BuzzFeed Motion Pictures President Ze Frank
August 13, 2014 4:04 PM   Subscribe

Producer Michael Shamberg Wants to 'Invent the Future' With BuzzFeed Motion Pictures - "I don't think there's ever been a Hollywood R&D model like we have here." (previously 1,2,3)

  • Felix Salmon on the Buzzfeed model - "In that sense, the right comparison for BuzzFeed is probably not newspapers, or even other websites like Business Insider; rather, it's advertising agencies, or companies like Vice, which make their money mostly by creating, rather than simply running, web-based advertising campaigns... That means beefing up the current editorial product; investing massively in video; and an aggressive international expansion, into a number of brand-new languages and cultures."
  • Is BuzzFeed a Tech Company? - "Everything that is hurting traditional media companies – zero marginal costs, 'free' expectations, unlimited competition because of global distribution – are opportunities for new media companies unencumbered by traditional thinking... One can absolutely make the case that an organization like BuzzFeed, with clearly labeled native advertising, is a lot more trustworthy than any reporting that may come out of an organization like NBC (which is owned by Comcast). Oh sure, NBC journalists will object to that statement, but how can we every truly know?"
more on sponsored content and native advertising...
posted by kliuless (28 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
One can make that case, but it's not actually a very strong one and exists mostly by insinuation rather than evidence.

This is pretty interesting though, especially with Ze Frank on board. Wonder how they're actually going to get collabs — the idea of taking everything is great now, but to do everything they'd need an infinite budget and even with the crazy cash burn of tech startup culture, that's not reality.
posted by klangklangston at 4:49 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

And to think that the week's news couldn't have gotten more depressing...
posted by schmod at 4:51 PM on August 13, 2014

Scenes salvaged from the cutting room floors of other productions then presented as a 95 minute rolling listicle.

That's what I envisioned before I read the article.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:07 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Can it be 70 minutes of whatever Matt Stopera's looking at on Instagram, in a continuous loop?
posted by mittens at 5:24 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

This summer, in a world where trailer cliches and link bait collide, you will never guess [metallic and ominous sound effect] what happens [clank] next.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:28 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Say what you want I'm changing the names in my Archer spec script right now.
posted by The Whelk at 5:35 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

"I don't think there's ever been a Hollywood R&D model like we have here," says Shamberg

Aren't Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, et al. working on/toward similar models? BuzzFeed has a solid data science team, but so does everyone else.
posted by fatehunter at 5:37 PM on August 13, 2014

10 Plot Holes You Never Thought Possible in the Same Movie!
posted by Talez at 5:39 PM on August 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

I hope this means a Ze Frank "Earth Sandwich" franchise.
posted by mullacc at 5:45 PM on August 13, 2014

The dissonance between my first impression upon reading the beginning of this post and my more considered thoughts after reading the (main) linked piece is very intense. I think my very negative first impression was badly mistaken and superficial.

But we'll see.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:16 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm holding out for Clickhole Studios, myself.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 6:52 PM on August 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Listicles 2: The Return Of Clickbait
posted by hoodrich at 7:34 PM on August 13, 2014

"The company plans to use its short- and mid-length videos to create characters, develop plots and test casting with online audiences."
"Two guys, a girl, and a listicle."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:01 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

From the producers of "The Truth About Dogs and Cats and Listicles" and Adam Sandler's "Ow Ow My Listicles."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:10 PM on August 13, 2014

It's one thing to aggregate content from other sources, and to create little 5-minute clips that you can fool your 20-something staff (and audience!) into creating for cheap or for free; developing engaging longer-form narratives is another, regardless of platform, and requires different resources and skills. Audiences will still want a story past the listicle to stay engaged, much less be encouraged to pay for.

But let's see what happens once the Creepy Guy becomes the Florence Lawrence of Buzzfeed.
posted by droplet at 8:10 PM on August 13, 2014

I will love to read the post mortem finger pointing that will be inevitable in about 2 years when this blows up in their faces.

Either that or we will end up living in an even worse society than we do now.
posted by daq at 8:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

10 Things I Hate About You That Will Blow Your Mind
posted by Spatch at 8:30 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

... an aggressive international expansion, into a number of brand-new languages and cultures ...

What? Where are there "brand-new languages and cultures"? Do they mean emerging trends among different demographics, or literally cultures and languages emerging from, well, wherever there's internet access?

"See, these kids speak some weird kayfabe creole lingo, and there are about a dozen emerging punk-funk bands that those southern kids are going crazy for. We're going to make the first "post-piledriver" film, ever!"

Anyway, the VICE model isn't to make feature-length films, but to do shorter pieces, maxing out at 30 minutes long. This is a device-based audience, not people going to sit in a theater with a giant tub of popcorn and an equally large drink to last them 70 minutes.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:42 PM on August 13, 2014

In the future, movies will be presented as a series of gifs.

Oh wait…
posted by adamrice at 9:19 PM on August 13, 2014

Well I think Ze Frank already has a good handle on how Hollywood produces movies.
posted by xedrik at 9:34 PM on August 13, 2014

I love Ze Frank, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. But I'm also a bit sad as I doubt he'll have time now for any more episodes of Dear Kitten (which really needs to be an ongoing and unlimited series).
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:23 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've not yet seen something Ze Frank has done that I didn't like. So I'm pretty excited for anything new he does.
posted by Twain Device at 5:00 AM on August 14, 2014

I want only good things for Ze Frank. He can have every internet.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 6:46 AM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really love Ze Frank as much as you can love an internet personality you've never met, but I failed to extract much anything from that brief interview. It seems like he rustled up about 1.3 million for his "stealth mode" Ze Frank Games startup back in 2010 that never produced anything that I could put a finger on (Stealth Mode is Super Effective!) which got bought out by BuzzFeed in 2012 and so seems must be the kernel of this deal...

