Jimmy Wales Says Irrelevance, Not Piracy, Will Doom Hollywood

by Mike Masnick
Apr. 26, 2012

Jimmy Wales, who has become a bit of a thorn in the side of Hollywood of late, has given a speech in which he predicts that Hollywood is doomed, but not because of any threat from "piracy," but from the fact that technology and innovation means that the old infrastructure that filmmakers used to require is going away. As Ryan Singel at Wired reports, Wales' talk at the Internet Society's recent gathering let him predict that disruption was coming from the bottom up:
“Hollywood will be destroyed and no one will notice,” Wales said. But it won’t be Wikipedia (or Encarta) that kills the moviemaking industry: ”Collaborative storytelling and filmmaking will do to Hollywood what Wikipedia did to Encyclopedia Britannica,” he said.

Wales hedged by saying predictions are easy — and he’s usually wrong. But he looks at a generation of kids growing up in a world of video and mastering editing software at a young age. His own 12-year-old daughter, Wales said, is already adept at iMovie and won a local award for a short film she made.

And just as Wikipedia has show that collaboration on the web is possible (despite the messiness, flame wars and turf battles found on Wikipedia Talk pages), the new generation will find ways to collaborate online to create movies to entertain themselves and their friends.

And, Wales says, they’ll do that with impressive special effects, CGI and even remote actors.
Of course, we've been seeing this trend already growing at the lower end of the scale for a while. For example, the power that individuals have to create amazing special effects has been documented for years, and the tools are only getting better and better. Does traditional Hollywood have even better tools? Absolutely, but this is a classic innovator's dilemma situation, where the tools at the low end are getting better at a faster rate, and they're reaching the "good enough" point pretty quickly -- such that the value of spending many many millions extra on special effects doesn't provide any significant benefit.

Add to that the growth of Kickstarter as an alternative funding platform, the growth of the internet as an alternative promotion and distribution method... and at some point the benefits of going with a traditional Hollywood studio become more difficult to quantify.

Of course, this isn't something that happens overnight, by any means. And there are some in Hollywood who appear to understand this and are working to get their studios ahead of the curve, though it's unclear if they'll be able to do that successfully. Either way, the point that Wales makes is a pertinent one. Instead of worrying so much about online infringement -- the studios might want to spend a little more time figuring out how they can remain relevant.

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