The Demise of Kodak: The Lessons Old World Filmmakers Need to Learn

A negative 'Kodak moment' from Cambridge Judge Business School on Vimeo.
On January 19th, 2012, a company that for over 100 years had served as an iconic benchmark for quality and professionalism in movie-making filed for bankruptcy.

And, one hundred years from now, I suspect that Kodak's 2012 bankruptcy filing will be remembered as a signal event: A date that historians and schoolchildren will look to when studying the end of an era.

Like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the forces that led to the end of filmmaking on film are numerous - but, as a February 26th, 2012 Wall Street Journal commentary by Kamal Munir suggests, Kodak's collapse is not simply the story of a technological change.

A large part of what doomed Kodak - and still stands as an existential threat to other Old World film institutions (like the Old World studios and most film schools) - is that the entire paradigm of filmmaking is in transition - challenging foundational ideas about what should be photographed and by whom.

In other words, Kodak execs understood that a new technology was set to make analog filmmaking obsolete - but what they failed to understand was that filmmaking itself was being redefined in the 21st century.

Kodak (like the major studios and most film school teachers I've met) was unwilling or unable to leave behind Old World ideas about why and how people should make and share images.

The Kodak moment? An inability to adjust to the new foundational ideas about filmmaking that spelled the end of one of the most prestigious and established of filmmaking companies.

While the signs are all around us, Kodak's collapse should wake up the studios and film educators to the enormity of the disruption in filmmaking.

Studios and film teachers who can't adapt to a new definition of "filmmaking" are living on borrowed time - and bankruptcy looms.

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