By peter katz, April 6th, 2010

These predictions are based on my experience at SXSW:

1.The film and music industry will create casual games for Facebook. It will be an effective way to organize fan communities, sell them digital goods, merchandise, tickets to new media events, and introduce them to similar films and music they might like.

2.Apple, Amazon, and Netflix will compete against each other as film buyers to have exclusive rights to hot titles at the Sundance Film Festival.

3.Tastemakers who curate music and film content will actually get paid for their service.

4.Film studios will do more to reach out to Silicon Valley and fund/acquire their own web startups.

5.More entertainment created specifically for the web will be optioned to become TV shows or films.

6.Most film schools will teach 3D film production.

7.With a growing audience excited to watch everything in 3D, including ads, more TV shows are going be produced.

8.Major corporations will create platforms that support entertainment and finance the creation of content. They can own their TV network online versus paying for ads to place on another network.

9.Film studios will hire community managers and some will volunteer to manage fan communities for a movie even after a flick has left theaters.

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Posted in Uncategorized audience-building cross-media marketing movies social media transmedia video

peter katz is an award winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Peter has produced genre films that have screened all over the world from the AFI Fest to the Rome Film Festival. His first picture Home Sick starred Bill Moseley from The Devil's Rejects and Tom Towles from Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer. Next Peter worked with Tobe Hooper (director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist) on Mortuary, which premiered on the Sci Fi Channel. Most recently he was a producer on Pop Skull, a psychological ghost film, that has received great reviews in Variety and numerous film web sites. Currently, Peter is developing projects across various mediums including film, comics, and the web.

By peter katz, April 2nd, 2010

I attended the “Make vs. Gather? Successful Content Business Models” at SXSW. Here’s a description of this panel from

You make content. Good stuff. But it takes time, and money. Now you’re thinking – maybe I’ll aggregate content and be a trusted filter. Well, here’s your chance to grill the emerging aggregators. We’ll bring together folks from Web Publishing, Media, Indie Media, and content aggregation platforms to show what’s working and where it’s going.

The speaker was Steve Rosenbaum, founder of start up that creates platforms to aggregate/curate videos for websites. A heated debate between Joe and Mike about the ethics of aggregation sprang up in the audience after Steve’s panel. (fake names) Joe is the co-founder of an ad network for tech blogs. He sells their ad space to advertisers. Mike is a product manager at a company that owns some of the biggest free porn tube sites with millions of visitors a day. Porn tube sites aggregate thousands of videos from adult film companies, while making a profit from affiliate marketing and advertising.

“The tubes are making money off the studios’ investment of time and money, while the studios are forced to spend ever larger chunks of change to police the tubes and send endless takedown notices.”- Kathee Brewer, an editor at AVN, which covers the adult film industry

Argument highlights: Mike said bloggers are easily replaced like sweatshop workers because there is an overabundance of new blogs ready to fill their space. Joe responded that writers with respected brands and a large following are not created overnight. They eventually would agree to disagree.

I understand both of their views:

Mike thinks there is way too much content on the web, so one way to add value is to organize it and be paid for being a curator.

Joe wants producers to be rewarded for all their money, time, and energy it took to create content that people value.

Steve commented on this struggle in a blog:

We’re in the early days of content curration and monetization. So, if you asked the Wright Brothers if they’d have seats in First Class and Coach, they would have been hard pressed to answer standing in the back of their bicycle shop.

I agree with Steve. Technology will make this work-eventually.

Content producers can also become great curators. Imagine your favorite musicians and filmmakers filtering Internet clutter to showcase new artists. Joseph Gordon Levitt (actor from 500 days of Summer) has made a small step in the right direction with a site where creative people upload their videos, art, and music on the site to collaborate with other folks. If any content makes money splits 50% with its contributors after all the costs.

What are your thoughts on producers and aggregators?

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Posted in Uncategorized crowdsourcing movies video

peter katz is an award winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Peter has produced genre films that have screened all over the world from the AFI Fest to the Rome Film Festival. His first picture Home Sick starred Bill Moseley from The Devil's Rejects and Tom Towles from Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer. Next Peter worked with Tobe Hooper (director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist) on Mortuary, which premiered on the Sci Fi Channel. Most recently he was a producer on Pop Skull, a psychological ghost film, that has received great reviews in Variety and numerous film web sites. Currently, Peter is developing projects across various mediums including film, comics, and the web.

