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Make Movies w/ the World #4: We Are Not Entertained
Jan & Russell Crowe, reframing Positivity vs. Negativity, and why TikTok beats streaming.
Hey everyone. It’s Jan here. Activity across Marvel, TikTok, Black Sands Entertainment on Shark Tank, and our Justice For Hire community this weekend point to one key understanding that will impact how all of us share our messages in media: Positive Content will Outperform Negative Content.
There’s A LOT of nuance to that statement, as I don’t mean “happy things will perform better than sad things.” In fact, what is required is a reframing of what “Positive & Negative” mean, which has had a profound influence in my personal life. But first…take a look at ReelwUrd’s latest promo, “We Are Not Entertained,” starring me and Russel Crowe.
So, back to it. Let’s rewind back to our 1st JFH Hero Meetup of 2022 from last Friday because it’s one of the many events that inspired today’s writing. The JFH app’s top creators were all in attendance, and a couple surprise guests stopped by (even I was surprised), including former Marvel Comics Spider-Man editor and author of Stan Lee’s biography, Danny Fingeroth, Gossip Girl’s Angelic Zambrana, who is playing a major character in our JFH show, and the former Director of Film and Media of the Consulate General of Israel in New York/my old roommate, Eran Polishuk.
Our community shared ideas on the content they’re creating for JFH, we set goals to be more bold this year (since we surpassed all goals last year), and I had the opportunity to remind Danny Fingeroth of something really important he said on our New York Comic Con panel—Audience participation has been happening in slow motion since comics first started in the fan mail section of each book.
Everyone knows that everyone in our community, including Danny, Angelic and Eran, is accessible to them. No red tape. Our network is your network. What happened at Friday’s meetup is an incredible representation of the spirit of ReelwUrld and that spirit is amplifying the growth of our first show, JFH.
Unifying people through creativity raises everyone’s vibration. This results in a type of Positivity that doesn’t exist in most entertainment.
So, let’s connect dots here regarding Positivity outperforming Negativity, and reframing definitions of said comparison. TikTok released some wonderful data regarding how their platform is redefining entertainment. They outperform all forms of screen entertainment, except streaming, and they attribute that scale in part to the positivity of their platform. But, aside from an emphasis on short form content, what is so different about the positivity on TikTok versus a streamer like Netflix, Amazon, or even Disney+?
When TikTok says “positivity,” what they are really referring to is a clear channel to the creative heart behind a piece of content, i.e. purity. Like an uncut drug. Filmmaking has changed drastically over the decades, and TikTok is revealing that with user generated content (which they are calling “Community Generated Entertainment”), the entire world is now in film school in a way that is similar to the early days of cinema in the Silent Era.
Movies in particular, used to be greenlit by visionaries like Alan Ladd, Jr., who is the studio exec behind Star Wars and George Lucas. He famously told George, “I’m not investing in the movie, I’m investing in you.” That’s personal. (Side note: I highly recommend the documentary Laddie, directed by his daughter Amanda. Incredible. Thanks film critic Chris Gore for putting it on my radar).
Nowadays, movies are greenlit primarily by committees for corporate interest, much to the chagrin of filmmakers and audiences alike (see a snippet of director Ron Howard on the subject here). And TV, which has a foundation in being powered by ad dollars, is pushing to emulate the cinematic scope and tone of films these days (watch the Film vs. Television episode of Netflix’s VOIR for a great breakdown). That NEGATIVE SENTIMENT of the studio film model translates into the HEART OF THE CONTENT.
The corporate coldness trickles down. The frustration of the filmmaker is absorbed into EVERY aspect of the film production team, every department, every crew member behind the camera, the agents and managers that set the deals, etc. It makes its way onto that thumbnail on your screen on your favorite streaming platform. (LOL I feel like I’m giving the ”Matrix is everywhere” speech from Morpheus right now).
It’s part of the reason my partner and I have trouble finding movies and shows to watch at any given moment. The negativity in a piece of content on a streaming platform, in our experience, often outweighs the positivity.
Again, in this writing, Positivity = a clear channel to the heart of the creator. And Negativity = distorted channel to the heart of the creator.
While I won’t go deep into this subject in this particular writing, it’s valuable to note there is a difference between the positive conversation that a creator can start with a piece of content, and the conversation that the creator attempts to continue through subsequent content, such as sequels. For example, the fan love for the original Star Wars trilogy and the fan hate for the sequel Star Wars trilogy.
From my vantage point, and that of my friends and advisors who are a part of that franchise (shoutout Ahmed Best and Jeff Gomez), that difference in audience reception can be attributed to the same concepts of Positive versus Negative. The latter trilogy was made by committee, AFTER the fans had experienced a clear channel to the heart of the original creator.
To wrap up my reframe here, TikTok has become a place where a user can create without a filter on their heart. It can be painful, it can be sad, but the channel is pure, and therefore the impact is positive. The feedback loop is positive for creator, audience member, and for the platform itself, and advertisers. TikTok ar-Tik-culates (ha…) it very well in this video (which, at the time of this writing, only has 12 views on Vimeo, so let’s all help them out with some views ).
Understanding this Positivity Model, Marvel embarked on what I would call the most culturally aware major studio initiative to date: Spider-Man: No Way Home. Not only was the core narrative about a hero embarking to heal the pain of villains rather than deepen it, but Marvel intentionally used TikTok to “break the 4th wall” with their Daily Bugle account (I recommend the Deadline article about it, too). The account had characters from the film making videos for TikTok as part of their job in the movie’s story world. That’s forward thinking, and approaching the kind of audience-inclusive content creation we’re doing right now with Justice For Hire.
With all that in mind, and the aforementioned concept of the entire world currently being in film school, I am 100% invested in the idea of traditional, long-form content produced with this creator-first Positivity Model. That’s why it’s the major focus for our social film studio, ReelwUrld.
With many people still not returning to theaters, not just because of the pandemic, but due to competing screens, filmmakers like A Hero’s Ashgar Farhadi think that films need more excitement to bring people back to theaters. This Positivity Model has that power and more.
By allowing the audience a low-lift entry into cinematic storytelling, specifically in the short format of TikTok-style videos, there is the opportunity to guide community content creation as part of a Mega Narrative. These Mega Narratives will run on the Positivity Model, and establish The Cinematic Metaverse.
I just threw out a lot of big concepts (and ran out of ways to highlight them in text form). The path me and my team at ReelwUrld are taking to get there is equity crowdfunding.
While we remain inspired by our friends at Legion M, we were blown away by the steady rise of Black Sands Entertainment, culminating in an investment by Mark Cuban and Kevin Hart on last week’s episode of Shark Tank, and the close of a $1.7M round on WeFunder today.
Black Sands is all about ending slave stories for African-American media and focusing on the grand historical stories and myths from across the African diaspora. Their growing legion of supporters know what and who the CEO Manuel Godoy is fighting for. I invested in him, and we had a small email exchange a few weeks back. He’s FOCUSED. He’s unfiltered. He’s using the Positivity Model.
This writing is about pointing at the clear signs that Positivity, aka delivering the clear heart of a creative voice to an audience, will be the winning formula in the world starting now. Big or small, what you put into something shows in the end, and those that forget that will surely miss out in business, in life, and in general self-expression. I’m hoping this writing is helpful in whatever your work is, as it applies to all aspects of experience.
Thanks for the continued love and attention as I expand my thinking. Please remember to support and share our startup on wefunder.com/reelwurld as we raise a flag making movies and shows with the world!