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Don’t get me wrong I still want to shoot shorts and feature films but the system is flawed, broken and outdated so this is my way of making the current models work for me.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