How I Made a Feature Film Right Out of Film School (Guest Post)

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Writer/Director Jaymes Camery on set.

I’m Jaymes Camery and I just wrapped production on my first feature film, Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends. I graduated from California Institute of the Arts with an MFA in Film Directing in May 2013. I grew up in Virginia and have always had a special affinity for stories that take place in the South. My filming partner and long-time friend, Ben Solenberger, and I have been working on this project off and on for 5 years. We’d done about 5 or 6 test shoots, tons of re-writes, and gotten feedback from all over. Our goals for this film include making a good movie and also helping start our own careers. Our website is facebook.com/guysandgirlscantbefriends

Outside of production, we wanted to start our social media outreach early. I’d talked with Jon Reiss before I’d graduated about fundraising and getting the community involved as much as I could. Guys and Girls Can’t Be Friends is about falling in love for the first time but from the male’s point of view. It’s backbone evolved from Virginia’s state slogan of, “Virginia is for Lovers.” Although a partnership hasn’t materialized between the film and Virginia Tourism, I was able to get some help from the Virginia Film Office with a small grant as well as some production resources. In addition to showcasing the area and it’s culture, we also wanted to get local people involved as much as we could.

One of the first things I did when I came back to Winchester, VA was to reach out to the local media. I contacted the local ABC station, newspaper, and a hip, online Winchester magazine. It took some time but I finally started to get some press going before production (Even though we were pushed back to page C6 and a dog that was left in a car was on the front page).

My goal was to get a quick, widespread word out around the time I was trying to get locations, because the film is littered with unique and specific locations. We figured it’d be easier to approach local businesses if they were aware of what was going on. It turned out I underestimated the small town relationships we already had, and through Ben’s family we were able secure all the locations we wanted. Word started to get out about us and we had businesses email us and invite us in. They got free advertising and we got a great location.

set2

We knew that raising money would be very difficult. We came up with investor/donator packets which had info on the film and who was involved. We emailed and handed them out to people we knew would be able to help. Slowly everything started to come together, we started to increase our budget as well, and we had our funding, or at least what we needed for production, a month before. Most of our money came from family and friends. We considered going to businesses and offering to shoot promos/commercials, as well as going to the casino and putting everything on red in roulette, but we never made it that far.

Then, two weeks before we started shooting, we reached out to an actor we had wanted from the beginning and decided to use our contingency money on him. It was risky and dangerous but we figured we’d rather have an actor that we admired than to have the emergency money. We felt we couldn’t pass on the opportunity.

I was opposed to doing an Indiegogo campaign before production because of the amount of work and I didn’t want it to take away from the film itself. Ben was adamant it wouldn’t become a distraction. From keeping an eye on Jon’s ongoing crowd-funding campaign and what I learned in his class Reel World Survival Skills at CalArts, I preferred to do a campaign for finishing funds.

That changed when we scared ourselves into doing it before production when the thought that we might not be able to raise the money we needed, sank in. Ben said he would run it and we came up with some creative rewards: a night of dining and drinking with Ben and I, a “bootleg” copy of the film, a.k.a. an early cut, and a beer on set. I guess beer and hobo rewards really. We did a few video updates, they were a little wacky and obscure, but we wanted to stand out. In the end we never pushed enough and I wonder if people got confused by the tone of the campaign. The money we raised was still extremely helpful and I’m thankful for the people that helped.

Having two recognizable names in our film and its production value were a big deal to us so we put all our money into our actors and camera/sound. We found a group of fellas out of Frederick, MD who came as a package deal with their own equipment and crew. It saved us tons. Renting equipment and crewing up out of Washington D.C. was the last thing we wanted to do. We were able to cut costs by avoiding location fees, lodging, and a catering company. Almost all of our locations were more than willing to help free of charge. The support was amazing. Everyone welcomed us into their business and we saw true southern hospitality.

set3

We avoided hotel costs by putting everyone up in Ben’s Dad’s house. He had an open basement and bedrooms that we made very suitable for cast and crew. It was on a large chunk of land surrounded by apple orchards, so it was perfect. We were able to avoid a catering company when Ben’s Mom and sister volunteered to make all of our meals for set. We saved a huge amount this way and the food was delicious! These are a few of the perks we had by shooting in our hometown. Our friends and family came through big time for us and made it all possible.

By the time we were filming, everyone in town knew what we were doing. In pre-production we posted video updates for our followers and content similar to our story (articles on dating and love, etc.). During production we kept our Facebook updated. We’d post when we were at certain locations and we added set photos as we went. That’s one place that really connected with the community because people would say, “Hey, I know that place!” We’d get shares from that, which put more eyeballs on our page. One thing that got the biggest amount of hits was a video recapping Day 3 of production with actor Clint Howard (https://vimeo.com/73791299). We got 22 shares on it and probably 75 page likes.

