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The Most Disruptive Innovation in Filmmaking Today: DIY Audience Building

05.31.12 @ 2:15PM Tags : , ,

This is a guest post by Brian Newman.

Freddie Wong (FreddieW). Ryan Higa (NigaHiga). Jenna Marbles. Kevin Wu (KevJumba). These are four names that I can mention in conversation with almost everyone I know in the independent film business and get blank stares. They aren’t the only four names that I could mention, but to me, they are arguably the four most important names that every indie should know about, but somehow no one does (hyperbole, I know).

For those of you not already in the know, each of these folks are in the top 10 channels on YouTube, based on number of subscribers, and to make that more clear – that means they all have over 2 Million subscribers. FreddieW has over 3M and Ryan has over 5 Million. That’s just subscribers. If you look at actual viewership, Ryan’s videos have been viewed over 1.7 Billion times, yes, with a ‘B.’ Each video FreddieW makes gets an average of 4 Million views, and he also makes how-to videos of each video, which routinely get hundreds of thousands of views. The hilarious “How to Avoid Talking to People You Don’t Want to Talk To” video by Jenna Marbles has been viewed over 23 Million times.

FreddieW did a Kickstarter last year for a new 10 episode, roughly 10 minutes long each, feature called Video Game High School. He turned that audience into about $274,000 of funding (versus a 75K goal) and quickly made his episodic feature. Episodes one through three have premiered on RocketJump over the last two weeks. To my knowledge, he bypassed the festival world entirely. Here’s episode one:

Independent Filmmakers: You have been disrupted. As in disruptive innovation. It’s a business term from Clayton Christensen, usually applied to companies: a little company disrupts an incumbent when they operate in an area that is of too little value to the incumbent. As the start-up grows, it takes on other “low value” segments of the incumbent’s business. The incumbent can’t afford to adapt and serve these areas and before they know it, they’ve been undercut by the small folks, who then usually take over the incumbent’s business.

Disruptive Innovation is probably the most over-hyped concept in business, so I hate to circle back to it again here, but lately I’ve realized that the disruptive innovation in independent film that matters isn’t what’s happening in business – where start-ups are developing the new models of distribution and exhibition, etc. The real disruption is happening among the makers.

While the old school indies (even, and importantly, the young ones) have embraced new technologies such as cheaper cameras and new methods of editing, they’ve been slower to embrace the real change from digital – the direct connection to their audience.

Time and again, I see it – filmmaker makes interesting short. They don’t have a good website for themselves, have no presence on YouTube and valiantly spend more cash on festival entry fees than you can imagine. If they are lucky, the get into some festivals, but a year later, they still haven’t bothered to put it online. They’ve been seen by perhaps a few thousand people in theaters, have maybe amassed an email list of 50 names and 200 people have liked their film on Facebook. Five years from now, they’ll probably have two features under their belt, and if they’re really lucky, one of those films will get picked up and play one week at IFC Center to about 2,000 people total and then be on VOD and DVD for perhaps another 5000 viewers. They still won’t know who their audience is or how to reach them.

Meanwhile, there will be a new crop of another four names, unheard of now, who spend that same time building their audience online and reach millions with their work. Those millions of views will translate into several thousand who will fund their next creative project – be it a feature or just another websiode.  The four mentioned above will probably have quadrupled their audience and will likely still be going direct to that audience, bypassing the indie system entirely. They’ll likely be making more money than their counterparts in the indie film world too. It would be nice to make a living doing what you love, right!

The “old school” indies will shake their heads and talk about how they make art and that you can’t compare the two – an indie film in a theater is different than some 4 minute video. They won’t know where to begin in building that kind of audience, or that kind of career.

Someone else came along and built it under their noses, and now none of that audience will care about the difference between RocketJump and Sundance. In fact, they’ll probably think of Sundance as something like the Metropolitan Opera – a place you go to see a wonderful artform that you know you should respect, but that no one cares about anymore and which very few can afford to make or attend. Hyperbole again, but sometimes it’s only through such overstatement that we can glimpse the truth.

Brian Newman (@bnewman01) is the founder of Sub-Genre Media, a film and new media production, distribution and marketing company. Sub-Genre specializes in fundraising, audience development, transmedia business practices and distribution strategies. Brian was most recently CEO of the Tribeca Film Institute.

