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Developing Indigenous Animation Films

Aside from the very favorable financial picture of creating indigenous animation films, you’ll find it personally rewarding. It’s great to see the faces of children light up when they see a character from their own culture on the screen instead of an old episode of Popeye or Tom & Jerry. It’ll give both of you a sense of pride.

International Animation Consulting Group

Hello from Changchun, China.  I’m here as a guest of the Jilin Animation Institute.  I’ll be talking more about China in my next blog.  But for this installment, I promised to continue my series of blogs about developing indigenous animation films.

Thanks so much for your kind comments to last month’s blog.  And to ‘Perry’ who blogged from the East coast, asking about ‘balance’ between the international considerations and cultural correctness for domestic audiences: Perry, I never pretend to have all the answers.  I have a pretty good idea of what will work globally but for the domestic screens, I always call upon a panel of local experts for their input.  This panel often includes a mix of professors, writers, philosophers, historians, religious figures and, of course, filmmakers.  One must be very careful when tampering with indigenous material.  Once you have a good understanding of the material and the do’s and don’ts you’ll need to depend on your own expertise and ‘feel’ for striking that perfect balance. Thanks again for the question.

When we left off last month, we were just getting ready to talk about where your revenues will come from.  If your project is a feature length film, your revenues will probably come from these sources in these amounts:

Cinema/Theatre20% - 30%Video Sales  35% - 45%Television   23% - 30%Ancillary   5%   - 10%

If your project is for television, the breakdown would look something like this:

Television                   70% - 80%Video/DVD sales20% - 30%

The revenue from theatrical release of a feature film will occur in the first six months.  Next, you’ll be taking your film to DVD and Video and that process will take another 15 months.  Often films then are sold to pay-per-view and/or pay TV.  That process occurs in the 15 to 30 month time period.  And, finally, it will end up on free TV,

Seshaprasad, General Manager of Rhythm & Hues India, Malaysia.

So, how does this all translate to dollars and cents.  Let’s focus on a typical television series. If you’re lucky enough to get your project distributed in the U.S.A., you might be looking at upwards of $30k per pisode just for that market.  Typically, this would include two runs. You need to know that it is VERY difficult to get your animated project on American televisions.  Most large studios develop and produce their own material and won’t even entertain projects from outside their studio.

For the rest of the world, here’s how it might break down (in USD) on a per episode basis:

Canada$3k – $5kIndia$5k -- $7kEurope$7k – $10kAsia Pacific$5k -  $6kLatin Countries$3k – $4k  

Remember, these numbers are based on indigenous material.  Obviously, the films will generate much larger revenues in their country of origin and lesser revenues in those countries less familiar with the content.

So, get out your abacus and let’s see if you can expect to make any money from producing a ‘project from the heart’.

Using the formula I previously laid out for you, your television series, produced in India, based on indigenous characters/stories for a worldwide audience will cost you approximately $50k-$60k per 23 minute episode.  (compared to the going price in the West of around $200K per episode). 

When you add up all of the revenues for the first run, your total comes to $53k - $62k per episode.  This does NOT include revenues from video/DVD sales.  AND, we’ve not even talked about merchandise, games, phones etc. 

Once you factor in the distribution fee which is normally around 35%, you still end up in the profit zone.  After the initial run, a television series is usually good for at least one more television run and the revenues from that run should be around 60% of the initial run.

One final word….at this point you have created an intellectual property that has ongoing value, and you own it.  You can create sequels, prequels, second seasons, merchandise, games, etc.  Congratulations, you now have a cash cow.

Aside from the very favorable financial picture of creating indigenous animation films, you’ll find it personally rewarding.  It’s great to see the faces of children light up when they see a character from their own culture on the screen instead of an old episode of Popeye or Tom & Jerry.  It’ll give both of you a sense of pride.

I’ll talk with you next month from China.

Bill Dennis

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