We're All Insiders Now: Movies In the Age of Video

One of the unique aspects of modern video gaming in the panoply of media is the way that anticipation and monitoring of a game's release became a critical part of the gaming experience. An entire games media business grew up around previews. In the economy of gaming, the prolonged pre-release stage (six and nine months out from actual release) is integral to the marketing system and the economy of gaming. In what other medium -- film, TV, music, books -- do we actually get such enormous, relentless coverage of a property that far out and then so little after the fact?

Look in any issue of the few surviving game magazines and you will see precious little space devoted to games anyone is playing yet. Almost all of the editorial is focused on first glimpses of games that could be up to a year away. And fans glom onto any screenshot or new character illustration so tenaciously that now you could argue that the lead up to a game is a part of the entertainment itself. The level to which the eventual buyers of the media are brought into the production process is unprecedented.



In some sense the lack of scarcity in online media has helped accelerate this effect. The content inventory is limitless. But there is also an insider culture evolving around all media. The anticipatory run-up to major film events has gotten ever longer and the fan base more hungry for any detail.

We not only get multiple trailers of upcoming films teased out over time, but we get exclusive clips, star and director interviews bartered as marketing chips with video sites far in advance. Any Hollywood marketer will tell you that the Web has changed the film promotion business immeasurably. I would say that the Web had started moving the culture of filmgoing a bit closer to the patterns set by video games. The run-up to a film is now so drenched in clips, assets, back story, etc. (and for longer stretches) that we are experiencing the film before we see it.

The more robust pre-release film experience (the pre-film film?) is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can take post-modernism to an even weirder place than usual. To wit, take a look at Jon Favreau on MTV giving a voiceover commentary to the trailer (the trailer, mind you) of his unfinished Cowboys and Aliens film, which is not scheduled to be released for another eight months. Even he gets the surface silliness of commenting on the trailer of the movie he is still editing.

As I said, this new culture of hyper-informed, long-cycle film anticipation is not necessarily bad. Favreau does a good job of explaining a premise that many filmgoers would dismiss out of hand without having known about the graphic novel that inspired it. Somewhere along the way, moviegoers are now wrapped in the same cultural movement that is changing all consumerism - towards the over-educated 'prosumer.' Like the appliance buyers who walk into Best Buy with fistfuls of printed out Web site data sheets and reviews on five top models, many filmgoers (especially those prized first-arrivers) come to a new release with half the movie in their head in some form. The upside of this is you actually may have smarter pop culture vultures who are picking up knowledge about the process that never was easily available to them. The downside may be that the if the hype doesn't match the actual reality of the in-film experience, you have one pissed customer. Or perhaps the opposite is true. Perhaps the long and involved lead-in makes the film-goer more of a sympathetic collaborator who is so invested in the hype he is more forgiving of the final product or of the failure. Who knows yet?

But for now it is fun to watch. One Twitterer picked up by the Cowboys and Aliens social conversation feed is advising people that it isn't too early to get the film's Blu-ray version into their Netflix queue. Here is hoping that the BD includes this MTV clip of Favreau voice-overing the trailer...but under another layer of on-disk commentary about him commenting on the trailer.

1 comment about "We're All Insiders Now: Movies In the Age of Video".
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  1. Dan Ciccone from Tribal Fusion, December 1, 2010 at 4:43 p.m.

    I would argue that hard core gamers are driving their own interests to gather information on upcoming releases and franchises vs. movie studios which throw marketing $$$ behind trying to create buzz and excitement far in advance.

    The video game platform has the audience driving the interest.

    The movie studios are trying to drive the audience.

    Two completely different scenarios and the consumer is more in control of the former.


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