This post originally appeared on Brian’s site, and dovetails nicely with another recent guest post about audience-building on YouTube. Also see the YouTube Creator Playbook and our Choosing Online Video series.


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Luke Neumann on 05.31.12 @ 2:36PM

    GREAT article. Could be viewed as harsh and pessimistic but I think it is spot on with how things are shaping up. This might be taking it too far, but I can see in the next 4-5 years, someone turning down a TV offer if they had enough of an audience online. Let’s not forget that each YouTube video FreddieW uploads comes back as income. I would guess that each video on his page earns him $800-$1500 per day. Possibly more. EACH video.

    Complete control over content (when compared to signing a TV deal or working with a studio), no deadlines, direct access to the audience. It is a sweet gig and I think all filmmakers have a chance to get a piece of it. You just need to work at building an audience, like you said.

    • What about a combination of the two.
      Create thousands of small, affordable Cinemas in the middle of communities.
      Pay movie makers a “small fee” for each screening of their movie.
      If the movie is good “in the eyes of the audience” It may be screened multiple times.
      Say $10 per screening to the producers x 1000 Cinemas x 10 screenings.
      Viewers pay $1 to $2 x 50 seats x 6 shows per day.

      Everybody makes a living !

      Works for me in South Africa

  • This is an awesome post. Those who don’t update their beliefs are doomed to fall into the past and irrelevance. I have my own short form film/media upstart that tries to take the best of creative short work , audience participation and takes advantage of new media outlets. So we can kill two to three birds with one stone. I’ve encountered many filmmakers who practically spit at me when I tell them that its one thing create content for a niche within a niche group such as independent filmmaker. but The mainstream niche of youtube/vimeo is actually growing to where online content is gaining more immediate response that is in turn making a profit and helping artist realize dreams. When Dan Trachtenberg made the PORTAL 2 short film on youtube, he received what most indie filmmakers crave a chance to do a feature and get themselves known. At the end of the day the ends justify the means and acting as if their is some sort of holy road or holy grail will only leave you bitter when you see your peers getting opportunities that your not.

  • You can also see this with what Trent Reznor has done recently with releasing music for “free”. I think he made more money selling Ghosts I-IV than he did with “The Fragile”. Of course Trent Reznor spent 20+ years building an audience with Nine Inch Nails, so he can do this sorta thing.

    I’m wondering if that following would be willing to pay for DVD’s or digital downloads or Blu-Rays. If film makers can bypass distributors etc.. and simply sell their product themselves, they’d make a lot more money as well and avoid things like the Writers Guild or Directors Guild. I think a writer gets 5 cents per DVD sold. Imagine if you write and direct and get $10? Of course this is all predicated on building an audience willing to pay for items.

    It’s a brave new world.

  • One problem is. The film festival route WILL LAUNCH A Director’s Career while posting up videos on youtube will get you little money from ads and build an audience but lets face it no one putting up 34 minute videos will get an agent or manager as a director and I don’t know about you guys but I’m trying to launch a career not upload videos to youtube.

    • Luke Neumann on 05.31.12 @ 3:45PM

      Someone just made a point about the guy that did “Portal 2″. There was the filmmaker that did the Mortal Kombat web series that eventually signed a deal to do a Mortal Kombat movie. It can be done and I would bet that it happens more in the future.

      I think what you can take away from this article is that, at the very least, it’s a fresh new option for up and comers. You don’t have to tread the same path to success as before. Sure, it might lead to something different than what going the Film Festival route might, but is that a bad thing?

      Let’s examine the highest goal for each path.

      Film Festival route – You make big budget Hollywood films and make $5-$10 million a year but are always having your vision compromised, you are constantly on a timer and you always have someone to answer to.

      YouTube route – You make WHATEVER you want because you have built an audience that likes your work, whatever it may be. You make $1-$2 million a year depending on how you are able to market yourself. You are always in full control (considerably), you make your own schedule, and you tell your stories the way you want them to be told.

      How much money are you willing to sacrifice for creative control? Fame and recognition isn’t a factor because you could argue that a top YouTube guy is more known than a middle of the road Hollywood Director. People like your channel and your films because you are the face of it.

    • “lets face it no one putting up 34 minute videos will get an agent or manager as a director and I don’t know about you guys but I’m trying to launch a career not upload videos to youtube.”

