So, I’m gonna just throw something out that may be tangential to this article. But it can’t be ignored, I don’t believe. Film is capitalistic. Raise money, spend it on production, try to turn a profit on the exhibition. Netflix is winning because they realized that data makes them the most efficient players in the market, which in turn fuels their market dominance. If you have the most money and the most data, and your customers only care about the end product, the only way to compete with that system is to build a bigger system. In a weird way, Netflix is actually very transparent with its data — if you work and create INSIDE Netflix. It only looks opaque from the outside. But like Amazon, Netflix wants to be the last entertainment company on earth (though Amazon also makes and buys films, so one day Amazon wants to subsume Netflix, so it can be the last company on earth). If you are among the lucky few (though this number is expanding quickly) who have had the opportunity to make a Netflix original and to learn from the performance of your work on the platform, and other similar work, you get enormous creative freedom to make rad new shit (see the Duplass Bros). Right now, entree into the world of Netflix is still guarded by old sexist and racist systems. But that’s beginning to break down. Because Netflix knows its audience, it knows what women watch, it knows what people of color watch, and it’s producing content specifically for those markets. It sucks to be outside Netflix, but it’s fantastic to be inside Netflix.
Suffice it to say, this isn’t reassuring to the vast majority of creators working outside of Netflix. But high-production-value series and films, which Netflix specializes in, are expensive AF. The populist counterpoint to Netflix is Youtube, which has plenty of high-production-value stuff — but a whole lot more shit that is popular BECAUSE it looks like garbage (watch any livestream to see how anti-cinematic doesn’t equate to unpopular).
Seed&Spark must navigate between two monopolistic platforms — one hyper-curated, one essentially completely free. Netflix has a broad definition of quality (a rom com and an obscure art film can both represent quality on the platform), and Youtube has proved, through unboxing videos, that a story can literally be distilled to its non-representative elements: beginning (closed box), middle (open box), end (thing removed from box).
So what lies between these two? Is it film? Is it web series? Is it a hybrid? Is it vertical video? Is it Instagram stories stretched out into grander scope? Is it chat fiction? Is it stuff made in game engines? Stuff animated with animoji? I have no idea. It might be all of these. But I think a truly democratic platform must not just empower new storytellers; it must empower new methods of telling stories. High-production-value film is capitalist and elite. Netflix will always win. Refusing to curate is dangerously populous. Youtube will always win. There must be a middle ground, and it must look brand new.