(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Malcolm Long on Screen Production: Navigating the Digital Market Place

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Last night UWA's IAS and AFTRS presented a public lecture by the director of Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Malcolm Long. The talk, entitled "Screen Production: Navigating the Digital Market Place" was very well presented and told the familiar story of the importance of diversity in media production in the digital age: the underlying ones and zeroes which encode most media productions (be they video, audio or interactive combinations) are ripe for redeploying across different platforms from the cinema screen, to the web, to mobile phones. Indeed, Malcolm's talk covered similar ground to the Understanding Cross Platform and New Media panel discussion at FTI three months ago. To a large extent it was reassuring that the issues that media creators are wrestling with are, by and large, the same issues that communication studies academics have been discussing. I suspect Malcolm put out a few noses by arguing that Australia's cottage-industry approach to supporting film production was too broadly spread and that more focus on sustaining talented individuals rather than producing many one-hit wonders was required to build a commercially successful Australian film (read: media) culture.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the talk from my perspective was the discussion of blogs, vlogs, podcasts and other participatory media. The point was made that there is a saturation of media entering distribution thanks to the likes of Flickr and YouTube, but that Malcolm argues that high production values built around the essential core of good storytelling will always have pride of place in the media industry. I'm sure he's right. However, the question was posed regarding how participatory media forms and producers will integrate or even relate to traditional media owners and producers (and, yes, the term heritage media was used, but that's a little unfair!). What surprised me the most was that Malcolm really had no clear picture of how that relationship will look. Issues of production, quality and, most importantly, ownership (read: copyright and IP) muddy the water to such an extent that no clear relationship has yet to emerge.

While I'm optimistic that participatory media will have a considerable role in the future of media production and distribution (most notably in extending and sharing the skillbase amongst the iGeneration while simultaneously expanding the ease of distribution for their personally created media), at the moment places like YouTube also tend to function as a huge online vetting and interview process for the potential media stars of tomorrow. I've written briefly on this before regarding Tasha and the Hey Clip, but I recently saw that one of the most prominent YouTubers, Brookers, announced that on the basis of her YouTube videos (which are quite creative and engaging) that she has been contacted by MTV (also mentioned here) and will have a role in some future MTV productions. (NB: that particular video appears to have been recategorised as 'Friends Only', but in summary basically announced the upcoming relationship with MTV and thanked everyone she's ever met...).

YouTube and participatory media opened the door, but it was still traditional media (albeit spread very widely in the case of MTV's many platforms) who have the means to build upon that beginning. Indeed, I wonder if the relationship between traditional media (which is increasingly digital and cross-platform savvy) and citizen media (which may not be indigenously digital, but is very close) will develop closer symbiosis across the coming years?

For those who were unable to attend and are interested to kickstart your brains a little in this area, a Lectopia digital recording of Malcolm's talk can be heard here.

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