      I did a no-budget web series that got me an agent and a manager. Zack and I posted three episodes, we won the Webby, the phone rang and it was UTA on the line.

      Lena Dunham did a web series before she made a feature and I’m pretty sure her career is doing kind of okay right now.

      “I’m trying to launch a career not upload videos to youtube” sounds like exactly the “old school indie” attitude that Bryan’s talking about. Meanwhile Lena is writing, directing, and starring in her own show on HBO.

      No one is saying “you have to go this route.” But it’s damn sure a viable option and one that shouldn’t be discounted so easily.

      • Fair point, but Lena’s a bad example. It’s unlikely her career path has anything to do with YouTube. Connections > one-among-the-ether ALWAYS.

        I think you’re also assuming that many filmmakers HAVEN’T tried the ‘tube. There’s probably ten million dashed dreams hovering around 200 views (or even a million).

        • “Lena’s a bad example. It’s unlikely her career path has anything to do with YouTube.”

          Well, I think whether or not a video is hovering at 200 or a million views, Lena and a lot of other people’s careers started on YouTube by virtue of that being the place where they cut their teeth. Where they first put themselves out there and discovered their voice.

          I was on a panel with Lena the day after Tiny Furniture won SXSW. That was really the jumping off point (IMHO) and that was a DSLR-shot low-budget feature. Delusional Downtown Divas (web series) led to Creative Nonfiction (feature) which led to Tiny Furniture (I may have switched the order of one of those first two). One can always say “well, THAT didn’t directly lead to THIS” but in the sense that talent leads to a career… Yes it did.

          I think Lena actually took her stuff off YouTube because the commenters were so mean. It’s a real consideration. But just because we’re using YouTube as an example doesn’t mean it’s the only game in town. Blip, Vimeo, etc… There are other options. You don’t need MILLIONS of subscribers to be successful. Which reminds me of Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans:

          • Lena Dunham is a horrible example. She is only where she’s at b/c of her mother. Nepotism is the sole reason why she got her own show.

    • So not true. Issa Rae star and creator of signed with two different major agents. I also shot my first webseries, about life after cancer in March 2012 and was able to become a member of the Writers Guild of America East because of that series. As a member of the WGA you can submit your series to the WGA awards. The webseries Anyone But Me is an example of that. They won last year. There are opportunities out there. The only thing I will add is that a majority of these YOUTUBE shows remind me of the crap you see on the Disney channel. It’s that demographic. Very easy, silly stuff. I think for the creator of more mature content or the more “artistic” or “better crafted” content it’s a huge challenge. People want easy entertainment online. They really don’t want to think unless it’s DIY or educational videos. My son is 13 and although he watches television, he more often is holding an Ipad in his lap and watching Minecraft Videos with commentary, Rap Battle Parody (which featured Chris Rock in one episode), Prank Calls, etc. A lot of these videos are not story based. I can appreciated FreddieW for that reason at least but for the true storyteller, this online revolution is a huge challenge. Condensing story into a few minutes requires talent and craft, at least that’s what I enjoy from it. And it’s true that it is hard to compete with a talking head. I don’t see much happening to the market in the next three to five years but when these kids become 18-25, I would like to see if they’ll still loyal subscribers. And lastly, can we give it up to Tosh.O for creating a very entertaining television inspired by online videos!

  • nonnarrativeheretic on 05.31.12 @ 3:33PM

    Is this place turning into a merchandising forum, the product being consulting services?

  • Also, let’s not forget about Youtube spending 100 million creating segregated channels of “professional content” that they can sell to advertisers for real scratch. I love technology and the internet and I genuinely wish these pioneers well, but this is largely possible because no one from old world media has filled this space. I will be interested to see how these kind of efforts fare when more deeply connected and funded entertainers stop looking at Youtube as a diversion and a place to make serious revenue. Mostly, I am a bit over articles telling me about a future that hasn’t arrived yet. We were all promised no middlemen with the internet but we have Itunes and Google serving effectively that role, much different than the old ones but it equates to the same thing, audiences are on their platforms so if you want to reach them you play by their rules. My question is will these start ups grow fast enough to keep out the old world titans from this space? This is a great idea for some types of filmmakers but definitely not everybody.

