Before thinking to distribute your contents in VOD, it is actually necessary to get… a film idea! Today, Marc from Cineaste independent blog shares his expertise. Enjoy !
You are serious about writing and shooting your own piece of contents? Then it might looks like the Twelve labors of Hercules where the author will defend his idea until its achievement. If this process is so tedious, it’s above all because Cinema is an art that costs more than most other forms of art creations (and also because it is a collective art that involves gathering human resources).
Jacques Audiard, French filmmaker and son of the famous dialogueist Michel Audiard, declares himself that “ every cinematographic work self-destructs itself in its own fulfillment process “. This implies a lot of parameters that a creative must accept. First of all is the fact that there will always be an obvious dissonance (from the creative point of view) between the original vision of the idea and the final result. For the worst or… for the better.
Achievement of a cinematographic work breaks down roughly into three major phases:
birth and development of an idea.
DISTRIBUTION and PROMOTION.
OKAST offers you a solution to launch your own video-on-demand platform, more focused on the third phase: distribution and promotion. But phases 1 & 2 are still very important, especially to prepare the launch of your video content(s) on the Web (this huge continent that doubles in volume every day)!
Today I would like to discuss together a cause close to my heart: the relationship between the trust you have in your own ideas and the hard reality of the broadcast and distribution economy.
When I started writing my first scenarios, I was rarely persuaded that my ideas could lead to failures. It was the opposite, and I wasn’t even questioning the quality and originality of what I was writing.
This comes from something we all know. .Our ego, who whispers in our ear that what comes from us is necessarily awesome. How can I be so sure that the majority of people go through this phase? This is a totally objective statement of the dozens of emails that I receive every month from the readers of my blog.
And even if I give the impression of judging people, I can assure you that this is absolutely not the case. I think that almost everybody goes through this phase of overconfidence, although it can probably take different forms depending on the individual.
On the other hand, I am now strongly convinced that the fact of being able to step back from our own ideas and creations is one of the most difficult aspects to handle for a filmmaker (and certainly for any Creator). Taking a step back generally implies accepting to perceive our idea or our work from the very uncomfortable angle of imperfection, even from mediocrity. But I assure you that there is worse than to think our idea is great: to convince ourselves that the work that will result will necessarily be successful. Keep in mind that any unfounded anticipation is a risky assumption! Particularly if there is an economic objective at stake.
During the year 2013, I was hired full-time as an assistant to the artistic direction in a young startup. The strategy of the structure was very simple: to offer services in video and multimedia design, in order to develop a product internally. The latter had to be able to generate a sufficient turnover to support the company without having to develop new services. A simple strategy, based on a very audacious bet.
After ten months, there was only a single idea of the product. A mobile application, surprisingly very similar to Pokemon Go (without the value of the license, of course). The startup was in a very complex situation : not much money left, no pending contracts and most importantly, not a single line of code written to develop the application. Only the concept and game design documents were being finalized. The idea of the product had remained confidential. But in order to design the product, however, it was necessary to consider the solution of a crowdfunding campaign.This necessarily implied presenting the concept to the public. In other words, to confront a hypothesis cultivated in the most absolute secret for ten long months … and the reality of the market!
At that time, the ambition was double. First, building a communication around the product (because no one knew about it), but also and above all, raising several thousand euros to be able to finance the production phase.
You may have already guessed the end of the story … The crowdfunding campaign was a failure and the startup went bankrupt few months later.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because it has allowed me to become really aware of several errors not to be made when you decide to experience the unpredictability of any form of creation. If you want to make a film without looking a positive ROI, you may need to find somewhere some grants or sponsors. If, on the contrary, you seek to achieve a financial goal by selling your movies in VOD (even with a small budget), I can only strongly advise you to avoid doing these 3 mistakes:
1- Not iteratING.
The first thing to do to optimize your chances of finding “the right formula” is to iterate over and over again! This is statistical. The more you try, the more likely you will be able to find your audience. The first easily identifiable mistake in this start-up story is that they developed a single prototype product. And consequently, they reduce drastically their chance to succeed.
I often see filmmakers who do “all in” with their ideas. They set high objectives and invest immediately several months (even several years) for works that have 90% risk of not reaching an audience (or almost). Again I do not judge because I myself made this mistake for (too) long!
Whenever you decide to engage in a film project, remember to evaluate what you need to invest in. Whether it is time or energy. Besides, I personally give more importance to time rather than money. This is the only thing you can never catch up with. Any minute spent will never be refunded! Ask yourself as honestly as possible if this investment would not be better employed otherwise. Rather than a single big project, it is often more interesting to look at several projects of lower sizes and ambitions.
2 – NOT testING in real conditions.
