traditional broadcast TV is rapidly losing its viewers. Amongst other reasons, it may be true that streaming services are the reason for the decreasing rate of television viewership. Karaevli states, “It’s a completely different way of doing business [compared to local filmmaking in Turkey]”, she adds, “Doing the first one [globally-accessible production] is always challenging—but exciting, too.” The streaming productions do not target a specific local group nor suffer from network or government bans, which means they can offer fresh opportunities for diverse content. Karaevli suggests, “In fact, it is helping the industry. The streamers are international so, it is a huge plus.” Prior to the rise of the stated services, US-based networks like ABC, NBC, targeted the American culture. “Today, streaming services you can access productions from Turkey, and all around the world— which I find exciting!” says Karaevli (See, references for further information on the interviews).

Familiar Faces: The Mouse House

2019 solidified the presence of streaming services in the average household with releases of highly expected services like Apple TV and Disney Plus. Specifically, Disney was expected to be Netflix’s biggest rival. As the President of Marketing Asad Ayaz stated in an interview, it was important for Disney to market the films that spoke to the now-older audience and expand their horizons for the youth. It was inevitable for Disney to develop the much-talked remakes to achieve these two goals at the same time. It is forecasted that Disney Plus will have 60 to 90 million global subscribers by 2024. According to A.J. Black, the author of Myth-Building in Modern Media, there are already too many services in the market. Black states, “People will inevitably dip in and dip out of subscriptions, but it could lead to some trying to lock down customers for long[er] subscription periods”, and adds, “If they do, that could cause problems if too much content is still diversified across platforms”.

Gold Standards Established by the Users

The results from a public survey conducted upon the development stage of this article showed: 86% of the viewers stuck with Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime (41%), Hulu (25%)*. It was surprising to see Disney Plus (16%) was not amongst the first choices for the viewers. However, it should be noted that there are simply too many countries that Disney Plus has not been released yet. 48.94% of the streamers stated they would be purchasing a Disney Plus membership upon its availability in their countries. 81.63% of the streamers were satisfied with the service they have been using.

Streamers first considered 1) a wide range of older shows (78%), 2) the purchase price (77%), 3) original (new) shows (69%), and 4) brand reputation (30%) to affect their decision of purchasing a membership. Others noted, “interface design and usability”, “advertising”, “lack of exclusivity and geo-blocking”. Streamers also preferred to have “access to episodes all at once (85.19%)” over having “access to one episode on the release date (14.81%)”.

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James Bareham/Polygon
FILED UNDER: STREAMING

What the Streamers Say

“I don’t care about new originals; I base my purchases solely on the shows and movies I am specifically looking to watch. Thus, I am about to drop Hulu and Disney+ and will use Netflix until I have seen everything on there I care about. I have zero brand loyalty.”

“I would only pay for a maximum of 2 streaming services. I think what each company has done in creating their own service is stupid and I refuse to pay for it – instead, I’ve just gone back to torrenting, which is a shame because I prefer legally streaming but I can’t afford 5+ memberships.”

“There’s too many available right now – we’re back to where we started with cable.

“Streaming services should be about service, but currently they revolve around exclusivity (which I find an immoral monopoly) and geoblocking (despite being provided through the internet, which is global). Because of that moral objection I don’t subscribe to any and resort to the moral alternative of piracy.”

“It’s smart business. Streaming has the potential to eventually eradicate common TV entertainment…or…they have the potential to be put on TV channels of their own, to be a part of cable/satellite packs at everyone’s disposition.”

“It’s turning back into Cable. People are going to be back to pirating shows before long. I am concerned about the withdrawal of physical media from the market.”

“Until a streaming service can reliably provide me with anything I want at a moment’s notice better than my own library can, I’m not interested and I’ll continue to use my own library.”

