PeterH

Hollywood Renaissance

It was just shy of a year ago when I was picketing on a strike line at Disney when a casual idea popped into my head. Hey – why don't us screenwriters create a website where we could produce and stream our own original shows? We could call it "StrikeTV". Why the hell not? Sounds simple and easy to do, right? Well, it's a year later, many dedicated and talented people came together, pooled resources, donated elbow grease and burned the midnight oil. It was far from simple or easy but Strike.TV is here.

In total, Strike.TV has forty new web series created by the writers of The Office, The Daily Show, Die Hard, Robot Chicken, Malcolm in the Middle, The Black Stallion, Star Trek, Top Gun, Farscape, Prairie Home Companion, Newhart, Knight Rider, Friends, General Hospital, The Six Million Dollar Man, Child's Play and many, many more.  To date, this is the largest collection of original Hollywood produced content ever created for an Internet audience.

The writer's strike helped but there was much more happening to make Strike.TV possible.  2007 was a perfect storm. New electronic inventions were unleashed setting off the largest tectonic shift Hollywood has ever known. Looking back at the history of motion pictures, there's nothing really to compare it to. Even the advent of sound, color or television are eclipsed. Making movies has always been reserved for the very rich. The term "silver screen" comes from the fact that film is actually made from silver - a precious medal.  At a hundred dollars a minute for 35 millimeter film, only the super elite can afford to make movies. Until now.

Last year HD video cameras came out that equal the image quality of 35mm film cameras, instantly changing the cost of shooting movies from hundreds of thousand of dollars to just a few thousand. In 2007, inexpensive software was released which allows you to edit professional, high definition video on a laptop. Also last year, streaming HD video over the internet became affordable. Without the need for million of dollars to make and distribute professional quality movies, creators have instantly been given incredible freedom over their medium. We are witnessing the dawn of a Hollywood Renaissance.

Working as a screenwriter in the film industry is much like the game of musical chairs. There are only a handful of scripted TV shows in production at any one time, and the same goes for feature films. In fact, only 5% of Hollywood professionals are working at any one time. Most of the time, we are going round in circles trying to find a chair before the music stops. Movies and TV shows cost millions of dollars and there are only so many slots. Until now.

I'm used to spending six months to a year writing a TV pilot or feature spec script, then six months shopping it hoping someone will like it enough to buy it. And even if that happens, that doesn't mean it will get made. Not to mention the notes. And there's a lot of 'em. Your personal story about kids who play Dungeons and Dragons might resemble High School Musical meets Saw by the time you're done with that process. But that's fine cause they most likely won't go into production anyhow. That's because 90% of the screenplays purchased by the studios and networks never get made.

Strike.TV represents the opportunity for creators in Hollywood, many of whom are insanely talented, to tell their stories totally unchanged and unaltered. Their vision exactly realized for the audience. A first in Hollywood history. And because they don't have to make back X amount to pay the huge costs the networks and studios need to cover their vast overhead, these shows can be as odd-ball, strange and as niche as they want to be. They don't have to make millions of dollars. They don't have to appeal to Everyone. A smaller audience who really digs it is enough to support the show. And the coolest thing of all, Strike.TV's shows are totally free. No cable bill. No movie ticket. No video rental charge.

Strike.TV works in a new economic model that is still being tested.  Ad-supported entertainment. The reality is there's nothing new about it. Shows in the Golden Age of TV like Kraft Television Theater, Ford Theater, Goodyear Television Playhouse and others were funded directly from Madison Avenue. History repeats itself. Right now, the Internet is where television was before its first hit. Cynics were saying TV is a fad. A gimmick. There's no money to be made in TV.  Then Howdy Doody became the first smash hit and a whole economy was created around TV.

We now are standing on ground zero of the Golden Age of the Internet.  We are pre-Howdy Doody. And of course there will be a hit Internet show. And that show will be a Global phenomenon. A new economy will be created around original web shows. There will be modest niche hits and out-of-the-ballpark mega-hit shows. They're all coming. And who knows, you might be watching them on Strike.TV.

Warmly,
Peter Hyoguchi

Posted on 27th October 2008, 2:45PM | Link | Log in to comment | 30 comments

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October 2008