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By nick braccia, February 17th, 2010

About 5 years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Polly Frost and her husband Ray Sawhill through our mutual friend, Steve Vineberg. Immediately, we hit it off upon realizing we shared a passion for  horror, sci-fi and pulp. I have to admit I was a little intimidated; both Ray and Polly have pretty intense journalistic, critical and creative resumes. Polly was featured in James Toback’s documentary The Big Bang, has written and produced plays and published a multitude of articles. Her humor pieces and interviews have appeared in mags like The New Yorker, Elle and Interview, including this fabulous one with Julia Child. Ray covered books, arts and culture at Newsweek for years and has contributed pieces to Salon, among others. But what has really been exciting to watch  is how they’ve made a successful transition from being traditional media professionals to new media mavens, working on projects in as many as 3-4 mediums at a time. They’ve been especially adroit at using social networks for audience building and digital tools for distribution as well as adapting work for new channels. For example, Polly is a frequent contributor to Grin and Tonic, part of Barnes and Noble’s new, Nook-friendly content movement, as well as the ever growing online lit mag, Narrative.

The relevance to the Culture Hacker and greater Workbook Project audience is clear to anyone who has attended a DIY Days, or similar event. There is a consistent (and frustrated) population of writers and filmmakers who are struggling to make these new tools work for them. I wanted to reach out to Polly to see what they’ve done that’s different–what specific steps they’ve taken to make their work available to the largest audiences possible, almost completely on their terms.

Culture Hacker: Polly, the reason we’re excited about this interview is that you seem to be the exception to the rule. What do we mean? At events like DIY Days, we often meet filmmakers, novelists, playwrights and, for lack of a better term, “traditional artists” (I suppose we just mean pre-digital age artists) who are asking for help. New distribution systems elude them. Basic web technologies are burdens they don’t want to (and often believe they shouldn’t have to) suffer. But you not only transitioned–you’re flourishing! At what point did you begin to step into the digital space to either create or distribute your work?

Polly Frost: First, I’d like to say that I love what a pleasure it is to talk to Culture Hacker. I love what you’re doing with DIY Days and I’m glad to see that traditional artists and writers are making use of what you’re offering. I wish I’d had DIY Days when I started out.

However, I was lucky because, back in the ’90s, my husband was working as an arts reporter for Newsweek. He’d come home with this amazing information about how the media world was changing. He was right there, talking to all kinds of people involved in movies, publishing, technology.

At first I felt dizzy from the possibilities and anxious about my own lack of new media experience and expertise. But Ray and I decided to learn as best as Old Media people like us could! So we both put together websites pretty early on, at least pretty early on for writers! And we both applied ourselves to learning and studying some of the essential tools. I took Flash animation lessons from Tom Hart, a NYC comic strip artist and teacher at SVA. Ray learned video editing. It’s not like we’re professional at any of this, but just encountering it all does affect how you think about things. Developing a website is very different than developing a book, for instance.

A lot of people we know who have had impressive and productive careers in the old media have failed to move into the new world. Some of them tell me they hate everything about it. I even know a few who seem to have experienced complete personality collapses. I’m not unsympathetic; everything they knew and valued and were proud of has been yanked out from under them. It’s a very disruptive experience.

I think there are a whole bunch of reasons why so many old media people have such trouble:

1) Gatekeeping. I think they enjoyed being cultural gatekeepers. They’d worked hard to get themselves into those positions, for one thing. For another, I think they enjoyed being the prof or the critic, the person who was looked to (or who felt he was looked-to) for opinions and judgment. The new digital world is much more of a free-for-all. Puff yourself up too big and zillions of people throw mud at you. That’s not fun. Many old media people want a more dignified life than that. They want respect. But here’s how I think they should see it: this is a chance to move past the old boundaries and reach audiences you never had a chance to reach before. What I’ve discovered is that audiences are ready to take risks — even if the gatekeepers aren’t.

2) Interactivity. New media people and contemporary audiences raised on games and the web expect interactivity. People who grew up with the old media often don’t. They don’t even like it. I know a lot of artists and writers who don’t even have websites. They don’t want to be in touch with their audience or with the fans of their work. Why? Sometimes that comes from a desire to put themselves above their audience. Other times I believe it comes from the fact that many artists and writers are introverts and are more comfortable doing their work in seclusion. They don’t want to be influenced by their audience. But here’s my take on this: I love getting input from my audience and getting immediately the way you do today on the internet.