“Stream services are dying. The appeal used to be you’d have one or two sites that had practically everything, so it was a nice convenience price. But now everyone and their mouse want a slice, and we’re dealing with a bunch of sub-par services where you’re lucky to find a single worthwhile show. So yeah, back to just stealing what I would otherwise more than happily pay for if they didn’t make it so pointlessly hard to do so”.

“Streaming is going to die, everyone will go back to pirating again.”

The Grand Finale

Streaming services already created a need to catch up with the flood of neverending content, and pulled TV’s plug– It is even beginning to threaten the business of movie theatres. The business model used to be based on streaming platforms pulling older seasons of shows and attracting viewers to the newer content that could be found in the traditional TV. The production of original content exclusively for the online platforms started taking life away from the TV, and potentially movie theatres. To be fair, if a consumer can watch an Academy Winner movie at the comfort of their home, why would they attend a niche film festival and pay extra for it? (Streaming productions often make their debut as a part of these festivals and find their way to the on-demand platforms a short while later).

It would be cruel to ignore other truths: Streaming is currently reviving the film industry, opening doors to international content, and allowing viewers to choose what, when, where, and how much they want to watch certain content. In short, streaming services give the viewer their freedom. However, this also has monetary costs. As the anonymous comments state, the availability of content in separate platforms forces the viewers to purchase several memberships. In practice, it makes sense; in reality, the average person cannot (and likely will not) spend 50 bucks per month to watch a new form of TV. And, they most certainly will not want to be tied to years-long subscription periods.

A significant number of streamers already seem like they are going back to illegal methods to access online content. Pirating seems to be the only way to make a leap out of the diverse number of exclusive content that these platforms offer. This will eventually hurt the film industry, but for now, it is still the golden age of streaming services.


*Should you require additional information about the survey results stated above, please contact hazalscamera@gmail.com

References

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) by Neil Postman

Binnur Karaevli interviewed in-person by Hazal Senkoyuncu in Vancouver, BC (2019).

Neiger, C. (2019, August 27). Netflix’s Market Share Is Shrinking, but It’s Still the King of Video Streaming. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/08/27/netflix-market-share-shrinking-still-streaming.aspx

Online Interview of A.J. Black by Hazal Senkoyuncu (2020).

Poggi, J. (2019, December 9). Marketers of the Year No. 6: Walt Disney Co. Retrieved from https://adage.com/article/media/marketers-year-no-6-walt-disney-co/2221176

Roxborough, S. (2019, November 14). Netflix Dominates Global SVOD Market, but Local Services Gain Ground, Study Finds. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-dominates-global-svod-market-but-local-services-gain-ground-1254438

Strauss, N. (1994, November 22). Rolling Stones Live on Internet: Both a Big Deal and a Little Deal. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/22/arts/rolling-stones-live-on-internet-both-a-big-deal-and-a-little-deal.html

Survey on “streaming services” conducted by Hazal Senkoyuncu, www.hazalscamera.com

Switchboard Live. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://switchboard.live/blog/live-streaming-history

“Batwoman is the best in the franchise”: Holly Dale on Filmmaking as a Female, Director-Actor Chemistry, and the Rise of Batwoman

At a time that builds upon the momentum of movements like Me Too and LGBTQ Pride, female filmmakers are finally starting to get the recognition they have always deserved. Holly Dale, the award-winning director, producer, writer and editor(!), gets up from her seat within the audience and faces them as she enters the Vancouver Film Festival’s (VIFF) stage. As her long-time colleague and friend Norma Bailey says proudly, Dale has a perfect record of five plots proposed, and five directed. On top of this, she has directed 200 hours’ worth of screen productions.

You probably already viewed many of Dale’s works: Durham County, Mary Kills People, Flashpoint, Being Erica, Dexter, The Americans, The X-Files, Law & Order True Crime, Limitless, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Falling Skies, are some of the most popular ones. Dale is currently working on the highly anticipated Batwoman (2019) series, in which she is producing and directing. Batwoman aired on CW just last week, and already has the internet people talking! It currently sits at a high 73% on Rotten Tomatoes; however, it has also been a victim of the toxic fan culture because of its nonapologetic characters.

