Thursday, December 20, 2007

Web Programming as an Entertainment Farm System


If you want to play in baseball's big leagues, you will likely have to make your way up through the farm system. Sure, on occasion a player will debut from college to the majors, but far more make their way through single, double and triple A clubs (go Tacoma Rainier's!!!)

Who knows where the web will evolve when it comes to original entertainment as an industry. Certainly the Writers Guild thinks it is an important question.

But for now, I like the idea of the web being a farm system for our more lucrative outlets for entertainment professionals. The idea was brought to my attention by quote within an article on CNN.com. Robert Thompson is the director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture and says "The internet is one great big farm team...offering the opportunity for people to make stuff" which could "rise to the top". He expects that some could be co-opted or bought -- and people will move into the mainstream area."

The CNN article offers the examples of Quarterlife and mentions the Star Trek: New Voyages webisodes. Since the former is produced by the folks who produced thirtysomething it doesn't quite fit the farm league metaphor, but check out the latter which, though it features some of the original cast, looks to be a work of love and a calling card for other opportunities.

Probably a better example would be the lonelygirl15 folks.

There is one point at which I would differ with Thompson's featured quote, and that is that I don't think it will be one farm system, but multiple farm systems, which is more in keeping with the metaphor. I can see groups of creative types self organizing around genres, regional areas and traditional delivery systems such as television news, movies, serials, soaps and sportscasts. Not to mention whatever monetarily supported entertainment infrastructure emerges from the web space.

So, just as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith formed United Artists in the emerging world of feature films, it would be very cool to see creative types in the web space organize into sustainable ventures.

As for our own "Triple A" web entertainment clubs, how about a news team in the South Sound. Maybe a FeedTacoma style cooperative of folks creating a daily or weekly program around local news. I still say that could be a nice opportunity for expansion of services from the The News Tribune. Heck, the FCC just provided waivers that allow newspapers and television stations to be co-owned in the same market.

We've seen great video content from Exit133 and KevinFreitas. With a little outreach and the right executive producer, you could have a nice program assembled.

If it seems like that might not be feasible at this time, just wait a few more years. Even now, you can easily create your own Sweeney Todd movie trailer on their official site. Sure it is drag and drop, and fairly predetermined as to the output, but it does show how far the tools have come.

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