It kind of feels like, okay, original narrative video is the hot tech branch-out endeavor of the moment (Netflix, Amazon, even Yahoo is trying to get in on it), here is someone with some cred and cachet and a couple of employees, now we will add a solid name from the Hollywood old guard to hopefully hook up all the plumbing of Mainstream Success...

Meanwhile BuzzFeed has a solid foundation of being exemplary of everything that sucks about the current day internet handling "creative content" while occasionally busting out something surprisingly good... Hope springs eternal but I can't help but think of that Penny Arcade cartoon about "cautious optimism".
posted by nanojath at 8:37 AM on August 14, 2014

It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my listicles.

"The company plans to use its short- and mid-length videos to create characters, develop plots and test casting with online audiences."

Hmmm. This brings to mind movies based on Saturday Night Live sketches.
posted by RobotHero at 10:10 AM on August 14, 2014

If you watch that Ze Frank "Dear Kitten" video that longdayjourney linked to, and then others from BuzzFeedVideo, you'll maybe get some idea of what this might be about.

Some of the stuff is sponsored by a product, like the kitten video, and some isn't but feels like it still sort of is, somehow. The re-enactment of the Literally Kid piece is very interesting to me for this reason because I think it's well done but it's also unsettling in some way I can't pin down. Some of the videos are pretty embarrassing and not funny. Some are quite good.

The feel I get from it is that there's some real talent involved, both writers and actors, and that seems positive to me. But it also feels like the presentation and marketing of it is paramount, quite like Buzzfeed in general, and that repulses me. Cumulatively, it feels manipulative.

I wrote earlier that reading the interview made me reconsider my initial negative impression and this is because I think both Ze Frank and Michael Shamberg are interesting, talented people and it makes sense that someone would figure out how to really explore making visual media on the net that's not YouTube and Netflix. Those are both transitory in some sense, they are encapsulations of the old media into the new. They're not really organic to it.

I don't really know what these new things will be or should be, but I do know that I don't want it to be like these BuzzFeedVideos I've watched. Sort of like them, insofar as that element you see here and there of real talent ... that's good. More of that. The manipulative vibe, the sense that all the creativity is coming from an advertising/marketing point of view ... not so much.

But I don't know. I think that Spike Jonze is brilliant and that he's brilliant in a way that has very much to do with his career making commercial advertisements and the sensibility involved in them. It's very much informed his best work. There was a time when I was younger when I would have strongly recoiled from the whole idea. So I'm open to the idea that BuzzFeed is not inherently evil, even though I've tended to think they are, just as I think the same about advertising. Sometimes good creative work comes from places you don't really want it to.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:16 AM on August 15, 2014

i think it's the 'billed as one thing but ends up another' manipulative factor: ze frank kitten video => ad; the key is being upfront about what is a commercial and what isn't because if "native advertising" isn't _clearly labeled_ then it feels deceptive, which was the same problem with product placement. i'd prefer commercials just (try to) be clever, thoughtful or beautiful -- or whatever 'brand' they're trying to project -- and it doesn't do the company any good either if they're perceived as manipulative and deceptive.

the point they're trying to probe i guess is at what level does an 'elevated' form of bait and switch still seem that way? if ze frank sells out making a cute/clever segment on kittens, is that so bad, if that's the punchline? or what if a touching feminist segment on how everyday micro-aggressions harm girls is used to sell tampons? does that devalue the message or elevate the brand? it's not so much reductive as recursive; you're not a product to be sold, but yea we're still kind of treating you like you were, which could be okay if we re-imagine 'the product' as a wholesome lifestyle?

what i find interesting beyond the abstract iterative game of signaling, display, camouflage and adaptation, etc. is whole systems evolving in an effort to monetize trust in original ways _as if_ there was a market for confidence that can be transferred and traded. it's become the (ephemeral) norm for power and celebrity, but now its entering journalism and even trying to create its own micro-institutions of moral authority -- #likeagirl -- that just happen to be funnels for gathering demographic information to better market their products, services and lifestyles. buzzfeed and the like appear to want to be the engines of that transformation.

so the information economy begets the attention economy begets the reputation economy. so what, is that all there is? achievement, recognition and reward? what is it we're all working towards, who is articulating that vision and how are the organizational incentives structured? are they necessarily manipulative or can they be made transparent and accountable; cooperative and collaborative instead of co-opted or coerced? anyway, if the internet is the vehicle for a revolution, with big data spread out to smart phones and remote sensors, while software eats the world, the presumption then is that we can program the planet, but again to what purpose? and to that end, it might help to know how to hack minds and modify desires :P

also btw...
The Internet's Original Sin: How advertising became the default interweb business model

oh and speaking of "what these new things will be or should be," i've been really liking (some of) the nytimes digital shorts! for example:
-Storm Chasing on Saturn
-Kite Fight (part of their 'op-docs', kind of like pbs' pov, but shorter)
posted by kliuless at 10:49 AM on August 15, 2014

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