TLWIR 36: Why Hollywood MUST Embrace Free Software Concepts To Survive

by Rex Djere on April 28, 2012 · 1 comment


Post image for TLWIR 36: Why Hollywood MUST Embrace Free Software Concepts To Survive

Google’s ultra high speed Internet project aims to bring Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri Internet speeds 100 times the current U.S. average. This has Hollywood petrified. Will users with gigabit connections pirate enough movies to decimate the movie industry’s revenue? Will piracy crush Hollywood in the way that it crushed the music industry? Not if Hollywood is smart: they need to CAREFULLY study how the Linux kernel is developed, and how Free Software is developed in general.

The Future of Media
The methods of delivering media are rapidly changing….for the better. Here is how the new media works. As a teen, I loved the music of the late Luther Vandross. I thought that I had heard every song that he had ever released. Last week, a friend of mine shared a Luther Vandross song with me via Facebook  that I had never heard: Make Me a Believer. I was so blown away by the beauty of the song that I immediately purchased it on Google Play. I am a bright guy who knows multiple ways to easily pirate the song. I could get a torrent or use the Gnutella network to obtain the song in minutes (for free). But I have no desire to for the following reasons:

  • Google made it easy AND convenient to buy the song at a reasonable price.
  • Google gave me the song in a format (.mp3) that I can transfer to ALL of my devices. (I am going to convert it to Ogg Vorbis. I’ve heard all of the arguments against converting from one lossy format to another, but I prefer Vorbis, and I cannot tell a difference in quality after the conversion).
  • I know that the purchased version is not a virus or a music industry plant designed to catch me.
  • I know that my ip address won’t be recorded, and I won’t be banned by my isp, or sued by the recording industry.
  • I want to support Mr. Vandross’ work, and that of talented artists like him.

What Hollywood needs to realize is that people are essentially good, and they want to do the right thing, but they don’t like getting screwed. In the old days, I could have purchased a CD with “Make Me a Believer”, but I would have been angry at the thought of paying $15 of my hard earned money to get one song. When I paid Google Play 99 cents, I felt good about my purchase. I felt that I had gotten a great deal. More importantly, my perception of Google as a reputable company increased just a little bit. It increases a little bit more with each purchase. I felt that they had my best interests at heart. This is very important. You don’t want to steal from a person that you feel is really looking out for you.

Why Movie Production MUST Change
If I heard that a reputable producer/director like J.J. Abrams was looking for donations to make a final Star Trek movie with the Next Generation cast, I would immediately pull out my check book. I would be willing to give up to $100 to such a cause, and many other Star Trek TNG fans would do the same. Imagine the leverage Mr. Abrams would have if he went to Paramount and said “I’ve received 100 million dollars in donations to make this movie. Help me to get it into theaters.” Paramount would be fools to say no. In the current movie model, the movie studio and the financial backers of the film assume all of the risk. This is NOT the case in the development of Free Software, where the risk is distributed. If a piece of Free Software fails, each contributor only loses the time and/or money that he or she put into it.

I know that there are legal issues with the idea that I am about to propose, but the law can always be changed. The brilliance of people never ceases to amaze me, as demonstrated by the video below.


Keep in mind that this video was produced 3 years ago! The creator used the Free Software 3D graphics program known as Blender to make it. Why doesn’t Hollywood crowd source the creation of movies? Right now, they assume all of the risk, and they pay to have all of the work done when there are brilliant people out there who would be willing to do some of it. The scene in the video above is not of high enough quality to be put into a Star Trek movie directly, but a professional team could certainly use it as a basis for creating a scene. They could take the existing Blender file, and heavily modify it. You get the idea: lower the cost of making a movie by “open sourcing” some of its production costs. Let us say that the creator of the video above inspires 1 minute of footage in the movie. Actually put him or her in the film’s credits, and send compensation. This compensation will probably be far cheaper than the hourly rate at ILM. ILM still makes money because they still do the finishing work, but costs are reduced by outsourcing some of the work to the “Free Software Philosophy” community.

Star Trek Ingenium: The Final Chapter of Star Trek TNG
I am writing a Star Trek novel called “Ingenium”. I KNOW that the idea behind the novel would be a phenomenal one for a final TNG movie. I am not a seasoned movie writer, but a seasoned writer could take the basic idea and run with it. I won’t bore you with all the details but basically, Picard has been promoted to Admiral and put in charge of Starfleet Engineering, Ingenium. A powerful threat forces him to bring Starfleet’s best engineering minds together to come up with weapons and other technology to fight off the threat. Of course, Captain Riker and U.S.S. Titan are involved, and of course, Admiral Picard has to assume command of a ship at some point in the movie to direct the attack.