Pay a special attention to this one mistake, as it may arise from a rather insidious psychological defense mechanism. It is often very easy to lie to ourselves about the quality of our creative ideas. But when it comes to testing in real conditions, that’s another story. Not only did this startup have only one chance to succeed but on top of that they delayed the deadline for ten long months. A period during which the uncertainty was total. I think you really need to train regularly to overcome the fear of failure. Leaving your comfort zone to confront our ideas with the reality is an unpleasant move to do. But delaying the maturity does not benefit you in any way. If your idea and the resultant creation do not carry the ingredients of success, you have an interest in knowing it as soon as possible. In this way only, you would be able to move more quickly.
The corollary of all this is not communicating effectively enough around a project. Even (and especially!) when it supposed to reach an important audience. A good communication will never compensate a low-quality creation. If your movie or web series is bad, communication will not give them a second chance. On the other hand, if you have a great work in your hands and do not spread the word, you drastically reduce your chances of obtaining significant results. Moreover, when you start in audiovisual / cinematographic production, never forget to invest time and effort in communication. The life of a piece of art does not end when it is finalized. That’s actually when it begins!
In fact, I think we tend to intuitively approach things the wrong way. Let me explain … Before, when I started a new project, I first thought of the idea and its execution from a creative point of view. And once the film was finalized, I was thinking about the communication issue. The fundamental problem with this approach is that every new project must start from scratch. This is the main reason why I think the best thing to do at first is to grow an audience and develop a targeted community.
OKAST team always encourages all creators to start by building a community. Then you’ll be able to value this community in many ways. You can, for example, ask your audience about its expectations and anticipate ideas and projects that will have a greater chance of reaching your first audience. This is precisely what a fellow filmmaker and I are doing at the moment by developing a community around a collective of sci-fi authors.
3 – NOT HAVING A PLAN/strategy.
Quick reminder: any unfounded anticipation constitutes … a risky hypothesis. The only case you can afford to think strategically is where you are sure to have the beginning of something. A film that becomes viral, a web series that grows organically, a documentary that reaches a potential distributor, and so on…
Then, do not forget to think in 4 dimensions … By working with filmmakers, I realized that many refuse to write and to shoot short formats, because they feel the need to have more time to develop their story, their characters, etc. There is no problem with that … if (and only if) you can assume the production costs! It is also necessary to know that the writing exercise for short scenarios can be extremely enriching. It can lead you to tell things concisely and often more effectively.
But what I find really unfortunate is to absolutely want to achieve a final product in one step (and most of the time without any financial partner). I think that we should never neglect the opportunities that can arise through the concretization of a simple prototype or a teaser for example.
Let’s say you want to create a web series. According to the scenario you have in your hands, you feel that the story will be built on a set of eight episodes of fifteen minutes each. That is a total of two hours of film (which is huge in terms of production!). Why don’t you consider shooting only the pilot to start, and use it as an argument to try to convince future investors. Imagine now that you were about a year to find your financial partners. Meanwhile, the team members have certainly evolved in their respective lives. You can not run some actors for example. You will have to make concessions at this level, but the quality of the final product will certainly be much better than if you had decided to produce everything in one go instead of making a prototype.
In the trilogy Back to the Future , Doc Brown regularly reminds Marty to think in four dimensions. In other words, not to forget that things can evolve in space but also in time. Think of it, name Zeus !! (O)
To conclude, I would say that as far as I am concerned, whenever I engage in a project (even though I am not the author), I try to refer on tangible evidences. For me, tangible proof usually results in the measurement of a given data (number of views, number of likes, number of sales, etc.).
As long as you can not measure anything concrete and significant in real conditions, do not take too much into account advice, criticism and even some advice you may receive from unwary or ill-intentioned people. Many great classics such as Jaws or Star Wars, for example, went through very dark production phases, surrounded by skepticism and negative vibes, before experiencing a resounding and unexpected success when released in theaters.
Moreover, allowing oneself the opportunity to test one’s ideas at the lowest costs (money / time / energy), is incredibly psychologically liberating. If you invest little in an idea and it does not work, you will not really have time to get attached to it. If on the contrary this idea works, then you will start to consider things in a more strategic way by investing a little more. If its success continues to grow, it is a sign that it must certainly double the stake, and so on …
Finally, do not forget that the execution of an idea is the key. A good idea does not lead to a good movie or a good series. An idea never even guarantees a good story. The good news is that today it is possible to launch a cine/tv/web project with an extremely low financial investment. The material for professional images and audio, has become widely accessible to everyone. And it is no longer necessary to hope to reach a broadcaster to be able to show (and test!) His creations. If you aspire to get involved in filmmaking, I can only encourage you to start by writing and making a film with modest ambitions. In this regard, I have created a 100% free training course to help beginners who want to get started without taking too much risk and avoiding most of the mistakes I made in my early days. To register, simply click on the banner below !