Tis that time of the year to think and reflect on what an eventful time 2017 has been. More importantly, it’s also the time of the year to start thinking about what to build in 2018. We’re close enough to the new year to have an idea of the trends of next year are going to be.
Every year, JWT puts together a list of the 100 trends of the new year across a number of fields: culture, tech, entertainment, business… and a few of them are particularly relevant to filmmakers and creators who want to stay ahead of the curve.
01 – The Female Gaze
The conversation pushing for further and better inclusion of women in film has been ongoing for a few years, thankfully. 2017 took that conversation to a whole other level. We thought that 2017 would be the year of the first female president of the United States -it ended up being the year that attacks on women became even more blatant. It has also been the year of the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement.
Progress comes in swings of a pendulum, and it has swung both ways really fast this year. However, the pandora’s box of questions relating to pushing the inclusion of women at all levels of the filmmaking process has been opened for good. This year, Beach Rats, Lady Bird, Mudbound and Wonder Woman showed up on our silver screens. Next year, Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time is coming. The lenses through which we represent our culture are changing. About time.
02 – Intersectionality
The inclusion of women is certainly a necessary first step. It’s far from enough. In the late 80’s, academic Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to explain the overlaps of gender, race, sexuality and class and their effects on bias and discrimination. In this respect, 2017 has been a major awakening.
The Women’s Marches all over the world were inclusive and conveyed intersectional messages. It was about being stronger together, whoever we are. Twitter hired a vice president of intersectionality, culture, and diversity. Condé Nast has just launched a millennial LGBTQ+ focused publication. The tide is shifting. It’s time for intersectional representation in the movies too.
04 – Religious Resurgence
Why should filmmakers care about religious resurgence today? Because religion speaks of the need to belong to something. These are turbulent times and knowing where we fit is a key component in everyone’s well-being and self-realisation. But the sense of belonging and knowing where we are can come from other phenomena. If religion tells the story of humanity in relation to a divine order, we can also buy into different stories.
It is the job of filmmakers and creators to provide stories. In these troubled times more than ever, we need to be reminded that films can change the world and have a real impact on people. If you doubt it, just see the levels of following and passion that Star Wars has had.
06 – Streaming Wars
Content is king. If House of Cards has taught us anything (other than how to rewrite an entire season in a few weeks in order to not be tainted by a sexual abuse scandal), it’s that consumers want to be in control of the entertainment they binge on. Netflix has certainly been ahead of the curve in that trend. (Netflix will always be a synonym for streaming and home entertainment, and it’s not advisable to ask someone over to “Disney and chill” unless you want to ruin two childhoods.) The Mouse House now wants to compete with them. Netflix is committing $15.7 billion in original content, and Disney has bought Fox entertainment for $52.4 billion in order to strengthen its assets in the streaming wars.
After having disrupted the music industry, Silicon Valley has disrupted Hollywood for good. Effectively, that also means a sea change for the independent movie business. Audiences yearn for good content and know how to discern it. While this has strengthened the adage saying that great is the enemy of the good, it also means that independent filmmakers now have to explore smaller streaming platforms and self-distribution very thoroughly and be creative in their outreach to audiences in order to make a splash.
07 – Interactive Storytelling
You could see this as another iteration of the idea that consumers want power over the content they watch. It’s not just about how they consume it, it’s also how the story unfolds. In 20th-century thinking, interactive storytelling means gaming. In third-millennium facts, we’re looking at interactive feature films. Actually, the first ever interactive feature film screened at Raindance in 2016.
Gaming and film are blending. They both are narrative forms, and the overlap is increasing. The level of control and immersion that audiences are now looking for means more interactivity in narrative storytelling. This is why “religious resurgence” has to be taken into account as a key trend of next year as well: audiences are looking for a way to make sense of a troubled world. It’s time to build worlds and bring those stories not just before audiences’ eyes, but in their hands as well.
08 – Data Democracies in Entertainment
Big data is changing the way the world presents itself to us. In a not-so-distant, “Minority Report”-like future, the environment you’ll be living in will be tailored to the wants and needs that hadn’t even formed in your conscious mind yet. Google, Facebook and Amazon already tailor their platforms -and the products they’re selling you- to your behaviour. Streaming behemoths do the very same when creating entertainment.
Netflix knows if there is an audience for any pitch they hear based on user analytics. When a traditional network (even HBO) may have had cold feet producing the politically charged Dear White People, they knew there was an audience for it. Analysing social media presence and online behaviour will lead to identifying demographics that haven’t yet been represented are yearning for it.
09 – Creativity Meets AI
Artificial intelligence is on the verge of provoking massive changes in the world as we know it. AIs are now relatively confined to Google Labs, but that will soon change. The AI experiences that have been undertaken so far are all very intriguing: for instance, a robot learned all that humanity has ever learned about chess in four hours.
But what happens to AI when it comes to creativity? Creativity and art, by their very definition, rely on conscience and instinct, both very human traits that (thankfully) can’t be reduced to, and indeed are the very contrary of, algorithms. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t experimenting. MIT researchers have taught AI to get emotional over movies. (Really, it’s down to story patterns.) An AI wrote a sci-fi short film, with inconclusive results -for now.
11- AR reaches mass
This year, augmented reality went from being a confidential gimmick to being the must-have tech device. Apple rolled out its ARkit for developers, arguing that no business will be untouched by the possibilities of augmented reality. Interior designers can make you look at what your living room will look like once they’ve worked their magic. You can try clothes without putting them on.
And for content creators and entertainment? PokemonGo was the first to make the most of the possibilities of AR. Harry Potter is taking a hold of the medium as well, releasing an AR game in 2018 -which makes it as certain as anything that AR is going to go mainstream.
New trends: 2018, bring it on
Audiences are yearning for more. More representation, more practical applications to new mediums, more immersion in new worlds. Audiences want creators to conjure up worlds that can both represent the real world accurately and change it for the better. They want experiences they can immerse themselves in and revel in: art that is fully real and fully poetic at the same time.