    • Luke Neumann on 05.31.12 @ 4:09PM

      There is no way. That doesn’t mean you can’t build an audience in the mean time. The same people that are subscribed to FreddieW will subscribe to WarnerBrosFilms if Hollywood ever starts wanting a bigger piece of that revenue. That doesn’t mean they will stop watching FreddieW though. 3 million subscribers = 2 million SUPER loyal fans.

      • It’s more of a 5:3 ratio – 5 subscribers:3 views

        • Luke Neumann on 06.1.12 @ 3:59AM

          While FreddieW (the person we are talking about) has 3 million subscribers and exceeds that in views, with almost every video…

  • I think an overlooked reason these particular filmmakers are getting so many followers, aside from working hard, is because their material resembles the mainstream more than most independent filmmaking. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine Video Game High School on the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network. Although I suppose this side of the argument is moot, on account the article’s author had a couple of sentences that dealt specifically with what I’ve suggested,

    “The “old school” indies will shake their heads and talk about how they make art and that you can’t compare the two – an indie film in a theater is different than some 4 minute video. They won’t know where to begin in building that kind of audience, or that kind of career.”

  • “is because their material resembles the mainstream more than most independent filmmaking”

    marketing people understand art as fast food, success as audience, etc…

    Keneth Anger, Alejandro Jodorowsky… or even modern films as ENTER THE VOID are too disruptive for mainstream youtube audience, so there is a place for each… i think. Not everything is out there to go “viral” in the cyberparadise. :)

  • I like Freddie Wong, he’s also attracted attention from known actors and hollywood directors like John Fraveau who participated in one of his shorts. Also achieved his goal on Kickstarter in one day, and in the following 10 days he’s got to 200k, he only advertised about his campaign once, I’m sure if he would have advertised more times on his channel he could have reached 500k.
    I guess it wasn’t easy to get there, for 2 years he released one video per week, usually with visual effects and loyal to his audience. It’s no easy road

    • This is a very good point. Not only is amassing that audience a lot of work (years), but there are certain types of videos that resonate with youtube audience. It’s a niche that may or may not dovetail with the scripts and ideas collecting dust on a lot of indies shelves.

  • As far as the art of cinema and feature length narrative films go…nothing has changed. Seven years of youtube and cheap digital production and ZERO great films have originated there. ZERO…as in NONE. No one you know has discovered a great feature film on youtube…no one you know has discovered a great independent feature film on itunes which did not show at a major film festival. Has not happened and will not happen. Why not? Because it takes incredible intelligence to make a great film. And a person cannot be smart enough to make a great film and be simulataneously dumb enough to self-distribute it…these are mutually exclusive propositions. But, yes, I’m sure many people can earn a living posting videos to youtube, but that has nothing to do with quality feature films.

    • I hate to say this but this kind of attitude is elitist snobbery. You remind me of a guy I went to film school with who when talking about childhood Halloween costumes tried to make us believe that at the age of 7 he dressed up as Travis Bickle when the rest of us were all Luke Skywalker or Indiana Jones.

      Just because more people like something doesn’t mean something is less deserving of credit. Yes, Freddie and friends make populist entertainment for the masses but you can’t deny that they have a ton of talent. Not only are they putting their talent to good use and generating a revenue stream for themselves but they are also having a ton of fun doing it. I personally would love to be doing what they are doing.

      • Luke Neumann on 05.31.12 @ 6:34PM

        Just because the people in this article haven’t used their popularity to create something you like doesn’t make it less of an option for filmmakers. They are making BANK, they get to work for themselves, and they get to make whatever they want!

        You think it’s going to be different in Hollywood? You think you won’t have to sacrifice your creative vision in the name of ticket sales and merchandise?

      • I have no problem with populist entertainment for the masses…lots of my favorite films are exactly that…all I said was that for people who enjoy full length feature films the youtube generation has contributed nothing. I stand by that.

        • would anyone else here not say that ‘the market’ is utterly over saturated with people trying to ‘make it’? a lot of comments here seem to be seething with jealousy and competition

    • It has quite a bit. I didn’t even know FreddieW had a kickstarter that got funding. If people like his stuff he can do more and many eventually he will get money for full-length features to be released.

      Never say never.

  • My friends and I have done a complete 180. Work with what’s in your immediate grasp to create an audience for your content.

    Would anyone agree that the names mentioned above have a better shot at selling something at Sundance, or any festival?
    I think so. Of course, they couldn’t make insane demands, but I bet money they get some offers. What film production company doesn’t want someone that can generate free marketing and have a pre-build database of potential buyers.

