Roger L. Simon

I have seen the (Google) future and it works...

… or does it? Well, I’m not sure, but if I were the movie studios, I’d be afraid. I’d be very afraid. Google Video is here. From their “about” section: Our mission is to organize the world’s information, and that includes video. Google Video offers viewers a way to see material from archived TV programs, educational videos, personal productions and more.

Like most “mission statements” this is crafted to make a mega-multinational sound like some pleasant global charity, but still it’s clear a substantial portion of what Google is doing is revolutionary and positive, at least potentially.

As someone who has spent a fair number of years travailing at the center and at the edges of the film industry, I have seen that industry go into what is essentially a free fall. (Who cares who hosts the Academy Awards this year? In fact who cares about the Awards at all?)

Some of the reasons for that are related to the content, but the system is also moribund. Google is offering a new means of distribution. For what I gather is a thirty percent commission, they will distribute almost anything online. You set your own price. The math is simple, but the numbers are daunting. If you establish a cost of five dollars for your (let’s suppose) independent feature film, you need a million downloads to earn back a 3.5 million dollar production budget. On the face of it, that seems a lot, a good business for them, but not for you. But the greatest hinderance to independent film production is distribution. And there will be other markets (although even DVDs already seem to be in decline). Still, as I write this, I sense my own ambivalence. I remain partly skeptical of this brave new world. The technology seems more interesting than the new artistic content it is providing. In a way it is overwhelming it. Some day people will perhaps be bored with the technology and the content will make a comeback. In the short run we may have a renaissance of the short film without much narrative and of inexpensivley made documentaries. As a lover of story-telling, something big is missing for me.