After a few months of concepting and scriptwriting, we were excited to finally announce Him, Her and Them. Not surprisingly, we setup a Facebook page and asked our friends to “like” the page. Our first modest goal was to get at least one hundred people to become fans so that we could get the custom URL: http://www.facebook.com/HimHerandThem. So, like proud new parents we announced the project to our friends and cheered as we quickly broke the one hundred mark (thanks again everyone).
Immediately we noticed one common theme of feedback—what is a Facebook film and how will it work? Actually it was phrased in a number of ways:
- “Wow, cool! Uh, so what’s a Facebook Film?”
- “Not completely sure I understand…”
- “Wasn’t that a film released this summer?”
Given these comments, we thought that we should explain things just a bit more.
The Distribution and Consumption of Entertainment Is Changing
It is no secret that technology has disrupted the entertainment industry. New means of distribution and revenue generation are being developed at a breakneck page. We have all read the headlines and experienced it first hand with mobile computing, touchscreen tablets, iTunes, Torrent, Netflix, YouTube, DVRs, Grooveshark, Pandora, etc.
While some people see this disruption in negative terms: “the Internet killed the music industry” or “YouTube is going to kill television”, we believe this is an environment of innovation. It is nothing less than an opportunity to shape the ways in which entertainment is experienced and to create new forms of storytelling.
In addition, social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn have become the leading activity on the web. Facebook alone has over 500 million users. This got us thinking about how social media could impact how people watch and experience films. Could we use Facebook to distribute a film? How would this change the way a viewer experienced a film?
Films can use social media in a number of ways:
- Financing - use a tool like Kickstarter to fund a film
- Production - crowdsource various elements in the production of the film (such as Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day)
- Marketing - use social networks to market a film (it seems every film these days has a Facebook page or a promotional Twitter feed )
- Distribution - hmm.
The first three methods are fairly well documented, but the fourth is mostly uncharted.
In thinking about how to use social media to distribute a film we first had to take a step back and look at the platform itself. Your “social graph” is the network of relationships you have within a social networking service. It is your list of friends on Facebook, or your followers on Twitter. The social graph presents a layer of filtering - you trust your friends, the content produced by your social graph is curated, you have a reputation that is conveyed to it, you are not anonymous.
What if we were able to incorporate your social graph, into the entertainment experience? To some extent this has actually happened for years - what is the first thing you do after you see a movie? You tell your friends about it.
But let us take the idea and extend it further. Social media is a user-generated, ongoing conversation. How could we combine a traditional linear film experience with the richer, more personalized, experience that one’s social graph can provide?
How Will It Be Different?
A traditional film is viewed in a linear format. You go to a theater or watch it in the comfort of your home. You are strictly a passive observer. As a Facebook film, Him, Her and Them will present a new type of experience. It will blend interactivity (where the viewer interacts with the film and contributes to the story and film experience) and passive viewing (where the viewer sits back and watches the flim). This will be filtered by the viewer’s social graph, so your “version” of the film experience is unique to your social graph.
There will be linear and non-linear scenes. The content of the non-linear scenes will be contributed by the members of your social graph. Therefore, each viewer’s experience of the Him, Her and Them will be unique because of their social graph. This may all start to sound complicated, but what we’ve tried hard to do is to tie it into the ways in which you already use Facebook.
How Will It Make Money?
Great question. Initially we will follow the freemium model of modern technology apps (when you are starting out, give it away for free). This is our first project and we are more interested in sharing the results of our efforts with as many viewers as we can. Eventually we believe there are revenue generation opportunities in giving fans the ability to contribute to the story they are viewing. However, the mechanics for this process still require additional experiments. For now, we are content to explore this new type of film experience and see where it leads us and our fans.
We follow a number of thinkers who write about how the entertainment industry is evolving. Check them out if you are interested in learning more: