There is no doubt that film and the film industry has revolutionized so many aspects of human life: how we think, how we act, our creativity and goals, from how we see romance, to our obsession with science-fiction, our love of dramas, comedies and even documentaries. The creative minds who construct these fantastic story lines and motion pictures have inspired us to step out of the box…but how far?
We like to think that the big executives at studios are using personal intuitions to predict exactly what it is we, the audience, are craving. Despite what we think about how they choose which scripts get greenlit for production, as we stroll into the movie theaters, deciding which title best suits our mood, we don’t realize the choices are still being made FOR US, and it is not us who really choose. Sure, each production company, director and screenwriter take into consideration the reviews of critics and their viewers after the fact, but the bottom line is, what we watch is dictated to us, not defined by us.
What is still not fully realized in the film industry, which has been realized in others, is that crowds have the wisdom that is most undervalued. We see it on social media through customer engagement and even, by enterprise businesses looking to best tailor products to their consumer’s whims, but not with film—still considered a sacred, untouchable corner of the market. Take Wikipedia for example, a site where knowledgeable individuals can contribute to the understanding of several topics through consensus protocols.
It was scoffed at initially, but now it’s one of the most useful resources for information and has completely changed the way we find information. In a world with so many resources to communicate, gather information, and create the previously unthinkable, it is important to consider the opportunity to revolutionize film through fan engagement.
The existing paradigm (the paradigm without fan engagement) can be compared to the vestige system of the electoral college in the U.S.—no longer necessary in the age of instant communication and data tracking. While it’s true, we do see filmmakers taking into account studio critiques at certain points in the filming process and the opinion of demographically-curated focus groups after the release of the movie, there is no magic edit to go back and fix a project that is three-quarters done, let alone already in front of an audience. But as Bob Dylan wisely sang, “The times they are a-changin’.”
A new Hollywood is emerging, and course correction will be critical in its success. That means that the sooner feedback is received from fans the better the final product can be. The utilization of fans’ thirst for sniffing out good material that has promise will truly revolutionize the industry in a refreshing way, yet to be appreciated. No longer will we have to submit to the box office specials, but will have a real input in the films we enjoy so much. Since we have the tools and ability to collect such consensus, it would be silly not to hear the voices that can bring new light to an industry that thrives on creativity. We should follow the process of Andy Weir’s “The Martian,” originally published as single-chapter reads on a blog turned box office favorite, bringing in over $600 million USD in revenue. The chapters were loved for their scientific accuracy and creativity, but also for the fact that fans could interact and leave comments on the early-stage drafts. The power of fandom, combined with the world’s ability for consensus communication, leads to a new world of imagination that must be utilized to evolve our artistic paradigms.