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The One Man Show

Natural creators aspire to materialize their vision without friction or compromise. Emerging technologies enable these creators to come closer to this goal than ever before. Low barriers to entry, a vibrant testing ground, and near full creative control…we’re entering the age of The One Man Show.

Producing and publishing a full-feature film is a long, expensive, and complex process. It takes years, generous capital infusions, and the cooperation of dozens (or thousands) of people. These obstacles limit opportunities for actors, directors, producers, and everyone in between to showcase their talent. But even the lucky ones who receive an opportunity and prove themselves must compromise their creative vision vis-a-vis the demands of the other stakeholders involved in the project. As the Hollywood creative class knows far too well, it can take months to make even the smallest creative decisions.

A disruptive alternative to this multi-layered process is emerging with the advent of improved production technologies and social media. SLRs, MacBooks, and editing software are now more powerful, intuitive, and affordable, thereby dismantling the barriers to producing video content. It’s easier than ever before to turn an idea into reality. In addition, anyone who produces content can share it with millions of people through social media—instantly and for free.

As this new world evolves, a new creative class is on the rise: the social media influencers. They expertly leverage new technologies to rapidly produce and publish content that is compelling, intimate and relevant on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat…you name it. The result? Strong relationships with millions of passionate fans that admire and support them.

Using the new technologies, these individuals have freed themselves from depending on others and have chosen to do everything themselves. One person is simultaneously the screenwriter, cameraman, producer, director, actor, manager, and publisher. From a convoluted, multi-headed process, we are now seeing the evolution of The One Man Show.

These changes have three major consequences on the world of media: they democratize media creation, they create hotbeds for test concepts and talent, and they provide new channels for talent to make money.

The Democratization of Media Production

“Media Democratization” is not a new concept. The Internet makes information available to anyone with an internet connection, anywhere in the world. But the advent of social media takes this democratization one step further. It not only democratizes the consumption of media, but also the publication of it.

Social media opens a channel for raw creative talent to circumvent traditional obstacles (think formal training or a special network connection). Anyone can now share ideas by combining text, picture, and/or video.

For studios and brands, this evolution makes social media users—especially social media influencers—more important than ever. In the old days, these organizations had a near monopoly on what was published. As the barriers to entry are disappearing, everyone has the opportunity to voice their thoughts and influence public opinion.

A New Testing Ground

Due to the high costs of producing and publishing a full-feature film in the traditional world, studios need to be extremely picky about the projects they undertake. Many multi-million dollar ideas get nipped at the bud (but nobody ever knows which ones!).

Social media offers a testing ground for creators to get proof of concept before dedicating resources to their project. As the barriers to producing and publishing content drop, individuals can effortlessly create, test, and iterate on their ideas, increasing the likelihood that something becomes a hit.

Smart studios are already using social media as a testing ground for new concepts. Take for instance the story of Smosh, (Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla), a two-person comedy team. With over 20 million subscribers, their YouTube channel, one of the most followed channels in the world. Lionsgate recently took the bold and visionary step and announced that it will distribute a feature film starring the duo, Smosh: The Movie. Expect madness at the box office if Lionsgate is correct in their bet that Smosh’s brand of comedy will successfully translate to the big screen.

Studios are scouting proven social media talent and putting large sums behind them. The raw, intimate social media content is cleaned up and adapted to the big screen, with the hopes that the influencer can maintain their charisma, while increasing the scale and profit potential of the content through a full-feature film. The big question is how often do skills translate from the small to the big screen. Although it is still early to tell, The Wrap has found that: it depends.

Brands can apply the same methodology to improve their social presence and presence in the market. How do you compete in a world where content is instant, plentiful, and relevant? Create enthralling content of your own. Social media influencers are a powerful way to achieve this; they can produce exceptional, proven content for a brand while also reaching millions of people. For instance, check out the following YouTube video produced by Missy Lanning during the influencer marketing campaign for Try The World, a subscription food service.

Real Returns for Real Talent

Opportunities are infinite when you have millions of loyal fans. Take for instance Pew Die Pie’s, the world’s most followed YouTuber, reported $7.4 million income or Michelle Phan’s, a beauty vlogger turned entrepreneur, startup Ipsy that is set to make $120 million this year. From brand partnerships to starting new ventures, opportunities abound. In the new world, raw talent is converted into popularity, which turns into revenue.

This new paradigm opens up a world of opportunities for influencers, studios, and brands. As technology lowers the barriers to entry into the media world, content creators can produce and publish content at will, sidestepping the traditional route and reaching worldwide recognition within months. And, perhaps most importantly, social media influencers own their channels, and therefore their destiny.


Misha Talavera is the Co-Founder and CMO of NeoReach, an influencer marketing platform helping brands and agencies identify influencers, co-create branded content, and run data-driven campaigns. Customers include The New York Times, Ken’s Salad, LAX, and Focus Features.


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