3) Free-form-ness. There’s no longer any one accepted way to do things. It used to be that there were certain definite paths by which an artist or writer’s work could achieve respect. You would strive to get into a certain gallery if you were a painter, or to be published by a particular magazine if you were a writer. These days, as we all know, a lot of that has been blown to smithereens. If you’re someone who likes established ways, it can be awful. Here’s how I see it: this is one of the greatest eras to be an artist or writer because there are so many possibilities to work in different mediums.

3) Initiative and promotion. Many writers and artists lack the desire or ability to promote themselves. It’s hard to believe, because we’re so used to Madonna, Oliver Stone, the legacy of Andy Warhol — people like that with no shyness about pushing themselves on the world. But it’s just true that many artists simply want to do their work, and wish that at that point someone else would take over — take over the “making it public” duties as well as the advertising and promotion duties. Even if you publish a book through a traditional publisher, 99% of the promotion is going to fall in your lap. If the book takes off, then maybe they’ll get on board. But so much is now up to you. That’s great, of course, but it can also be exhausting. And if you don’t have the appetite for it, it can be really depressing. Here’s my take on that: stop thinking about promoting yourself and start thinking about having a conversation. IMHO, you have to put out a lot of positive energy to get any back. And that’s a good thing.

4) New tools. Let’s face it, many writers and artists simply aren’t techies. Many of them went into the arts at least partly because they weren’t any good at math, engineering, technology. They’re more intuitive, more about feelings and imagination. The new digital tools are great but for non-techies they can be very daunting. Plus people who came up in the pre-digital world have already mastered their own pre-digital tools and methods. Now you want them to master a completely different set? It’s like being middle-aged and being parachuted into a completely different culture. You have to learn a new language, new habits, new ways of going about things. My take: don’t see it as something that’s a test, and don’t think you have to understand or do them as an expert. Let yourself venture into the unknown.

5) Everyone’s a critic. Nowadays everyone gets to have, and to express opinions and reactions. People on Amazon or on blogs sound off to their heart’s content. I think that’s great, but I may be unusual in this. I think many pre-digital creative people experience this kind of rough-and-ready handling as rude and degrading. They didn’t put in all these decades of work, study, and networking so that gangs of rubes and know-nothings could reject their work! They want to be given respectful consideration by people they themselves respect. My take on this is: Great! The more people who have opinions and write about the arts the better. Get to know these people and show them some respect and you’ll be amazed at how generous they are with what you’re doing.

But inspite of my own positive attitude about those  five aspects of the digital era, I still have to remember that it can leave a lot of artists and writers feeling very unmoored and very uncomfortable.

CH: In recent years you created two major works in old media forms: your collection of stories “Deep Inside,” and a series of live evenings at New York City clubs where actors would perform your fiction. But you’ve also created two major new-media works: an ambitious webseries called “The Fold,” and an audiobook called “Sex Scenes.” How did those old-media experiences affect the choices you made on “The Fold” and on “Sex Scenes“?


PF: I’m very proud of “Deep Inside” which was reviewed and written about over 50 times. I think Tor did a wonderful job publishing it. I confess, though, that I did find the pace of old-style book publishing amazingly grinding. It was almost two years between when I finished the writing of the last of the stories and when the book actually appeared on bookstore shelves. For the life of me I can’t understand why books aren’t produced a lot more quickly than they generally are.

When it came to producing “The Fold” and “Sex Scenes,” one of the goals that was high on my list was to work much more quickly and directly than I was used to doing in the old media world. Have an idea, give it form, and get it out there, dammit.

The main way I benefited from putting on the live shows was completely different. I loved them, the hustle of it, the suspense, the scrappiness, getting to work with amazing actors, the immediacy of the audience’s response. Talk about a great way to test material! But what I mainly found myself doing was developing a kind of informal ensemble of people who I liked working with, actors whose work and spirit I loved. Many of the people we used in “The Fold” and in “Sex Scenes” were performers I’d first come to know during my years of putting on live shows.

I think it’s also fair to say that I developed a taste for working collaboratively thanks to the live shows. We writers are often fanatics about being on our own, having the last say, controlling everything, and I’m certainly prone to all of the above. But when you’re working in the theater, it’s all about working with other people. You’ve got to open to that experience or there’s no real point to being there. And I found I loved it. It’s not like I’ve lost my taste for solitary creation. But I certainly did learn to love collaboration, seeing what other people can bring to the table, and figuring out ways to partner-dance with that.

