So You Want To Be a Movie Mogul

Well the first thing you know ol' Jed's a millionaire. Kinfolk said, "Jed move away from there." Said, "Californy is the place you ought to be." So they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools. Movie stars. Corona virus.

So you want to be a movie mogul! Honestly, I think that would be a pretty sweet job. And now is an especially auspicious time to make that career move. Whenever a paradigm shifts, lots of powerful people lose power as their skill set suddenly looks obsolete. They desperately try to retain power by doubling down on the basis of their power, which just makes things worse. New people, people who are willing to bet on the new side of the paradigm, arrive and take over. And make no mistake — the paradigm is shifting.

It's the virus, of course. It is changing many established practices, and opening new opportunities for those who can devise new practices. That kind of opportunity certainly exists in the film industry.

Previously, we saw how home-theater viewing might rise, at the expense of commercial movie theaters. In particular, studios might begin to simultaneously release first-run movies to movie theaters and to home theaters. I bet that established movie moguls and their studios are already making this calculation. But what if you are an aspiring movie mogul? What opportunity is awaiting you?

The opportunity, I think, lies in movie production, and finding new ways to make movies. Some businesses can fairly easily adapt and cope, but it will be difficult to make movies with existing practices. The traditional ways of making movies are suddenly prohibitively unsafe, unwieldy, and generally just a pain in the butt. Too many people, too many locations, too open, too mobile, too uncontrolled of an environment.

In fact, movie production has collapsed; many projects have been shut down indefinitely. Many projects have lost funding that was projected to come from commercially released movies — billions of dollars that vanished when movie theaters closed. It's not helping that Los Angeles proper has developed into a hot spot.

Even if you are a risk-taker and decide to make movies the old-fashioned way, what happens if you are shut down because of an outbreak, or if you are involuntarily quarantined in a remote location? In such a tightly scheduled business, with such a fast financial burn rate, would you feel confident enough to even begin shooting?

In the face of crisis, the best response is to innovate. New problems inspire new ideas. It's always been that way. Steam power to electrical. Analog to digital. Silent pictures to talkies. This is the time when smart people can get their foot in the door. Or, their footprint in a concrete sidewalk. The question is, how can you produce content in a way that is safer, but also cost efficient, and also of high quality?

Honestly, if I had the answers, I'd be on the next plane — well, I'd be driving my car — to Hollywood right now. I don't know what innovations are needed. Closed sets, smaller productions, fewer people, more technology, content that is fast and cheap but good. Movies tailor made for smaller (VOD) screens. Cut the excess, trim the fat. Greater reliance on screenplays telling original stories, with less reliance on flashy locales and action. A back-to-basics kind of moviemaking. Those sorts of things.

You will have devised a new, streamlined way to make movies, a new production ecosystem that is more resilient. Even if the hardship is temporary, and we hope it is, there could be enough time for you to gain a foothold and establish a presence and a reputation that will outlast the hardship. And I bet your new methods would be better than the old habits, with or without a virus.

So there you have it, Mr. Newly Minted Big Shot Movie Mogul. You quickly rose to the top because you figured out a way to get content production restarted in a safe yet cost-efficient manner. You saved Hollywood.

At least I hope you figured it out. Because until you, or someone, solves that problem, once the pipeline runs dry, there won't be any audience left. Unless, of course, people really like watching reruns of old black-and-white TV sitcoms.