Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Monday, June 6, 2011

Producers, Content Creators, and the Great Divide

This past weekend, I attended the annual "Produced By" conference hosted by my trade organization, the Producers Guild of America.  The weekend featured vendor booths for production services and locations worldwide, and seminars on many aspects of production and opportunities in production.  The audience, as you might guess from the conference title, was producers of all types - motion picture, television and independents from around the world looking to network, learn, and develop critical relationships for upcoming projects.

Naturally, a number of programs addressed the quickly-developing online world - and what it means from content creation to funding - to cloud-based production management.  There was considerable excitement about these developing opportunities - a session entitled, "The Sky's the Limit: Entrepreneurial Media and Indie Innovators" sold out before the weekend began.  As most attendees work in so-called traditional media, interest was largely centered on using online tools to provide new options for the development and distribution of traditional content.  Web series are seen as a particularly promising avenue for traditional media producers.

In a few weeks, I'll be experiencing another perspective on the producing world.  I'll be attending Vidcon, the annual conference of You Tube content creators.  These producers are considerably - even radically different from traditional producers.   While they certainly aren't veterans - many are in their teens or twenties, they're very much real producers pioneering a brand new field.  Theirs is a more personal model, dependent upon a level of audience interaction unthinkable to their traditional media cousins.   Of course, they're also not operating at the stratospheric financial heights of successful traditional media producers.  Even the most successful YouTube partners in year aren't earning even close to a network television producer's weekly income.  On the other hand, they generally work alone or with a very small team.  They can do what they want.  Most are writers, producers, directors, performers and marketers - all rolled into one.  You might say they're the most independent of what used to be called independent filmmakers.

I've long been fascinated with the middle ground between these two worlds - or even if such a common meeting point can exist.  I wonder what would happen if a group of successful television or film producers spent a few hours in a room with the most successful YouTubers to search out that common ground.  What would each contingent gain from the experience? What, if anything, can they possibly learn from each other?  Does the intimacy of the successful vlogger by its very nature preclude any real lesson for corporate-driven traditional media?  Likewise, can traditional media as a money-making machine offer any hints of where new media content creators can go?

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