Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: Inventing the Movies

A while back I finished  (deep breath) Inventing the Movies: Hollywood's Epic Battle Between Innovation and the Status Quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs (exhale), by Scott Kirsner but never got around to posting about it in any detail.


The book is entertaining for anyone in an interest in business, in film, and in how technical innovation affected the business of film and vice versa.

For those with a vested interest in a similar space, such as gaming, the book is a must read. The parallels of history repeating itself are numerous and uncanny in their similarity.

A couple random examples: 
  • The reluctance of film editors to adopt digital editing systems and cinematographers to adopt digital cameras, have some parallels to the NIH reluctance we saw around the adoption of game engine middleware.
  • The concerns some have expressed about consolidation of distribution into the hands of console owners (see here and scroll down to Burning Mad) is similar to that expressed when studios locked up all the theaters and controlled distribuiton that way (pay attention MS/Sony/Nintendo - that one ended in a DOJ consent decree)
  • Many, many cases of elitism by the established players poo-pooing the new media and those quick to move to it. Pick your favorite EA, MS, Sony quote dissing casual games a few years back, or free-to-play biz models, or whatever.
  • Movie vendors said "no one will want to watch movies on a screen that small!" about TV, then about portable DVD players, then iPods. I hear the same thing about games on phones, iPhones, Netbooks, etc.
Anyone with time spent in the games business will see parallels upon reading Kirsner's book. The question, of course, is how to avoid falling into this trap of repeating history. First step, the easy one, is to know it, and this book is a good start. The harder step, is to be aware of which side of the fence you are on: Innovator or Luddite, and take a good introspective look on whether you've really assessed things objectively, or whether you sit too far to one side or the other.

Kirsner has a good blog where he continually covers this stuff, located here.

1 comment:

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