The Fold

“The Fold” came about in a classic New York City downtown kind of way. I was eating regularly at the Cedar Tavern, and I’d strike up these conversations with a good looking young waiter there named Matt Lambert. It turned out he was a recent graduate from NYU in film, so we swapped works. I gave him some writing, he showed me some films. And we wound up, along with my husband, drinking a lot of wine and beer and dreaming up what became “The Fold.”

At the time, about three years ago, webseries were new and hot. And one thing the three of us shared was a love of crazy ’70s sex-trash-poetry movies. No one was really making these films any longer and we all thought that someone should. So we had the idea that we could use the webseries format as a way to project the same kinds of nutty entertainment values that the old ’70s midnight movies had peddled. Short version: there was no way to make a movie-movie that would essentially be a blend of “Barbarella” and “The Three Stooges” — who’d finance it? Which theater would show it? But using DV and the techies and performers the three of us knew, we could put on our own show. A classic case of, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!”

“Sex Scenes,” which is an audio project that I wrote and produced with Ray, developed a little differently. The two of us are huge fans of audio generally. We listen to audiobooks together on long trips. My book “Deep Inside” was turned into an audiobook, and I had the chance to sit in on that process, and Ray is a total Teaching Company addict.

Anyway, many of the stories in “Sex Scenes” are things that we first developed live, during those live evenings we’ve talked about. When we’d rounded the project off as a live thing, which took a couple of years, we started to think about what we’d do with the material, and we realized that it was perfect for an unconventional audiobook. What we envisioned was a collection of linked radio plays, with real vocal performances and even some sound and atmospheric effects.

We knew we wanted complete control over the project, and we knew that we wanted to do something beyond our own skills. It was a project that would need more than just a basic GarageBand production. So I went around the city checking out sound studios. Luckily for us, business was slow, so we got a decent rate at Georgia Hilton’s Worldwide Audio, where we worked with two really gifted young techies, Dan Cioffi and Casey Zanowic, who loved rocking out on “Sex Scenes.” Many of the actors we’d already worked with came in to read the characters. We spent two months and tens of thousands of dollars producing over ten hours’ worth of audio storytelling.

In the spirit of maintaining total control we also decided that we wanted to distribute the project ourselves. So we went ahead with that. We had a website created, we printed up bunches of MP3 CDs for people who’d want hard copies, and we arranged with E-Junkie to sell “Sex Scenes” via downloads too.

I learned a lot while I embraced these new formats. The main thing is that it’s a blast. So long as you’re someone who can work within limitations, you really can make what you want to make these days, and put it out there in ways that suit you.

That said, there are many challenges. One is something I touched on early on — it’s all up to you, or up to you and your collaborators. Designing the logo, the CD cover … Figuring out who to work with … Wrestling with the back end of online-money places, things like that. It can drive you nuts, especially if you have no gift for that kind of thing.

Another real problem is getting the kind of notice your work deserves. This is still major. With “The Fold” we had pretty good luck getting noticed. Our proudest moment came when David Chute, who’s one of the country’s best film critics, wrote that “The Fold” reminded him of early John Waters and early Almodovar. He wasn’t just open to watching something that wasn’t a conventional movie, he really got what we were up to. And Geno McGahee, who makes horror movies, loved “The Fold” and wrote wonderfully about it. Coverage like that helped attract tens of thousands of viewers, many more than would have seen “The Fold” if we’d made it as a movie. We were grateful for the reviewers who saw that a webseries could have the same value as a feature film.


We had less luck with “Sex Scenes.” Which is something we didn’t expect, because the live performances of “Sex Scenes” were big hits, almost always filled any house across the country and were well-covered in magazines and alternative newspapers. Yet those same media places wouldn’t spare any coverage for the recorded audio version of the project.

We’re super-proud of “Sex Scenes,” which is satirical, up to the moment, and raunchy in a way the world could really use now. It’s a funny, rowdy audio entertainment, but it also, y’know, says something about the modern world. Just between you and me, it’s a major work! It’s certainly the most ambitious thing Ray and I have ever written, and may ever write. But almost no one has wanted to cover it. People who run across “Sex Scenes” love it. Though we’re a long way from recovering our costs, we’ve sold copies of it to people in Denmark, Germany, and India as well as in the States and England. But we’ve gotten almost no help from the usual media outlets, who we’d thought would find the project interesting, if only from a cool-new-thing point of view. We’ve gotten almost no help even from the blogworld, which is maybe even weirder.

