November 24, 2010

Choosing an Online Video Platform: YouTube Pt. 1

This is a guest post by filmmaker Robin Schmidt a.k.a. El Skid.

If you receive Koo’s regular newsletter (and you should by the way) you’ll have recently read a short appraisal of the various video sharing sites currently around. I’ve been developing a weekly comedy show called Super Massive Raver which we’re looking to monetize online and, believe me, once you start digging into this area the reading gets pretty grim pretty quickly.

Online self-distribution is fantastic as it allows us to create and develop our own audience, communicating directly with them and creating genuine loyalty. Boy, does it take a lot of work though. Koo and myself appear to have taken a pretty long-term approach to this, building a community around what we do as filmmakers rather than around a production. We both blog heavily and try and provide a useful point of contact with our future audience. The goal for every filmmaker is to create sustainability, not just great work. I’m constantly trying to make the current job lead logically onto the next one, either by demonstrating a skill, or by generating funds to make the next production possible, faster.

A great book on indie filmmaking struggles is Roger Corman’s ‘How I made a hundred movies in Hollywood and never lost a dime.’ Roger’s films weren’t always the best but he was constantly shooting, using the funds from the previous film to finance the next one. And he made money. How rare is that?

To me the classic filmmaker’s struggle of spending ten months making a short film that hardly anyone sees (festival plaudits are great, but what do they really get you?) before making a feature film that no-one sees before finally being able to make a film that might or might not be successful, just isn’t that appealling. Creating and shooting an online series that forces me to work really hard to be creative, gets me directing regularly and often, and, crucially, builds an audience for my work – now that’s a model I’m interested in.

Don’t get me wrong I still want to shoot shorts and feature films but the system is flawed, broken and outdated so this is my way of making the current models work for me.

Sustainability is the key to making this possible. I need my work to pay for itself. There are video platforms out there that give you the opportunity to monetize your work: Revision 3, Blip TV, Koldcast, Film Annex, MiShorts, newly conceived Itzon and of course the daddy of them all YouTube. How much money can you make from these? Well, probably not quite enough, is the honest answer. So, the trick is to develop a funding model where you’re not relying 100% on the platform at the outset but can build the project to a point where it will begin to pay for itself. How long that takes depends entirely on your ability to draw eyeballs to your content and, more than anything else, on the content you decide to put your efforts behind. More on that in the next post.

For our project, Super Massive Raver, we looked at all the platforms available to us and quickly came to the conclusion that there really was only one choice. Right now, YouTube is streets ahead of the other platforms in terms of its audience numbers and social interactions. It’s hideously basic and clunky but the potential to grow and build an insanely large audience made it the right choice for us. However, it doesn’t preclude us using other platforms to put our work up on. If, further down the line we decide to spin off a series of episodes for Blip.tv for instance, then we can do that too. In that sense we can be very flexible.

The YouTube Partner program allows content creators who regularly upload videos that many people watch to monetize their content through ads. If you try and find out how much that will likely earn you it’s almost impossible to discover. No-one’s giving up any figures. There's a rough figure around that you can earn somewhere between $2.5 to $5 per 1000 video views, with the most popular stars earning us much as $5 per 1000 views. That would mean around $5000 for a million views. ((Ed. Note: These are CPM figures, which YouTube and others forbid partners from disclosing. If you're trying to calculate what you could make from a video view, I would not recommend penciling in anything higher than a $5 CPM, unless you have more research to rely on, because every market is different.)) Of course those top guys can often far surpass a million but it's still not going to make you rich. There are also fees for subscribers (around $.05 per sub) and channel views ($.01 per view). So, the best way to monetize your content is actually going to be leveraging the exposure for other gigs, and selling merchandise around what you do. Probably!

The funny thing about YouTube is that a video is a video, regardless of its length or content. If you’re a heavily subscribed channel owner and you upload a 20sec piece to camera, it pays as much as a ten minute scripted well-produced comedy skit. That one simple fact should be uppermost when designing content for YouTube. We keep hearing that content is king and I always disagree. Content is incredibly important but, for me, Audience is King.

In the next post I’ll explain how I’ve been going about cracking the YouTube conundrum and what I’ve learned over the last three months. YouTube is a numbers game and it actually feels a lot more like a game than I ever imagined it would. In that sense it’s actually quite fun. Who’d have thought?


