Saturday, May 17, 2014

Are we approaching the age of unemployment?

Our latest article in the Hollywood Journal:

Are we approaching the age of unemployment?

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
Some say that in order to fulfill humanity’s entire needs in the future, only 30% of the population will need to work. The other week Joao Gomes, professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, published an article titled: Is America giving up? In it he says that in 1999, 74% of working-age Americans were employed. Nowadays it’s 67.4%. That drop represents a loss of about 14 million positions.
His article is one of several in the last few months that are all depicting this new reality. Those articles predict that there’s a chance that in less than 30 years the world will experience the age of unemployment — an era in which the majority of people will have very little chance of finding a job.
What would our lives look like in a reality where the majority of people are unemployed? Predictions vary. Imagine a world where 70% of the people are unemployed and are either at home trying to fill their day with meaning, or out and about trying to find things to do while they wait for some job opening that might never happen?
Throughout modern history, as technology advanced, some jobs were eliminated, while others were created. Think about the time before refrigerators, when there were people whose job was to cut ice from lakes and store it for the warmer months. But with the invention of the refrigerator, suddenly there was need for refrigerator manufacturers, refrigerator stores, refrigerator movers, refrigerator technicians, used refrigerator parts suppliers, etc.
So can a society exist when a majority of its members are unemployed? Even if the work of 30% is enough to take care of the 100%, what are tens of millions of people to do if they are not needed?
While Hollywood films and TV constantly invent reasons for a chaotic futuristic world, reality seems to be supplying us with a very real reason for a troubled new existence. This might be the most dangerous asteroid about to hit the human race. We could make a movie about it… because when so many people will be roaming the streets aimlessly, they might be looking for some good entertainment. Will our industry actually be the one benefitting from this asteroid?
The cheapest form of entertainment for all those jobless people will be free videos on TV and the web. We are already seeing many big players entering the online world and creating TV-like channels and production studios – including Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

So perhaps while the amount of people working in other industries drops, the amount of people working for the entertainment industry might actually rise. But the real question for Hollywood will be: what content will those 70% be looking for?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Redefining community

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus

The last few years have been revolutionary in terms of our perception of community. Back in the old days, community was the neighborhood we lived in. It was our local coffee shop, our local diner, our local newspaper stand, our local grocery shop. When we traveled, we got a sense of physical distance from all the things that made up that community.
But as everything became more corporate, our local coffee shop became Starbucks and our local grocery store became Trader Joe’s or Costco. No matter where we went, we seemed to be at the same distance from those familiar places, and that helped people move from one place to the next. With the ease of moving, the concept of community was changed.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites are becoming a new alternative to community. One is more updated on the lives of people living across the country or in another continent than on the lives of the people living next door. You see pictures of intimate moments of their lives — birthdays, weddings, babies smiling. You can read their thoughts when they are celebrating or grieving. You can share in their musical tastes and learn about their political views on an ongoing daily basis.
So while some might say this is a virtual community, to us it feels very real. While we might not actually be with them in all these moments, we are still there in spirit. We probably know more about some of our virtual friends than we know about some of the people living on our street (unless they are already our FB friends).
This new sense of community is redefining our world. And yet, many people still feel as lonely as ever. Is it human nature to feel alienated from the real world no matter what the virtual reality can offer us?
Only time will tell if our new world – with its new communities – will succeed in meeting our emotional needs.
Or if our sense of loneliness will force us to continue searching for what makes a real community, in a world where the virtual world seems more constant than our constantly changing real world.
It will be interesting to see how Hollywood tackles all these changes. At the heart of many movies is the sense of community. The fact that the idea of community itself is changing will have to change the essence of motion pictures itself. For now, TV – which always mirrors the zeitgeist – reveals two directions in dealing with this theme:
On one hand it shows us that audiences crave TV shows about family as a way to feel less alienated. Some of the most successful TV shows right now are Modern Family and The Goldbergs, which remind us that as flawed as family is – it is ours and it will always be there as a stable element in our lives for good and for bad.
On the other hand, hit shows like Orange is the new Black and Revolution, reaffirm to many the idea that in the modern world there is no community anywhere and we can’t trust anyone. Not even our families. Not in prison nor in a futuristic world where electricity has destroyed the idea of a virtual community and mankind is back to basic survival mode.
Our sense of community is evolving. Hollywood will continue to reflect on this evolution. And for all of us working here trying to capture the essence of our time, the questions will be: What do people want from their community? What does their community require from them, and how does that community justify its existence?

Monday, March 03, 2014

What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality

Yes, there is a connection between pot legalization and net neutrality. See us connect the dots at our newest blog in the Hollywood Journal. Please share.

What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality

What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
Pot legalization is making significant headlines lately with both Senator Harry Reid and President Barack Obama making positive comments about it. As thedocumentary we are working on demonstrates, a major part of what helped the movement organize, be heard and become legit, is the web and all it has to offer. Now, the freedom of the web – which we all take for granted – is at great risk because we are about to lose net neutrality.
If you don’t know what that is, the one and only Stephen Colbert explains it besthere, and it’s followed by an interview with the Columbia Law School Professor who coined the term. In short: The court of appeals just ruled in favor of Verizon (and a few other major corporations) – and not in favor of the entire population of the planet – regarding net neutrality. Net neutrality means that all Internet traffic should generally be treated equally and that the Internet providers (Verizon, Time Warner, et. al.) cannot decide which websites will be streamed faster or slower, and which will not be streamed at all. Without net neutrality, the Internet providers could technically change it into a place where only big corporations can get their content to us.
The fact that a few corporations are trying to gain control of the Internet and are succeeding would seem to be a reason for all of us to protest in the streets to clearly show the government that we demand that the Internet stays free. But the media doesn’t seem to be stressing how dangerous this is, so most people have missed it.
Why is this so scary? We found a good summary here, but this is how we see it.
Without the random and free nature of the Internet, we would stand to lose the following:
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed a website like Amazon to redefine the way we all shop (and sell) and lowered our overall costs by hundreds of percent.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed Netflix to redefine the way we watch movies and TV.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed websites like AirbnbUber andLyft to create a new shared economy which forced industries like hotels and taxis into a competition that improved the service and price for everyone.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed grassroots groups to organize and redefine our politics. From Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party (through pot legalizers) — thanks to the web, politicians are forced to listen to their constituents and are discovering that a huge percentage of the population, many times, has different opinions than what the mainstream is expressing.
* And we haven’t even gotten to Facebook, Twitter, etc. The freedom of the Internet has changed everything in our lives – from commerce to the nature of our communities.
Net neutrality affects all of us, in everything we do in the digital age.
The underlying question is who owns the Internet. Is it the cable companies or the citizens of the world? Is the Internet a commodity that whomever owns it controls it – or is the Internet a utility – like gas, electricity or water, to which everyone has the same right to be connected, regardless of income?
Being indie filmmakers, we know all too well how much we need the Internet to stay free. The Internet helped bring an audience to watch our previous documentaryYiddish Theater: A Love Story in the theaters for over four months and is now enabling it to be sold on Amazon on a daily basis. How can we hope to achieve the same with our new documentary if we need to pay to even have an online presence?
After the court ruled that the Internet belongs to the cable companies, it will be up to the FCC to decide the fate of the freedom of the net – they need to change the law to reinforce net neutrality. From the few voices that were heard from in Washington after the court decision, it is obviously not a priority for most politicians.
So it is up to us, the people, to make sure they know this is a priority. Please call your representatives and let them know you want net neutrality defended by law. Or sign an online petition (there are a few circling around on Facebook).
We must use the freedom we still have of the web to do everything we can to keep it.

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