2018 Studio planning minutes

You know the saying “it’s so ridiculous that it must be true?” That might start running through your head as you read this release, grasshopper.

I want to introduce you to Ben (of course it’s an alias) whom I’ve known very well for over a decade. Not only is he a great friend, he has also been a big part of my career and has played a big role in the careers of many Hollywood A listers.

He’s one of the leading power brokers in the industry, he’s highly respected, and he has a seat at the proverbial table.

What he shared with me shook me to the core.

You would assume that a meeting between the heads of every studio, every major network, every super agency, and their key stake holders would make headlines, right? Sure, it may not trigger mainstream headlines but you would think that at least Variety would cover it, or that their reps would issue some kind of a statement. 

Even a tweet would suffice…instead we got nothing. 

It’s about to become crystal clear why this was. If you have been a member of the tribe for any length of time you know that “the industry politics” are far more sinister than most of us could ever imagine. 

Some of what Ben told me was confirmation. Some was utterly shocking! 

I don’t intend to simply go over industry politics, I’m also going to show you how you can benefit from what’s happening to skyrocket your career. 

I don’t know about you, but it makes me incredibly uncomfortable to know that the industry I love and have devoted my life to, is being steered behind closed doors. It’s shrouded in a veil of secrecy for good reason. 

See, there’s actually a big anti-trust problem in the industry. This is because the major networks and studios control about 98% of mainstream media. To put that into perspective that would be the same as Chili’s being 98% of the restaurants. 

That’s crazy and would never be allowed to happen in any other industry. 

Here’s the 2 sentence backstory: the industry is in the fight of its life against new media, and it’s fighting back using dirty “backroom” tricks, like bribery and intimidation. This has backfired and set them further back, drawing attention from regulatory agencies. 

See, the industry, in its entirety is owned by less than a handful of people. Literally, if you follow the money it’s controlled by 4 individuals, a few large institutional investors, and 1 foreign government. This means that there is 0 competition. 

Because these individuals, investors, and (yes) even that rogue government own almost identical stakes in every one of the studios and networks (through the parent companies), they’re playing a game of heads I win, tails you lose at the box office. This is catching up to them. It’s no secret that box office quality has been on a steep decline for quite some time. 

In a recent interview, Brett Ratner stated that Rotten Tomatoes was to blame for dismal audience turnouts. He said that when films received poor reviews, the audiences stayed away (DUH!). He actually said that “It’s the destruction of our business.” 

What’s funny about this is that Rotten Tomatoes is owned by (drumroll) the studios! If you follow the trends you will see a pattern emerge wherein the studios win at the box office in an almost round-robin fashion. 

I want to be clear, I’m not bashing anyone’s work. I have nothing but the utmost respect for my industry peers, but I feel like our artistic abilities are being hampered by bottom-line thinking. 

This rails against what the greatest projects of our time had going for them. No one was pinching pennies on the set of Titanic. 

When was the last time a project like that was greenlit? The studios have lost interest in projects like this. Instead they are opting for smaller budgets and bigger slates. They throw projects at the wall and hope that one sticks and covers the losses from the flops. 

This has caused our audiences to slowly lose interest. There are some other factors at play, but what’s telling is that the 2017 summer season was the worst on record in over a decade...the worst part is that the numbers the studios are reporting are highly sugarcoated and don’t tell the full story. More on that in a bit. 

For a while, we’ve been speculating that the social media networks would begin buying up studios and networks…according to Ben the studios were not very fond of this and a deal was brokered at this secret summit. 

Enter Facebook Watch. You’ve probably heard of it by now. It’s Facebook’s new streaming service. 

Here’s why this is huge… 

In order to avoid a messy, and highly public anti-trust battle, the industry must allow new competitors into the marketplace. They are allowing this to happen with Facebook Watch. 

It doesn’t matter that they cherry picked the competition, as long it’s legitimate competition. 

Initially, the platform is featuring content that you would find elsewhere, but over time Facebook will begin producing its own big budget shows and it is already putting some original content into production. 

Being that the company’s focus is on social media, the natural evolution is to open up this distribution channel to user-driven content. This is a direct aim at toppling YouTube, a long time industry foe that was conspicuously absent at the summit. 

What is happening, almost by accident is that you will soon have access to a huge audience in need of content. Even if you don’t want to hop into the role of producer, this huge industry move will usher in a new wave of production houses in need of actors. 

Will you be in a position to take advantage of the new opportunities? 

It’s never too early to make your move. This is evidenced by the original content that Facebook has already commissioned. 

Guess who will be starring in the new projects? If you guessed Facebook stars and Instagrammers, you are right! It makes perfect sense, because it’s like rooting for the home team. 

On that note, one of the key points of discussion at this summit was aimed directly at casting directors. For the last couple of years, they have been tasked with finding talent that is on an upward trajectory. It makes the studio’s job easier when marketing the new project, because they’re not starting from scratch. 

Earlier this year, we broke the story about algorithms being used to aid CDs with scouting and casting decisions. Now, they have officially been put on notice. Artificial intelligence will be taking over this role its entirety by the 2020. 

We see what has happened in the music industry since AI started taking over the duties of talent scouts. No one gets discovered at karaoke anymore. 

The same thing is bound to happen in our business too. Gone will be the days of reels, resumes, and headshots. Casting decisions will be dictated by followers, likes, and comments. 

So, if you haven’t yet begun building your online presence and industry reputation, when would be a good time to start? The countdown has officially begun and the window is literally closing. You can no longer put this off until someday. 

The good news is that if you simply do this, you will be so far ahead of the game that you will go from 0 to 100. Remember that the shift will not be an overnight event, the industry will continue to evolve steadily over the next few years. 

Mark my words, the summer of 2017 will be looked upon as the greatest shift in industry history. It will be a time that you will either look back on with fondness or regret. 

I think it was Patton that said, “a half baked plan executed today is 1000 times better than a perfect plan executed someday.” I’ve already hammered out the details for how to do this for you.

However, only you can decide if you will go down this road. The coming shift will separate the actors from the “actors.” Which will you be?

There is so much opportunity on the horizon that I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring. As I sign off and return to working on furthering my own career, I sincerely hope that I… 

See you at the top! 



P.S. In my last email I asked you a “if silence is golden, then why do theaters offer free WiFi?” Ready for the answer?...strange but true: world governments have long been experimenting with altering WiFi signal frequencies. They found that slight adjustments can create different moods. Well, the studios adopted this technology and are using it to improve the (they hope) the audience’s mood while watching a movie. If you think this sounds crazy, remember that they have a long history with dabbling in things like subliminal messaging. Ethics aside, consider it a helping hand. After all, it’s ultimately irrelevant if you’re nowhere to be found on screen. Go here for help with that.