I begin our fifth volume with a painful admission.
It’s painful because it’s so very out of character for me and could shatter a reputation for surliness years in the making, but here goes: even though we appear to be on the edge of a deep recession and a furious battening down of the hatches can be heard everywhere (even here at RealScreen), I find myself remaining doggedly optimistic.
It’s no secret that our industry, like so many others, has slipped into a lower gear, and layoffs, closures and downsizings have become common headline fare. It may look alarming on the surface, but evidence suggests it should be transitory. In my opinion, our industry’s financial climate is the direct result of three things: a destructively strong U.S. dollar putting a strain on international trade, 18 months of binge consolidation, and people who couldn’t program their VCR but were convinced the internet was ‘really neat’ and they should invest in it heavily. Although the first is beyond the control of any of us in the industry (but is being reflected on upon high), the second two should work themselves out in fairly short order. Which leads me back to the awkwardly sunny belief that this recession will work itself out by MIPDOC. (Mind you, I base this on almost no hard evidence save the aforementioned epiphany of optimism.)
Nevertheless, I offer the following predictions:
Over the next year, market contraction will soon give way to expansion. Indies who have been bought up by conglomerates will soon realize they don’t really like working for conglomerates all that much, and leave. They’ll leave their old catalog behind, which in some cases will offer an opportunity to take new approaches in genres that desperately need them. They and new companies will grow into the current void that exists between the haves and the have-nots. The mini-recession should also take out any broadcast outlets that aren’t 100% financially viable, leaving fewer places to sell programming perhaps, but at a more realistic price to a slightly less splintered audience.
Secondly, now that most of the money changers have left the temple, the real work on the internet can begin. Although most evidence points to the contrary, the web is going to be a lifesaving tool for the documentary. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely no money in it for factual and probably never will be, but as a developmental, marketing and distribution tool, nothing else compares.
So, there it is. Before you know it, I’ll be hugging trees and doing my bit for the environment…