The Internet industry has spent almost 20 years now beating the crap out of disintermediation, which as we all know is the elimination of middle men from commerce, bringing producers and consumers in direct contact. As the market has grown and widened and tools have improved and got cheaper the nature of disintermediation has changed, too, to the point that today it is almost what we claimed it was back in 1995. To prove that I give you this video from Movie Cloud, which went up today on Indiegogo.

Movie Cloud is supposed to be the disintermediation of movies, bringing all factions together so that 50,000 feature films per year may bloom… maybe.

Whether Movie Cloud succeeds or fails I think it shows us two things that are very interesting.  First, the Internet is the market. There’s no mention here of movie theaters or DVDs. If this thing succeeds it will be by ignoring both.  Second, if this is happening now, what the heck did we think we were doing with Internet video 5, 10, and 15 years ago, when we talked precisely about such disintermediation?

It’s not that we didn’t mean it but that those earlier efforts were either technically infeasible or co-opted by the movie industry. For all his schmaltz this Movie Cloud guy is right — Hollywood is a monopoly.

Now here are some further thoughts before you risk your $29. I don’t think anyone would argue against a product that democratizes film financing, production and distribution.  It’s really surprising to me to see that video hasn’t made the same progress in terms of the ability to self publish to a wide audience that music and books have.  Sure there are some solutions out there, but none that are really widely used.

An independent film maker friend of mine reminded me that he once participated in the short lived Google Video paid service before the YouTube acquisition.  Google Video claimed it would democratize video distribution, too, by allowing viewers direct access to content.  What my friend didn’t know at the time, however, was that Google was just buying time and audience until they were able to ink bigger partnerships.  A few weeks in, all of the independent content was scrubbed in favor of episodes of Star Trek Voyager, and Major League Baseball.

I don’t know if Movie Cloud will be different, but I’m guessing they’ll follow the money, too.

You’ll notice in this video pitch that technology is completely neglected (there is slightly more on the Indiegogo page). These are real film experts and they may have spent a lot of there own money but none of it is visible here. Maybe they’ll implement a system similar to Digg or Reddit where people can vote up the best content, which would make it more viewable to users.  But the risk of curation has always been that once big names get involved they start to clog up the system. We see this even on YouTube, perhaps especially on YouTube.  

What happens when Movie Cloud establishes a content partnership with Criterion, and all of the mid/high budget Criterion films start taking up the key areas of the site, focusing attention away from the smaller films?

There aren’t a lot of specifics here regarding how the software will actually work, which is crucial to the end project.  Dov, for all his giving away pens and cursing, doesn’t have much geek cred. What he has in abundance, however, are promises about all of the vast real world places and services Movie Cloud will supplant.

Developing, testing, and delivering a system that realistically supplants the need for virtual production offices for example would be a huge feat.  Can they realistically develop that system, as well as financing, distribution, etc. all in one big swoop? That’s the $29 question.

I applaud the idea and initiative.  But I am very cautious about anyone being able to deliver on all of the promises Movie Cloud is making.

Maybe I need one of those pens.