    Only problem that arise is who gets the money and who gets the control… No production company will give those things up either…

    • They have a much better chance of getting the attention of programmers at places like Sundance, and of attracting partners, distributors, etc. I think it would still come down to the content. But, if you make something great and can show you have an audience (and want to bother with the traditional route), it can only help.

  • Devin Graham is another name many probably have not heard of and yet almost every one of his videos gets a million plus views. He has a great blog where he is very open about the youtube stats his videos get and how those views and led to greater opportunities for him as a filmmaker. There’s currently a major ad campaign for U.S. Tourism called “Land of Dreams” that is using clips from a lot of his work.

    Best of all, much of what he shoots is on a DSLR. He’s extremely talented with a Glidecam HD2000 (and he doesn’t even use a vest and arm).

  • I guess my question for you, Brian, is how people in our position even seek funds to begin making films/videos like this that can draw in a large audience? Something that seems to be missing from here is that to become someone like FreddieW, you might have to have a handful of great people and resources available to you (friends that have time, if possible), as well as time- he took quite a bit of time to build up to be the name we know today.

    So, as for the original question- it seems like somewhat of a catch-22… You need to be making great material that reaches an online audience in order to get funding to create great material that reaches the masses. Do you suggest funding out-of-pocket? Some of us on here, myself included, just don’t have the producer skills to bring initial funds in.

    • I think the entire point is to make stuff cheaply where you don’t need funds… and build an audience that way. Take all of your ideas and figure out which ones are doable on no budget and go from there… save the big budget ideas for later.

      • Agreed. it is a myth to tie “good” with “expensive.” There is always a way to work with the resources you have available to you and create something worth watching, if you are talented, (or to develop your craft, if you are not quite there yet). You can borrow a camera, shoot where you live, “hire” your friends, edit on the computer you’re typing on right now, etc. Let those unique set of resources steer you down a unique story path. And these videos aren’t feature-length anyway; they’re short. They can take a day to shoot. Chris Nolan had to start somewhere before people gave him millions of dollars to make a film. He wrote for what he had, shot on Saturdays for a year, and ended up with the amazing little film “Following,” made for nearly nothing. Many others have done the same thing. It’s VERY possible.

        • I agree with Ryan and Mark S, and here it’s not any different than in the “old days.” You have to start within your means and slowly build an audience. You try to start with friends and family and slowly expand who you know and who knows you, so that you can increase your budget. It’s just that the *potential* to reach a broader audience is much greater now, when you can more easily connect to the people who like your work.

  • Although I agree that making and upload videos on Youtube to earn money can be a good source of incomne, but it will not launch your career as a filmmaker. The people we are talking about in this article are not filmmakers. They don’t make short films. They don’t spends months to write a short film screenplay and then work with a crew to make it into a movie. They just take a camera and talk. Their process is very quick. That’s why they have a huge following.

    This is not possible for an Indie filmmaker. Lastly, you have to realize that these guys started when no one was doing such a thing. Nowadays, Youtube is filled with people like them. It’s a saturated market.

    • I don’t agree with this. Freddiew and his team, along with their roommates in Corridor Digital, already have their foot into Hollywood. They’ve appeared on TV, worked with big directors (such as Jon Favreau) and are currently creating their own web series that has quite a large following.

      CorridorDigital shorts are extremely well made and have a well thought out plot and you can see the amount of time they put into it. The reason that these big people have such a large following is that they make entertaining material and are relatable since they were normal individuals before they started getting a million subscribers. Also, they started their videos just like any other indie filmmaker; at some school video shooting for some project. The big difference between them and indie filmmakers that haven’t gotten big is that they capitalized on the creation of YouTube

  • Brian, I really like your point about opportunity cost. We can all claim that we don’t have the time, money, expertise, or interest in using these social media tools to build our audience, but most of us making indie features will take an enormous amount of time and money applying to and attending festivals. I know, I’ve been doing it for the last year with my film “Pig.” Over 30 festivals and thousands of dollars later, what do I really have to show for it? Yes, we won several awards and picked up many terrific reviews, but now it looks like no one wants to distribute us and so we’re back to square one, looking at having to self-distribute, and yet we haven’t really built an audience yet to do that. Shit, we have less than 650 Facebook likes for our film’s page! Less than a thousand Twitter followers. I can’t say that going to all those festivals was a complete waste of time, but you have to analyze the opportunity cost of spending a year doing the festival thing. If I had stayed at home, hired an assistant, and really plugged all those social channels, would I be better off and further along than I am now? It’s a very good question…

    • Luke Neumann on 06.1.12 @ 4:39AM

      Do you think the intermediate Festival route is a dead end? I mean, I know something COULD happen (distribution or a contract) but from a pure statistical point of view, what are your thoughts?

