For Video's Future Consider Video's Past

Heather Green

I think that like most Americans I have a tendancy to forget about history when I am thinking about innovation and change. But watching a biography last night of Mary Pickford, the first movie star and one of the founders of United Artists, taught me a lot about the history of film. And it put some context for me around the potential evolution of online video.

When Pickford began acting in films in the early 1900s, she was one of the pioneers. She was working for the best theatre on Broadway, but to make money between plays, she deigned to try acting in the new movies. These were popular with people who were't rich and couldn't go to the theatre because they were relatively cheap, around 5 cents.

But the most interesting thing was that they short 10 to 15 minutes max, looked down upon by the rest of the acting world, and the wild west of entertainment. People didn't know what they were doing, so they improvised like crazy. They didn't have scripts, Pickford did three movies a week, and studios were created and went out of business quickly amid the hunt to get rich.

Sounds familiar. No one knows what works, the form is short but will inevitably morph into something else, and the existing establishment looked down on this creativity initially.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.