On Imagination And Entertainment

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2011-05-21 17:05:09 No comments

The New York Times has a profile of Steve Jobs that features the following quote: "His is not a product-design philosophy steered by committee or determined by market research. The Jobs formula, say colleagues, relies heavily on tenacity, patience, belief and instinct."

This stands in marked contrast with the current state of the entertainment industry, where focus groups, polling and projections make it nearly impossible for leap-of-faith creations to gain an audience.

It's easy to say that when you have a $50 million, $100 million or even $200 million budget at stake, it's not wise to just go with your gut. But decades of going with focus groups and polling and projections have created a new kind of stagnation: an entertainment industry that is helpless to do anything but recycle its own past, to never take genuine chances, and to be content with properties that have the safety of built-in familiarity.

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The only risk-taking present now comes in the form of outsider efforts done on smaller budgets (c.f., Gareth Edwards's Monsters, Neil Blomkamp's District 9*). And whenever one of those films comes out, nobody bothers to learn the lessons embodied within them:

  • Find individual people with singular visions who are determined to make a movie no matter what effort is required. There's a few programs like this out there, but they're the exception, not the rule. Most of the system is firmly committed to keeping the existing product wheels turning.
  • Dedicate someone to them to pre-sell the property. The art of entertainment sales is far more refined than we like to think. It is possible to get these movies in front of audiences.
  • Bank at least as heavily on the name recognition of creators rather than just properties themselves. This is happening to a degree, but not as much as it could be.

Try to imagine a movie studio that took an Apple-like approach to their product. Actually, I can: PIXAR. Which was, ironically enough, one of Steve Jobs's own investment projects. What does this tell you?

Tags: Steve Jobs apple business movies