      • I don’t think Festivals are dead. I have run a few and am biased, but I think that a good film festival (especially regional ones) have usually spent years building a loyal audience that wants to discover new films. They should be considered as part of a strategy, but not exclusively. I’m more excited about them “getting over” their premiere status obsession and programming work that has done well online and getting people to pay for a live event so they can meet the filmmaker, etc. To Mark’s question – I don’t know, but when you add up those fest submission fees, it can be tempting to decide to re-allocate that money to direct audience engagement.

    • facebook pages, twitters tube sites, followers and ‘likes’ . . . jesus christ has it really come to this . . .

  • Hey Brian,
    thanks for the great article, I’m totally with you on this. But I’m cracking my head about one question. Those YouTube creators either do comedy or direct personal appearances. What about scenic films? What if a filmmaker does not want to step in front of the camera and rant about life but instead create imaginable worlds? I think most fimmakers have this approach to filmmaking and Im wondering how we can find a big online follower-audience for this kind of films… well, I’m positive that the near future will tell!

    • I think YouTube is evolving, and one of the questions is whether other content will catch up to and/or surpass the current “most subscribed” channels. As you say, the future will tell!

      • It’s anyone’s guess, but mine is: tastes will evolve. Commercial, approachable, mainstream work will succeed first, of course, because it is those three things. Statistical studies of music sites have shown that there’s actually not one audience for obscure music and one for pop. As people start to listen to more and more music, they start to look to expand their horizons. I think the same is true for film. Contrary to what Bguest said above, I think plenty of “good” films have been discovered on YouTube and other online channels. I know many experimental film pioneers from the 60s and 70s who are ecstatic that their work is online and able to find a new audience who might seek out a screening of their film on a print at Anthology Film Archives (Ken Jacobs is just one). I’ve found countless great short pieces sent to me by my nephew (who is 10) that were as strong as any short in Sundance. As more and more artists see what can be done, that kind of work will increasingly be found here and be validated here. But, yes, just like every medium before it, it will be dominated by more approachable work.

  • We’re pushing into an age where originality and true creativity are extinct. What’s happening (in terms of story, narrative content) on YouTube is no different to what’s happening to the blockbusting Hollywood movies. If you really want to make something that’s original, something that has depth, you immediately know that it will more than likely be lost in the YouTube sea of crap. Even the festivals are narrowing down for what the audience expects, making “indie” even more mainstream than the multiplex.

    Having made a YouTube video that has well over 1 million views, I know this is true, and believe me – I’m not proud of that video, but it was more of an experiment than anything else. Do I really want the current crop of YouTubers as my audience… no. Maybe once they develop some intelligence.

    Filmmakers need to push for originality, they need to push the structure of narrative storytelling. I consider that my duty. Will I ever really have an audience? Maybe not, but at least I’ll die knowing that I tried. Filmmaking is as much internal as it is external.

    • agreed – it’s like the scene is just trying to constantly court it’s own audience. it’s a shallow depth of field vimeo youtube 5d 7d crapfest and everyone’s invited :)

  • I think so too, 6 years ago nobody was talking about making money in Youtube, right now, the short film route seems pretty obvious to me, just put it online, in the other hand for a feature, things arent so simple, but its changing, Youtube and other services are in your home TV now, its matter of time people will be checking more movies online from their favorite channels.

  • we’ve all been given the tools to further distract and pollute our minds with audio-visual noise*

  • christ that episode 1 is really fucking good, freddy’s killing it, bit of a back2 the future vibe in there to. that real fucking crisp work, bravo.

  • Lliam Worthington on 06.1.12 @ 11:46AM

    “The “old school” indies will shake their heads and talk about how they make art and that you can’t compare the two – an indie film in a theater is different than some 4 minute video.”

