Content vs Art


I managed to get along to the Raindance Festival last week, though not as much as I had hoped due to other commitments. I caught a few presentations and seminars on everything from AI to making no-budget feature films.

One of the interesting barometric swings is that Elliot Grove, the founder of Raindance, was using terms such as “multi-platform content creators” interchangeably with “filmmakers” in one presentation.

To me, this recognises the shift in what and how we create. For example, you might produce short skits for Instagram or TikTok, videos for YouTube and more, and not just short or feature films. Each of these has its place and demonstrates a shift towards and use of social media by filmmakers, actors, etc, to demonstrate what they can do. The importance of social media to the entertainment industry cannot be underestimated and niches such as BookTok are key indicators of the potential success of adaptations of works into films.

However, some still see filmmaking as an art form and resent being called content creators as the new catch-all term. One such person is British actor Emma Thompson. Speaking to an audience at the Royal Television Society conference in September that included the future creatives of the world, she asserted that the word “content” sounded merely like the stuffing of a sofa cushion, and called it “rude.”

As a writer, I can see her point. Words have meaning, and content sounds like “filler” – more disposable, more consumable and more commodified. And content – for the most part – is usually created with a call-to-action in mind, such as adverts, promotional segments, etc.

Beth Booker, CEO and founder of agency Gracie PR agrees: “Using a catch-all phrase like ‘content’ to describe the work of professionals in the entertainment industry is rude. Language matters, and while I know that a lot of strategy and creativity goes into content creation, it isn’t the same type of strategy and creativity that goes into filmmaking.”

You can read more about the debate on the Success article here.

It doesn’t help that the streaming services have commoditised films and television programs. Data shows us that people watch a few seconds, skip to the next, and so on up to 10-15 times before settling on the program they will watch. The age of content has shortened attention spans and unless the “content” is “hooky as fuck” then people pass it by. On average, people decide in the first 1.7 seconds for things like reels, and this is translating to viewing films and television. That’s why films like Ghosted are structured as they are; its structure was driven by data analysis.

I agree with Beth and Emma that films and television shows are not content because they are created for their own sake (although there is a major driver for them to be profitable but, beyond that, create no call-to-action for the viewer). As Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s motto says: “Ars Gratia Artis” (art for art’s sake) and we should not blur the lines because it’s easy or trendy to do so.

However, I believe filmmakers need to embrace content creation as part of their strategy and adapt to the times we are living in where “content is king” without diluting the creation of original art.

What do you think? Join (or start) the conversation below.

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By Edward

The Here & Now

I’m working on developing a feature film – a supernatural thriller. You can find more about this on my production website. I am doing a script readthrough at Pinewood later in March for a TV comedy pilot. Plus the usual audition rounds of course. And my IMDb StarMeter has improved by 30,000!