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Earlier this year, Alec and I wrote an article for Script Magazine about the series, Angel of Death and how Sony’s Crackle had figured out an online business model that actually worked, and delivered somewhat of a payday to the people involved.
And what do you know? Crackle is launching yet another genre project: The Bannen Way, from Vuguru and Big Fantastic (creators of Prom Queen).
So it looks like Sony really gets it and the rest of the studios are hopefully going to follow suit. Pay upfront production costs for genre content right now to the tune of a low budget movie (one to five million dollars for approximately two hours of content) and get returns from:
Domestic & International Syndication Paid Downloads from places like Amazon & iTunes Advertising Revenue from sites like Hulu.com And DVD Sales
So now the question is how much access does the independent online producer have to places like Sony and the production company behind The Bannen Way, Vuguru? Probably not much, because with these budgets, no doubt there are agencies swarming (or at least hovering) at all ends and there will be plenty of filters involved (not to mention unemployed TV writers checking out those growing budgets licking their chops).
In a recent AP article about the new series, Brady Brim-DeForest from tubefilter.tv said that this model is an example of, “the second coming of original programming online.”
So great news for legitimate online production, but at a cost to the little guy?
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I recently forwarded to Bob a blog post by writer Alex Epstein entitled High School Shows vs. College Shows. Since we’re working on a college-themed show pitch, I thought Alex’s words especially relevant:
Ever noticed how few college shows there are? …aside from FELICITY, I can’t think of a successful college show.
Very few Americans actually go to college. 17% graduate, apparently. And who knows how many go to sleepaway colleges — lots of people stay at home and commute to college.
Gotta watch that observer bias… it’s good to run your stories by some non-writer friends. See if your take on the world matches anyone else’s.
I thought Bob’s response was smart, so I thought I’d embarrass him by including it on our blog:
Interesting article. You know, maybe it’s futile to write about my experiences because I’m one of a privileged few and only a small percentage of America (less than 17% apparently) even went through what I went through. Perhaps the shows that are too smart fail because a vast amount of the audience can’t connect with them.
His “high school hierarchy” point reminds me of Frank Oz talking about how his movie Death at a Funeral had to take place in England and, in particular, a high-brow family. With an established hierarchy, the characters had someplace to fall. The same thing is being set up in Glee on FOX right now.
So the question is… how do we overcome those two things with our own “college-themed” show:
- Make it primal. How I Met Your Mother (where they’re all college graduates) works because its characters and themes are very primal. Love, death, embarrassment, sex, beer. Feels very college-ish, but it’s popular.
- Create the Hierarchy. In whatever universe we decide to take on, create the hierarchy… Sons of Anarchy (which I just started watching… it’s great, btw) has that.
- Pitch to Cable. Mad Men gets made and it’s extremely successful, but to a very niche audience. Following Alex’s logic, a college show has a better chance on an a cable net like AMC than a broadcaster like ABC.
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Great panel discussion tonight at the Writers Boot Camp in Santa Monica. Bob and I (Alec) were lucky enough to join some great panelists, and drop some knowledge-bombs on the crowd.
Some key takeaways:
- Create content to SERVE your audience. They purpose of the content is not to serve YOU as a creator. Nothing stops viral spread like there being “nothing in it” for the consumer.
- Have an exit strategy. Treat your writing like a business. Decide whether you need to partner up, sell out, or gather an audience to monetize. (At Space Shank, we do both — we create content to sell AND to leverage our position into getting bigger and bigger writing/producing gigs.)
- Be funny and approachable. The two go hand-in-hand, I think. Bob and I made an effort to lighten the business talk with some jokes. Some hit, some missed, but hey, if nothing else, be entertaining!
One last funny experience from tonight’s panel. Now, we knew we were a big deal because we were a part of this prestigious panel discussion. However, about halfway through the event, my wife noticed that our nameplates had a small, itsy-bitsy typo on them. It listed our company as “Spank Shark Media.” Hilarious. Juuuuuuust when we thought we had made it to the big leagues.
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Alec McNayr and Bob Gustafson (that’s us!) will be on a panel focusing on new media and screenwriting next week. The event is free, but RSVPs are required.
Hosted by Script Magazine/Final Draft, the panel will also include Donna Michelle Anderson, Aaron Mendelsohn, and blip.tv’s Rafi Mamlian. Details:
The Screenwriter of Tomorrow: What New Media Really Means for Writers
Everyone has heard the term New Media tossed around, but what does it really mean for the screenwriter? Have we learned how to monetize DIY content? Do the writers of today have to pick up a camera to survive? Can being transmedia make the difference in your writing career? Learn from writers working in new media and related media (graphic novels, short film, etc.) how you can expand your career by thinking outside of your writing space.
For more info, or to RSVP, visit ScriptMag.com.
Let us know if you’re coming, and we’ll look for you in the audience!
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The censorship of television has been around nearly as long as television itself, and has been controlled primarily by the Federal Communications Commission. Any content that is distributed over the public airwaves falls under FCC jurisdiction and is subject to the rules and regulations of that body. The subjective nature of decency is at the core of the long struggle between creative expression and censorship. Over time, strict standards regarding sex, profanity and violence have loosened, until the world we see and hear on broadcast television has begun to look and sound much more like the one in which we live. The joke is, of course, that we were exposed to immeasurably more indecencies by way of our grandmother's soap operas than in Janet Jackson's two-second wardrobe malfunction.
Sometimes a thing falls apart in a single jolt, but more often, the slow steady progression of an opposing force will ultimately do more damage. While shows like South Park and Family Guy currently and flagrantly push against the boundaries of censorship, they are hardly the first to do so. The Smothers Brothers, All In The Family, Maude and even Elvis Presley's hips got in on the action long before Family Guy skewered "the freakin' FCC" with their bawdy musical number or South Park let loose their excessive expletives (162 to be exact) in “It Hits The Fan."
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We posted our thoughts on the Writers Boot Camp on Script Mag earlier this month. The WBC program is a well-established writer-training facility in Los Angeles and New York.
Overall, we really like their take on writing, and would encourage anyone looking for structured mentoring, training, or guidance to give them a look.
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Earlier this month, we attended the NATPE LATV Fest in Los Angeles, and from our experience, wrote the forthcoming Script Magazine article “The State of Online Media,” in which we discuss the current world of Web entertainment as it relates to the overall Hollywood industry. (Look out for it in the September/October 2009 issue.)
But for those with an insatiable hunger for online media advice, we wanted to share the following information gleaned from a great LATV Fest panel session entitled “Anatomy of a Hit Web Series.”
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I was interviewed at Cinespace a few days before the Streamy Awards last March. As a member of the Academy of Web Television, I gave my thoughts on the state of online entertainment. Enjoy these four minutes of sheer brilliance.
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My Roommate the Cylon is up for the “Best Comedy” award at the NATPE LATV Fest’s nextTV Competition, and the results are announced tonight at 6:30pm at the awards ceremony in Century City, CA.
We’ll be posting our thoughts on Twitter leading up to the big moment (as well as our thoughts during the LATV Fest conference), so if you’d like to follow us, here you go…
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Alec and I are hanging out all day going to panels and covering the state of New Media for Script Magazine.
We’re also hoping to score a big win tomorrow in their NextTV Competition of which My Roommate The Cylon is a finalist.
You can help by texting, “VOTE 22″ to 88398