Movies are art, or can be, but movies are also a business and like the song says about Love and Marriage, you can't have one without the other.
This year at the lovely Villa Aurora, the South East Europe Film Festival held a conference about a growing aspect of the film industry - using data to market and, maybe, to create movies.
The Villa Aurora is located in the Pacific Palisades. Built in the 1920s as a kind of model home for the Palisades area which was undeveloped at that time. In the 1940s it was purchased by German immigrants and became a meeting place for many German artists who fled to Hollywood from Nazi Germany. Today, it is an artist residency and hosts art-related events throughout the year.
So, it was a very fitting place to discuss the state of filmmaking today and how modern methods of data collection are being used to market movies. SEEfest brought together film makers, film producers, market managers, film buyers and academicians to discuss the role of data in moviemaking.
The Romans use to cut open a bird and seek some knowledge of the future by reading the bird's entrails. Today, we have more modern methods, we cut open data.
In case you missed it, you are being tracked. Not only does Big Brother know every place you visited on the web, it knows every search you made, every product you bought (for those few who still shop in stores, you probably pay with a credit card or are a member of some 'rewards' group whose actual purpose isn't to reward you for shopping at a certain store, but to gather information about you). Every supermarket, drug store, clothing store, book store, etc. keeps detailed information about you and your purchases. You are known not only by what you buy but, also, by what you look at.
If you have ever bought a stock or mutual fund, you know that past performance is not predictive of future success. So, you can look at all the data you want and still make a bomb of a movie. Did anyone predict that a fantasy story about dragons and walls would be one of the most successful TV series ever made? How about the story of a bunch of toys that come to life when not being played with?
Today, previewing a movie isn't about placing it in a movie theater in a representative area to see how the audience reacts but, rather, getting a few dozen people wired with sensors then showing them the movie and seeing what they react to metabolically. Of course, that will only tell the moviemakers how a person is reacting to a movie, but not what brought that person into the movie theater to that particular movie. For that, more sophisticated data is required. The future has each of us being monitored 24/7 by a chip in our brains. Oh no, you say, it will never come to that. What if you were offered free movies for a year? Free popcorn? How about a free month of Netflix?
Sheri Candler, social media advisor with The Film Collaborative believes that each filmmaker must be passionate about her film if she hopes to see it gain an audience. And the target audience is often a mirror image of the filmmaker, herself.
Raoul Marinescu, a VP, Revenue Partnerships at Pluto TV, summed up much of the discussion when he said that extensive data analysis is done by Pluto TV concerning what its customers want to see, yet, still they are surprised when certain shows become very popular. Data is only good as its interpreters.
Vera Mijojlić, SEEfest's Artistic Director, closed the discussion with a look at how international film, with subtitles, are becoming more accepted by the American audience and she envisions a future in which festivals like SEEfest will partner with a platform like Pluto to bring films from or about South east Europe into the American home.
The rest of the week at SEEfest is teeming with extraordinary movies. I'll be looking at my choices with a new perspective - why did I choose this movie?