It seems that Dale will gather a lot of attention while the Batwoman debates catch fire. Meanwhile, I had the privilege to attend Dale and Bailey’s masterclass in October and meet her personally. Unlike someone who has so much experience as Dale, she was very humble; she wanted to connect with every single person in the audience. Hence, why she stayed for another hour or so to answer questions and guide aspiring filmmakers in their individual journeys.

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Holly and Norma Kill People

As the moderator and co-director of Mary Kills People, Bailey cheerfully states, she and Dale met at a time when both directors decided to move away from documentary filmmaking and into drama. When filming documentaries, Bailey felt she was exploiting people to do what she creatively wanted to accomplish, and that was to tell stories. On the other hand, documentary filmmaking was never Dale’s intention either. However, through drama, Dale rightfully obtained the title of being an actor’s director; someone who knows how to approach an actor’s needs.

As Dale states, setting up the visuals truly set up what Mary Kills People (MKP) stood for. Camera angles, colors, location and all that you could see on the final screen product aimed to service the characters. As an example, the visuals of dull-colored tunnels in MKP were intended to walk the actor through the tunnel of light, often associated with death. The entire piece was made to relate to life and death in various ways.

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Norma Bailey and Holly Dale at the VIFF Masterclass.

 

Drama in the Industry: A Female Perspective

“When I first started directing”, Dale says, “there were only 5 female directors in the industry”. Dale made sacrifices and traveled a lot. Her hard work paid off, especially when she shot a documentary on female filmmakers, Calling the Shots in 1988. As she reminisced those days, Dale exclaimed, “I met so many great males in the industry, too—they were sons of single mothers”. The audience burst out laughing.

“Women tend to collaborate and nurture more, but they also need to be careful,” says Dale. Through her experience in the industry, Dale realized there are people on set who definitely won’t want her to succeed. At the end of the day, she suggests the important skill aspiring filmmakers need to obtain is to use their energy only when they need it. A director’s job is to make decisions. Dale exhales, and gives a piece of valuable advice, “you don’t want to make a decision quick”. According to Dale, there is a delicate line between helping the producer in terms of cost and convenience, and the look and feel of the final product. She adds, “you need to filter ideas and use them for your benefit”.

 

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Holly Dale and myself at the VIFF Masterclass.

 

Director-Actor Chemistry

When talking about times she is mostly involved in the process of selecting an actor, Dale states, “firstly, the actor needs to be a reactor”. In other words, actors need to be reactive to what’s going on around them in the scene. For Dale, another important factor is that the actor needs to know their lines. Specifically, “casting for TV is very fast,” she says; hence, seeing these two qualities stand actors out from the hundreds of tapes that are viewed every day.

Dale continues on about the ideal director-actor relationship, “Actors are very nervous most of the time. You need to tell them your processes and do not stand away”. Dale says that a director’s job is to go ahead and tell the actor, “Hey, that’s a great job”; simple as that. If a director wants the production to succeed, Dale argues “[they cannot] talk to an actor in results”. A director needs to tell the actor what causes the happiness or sadness and let them walk through the emotion. When Dale was asked about the best way to set up an emotional tone to the production, she stated, “it is best when they (the actor) wants to work with you”. When the actor and director understand each other, the character starts telling her story.

Insights from Dale: Marvel vs. DC

Marvel (Agents of the S.H.I.E.L.D.)– Executives are very hands-on during production.

DC (Batwoman) – Finally has the best superhero on-screen for the franchise! 

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The rise of Batwoman

Dale defines Batwoman as “a groundbreaking series” that welcomes a lesbian superhero on screen, and adds, “it (Batwoman) is the best in the franchise”. She says she is on set a lot these days; she practically “live(s) there now!”. But Dale seems to put her heart out directing Batwoman, as she “always excels to be beyond the script”. And, we are beyond excited to see where Batwoman’s journey will take her; because we want to go there with her, too!