Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Whoo-hoo! My friend and all-around good person, C.C. Stinson rocks the doc scene with her latest opus, Light, Bright, Damn Near White.

The film will air on TVOne, satellite cable TV channel 157 here in Austin. Check their Web site for your local channel.

C.C. is another alum of the ATX Bentley Mitchum acting class, along with Rich MacDonald, Frank Brantley, and yours truly.

She's a terrific actress, too, not to mention a screenwriter/producer/director. C.C. quit her day job in the corporate world to pursue her passion, which is a real inspiration to me.

We talked about collaborating on a project last year, but life got in the way. This year, I'm hoping that I can sit her down for an interview for my books and accompanying Web sites.

I'm sooo proud of you, C.C.! Keep up the great work.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What Chris Anderson missed

The Long Tail is upon us, and it's great for digital content aggregators, such as iTunes, Rhapsody, Amazon, CDBaby, and Netflix. How great is it for artists?

Authors and pundits like Chris Anderson (author of the watershed book The Long Tail), and Michael Masnick of Techdirt.com proclaim that the revolution is here. Music moguls and Hollywood fat cats are running for the hills, as their kingdoms built on artificial scarcity of goods crumble around them.

The premise of "Long Tail Economics" is that, beyond the normal hits in any content industry- books, music, movies- there are thousands, even millions more sales of non-hit titles. These may be obscure foreign films, unknown garage bands, or self-published novels. Alone, they may sell only a few copies per year. But aggregated by a major supplier like Amazon or iTunes, these millions of one-off sales add up to 15 or 20% of an aggregator's business. With the additional costs of distributing digital goods being next to nothing, this amounts to found money, providing a significant competitive advantage for the e-tailer over brick-and-mortar retailers.

But what of the artists? You know, the writers, actors, musicians, and directors who spend their lives in pursuit of that brass ring- fame and fortune, Hollywood Superstardom. Well, for them, the news is less stellar.

True, the barriers to entry have been demolished. Musicians can (and do) make hit albums from their garage. Student filmmakers can make the next Sundance Festival winner with a handheld camera from Best Buy. But, just like their major-label superstar idols of yesteryear, they are the exception. Most people producing films, music, or books (even good ones) are not benefiting from the Long Tail phenomenon.

Filmmakers, for example, who now compete with cell phone videos of skateboarding dogs, piano-playing cats, homemade "Jackass" stunts, and the like, find it hard to rise above the noise. Without a budget or marketing expertise, it's hard to get decent numbers of viewers, even for free. Even someone who might have made the grade into the traditional system in years past may be lost in the ether. Just because they can sell 10 copies of their film, CD, or book to fans in France or China doesn't mean that they can make a living that way.

Does that mean the Long Tail is a bad thing for artists?

No. But it does mean that artists have to recognize that they are no longer in the business of selling music.

"Wha-wha-what???" I hear you say. It's true. Music is their loss leader to sell other things, mostly live performances, and sometimes licensing rights, endorsements, and other merch. And yes, T-shirts.

It means that content producers have more competition. But now the competition is coming directly from other artists, not from major labels, studios, or publishing houses that have acted as gatekeepers to the Kingdom of Fame and Fortune. Actually, getting a "deal" with one of these gatekeepers was often the beginning of an artist's demise, but that's another post.

Artists can now go directly to the public, the end-consumer of their work. And they will be the final arbiters of success. Today's competition is greater, fiercer, and aligning along the lines of public taste, not corporate taste. Artists will have to develop thicker skin, and, frankly, produce more appealing content.

Oh, and one more thing: they'll have to find other ways to make a living. At least until they hit the viral big-time.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Austin girl makes good

My agent Liz Atherton sent word that one of my stable-mates, Austin actress Brea Grant, who only just recently moved out to L.A., was picked to be a recurring villainous character on NBC's "Heroes". Good on ya, girl!

I haven't met Brea yet, but I'm glad she's doing well, and representing the ATX. Hopefully, it will inspire more producers to look for talent here in Austin. There's certainly plenty of it.

Best of luck, Brea!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Make your own damn Webisode!

Years ago, my friend Trent Haaga wrote a book called Make Your Own Damn Movie. Well, Texas filmmaker Blake Calhoun and writer Mike Madden did just that. Sort of. They made a TV-like series for the Web ("webisodes") called Pink - The Series.

They posted the series on YouTube, and it took off: 4 million views in just a few months. Mike Madden, in a podcast interview with Pilar Alessandra, writer Madden explains that part of the success, he feels, is that the 3-minute shows are scripted with a 3-minute arc, not a 90-minute arc that's been chopped up into 3-minute intervals. The fact that it's action fare, with a woman in the lead role, no less, probably didn't hurt. Shows like La Femme Nikita and Domino did pretty well using the same basic formula.

Recently, Hollywood sat up and took notice. New Webisodes of PTS are being shot now, and their recent deal with Generate bodes well for the DFW team to be at the leading edge of Web-based filmmaking.

That's good for Texas producers, directors, writers, and actors, and most of all, good for consumers, who are looking for quality content "outside the box." It's the obvious conclusion of the major studios' crumbling business model, which they are fighting hard to hold onto, seemingly oblivious to the lessons of their music industry brethren.

It's motivational to me. I'm in the process of self-producing a few features and possibly even my TV series, which might be a nice end-run around Hollywood Development Hell.

Did I mention that I'm writing a book, too?



Sunday, May 4, 2008

Plus ca change...

"To improve is to change. To be perfect is to change often," said Winston Churchill. So, after 13 years (!), I finally decided to cut off my ponytail. This is the first time my wife has ever known me with short hair. She was nearly in tears, for some reason I can't quite fathom. Mary's hair stylist Dale did the honors, and I thought she did a great job.

I'll be getting new headshots with trusty Austin photog Stefano Fabrizio later this week, so hopefully I don't get called to audition for the role of a rock star between now and then.

If so, I'll be getting me some extensions! Click here for more photos of the traumatic event.