When we try to figure out why there has been such resistance or uninterest, we’re a little baffled. What’s not cool and newsworthy about a satirical, sexy, independently produced audiobook that grew out of a long-running live downtown event? If I were a critic or editor, I’d be a lot more interested in that project than I would be in the latest literary novel. So how to explain it? The best explanation we’ve come up with is that we’re ahead of the times. From a squaresville, old-media perspective, maybe it’s confusing. After all, what is “Sex Scenes”? And in what section of the magazine should it be covered? Under “Books”? “Music”? Maybe “Theater”? Meanwhile, big-budget movies and stars demand attention, and as everyone dithers “Sex Scenes” falls by the wayside.

What it has all illustrated for us is one major — and let me repeat that, MAJOR — challenge in the new-media space, which is that too many people who could write well about new media prefer to write about old media. They’d rather review the latest new movie than check out a webvideo or an independent audio production. Here’s this incredible new media world developing right under their noses — wouldn’t you think people would want to cover it? But all a lot of people want to do — and this includes many people like bloggers who you’d think would be more open — is offer an opinion about what’s new at the mall or mega bookstore.

Incidentally, it’s possible I’m being unfair here. It may not be the journalists, critics and reviewers who are the problem, it may be their bosses and editors. As for the bloggers, well, they really ought to be taking more chances than they do. There is going to be someone who recognizes what a golden era this is and they’re going to be the Pauline Kael or Manny Farber of new media.

Here’s the kind of advice would I would offer to old-media people who are just beginning to think about entering the new media world:

1) The key thing to understand is that you don’t have to wait around for validation any longer. That’s a huge change, and it’s one that takes some getting used to. Using the new tools, you can create, publish and distribute your own work. Nothing can stop you from moving forward with your creative projects. The age of the person who loafs around complaining that publishers don’t get him, or that no one’s throwing millions at him to make his movie — that’s over, and about time. If you really want to publish your novel entirely on your own terms, let me introduce you to Lulu and CreateSpace. If you really want to make your own movie your own way, scrape together $10,000 like we did for “The Fold” and just go make it.

2) You need to be very confident about the value of your work. Why? Because so much is going to be up to you. You aren’t done when you’ve finished painting your painting or writing your novel. Now you have to think in terms of arranging distribution, publicity, and finances. You really have to learn a bit about all these things, and you have to have the persistence and patience to make your way through some pretty confusing mazes. You guys who have been coding and creating digitally for ages can laugh, but to a novelist, even something as basic as setting up a WordPress blog can look terrifying. And who do they turn to for help?

Incidentally, I highly recommend the website-making service called Squarespace. Ray and I both use Squarespace for our personal websites, and we had a very beautiful website for “Sex Scenes” created on Squarespace. I don’t know why the service isn’t better known than it is.

3) As far as promotion goes: One thing I often run across is artists who’ll fasten on a “system” for promoting their work. They’ll hear that they need to create a Fan Page for themselves on Facebook, or they need to maintain a mailing list, or to cajole their friends into voting for them in some poll or other. I don’t think most of these approaches accomplish much, except sometimes on a short term basis. I mean, what’s the point of forcing your friends to join your Fan Page? They’re not going to look forward to your Fan Page updates and they’re going to resent you.

4) The one thing I have learned is to be very adaptable. I seem to have my best luck when I change the ways in which I go about things on a regular basis. I’ve had to learn to embrace the unknowable! IMHO, the age of having “a career” as an artist or writer is over anyway. As soon as you try to identify yourself in a certain way the rug is going to be pulled out from under you. You’ll define yourself as a novelist only to find that no one wants to read novels any longer. It’s best to go with your instincts and do the work you believe in and get it out there. Don’t try to define yourself in a branding way. Let history — if history exists in a hundred years! — define you.

Part Two of this interview/profile will be coming soon!

