DIGITAL CONTENT PLATFORMS
I get excited when I hear terms like Digital Content Platform tossed around. I’m not usually sure what terms like this mean, but it feels like something very complicated and high tech and I envision space stations and NASA and celestial bodies and orbits and stuff like that….
I mention this as a friend recently told me that she and her partners had produced a film designed for initial release through Apple’s iTunes. Their concept was to build exposure for the property by allowing episodic files to be downloaded to MP3 and MP4 formatted media phones (Iphone, Blackberry, Goggle etc.) as well as other hand held devices and mobile platforms.
I was intrigued. I had been saying for years that when you boiled it down there were only three revenue streams for film makers to draw from, those being: 1) The audience pays to see your film, 2) Someone pays to advertise their products or services to the audience watching your film or 3) Someone pays you to License your Intellectual Property created by your film to sell something to someone somewhere – but #3 can only occur if #1 or #2 have first taken place.
So the idea of using a cell phone, while not breaking my Immutable Law of Limited Revenue Streams, did offer another, and very welcome variation to the mix.
The idea here seems to be very simple and straightforward. My friend, Soo Mi Kim and her producing partners forged a group together that put up, as my Indian associates say, the needful, to complete a 26-minute film titled “CyberRacers”. Soo Mi, who is a very creative and savvy producer has watched the growth of media phone platforms in Asia and believes that the market will also blossom here and Europe as well. Like many she has knocked on all the major media doors trying to find a home for her projects, with little success.
At the end of the day she and her partners asked the same question we all ask: How many concepts can you pitch unsuccessfully to the broadcast and cable networks before you figure out that the odds are stacked heavily against placing anything unless it is heavily branded and you’re prepared to give a big chunk of it away? The answer depends upon the thickness of your skull and your willingness to look for a less traveled route. For those eager to try a new approach the alternatives up to now have been very limited. You’ve had to have some discretionary capital at hand along with more than a little gamble in your personality to try to form a new business model. You could finance your own pilot and then shop it around to the same guys that turned it down as a concept. You could try to sell it internationally but without a domestic sale, any revenues would be weak. You could give it away on the Internet and try to build a following, but after all was said and done; none of these offered enough incentive to justify the risk.
But now, thanks to iTunes and other newly emerging platforms, the risk is being somewhat balanced against opportunity. Of course this is not ground breaking technology and that’s the good news, because now anyone can find a place at the table. You may now sit in your bedroom in your old ratty T-shirt or bathrobe and instead of watching the thousandth American Idol episode or the newest incarnations of CSI (CSI – Detroit, Sioux Falls, Denver and Baton Rouge) you can set out to make your own film, and when you’ve finished (CSI – Mexico City, Poughkeepsie, Corvallis and Tempe) you can put it where it may be seen, and when viewed you will share in the revenue and still maintain possession of your creative child…
Does this mean you will become a very rich animation guy? Come on now! Look around. How many very rich animation guys are there? But, and this is a big but…. New and viable alternatives are presenting themselves and it’s time for all of us to start looking closely at these opportunities as they occur.
OK, now to circle back to my friend’s film, as I clearly want to give it a plug. I have previewed the entire 26-minute piece and I thought it nicely designed and animated and thought both directors’ (Gun Ho Jang and Paul Jenkins) successfully melded their collective creative vision. Thematically you will find fragments of ideas from Blade Runner to Aeon Flux with a dash of Jason Bourne hereand a pinch of Laura Croft there but as all concepts are composite, that may be said for all creative endeavors.
The storyline is dark and enticing with enough nice twists and turns to keep everyone guessing and awaiting the next installment. The film has obviously been well thought out and carefully planned so as to work well on a small screen while allowing for future DVD or broadcast screenings. I have watched it both on a large computer screen as well as my Iphone and enjoyed viewing the film in both formats.
The film is obviously aimed at a young adult market and may skew down a bit but not too far as the storyline demands some viewer attention and it is not wall to wall video game explosions and blood.
The marketing idea is, according to Soo Mi, to release a new short segment every 15 to 20 days with a projected 5 month run. The first two segments will be free and if they are appreciated, the viewer can see new segments every few weeks for a small fee or can buy the entire 26-minute episode for roughly $5.00 from iTunes.
Viewers may download to MP3 or MP4 players and view the episode or segment on other platforms if they wish. As viewers increase, the producing group (Studio 8202, FFMI, Clockstop Entertainment and Monkey Kingdom Productions) will release the property in other venues as they produce new episodes.
I think they have done a great job of thinking this through. The length of each episode (26 Minutes) allows for efficient re-purposing to a broadcast or cable television series (22/26 minutes) or DVD releases (3 Episodes) or even theatrical in16x9 High Definition.
I of course am not completely impartial. I like Soo Mi, I like the film and I am crazy about the possibilities it presents to those outside that tight but towering circle of media giants. Really, what’s not to like? Take a look and make up your own mind. You don’t even need to like the film, though I think you might. If you want go ahead and make your own and I’ll be glad to look at it and write about it as well (maybe…).
I see this as a win/win for all of us and it’s about time!
You may view CyberRacers on iTunes and check out www.cyberacers.com.
To contact Soo Mi Kim or Mark Miller they may be reached at: http://www.ffmi.com/ngen.