    Ok the “art” part is subjective, but otherwise…. um, that is entirely accurate. The event of feature film, is of course not the same as a 4 minute you tube video. Nor need it be. It’s content creation for short form platforms – closer to TV and advertising in form. The immediacy and ease of this new form is terrific, and surely most people appreciate that this platform, even amongst all the noise and competition, has great potentially in leading to help supporting a feature, gaining exposure, earn coin and practicing your craft with almost zero barriers to entry. Brilliant. But there’s no need to confuse the two mediums or place them in some kind of pseudo competition I think. As per those “old indies” and “They won’t know where to begin in building that kind of audience, or that kind of career.” kind of stuff.



  • The naysayers here have it all wrong. America is not the land of Bresson and Tarkovsky. Folks, we’re the home of American Idol.

    Do something which attracts attention, good or bad, which has picture and sound, and maybe the industry, which doesn’t give a damn whether what you do is “cinema” or not, will hand you some money for a more ambitious project.

    Lena Dunham began her career by disrobing in a fountain, and putting it online. That exposure didn’t land her on HBO, but it probably did help, among other promotional efforts, to attract the producing assistance she needed for Tiny Furniture, which in turn brought the attention of two very rich middle-aged men (Judd Apatow and Scott Rudin) intrigued by the idea that Lena has something to sell to a younger crowd they themselves don’t know how to exploit. This is the gold standard: exploiting a new market.

    But these youtube sensations aren’t filmmakers, you say? Again who cares? Once success is achieved, personal strengths and shortcomings matter far less than they do in the indie world, because there’s enough money to buy whatever is needed, including “content creation”. Besides, Hollywood movies and TV shows aren’t selling their apparent content anyway. The real product is glamour, wish fulfillment and aestheticized reality. And for that, unfortunately, you need money, which is why indies are never really competitive.

    So forget Bresson and Tarkovsky. Just get yourself on youtube. Nobody cares whether it’s good or not. It just has to sell.

    • Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • “So forget Bresson and Tarkovsky. Just get yourself on youtube. Nobody cares whether it’s good or not. It just has to sell.”

      WOW! the power of truth! sad, but still the truth! ;)

  • Monty Wentzel on 06.1.12 @ 4:56PM

    Wow, one of the most informative and insightful articles I’ve read…now to figure out how build an audience and to do it for real.

  • I’ve found Youtube audiences to be very different depending on the type of video. I have posted over 500 videos on Youtube (mostly about local restaurants, original jokes, vlogs, and live music recordings) and the vast majority of the comments I have received are very friendly, supportive, and intelligent. I have even met some amazing friends through Youtube including a fellow Youtuber and film buff in Germany and a local singer in Vancouver who I did several collaborations with.

    I have also recently started monetizing my videos, and found that the amount of money I make per view is much higher than I expected. Due to the recent ability to show pre-roll ads, my revenue has started becoming more significant and click through rates are nearing 8 – 10%. If one of my videos were to go truly viral, I could make some serious money.

    The main problem is that Youtube does not always approve all videos for monetization if they contain any branded content such as a logo or product label. So it pays to blur out any logos or brands from videos (for which I have started using Premiere CS5.5 keyframing and blur tools for).

    I was really excited to have one of my short films get accepted in Cannes this year (it’s in the Short FIlm Corner and called “A Different Beat”). But I am not sure if I should pursue a traditional Festival route for my films or continue making monetizable videos. Maybe a bit of both?


    • Congrats on Cannes, Geoff. I think you should plan to do both, actually. Build your audience on Youtube and online generally, and when the fest world takes notice, embrace that as well. Just don’t rely on the fest world as your only avenue.

  • To think of it, creating web content is really liberating and inspiring. I have spent quite a bit of time trying to go the festival route and stuff, but now increasingly realize the need for my films to be seen by people and not kept in the shelves. As said above, no one outside the indie filmmaking circle gives a shit about festivals that much, well, a little but we can’t compare the 2 modes of getting content out. If you create good stuff, rest is bound to follow.

  • shaun wilson on 06.3.12 @ 7:22PM

    We’re working on some arthouse/experimental features at the moment (in tandem with narrative features too) after screening them in art festivals and galleries/museums around the world for 10 years without a cent of revenue. With the alternative distribution models now emerging, I’m surprised to see that this new way of audience building is also revealing a viable and profitable audience who are rejecting conventional cinema et al narrative film and are instead looking to art-based works as an alternative (the figures Im seeing number around 300,000 so far thats I’ve counted – small but noticeable). So there is another part to this article above, which looks at the quiet revolution at play who not only support and engage in the methods previously discussed but reject outright all forms of narrative work by turning their credit cards and apple TVs/set top boxes en mass to the art end of the lens thanks to audience building, the kickstarter model(and the rest) and social media.

