The audience demands its voice: erasing the line between production and consumption

That’s what I heard loud and clear at the SXSW Interactive session Creator vs. Audience: Next Chapter in Storytelling. I’m embarrassed that I was unaware of the incredible DeviantArt community and its young founder, Angelo Sotira.

Session headline: this is an incredible time when remaining deep-pocketed media conglomerates vote with their money, once they see that the the audience is throatily responding to a particular creative. If you want popular buy-in, you need fans to build “an audience from moment one.”

Witness how New Line recently bought the movie rights to a single, popular illustration that had been posted to DeviantArt as a vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Your mind can easily visualize the script possibilities from this now iconic image (and how Hollywood could potentially screw it up). And yet, the artist self-deprecatingly explained it away with “another fast and stupid one, since these days (or ever) I dont have time to do anything better – I remembered how I was drawing monsters all the time when I was 15…”

Sweet Halloween Dreams by Begemott (DeviantArt)
Sweet Halloween Dreams by Begemott (DeviantArt)

Whether it’s in entertainment or in education (as I saw as I participated at SXSW Edu) there’s increasing tension between audience and the proverbial “studio system” — the desire to retain control, to share, to profit, to create. For this educator and storyteller, it’s a wonderful time of opportunity, and of great uncertainty. It’s hard not to wonder whether universities themselves might one day be seen as another anachronistic set of vertically-integrated power brokers that once controlled access to, and production of, learning resources.

That thought remained with me as I sought out two film worldwide film premieres that document seismic shifts in our journey from passive media consumer to having more control in how we engage with movies and music. In both situations, the studio system didn’t see the transformation coming — or at least were slow to react and adapt.

Downloaded tells the story of the rise and fall of Napster, with the advent of peer-to-peer music file sharing and how the recording industry tried to shut it down: “what had begun as a largely unknown underground distribution medium erupted into a full-blown global revolution.”

Downloaded – SXSW 2013 Accepted Film from SXSW on Vimeo.

Rewind This is a self-proclaimed “VHS love story” about the technology that democratized film production and gave us time-shifting.

“Videotape changed the world and laid the foundation for today’s digital culture. Low cost equipment created unprecedented opportunities. Major studios and small indies operated on an even playing field for the first time ever. The story of the home video revolution is a tale of both technological advancement and human ambition.”

Rewind This! – SXSW 2013 Accepted Film from SXSW on Vimeo.

Highly recommended.