Authors:
Alex Stolz
Sarah Atkinson
Helen W. Kennedy
London, March 2020
ISBN: 978-1-908951-33-5
THE
REPORT 2020
The future of film has been a source of great
speculation in recent years - and for good
reason. Digital technologies have disrupted the
distribution pipeline, transforming the way in
which audiences consume and challenging
historic business models. Film formats and
channels are rapidly multiplying and in an era
of TikTok, Quibi and Disney+, to name but a
few recent interventions, it is increasingly
challenging to see film as a singular entity
anymore.
What is the
Future of Film?
We are in an unprecedented time of
change, and at the cusp of the
ensuing disruption. As a result, many
find themselves untethered from the
stability they have known and relied on
for generations. They are scared
because they can no longer rely on a
known future, for their business, their
lives, and the planet. But for those of
us who have never lived in stability we
are now in the position to translate
chaos into forward motion. Our work ...
our responsibility, lies in telling new
stories and building new narrative
systems for industry, institution and
individual.
Alex McDowell, Executive Creative
Director Experimental Design (Future of
Film Summit Keynote 2019)
In this context, it is perhaps more useful to think of there being multiple futures of film. This is
exactly what the inaugural Future of Film Summit sought to capture - the day celebrated a
diverse range of developments in filmmaking at the cutting edges - spanning new funding
strategies to interactive audience engagement.
In particular, the Summit aimed to bridge the knowledge gap between practitioners and the
rapidly evolving technologies that are transforming the production process.
‘Realtime Game Engines (RTGEs), Virtual Production as well as AI tools are now disrupting
the creative and economic practice of filmmaking. Significantly, many of the tools are now
available at low cost or even for free, creating opportunities for a much wider and
potentially more diverse community of storytellers.
At this time of rapid change, we believe that there is now an incredible opportunity to shape a
new future for film - one that encompsasses many more people and stories. The mission of
Future of Film, therefore, is not to predict the future but rather to be the creative space
where this future can be formed.
In order to do this we need to first pose a different question: what is the future of film that we
would like to experience?
Through the outputs of the Future of Film Summit and the collaborative work at the Future of
Film Think Tank we have developed the following response, in the form of this vision
statement:
“The future of film is inclusive, sustainable and rewards innovation and
creativity.
This vision statement is not intended to be prescriptive or definitive. Instead we offer it as a
beacon for the direction of travel. The purpose of this report is to help us navigate towards
this vision. We aim to achieve this by empowering creators through the provision of expert
technological knowledge and by offering immediate practical recommendations for film
stakeholders.
The Real-Time Revolution: Game
Technology Transforms the
Filmmaking Process
The convergence of film and games is accelerating. Led by companies that originated in
gaming, such as Unity and Unreal Engine, Realtime Game Engines (RTGEs) are now
transforming the filmmaking process through the process known as Virtual Production.
A suite of tools and techniques, Virtual Production allows filmmakers the ability to virtually
construct shots, sequences, or an entire film, without even setting foot on a physical set or
location. The standard ‘development-pre-production-production-post-production’ workflow
paradigm that has dominated film-production since the birth of cinema is now being flipped
on its head in productions that contain VFX or CGI. With virtual production - all of the creative
processes which include live action, video and CGI imagery - can now begin
simultaneously and in real-time within game-engine environments - as case studies such as
Gravity and The Lion King show.
What is ‘Film’
Anyway?
Whilst we may feel we intuitively know what film ‘is’, the reality is that filmmaking has
constantly evolved since the birth of cinema as a result of numerous artistic and creative
interventions. Take the Vaudevillians as an example, they took the business of moving pictures
to new levels, commercially and creatively in the early 20th Century. Likewise, from sound and
colour to the advent of digital effects, new technologies and innovations have repeatedly been
discovered, trialed and adopted to enhance cinematic storytelling.
From pioneering works like Minority Report, Fight Club and Gravity, much of the focus of the
Future of Film Summit was concerned with narrative ‘feature-length’ cinema. However,
defining what constitutes film in the era of Netflix, TikTok, Quibi and live cinema to name but
a few disruptive interventions, is increasingly challenging.
Our aim is not to draw definitional barriers, rather we want to empower creators and this
means to tell stories in whatever format fits best. We therefore draw on the BFI’s new and
inclusive definition for ‘film’:
anything that tells a story, expresses an idea or evokes an emotion through the art of the
moving image, whilst honouring the platform for which the work was intended” BFI 2022
Ultimately our goal is to foster creativity - and creativity knows no barriers.
Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) is an example of
blurring lines between different forms of screen entertainment.