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#Predictions2015: The year ahead for production

Piero Cozzi

We have screens everywhere displaying content and everyone is a content creator. Where does that leave production companies? Filmmaster’s Piero Cozzi reflects.

Production is like a cucumber – you either have it in your hand or you have it somewhere unpublishable.

It’s time we talked about the elephant in the room…

Production is changing; it’s evolving! There, I’ve said it. It may sound trite or cliché but maybe that’s because production is always changing and evolving and keeping us on our toes and making us wonder what’s coming next… and maybe that’s why we all love it so much.

Back when Filmmaster started more than 30 years ago, production was a very different beast. In those early days, success was based on a fundamental capacity to make things happen; to shoot in the most unshootable places on earth, to source the most unsourceable talents out there and generally produce the most unproduceable films you could.

Excellent producers could pull incredible solutions out of thin air. We would run this way, we would race that way; we would be in Peru one day and the Arctic the next, the desert after that, and somewhere just as absurdly opposite the day after that.

It was exciting. It was amazing. But it was the past, and now it’s not enough.

It wasn’t too long ago that the sight of a television set making its way through the front door, down the corridor and into the living room would send shivers down the neighbourhood’s collective spines. Back then that single bulging glass panel was on its own as a visual content receiver. In fact, there was such little content to broadcast that the TV would rarely be switched on, and on a quiet Friday in 1930, the BBC couldn’t even rustle up a radio news bulletin and played piano music instead.

Today you can’t swing a cat without hitting a 24/7/365 content stream.

Technology has advanced to the point where we have screens of all shapes and sizes within our line of sight all day, every day. We can consume content while we eat, while we’re on the bus, on the toilet, while we’re consuming content on another screen…

But that’s not all. We live in a world where people don’t just consume; they create! Anyone from anywhere can make something happen if they want to. Most people have pretty good cameras in their pockets, and if they don’t, the chances are they’re going to have a friend who does, and then their creative juices are going to flow like the Niagara Falls.

So we have screens everywhere displaying content and everyone is a content creator. Where does that leave us production companies?

Remember when I said production was evolving and you laughed and said I was being trite? Well it is evolving, and we have a simple choice: either we evolve with it or we give up and find something else to do.

Because production companies can no longer rely on the skill of producing alone, but must embrace the art of storytelling as well, and not just tell stories around a campfire, making sure to get the suspense and storyline just so, but telling stories that can strike an emotional chord on any one of an unlimited amount of diverse mediums from smart watches, mobile phones and tablets to televisions, cinema screens and building projections.

Obviously you’re not going to find success telling stories without the production know-how, in the same way that you’re not going to find success anymore producing without the storytelling skill. It’s a tale of two talents.

You still need to be able to flexible. You still need to have the know-how to make things happen. You still need to be able to adapt.

But you also need to be able to tell stories. You need to be able to expand your thinking to include more mediums than ever before. And, perhaps most importantly, you need to make sure you’re telling the right stories the right way to the right people and evoking the right emotions.

Before I get too preachy (and maybe it’s already too late for that) let’s compare two opposite ends of the viewing spectrum. In one hand we have a smartphone, and on the other side of the street we have a building projection. I think we can all agree that these are two very different mediums – one is small, lives in your palm, and more than likely won’t have enough battery to make it to the end of the day, while the other is larger than life, intrusive, and fleeting depending on how fast you walk, run or drive past it.

The client is going to be the same in both instances. The ‘product’ is going to be the same. The message is going to be the same. The trick is going to be making the story fit both mediums while at the same time addressing the completely opposing benefits, limitations, opportunities, time factors, visibilities, and so on…

If you can achieve that, if you can make sure that the story is conveyed in the same way with the same emotional value no matter the size, location, space, shape of your storytelling surface, if you can harness the art of production and the skill of storytelling and ultimately become a master of the mediums, then you will have your finger on the future of production and the cucumbers can fall where they may.

(Piero Cozzi is CEO at Filmmaster MEA. This article appears in the #Predictions issue of Campaign Middle East dated 11 January 2015.)