I’m Robin Schmidt, also known in music video circles as El Skid. I’m a freelance director, editor and latterly cameraman, as well as doing all sorts of other bits and pieces like graphics and voiceovers. I am not a director of photography. And never will be. I’ve been working in music video, corporate and extreme sports up till now but my big love is drama, which is easily the toughest directing game to gain any kind of foothold in. I set up the production company Chrome Productions in 2002 which served as a brilliant apprenticeship for learning key skills, but I’ve now left to pursue drama, not necessarily in the conventional way, but in a way that reflects the changing landscape of filmmaking today, and the one that does away with all the bullshit that seems to float around this business. Earlier this year I won the Bahamas 14 Islands Film Challenge and earned the right to work with Canon as a pro envoy for video and convergence (a fancy term for shooting on DSLRs). I was also named one of Moviescope Magazine’s ‘One to Watch’ which must mean I’m doing something right! I'm currently running a crowdfunding campaign for my series Super Massive Raver.

Your Comment

10 Comments

This is really a great time to be a content creator! The technologies we need to create entertainment are affordable and readily available. And now we have a free international distributor, through which we can actually earn revenue from our short-form work!!! Things are getting better by the minute.

I fully understand that it takes a lot of work to make real money this way; but it's well worth the effort to actually earn a living from my own creations. Any information, tips and experiences you can share, that would help me to achieve this goal, would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks!

November 24, 2010

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Good stuff, I just launched my own series and we ended up on YouTube for the ease of use and the large audience. A couple vids are I guess now in consideration for Partner status, but I haven't taken the time to apply to be a partner yet.

In any case, looking forward to the next articles.

Thanks,
L

November 24, 2010

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L

Thanks, it's a long slow process and you need to really really work the system but I'll talk about all that in the next post.
cheers

R

November 25, 2010

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Have you been in many film festivals with your own work to say that? I have respect for filmmakers who make a feature film and manage to get it into some festivals or even get a cinema release. They inspire me and i think they learned something you seem to lack, to be humble. Filmmakers who make a feature film learned to make mistakes if anything , they will be better and better next time around. Filmmaking is not about you tube hits and yes , it is about content, unless as you said, you are a cameraman. Your work is all about style but doesn't say much, sorry!

if you think you are better tham them (by never making a feature film or even a short film ) then keep on making videos for you tube and be an excellent videographer but perhaps let the filmmakers who actually make films , even if they fail at it , even if they don't have that many you tube hits, talk about making films . Your project seems to be going well and I wish you the best but don't believe the hype, i, for once found smr utterly stupid.

November 25, 2010

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justin

Hi Justin,

SMR isn't for everyone, that's for sure, but you can't hope to please everyone with what you do. I seem to have angered you somewhat and for that I apologise. Dig a little deeper and hopefully you'll find some other pieces of work that I've done which may meet your criteria of 'saying something'. For me, given that I'm working in satire, I'd argue you that Super Massive Raver says a great deal about the state of celebrity culture in the UK at the moment. But that's just my point of view as the filmmaker. Right now, I think the festival system is antiquated and hasn't changed much to reflect the way young filmmakers need to be supported. Great people like Future Shorts are an exception and have really taken great strides to address this and should be applauded for it.

I've never ever said I was better than anyone, and if you think I lack humility then thats a shame. I'm very well aware of my own shortcomings as a filmmaker and am working hard to address them. As someone who never went to film school, built a successful company from scratch with no prior experience and is completely self-taught as a director, editor, cameraman and motion graphics artist, I would hope I've earned the right to have an opinion.

SMR is just one of many projects I'm involved in and yes, I have short films going through the festivals at the moment, I won the Bahamas 14 Islands Film Challenge earlier this year and my short 'Monument' was a finalist in two big UK competitions. This year I shot a one hour drama pilot and a comedy short 'Please Hold' which will be doing the festivals in 2011. Hopefully that helps you understand that my opinions come from a place of experience....

December 20, 2010

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Justin,

Don't you think your stance is a little pretentious? You have to enter material into a film festival in order for it to be worthwhile? I think just the opposite. I think the boom of Youtube and Vimeo have given filmmakers an amazing tool to get their work in front of many more people. I work for a large non profit and we've entered documentaries into film festivals. i think putting the same documentaries on Youtube and Vimeo give me and this organization a better chance at having out work seen. Film festivals are completely subjective. You have judges who determine whether your work is good enough to even make it in. On Youtube and Vimeo there is no one deciding what people will or won't see. it's up to the viewer themselves. I'll take that model any day of the week.

December 20, 2010

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I was at the YouTube conference this summer in LA and the YouTube product managers said some of the tops publishers are making over $100,000 per month.

November 28, 2010

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Hey great article. We offer a more commercial solution: http://get.buto.tv - it's ad-free (unlike YouTube) and lets you do amazing things with your video like auto-publish to iPhone and even offers clickable video. If you're looking for a pro video host, check us out!

December 1, 2010

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Compelling article, Robin. I hear you about audience is king...but one first needs the content to attract and build the audience which then, if properly engaged, will transform into "community". Thanks again, Cory

April 28, 2011

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Generally I do not read article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a
look at and do it! Your writing style has been surprised
me. Thank you, very nice post.

March 10, 2014

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