The Movie Industry and Middleware
The movie industry is a massive industry that brings in billions of dollars each year. Not only does it bring in massive amounts of revenue, the movie industry is predicted to grow for the next four years and bring in a whopping $50.3 billion, a growth close to 20%. At first glance, the process simple at first glance; the movie studio creates the movie and then releases it into theaters so prospective viewers can watch the movie. However, most people don’t think about the nuances of actually materializing a movie from an idea into a motion picture on the big screen. We can denote the process and events that exist in between these two points of movie creation as “middleware.”
Before discussing the middleware of movie production, we must identify the bottom layer and the top layer of movie production. The bottom layer of movie production is the writer who develops the idea for a movie in his or her head. This is how almost all motion pictures begin the process to reaching the top layer, or becoming a theatrical motion picture. The top layer of movie production is the film rolling in theaters in front of a public audience. This is the successful final stage of movie production and is what all movie producers hope to achieve.
In between these two layers is an extremely elaborate and involved process of production, direction, and regulation. This process can be denoted as middleware and describes in our example the processes that exist in between the top and bottom layers in order to transport the product from the bottom to the top layer. After a writer has developed his or her idea for a movie, he or she must pitch the idea to a studio or an investor. Once the idea is approved, the writer, director, and producer materialize the project by casting actors, effects technicians, set artists, etc. Once the movie is completed for the first time, the movie producers must get the content reviewed by the MPAA in order to receive a rating. This process is integral to movie production because all movies that seek to be distributed to major theaters must receive a rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). While it is not required to receive a rating, many major theaters will not show your movie if your movie is unrated. These ratings include: G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17. After approval, the movie studio will create an agreement with a distributor to distribute the movie to theaters. Once the agreement is approved, the distributors will lease the movie to theaters for viewing.
While some middleware layers are fairly straight forward, there are several middleware processes that are not so clear and concise. One that stands out the most is the rating process. The MPAA rating system can be quite subjective. The three standards for ratings (Language, drugs, and sexual content) are very vague and have been criticized for not being evenly enforced across all movies and studios. It has received criticism by many writers, directors, and movie producers. Two of the harshest critics are South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone who argue that the MPAA favors major studios and heavily discriminates against independent studios.
One of the more evolving middleware steps of movie production is the necessity of pitching a movie to a major studio. Independent films and studios have revolutionized the movie-making industry because it has allowed many movie producers to create their movies in a cheaper and more efficient manner. Amateur film production technology is becoming more and more sophisticated and is allowing more writers, directors, and producers to create movies almost entirely themselves with independent investors. The growing popularity of independent film festivals like Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest exemplify this growing trend, showing the mutation of the middleware in movie production.