    It reminds me of the very late 80s and early 90s when audiences started to reject all forms of commercial radio and instead play indie bands on cassettes which later turned into the support base for movements like, for example, the Seattle Sound, propagated by word of mouth, peer to peer sharing, and community-based events – imagine how quickly it would have spread if Facebook was around in 1991?

  • I think what it comes down to is that we have a new media with a new set of genres and formats, not just another option. Look at the difference between TV and Cinema. TV came along and they started to come up with new types of shows. So I think how the choice used to be between making a career in TV or Film, web just got added to the equation.

  • Bingo! You hit it dead center. The writing industry is going through the same changes. Traditional publishers, like traditional movie studios (or even indie movie festivals), are no longer needed to connect with the masses. Think about this, we are only at the very tip of the icegerg on this. Think back just 15 years ago when quality studio cameras, both film and video, were $100,000+, and editing procedures and special effects were long, expensive and cumbersome. Now, any knucklehead with $10,000 and some ambition can be up and running original content on the Internet, reaching thousands if not millions, in a matter of days. And why do I say we are at the tip of the iceberg? Well, China’s Internet penetration is about 35%, and the single largest English speaking nation in the world — India — and its 1 billion citizens only has about a 10% Internet penetration along with the slowest Internet speeds in Asia. Imagine when India (or China) reaches 75% Internet penetration and higher speed Internet?!!! That, my friend, is the iceberg.

  • I know this topic is very exciting and seems like it has endless potential, and sure some people will get the holy grail of offers through creating internet shorts, that’s great. It’s also has the same odds as being one of the few $10,000 film makers who gets an international release. They’re Cinderella stories and everyone got on this band wagon a few years ago when Blair Witch came out and handy-cams were tickets to the big time. It’s not a viable option to aim for, no more than winning the lottery is. Building audiences is an interesting concept but I believe getting someone with 20 minutes on there hands to watch your short for free is not the same as getting someone with 120 minutes on their hands who will reach for a credit card, not when their are the worlds biggest and best motion picture artists playing on TV for free or available for the same price or less to rent or buy. Of course there’ll be the few filmmakers with enough followers to make a living from ads. But the new online model of distribution is not the utopia some think it is, it’s a great new way to get your stuff seen, at all, without going to a festival, for some it’ll mean recognition, for a tiny percentage it’ll mean real money. For the rest all you’ll have is your passion and vision and when no ones making you millions thousands or hundreds then you’ll realise the value of indie cinema where at the very least you can get some recognition by people who know how hard it is to do something like make a feature film.

  • I see services that give you 10,000 twitter followers for this and 1,000,000 youtube views for $8000 etc. I have to assume that is what is driving the audience to watch this trash. Why would this website tout the merit of making this crap? These shorts are about marketing, they have absolutely nothing to do with filmmaking. If you are trying to make a quick buck tricking people into watching garbage, you are not a filmmaker.

    • It’s difficult to negotiate this margin between being profitable/sustainable and being meaningful. The reality is that we don’t really know what the correct route is towards achieving your goals of being active in the industry, while making a living off it as well. As the fable of hollywood has slowly vanished for most, and the world of indie has become so overpopulated with so much, the internet has opened up as some type of monolith, with seemingly endless room for innovation in marketing technique and capitalization. However, as much as I agree with the idea of progressing towards new channels of reaching your audience, and bypassing barriers of entry for independents, I feel like the internet, in terms of showing or doing anything is like a brothel or something. I’m almost inclined to say that I would rather make super low budget films for the next ten years, submit to festivals, slowly grow an audience and hope that one day I somebody gives me the opportunity to be seen by en mass, as opposed to crawling around in this dirt, “trying to make a quick buck by tricking people into watching garbage.” If you are a filmmaker, then you have to be a believer, believing in your vision with the knowledge that it may never come into fruition is the foundation of bold imagination. When you relegate yourself to a trick, you lose “it” and that “it” is what drives you to do something great.

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