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Posted in Person of Interest audience-building experimental transmedia video

nick braccia is a Creative Director at G2 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Earlier in his career, he spent 7 years developing concepts for Masterfoods and P&G clients as part of G2 in New York City. Since 2001, he's explored his passion for immersive narrative experiences and contributed to the ARGs "Catching the Wish" and "Unnatural Selection" under the direction of author and guru, Dave Szulborski. Recently, Nick directed "No Known Survivors" to support EA's horror survival title Dead Space and "Vroengard Academy", promoting the Random House title, Brisingr. These projects were conceived and completed while working for Ian Schafer's integrated interactive agency, Deep Focus in New York and Los Angeles.

By robert pratten, December 18th, 2009

I’ve been working with two entertainment properties and a media start-up the past couple of months and I wanted to share the business models I developed to explain where we’re heading.

Here’s what we already know:  pulling in an audience is tough but pulling in finance is tougher.

The Old Days

In the “old days” – as shown in Figure 1 – raising finance was what you did first. You needed that money to make the movie and then you’d sell the movie to a distributor whose job it was to sell it to the audience. Hell, you might even get presales in which case you’d killed two birds with one stone.

The important point from this is that as the filmmaker you only had to convince a limited number of people (investors) that you had a movie worth making (because it would make money). You didn’t have to convince them it was worth watching.

One reason you didn’t have to prove you had an audience waiting to see your movie was because it couldn’t be proven. Instead, one might use (often bogus) comparisons with other movies and of course, whenever possible, outliers like The Blair Witch Project or Fahrenheit 911 or Sideways etc.

When the finished movie failed to find an audience it was the distributor’s fault. They didn’t know how to position the movie correctly. They didn’t spend enough money on P&A. The box art was crap.

Figure 1

"Old" Filmmaking Model

"Old" Filmmaking Model

Having worked with our distributors in some markets and selling directly at some horror conventions, it’s very sobering to get a firsthand experience of audience expectations.

Me: It’s about love and sacrifice and how you don’t notice you’re onto something good until it’s gone.

Horror fan: GreatHow much T&A is there?

The New Model

When MySpace, Facebook, YouTube etc. arrived it became possible to raise awareness of the movie and start building an audience before the movie was released. But still it felt like something peripheral to the marketing of the movie. The audience building was an industry-side activity that you could take to the distributor with your one-sheet and your reviews: look we have several thousand fans. Most of whom in all likelihood were other independents flogging a movie or a book.

Today, most filmmakers – maybe not Culture Hacker readers – but most filmmakers still have the mindset towards social media that it’s a new spam tool. Look, now I can pester people to be my “fan” and I can get them to pester their friends to be my “fan”. Please Digg me up. Please Stumble on me. It’s the worst kind of networking: “please help me” they bleat.

Worst still are the crowdfunders: “please give me money”.  I’m not against audiences paying upfront – as with the Kickstarter model – so it’s not the principle, it’s typically execution I have a problem with. And I totally believe in the power of social media but I don’t like it when it’s so often used in an unproductive, disappointing way.

So enter the new model of filmmaking as shown in Figure 2:

  • there’s a genuine affection… nay, anticipation… between the audience and the movie
  • the affection is leveraged to pre-sell to the audience while still raising finance in the traditional way
  • when the movie is available for viewing, it might be that only a subset of the audience will pay for it. So they’ll be simultaneous free exhibition and sales.

At this time it’s hard to believe that serious money is going to be raised to finance a movie through crowdsourcing. Some money? Maybe. Millions? I doubt it. And so for expensive feature films there’s still a place for large-ticket or savvy investors.  Please forget about Obama’s fundraising blah blah blah. It’s an outlier. And where’s his socially networked audience when he needs them to fight for healthcare? They’ve gone missing. Maybe Obama’s massive email list isn’t really his personal fan base? Maybe the people on that email database were fans of his first movie but don’t like his second?

What this says as to us as filmmakers is that we’re going to be only as good as our next movie. Don’t expect your 1000 mythical spending fans to follow you from movie to movie regardless of what you propose to make.

Figure 2

"New" Filmmaking Model

"New" Filmmaking Model

My point is that independents are going to have to start audience building early and prove that there’s an appetite for their movie. And so this brings me to my final model.

The Transmedia Model

Raising awareness and audience building is tough. It’s tough enough when you have a finished movie but try doing it for a movie that’s yet to be made.

And that’s why I think we’ll move to a transmedia model for filmmaking in which the filmmaker uses his own money to make some (low-cost) content to build an audience ahead of doing anything else.