The point is this: why doesn’t Hollywood actively request fan scripts? The answer is that they don’t want to get sued. If a fan submits a script and it gets rejected, Hollywood fears that the fan may sue them if the final movie looks ANYTHING like the submitted script, or has any of its ideas. This is a cultural condition that HAS TO change. Ideas should be freely shared. What Hollywood needs to do is to set up a system where submission is encouraged, and great submissions are rewarded. How to do it is easy:

  • A fan, producer, director, filmmaker, or movie studio would create a short video demonstrating the idea, and post it on Youtube.
  • The movie studio, potential donors, or other potential financial backers could see how viable, and potentially popular, the idea would be based on how many Youtube views it got. (For example, the Blender Star Trek video in this article has 23,135 views  with 120 “likes” and only 7 “dislikes”). In effect, the Youtube viewers would be voting on the best ideas by viewing them, leaving comments etc.
  • Donors who like the idea could send a donation to the production team immediately. I would recommend Bitcoin as a donation method since it is inexpensive, open source, and decentralized. Donations would be the most accurate measure of how good the idea is, and how much money the movie could make. If someone is willing to put their hard-earned money forth, it must REALLY be a good idea!
  • Winning idea submitters would use the donations and backing from a movie studio (if necessary) to make the film.
  • The cost of seeing the finished movie in theaters could be reduced based on the donations received. For example, if the Star Trek TNG movie raised $100 million in donations, perhaps the ticket price could be reduced to $5. This would probably result in record attendance numbers.

If this system were implemented, the best ideas would naturally “bubble” up to the top. Then, Hollywood would not have to waste its time dealing with low quality submissions. Might someone else steal your ideas? Yes, but that is always a risk when you expose you ideas to the public. My ideas in this article might be taken by Hollywood, and I may never get any credit. But that is the difference in how the Free Software world works: we share ideas FIRST. We don’t worry about the compensation right away. If you CONSISTENTLY come up with great ideas, you will eventually get rewarded. If you throw enough great ideas at the wall, something is going stick.

Here is another demonstration of the revolutionary power of free software/open source: a mash up a short movies made using Blender in 2011.

Final Thoughts
If Hollywood embraced the concepts that I espouse in this article, the way that people look at movies would change. Movies would feel like a collaborative event. Right now, I feel that I go to a movie, get entertained, but I don’t feel like I was part of the process. If I donate $100 to get a Star Trek TNG movie made, you KNOW that I am going to be in the front row at the theater the day that it arrives. You know that a LOT more people will go to see a movie idea so good that it garnered millions of donations.

Here are a few other movie ideas that I would give money to:

  • A GREAT movie on the life of the late jazz saxophone master Charlie Parker. Clint Eastwood made a good attempt with the movie “Bird”, but the budget was too low. When I saw “A Beautiful Mind” and “Ray”, I knew that someone could make a movie that accurately reflects Charlie Parker’s genius and the effect that he had on people. It is a shame that his story is not more widely known.
  • An accurate movie showing the history of the slave trade. “Roots” was an incredible TV miniseries, but it aired more than 30 years ago. Someone needs to make a modern movie that tells the story of the slave trade in brutal honesty. This movie NEEDS a great script, great cast, and a big budget.
  • A Sopranos movie and a Dexter movie. The Sopranos was, in my opinion, one of the greatest television series of all time. I got HBO when Sopranos started, and I cancelled HBO the day after Sopranos ended. Dexter is just as good as the Sopranos. If a director was looking for donations to make either film, I would give. However, both shows are so popular that I don’t think the donation method would be needed. However, raising donations could force the studio to make a movie that they would not have made otherwise.
  • An X-Files movie dealing with the 2012 alien invasion. It is too late to get this movie produced, but I would give up to $100 to this idea! This would be a phenomenal movie: bring back the Smoking Man, and all of the other great characters. A 2012 X-Files movie was the biggest opportunity missed by Hollywood, in my opinion. They should have never made the last X-Files film. They should have waited until 2012, and then thrown all caution to the wind. If made correctly, the movie would have been bigger than the Avengers.

I shared all of the ideas in this article with no expectation of reward or immediate gratification. This is the most important lesson that I have learned from the Free Software community. If you like my ideas and find them viable, please take them and implement them!  If you like the way that I think, and wish to encourage me to continue sharing my thoughts, you are also welcome to do so: 138QGdcecJe3FiJUpwxCo2mQYwAo3RJECe

I look forward to seeing ALL of you in the next edition of the Linux Week in Review!



{ 1 comment }

Greg April 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Yep I believe the owners are mad for not making all TV, movies and music ever made available to the public, and charging say $1 for a song, $3 for a TV episode and $5 for a movie, and have a reliable way of letting the money pour in (existing systems might not cope with the volume).

As you say, in general people would like to pay, and a majority of people are aware of the connection between that revenue and future production of media, but the owners seem determined to stop this from happening.

For example (one of many): a couple of years ago a UK TV series finally became available to purchase, after I had been looking for it unsuccessfully for a couple of years. I bought it straight away. The DVD finally arrived. I couldn’t wait to finish work, pick up the DVD and watch it. I slapped it in the DVD player, and…

…found it was encoded for a different region.

I remember that that day, I was very angry, and decided that piracy (the only option allowing me to watch the series) definitely had its place.

I’ve also since removed region encoding from my DVD player, despite the fact that it’s illegal to do so.

Previous post:

Next post: