Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movie Moguls and YouTube Subversives

I recently finished watching TCM's seven part documentary, "Moguls and Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood," which traces the history of the film industry from its earliest days all the way up to the final fade out of the mogul era in the late 1960's.

While it didn't really cover any new ground, it did provide a great overall look at the evolution of the industry, and the unique personalities that built the early industry.  These pioneers - from Louis B. Mayer to the Warner Brothers, to Darryl Zanuck - not only invented (and continuously reinvented) the movie industry, but achieved success with pure tenacity.  That may sound somewhat cliche these days, but these guys (and women, the program illustrates) really did it.

For me, the most fascinating part of the program is the earliest episode, "Peepshow Pioneers"which looks at the industry in its very earliest days, from 1889 - 1907, when peepshows - those machines that individuals would peer into to view 10 or 20 second short films - became the craze.  The program reports that Thomas Edison's  studio (really, the first of its kind) produced close to a thousand of these short films in a single year.  In the beginning, these films consisted primarily of simple improvisational skits created by Edison's studio workers themselves.

I can't help think of parallels to the social media / YouTube world today, where so many are experimenting with a form of expression which is both an evolution of motion pictures, and it's own unique creation.  Of course, in those early days, a single man, Thomas Edison, who invented (or perfected) much of the technology that made the birth of the industry possible, and tried to hold onto a monopoly in the creation and distribution of content.  Today, media creation is open to all, and there are limitless variations on creating YouTube content - some for nothing more than self-expression, and others as entrepreneurial ventures.

The film industry wasn't invented by individuals from the theater world - it was created by people from unrelated worlds - or dirt poor kids  -  who created an opportunity that others may have ignored in their own sophistication.   If the social media platform does evolve, the driving forces that make it stand on its own will not, ultimately come from the existing media industries - but from the individuals who are creating audiences where none existed.

I suspect that most, if not all of the top YouTubers are individuals without filmmaking backgrounds.  Even though I'm a filmmaker, I love the subversive irony...

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