There’s long been a school of thought that says to get finance for your feature you should shoot the trailer or shoot a short film based on the feature. I know this can work but I’ve never been a fan of this approach if only because I know finance is most often raised without it. Amazingly though this week, as I write, this short film Panic Attack secured a movie deal.

What transmedia storytelling offers however is not the  Cinderella story of “big investor swoops to finance movie” but a genuine, low-cost, grass-roots audience building.

Right now, (online) comic books seem to be the order of the day – offering an excellent way to engage audiences in the story and show some visual flare or at worst nice eye candy to grab attention. But there’s lots of untapped potential for simple social games utilizing Twitter and social networks without the need for coding:  we just don’t have enough reference cases to illustrate all the possibilities yet.

A small word of warning: the content has to have value. It can’t be a trailer or marketing fluff – you have to produce the real McCoy if you’re going to capture audiences.

Transmedia Filmmaking Business Model

Transmedia Filmmaking Business Model

In the transmedia filmmaking model, the financing, exhibition and fundraising work together in tandem with the potential for the feature film to become self-funding. Remember that it’s not all for free! Free is your loss-leader to generate the money. Even if it’s “real content” you might still effectively look at it as a marketing cost – it can help to position it in this way to investors. And note that what’s free and what’s paid will be in flux – maybe changing over time and from media to media.

So in the ideal scenario the filmmaker bootstraps the movie with the low-cost media, the website, presumably some merchandise but then it’s up to the audience to decide what happens next.  The filmmaker will use a basket of financing initiatives: free, pre-paid, paid, paid+, investment and sponsorship (including brand integration/product placement) to finance the movie.  [Paid+ is where buyers can opt to pay more than the base price – usually via a drop-down menu of price points.]

This model has several implications:

  • If you do it right they’ll be demand for more content… which maybe you can’t afford to make in the early days. Or at least can’t afford to make alone. And that’s why collaboration of all kinds is important to the indie – with audiences and with other filmmakers.  Collaboration platforms like Wreakamovie are going to save the indie.
  • Sponsorship in the form of cash (rather than products for free) from brands won’t solely go to properties with big audiences. If your story reaches the audiences that other marketing finds hard to reach then that’s going to work too. The one significant problem I can see is that few brands want to be associated with edgy content… unless it’s “edgy” in the Green Day plastic-punk, manufactured sense rather than the raw, authentic Poison Girls/Flux of Pink Indians edgy. Counterbalancing this is fans who may appreciate that you’ve rejected the brands… maybe
  • Filmmakers are going to become familiar with audience needs and they’ll learn how to captivate them. It won’t be anyone else’s fault that you don’t have an audience. There’s no opportunity to finish the movie and then throw it over the wall to someone else to find the audience for it
  • Free media is a feeler gauge: collect comments, listen to feedback, evolve the feature to meet the audience expectations
  • It’s going to be a long commitment to the audience so be sure you pick a story you really want to tell.  Indies that follow this transmedia model will be offering an evolving service rather than a one-off product and that means audiences become customers that need to be listened to, responded to, cared for and managed
  • If you perfect this evolving transmedia ecosystem you may ask yourself if you still want to make a feature after all.

A final sobering thought: I know we’d all like to believe that story is king but audiences will only discover the story if you hook them in. Don’t expect anyone to delve deeply into your storyworld looking for brilliance. You have to provide “satellite media” that orbits the core: it’s easy to digest and looks cool or fun. Celebrity cast or crew and genre are going to get attention and convey credibility – just as they always have.

I’ve illustrated this in the figure below where I’ve taken the sales funnel model and used it to illustrate how you want to pull in audiences, turning casual interest to hardcore repeat purchases.

Matching Content to Audience Commitment

Matching Content to Audience Commitment

To summarize then, filmmakers will move to transmedia storytelling because it’s going to be the way you build audiences. And building an audience will unlock the financing – either from fans, sponsors or investors. But it’s going to demand new skills.


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robert pratten Robert Pratten is CEO and Founder of Transmedia Storyteller Ltd, an audience engagement company and provider of Conducttr, an pervasive entertainment platform. He has more than 20 years experience as an international marketing consultant and has established himself as a thought-leader in the field of transmedia storytelling. He is author of the first practical book transmedia storytelling: Getting Started in Transmedia Storytelling: A Practical Guide for Beginners.

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