Entertainment isn’t just about movies and TV anymore. The definition of the industry has expanded and shifted, as audiences turn to short-form video apps, live-streaming platforms, or even their social feeds. The definition of who can “make it” in the industry has also expanded well beyond actors and A-list directors — creators on these new platforms have gained massive audiences and devoted followings. To get a firsthand look at these industry shifts, we asked some of those creators and young thought-leaders to discuss the current state of their industry and what they see as fresh, game-changing work — all in partnership with HBO Max, which encourages bold, entertaining, and passionate approaches to creating content. For this article, we spoke to Ericka “Boze” Bozeman, a gamer and live-streamer. Bozeman, 28, discussed her love of gaming, her creative process, and her advice on how to break into the new world of entertainment.
Bozeman has been gaming her whole life and joined a live-streaming platform popular with gamers about six years ago, quickly rising to fame on the platform and elsewhere on social media, too. “I’ve been playing games since I was four or five,” she says. “I was raised as an only child, and my grandpa would always go to the thrift store and just buy me a bunch of consoles that were on sale. I’ve been playing them ever since.” Bozeman’s love of gaming helped her build an audience, but she’s since expanded her content to include more of her niche interests, like true crime. “When I see a niche or something that needs to be filled that I feel like I’m interested in and I’m passionate about, I will fill that niche, and I will give it 100 percent,” she says.
The Rise of New Platforms
Bozeman is quick to point out the recent rise of platforms like streaming services, social media, live-streaming websites, and creative video apps. As creators gain mainstream popularity on those platforms, she thinks more and more people will take them seriously — and in fact, it’s already happening. She adds that one of the biggest differences about being a creator or influencer on one of these new platforms, when compared to traditional celebrities, is the online community that it fosters. “I am huge on community building,” Bozeman says. “The cool thing is the people that gravitate to your stream, they end up kind of being like you. The people that are your viewers, they usually have somewhat of similar interests to you, similar mindsets.”
However, Bozeman also admits that being dependent on stats like audience numbers and retention rates — many of which are public — can be draining. “In new media right now, we live in a world where your successes and failures are quantified for everyone to see,” she says. “And that’s kind of a scary thing, especially if you had been successful for a few years, and then you take a little break, and then you relaunch something. It’s like, ‘Wow, is this going to be as good as the other thing? What are people going to think?’ Are they going to say, ‘Oh, my God, Boze is slipping. Boze has fallen off?’ And that’s a very, very difficult thing to overcome.”
Finding Inspiration Through Structure
Those quantifiable stats can define a creator’s success or failure, and Bozeman says her creative process is heavily dependent on them. When she’s planning out the content of a new video, or which game she’ll play next on her stream, she looks at the numbers on her recent posts and what’s resonated with her viewers. “I need structure to do anything, so generally, I won’t just make something out of thin air,” she explains, adding that her creative process includes hand-writing her ideas into a planner. “For me, success is my creative expression, so it has to work, and I have to have structure to it.”
Bozeman also watches other creators’ entertainment content for inspiration, especially taking notice of what’s popular with the culture at large. “I love to pay attention to the consumer, because at the end of the day, I’m creating content for the consumer,” she says. “My main goal in anything is to make people love what they’re watching and keep watching. It’s not about me. It’s about them. So I tend to look at where the viewers are going, and try to predict where they’re going next.” However, she does have her own favorite shows and videos that she turns to when she’s brainstorming. She loves true crime, like the Max original series The Murders at White House Farm, as well as the HBO documentaries Mommy Dead and Dearest and Beware the Slenderman. “The HBO production on true crime documentaries sends me. It absolutely sends me,” says Bozeman. “I love anything that can capture my attention constantly. There’s a rule in music that something should happen every eight measures, and I feel like it’s the same way with content.”
The Future of New Creative Platforms
As new content platforms continue to grow, Bozeman says she thinks they’ll begin expanding even further into other areas of entertainment, including music. She also predicts that long-form videos and content will surge again in popularity, despite the current prevalence of short-form viral videos. “I do think that the pendulum is going to swing back to people missing more long-form and emotional content,” she says. “I think that there’s going to be a loneliness in society that continues to grow and we’re going to look for those connections, and short-form, it’s just not going to be enough.”
Bozeman also believes that it will grow more and more difficult to become a successful creator or influencer, as the platforms become oversaturated with content. Her advice for how to stand out and make it in the industry? “I think it is incredibly important to build relationships with people that you actually like. Brands, creators, things that feel organic to you — because those people in your sphere will not only elevate you, but they’ll also inspire you, and they’ll support you,” she says. And she emphasizes, again, the importance of following the data, especially on new platforms. “For creators, when you put something out, you should always be looking at your metrics,” she says. “A lot of people look at view count and whatnot, but the two I look at the most are retention and shares. [Shares are] an incredibly undervalued metric.”
At the end of the day, Bozeman is optimistic about the future of new media platforms and is grateful for the community they’ve brought her. “I have some days where it’s a little bit difficult to stream, to turn it on, to put on my makeup and just get started,” she says. “Sometimes it’s really difficult, but as soon as I see the chat moving, and everyone excited to see me on, I feel like I have purpose, and it’s just really, really fulfilling … The consumers are part of my inspiration, and it makes me keep going.” Her future plans include diving more into true crime content along with her gaming live streams, and continuing to keep her finger on the pulse of what audiences crave. “I’m really inspired by the future, and seeing how people’s brains change,” she says. “Everything moves so quickly, and my goal is to capture that attention and entertain people.”
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