We also had an Instagram that our script supervisor ran but it never really picked up a lot of followers. I guess #guysandgirlscantbefriends was having trouble catching on. Still, I want to keep getting content out there. I’m not worried about spoiling scenes or that plot, I just want to give people a taste of what’s to come. We could be a year plus from getting this film done and I worry about that wait time and what happens to that buzz we started in Winchester, VA. Yes, it’s a small audience, but we haven’t met one person there who hasn’t said, “I can’t wait to see the movie.” We’re hoping by the time the film is done we can have 1,500 likes.

Our plan is to submit to festivals for our first line of screenings. Winchester will be one of the first places we screen after that. We’re planning on doing a screening at the local drive-in movie theater as well as some out-door screenings. Jon turned me onto the Southern Circuit, which is something that I’d love the film to make it’s rounds on. Since the film is a modern romance film, we thought of doing screenings based around date nights. As Jon says, make it an event. Either a date night or a guys vs. girls screening night. Also, my friend Michelle Kim designed a logo for us (in about 7 different color schemes), that we’ve used on Facebook, T-shirts, and business cards. The logo’s great and I think it will be useful when we start to think of different pieces of merchandise we can come up with.

Logo

The production seems like a blur. We shot for 15 straight days, took 3 off, and then finished with 2 days. It wasn’t the most ideal conditions but we got it done. One of our sayings between myself and the DP was: “Get to day (so and so) with quality.” Even with the fatigue, I wanted to make sure we never settled or sacrificed anything, and we didn’t. We stretched every dollar as far as we could. And really, every dollar.

As I edit, the only thing that matters to me is that it turns into a good movie. One of my main concerns was the amount of time that social outreach could take from prep time for filming itself. Now’s the time where I need to start targeting specific groups of my audience and really introduce my core audience to the film. While editing I’ll start to get a better sense of what type of screening/distribution strategy I need to take and what some realistic goals are. But boy, it’s been a hell of a ride so far.

 

Monetizing in the Age of Abundance Part 1: The Age of Abundance

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By Jon Reiss
I have been giving a number of presentations on Artistic Entrepreneurship over the past year that I refined for the recentSFFS A2E Workshop and most recently presented a version of in this spring’s IFP Filmmaker Labs. In this presentation I have reformulated my approach to the challenges that filmmakers face in our current age of content abundance. I would share these thoughts to a much wider audience and get some feedback.

While there were a number of factors that caused an upheaval of the distribution landscape in 2007 and while there have been many positive signs of improvement, filmmakers and all artists still face an enormously changed market for content.

Supply and Demand

Anyone with a smattering of economic knowledge understands that if you have surging supply and static or diminished demand, prices will drop.
As a content creator you are facing:
Supply

It is not just peer-to-peer sharing that is creating an infinite supply of product.

 

1. A Surge in Supply of Original Content Part 1 – Feature Films.   As Ted Hope and Brian Newman have noted – estimates are that 50,000 new feature films enter the festival circuit every year looking for some form of distribution.

 

2. A Surge in Supply of Original Content Part 2 – Online Video Content. When I prepared this talk a year ago 236 YEARS of viewing content was being uploaded to YouTube EVERY MONTH. When I recalculated that figure for this years IFP Filmmaker Labs it is now 355 YEARS of content uploaded every month. Acknowledged, a lot of that is cat videos – but I hate to say that many people like cat videos more than independent film.

 

3. Everyone Can Watch Everything: Your potential customers, fans, audience do not only have all of the above content screaming for their time – they are very rapidly gaining the ability to watch everything piece of content ever produced in history: every book, every song, every film, everything.

 

4. Peer to Peer Sharing: Every piece of content can be shared infinitely at no cost. While the cost of digital replication is obviously less than physical production, replication of goods is only one factor of value. I think most filmmakers will agree with me that the entire cost of a piece of content should be factored into the “value” of a piece of content – e.g. the negative cost of the film. So while P2P is not the only cause of the supply glut, it does of course contribute.

Demand:

 

1. A static and potentially declining audience for independent film (and for all film). How relevant are previous forms of filmed media to new audiences: the feature film, the short film, the half hour and hour television show? How filmmakers can and should break free from these forms needs to be covered in another post.  In addition, filmmakers need to go beyond a traditional film audience to find and cultivate their own unique audiences. I have written about this many times and won’t go into this any further at this time, however this series assumes that filmmakers are doing everything to cultivate and connect with those audiences.

 

2. Audiences are faced with many more entertainment choices than ever before – audiences are not as dependent on film, especially independent film for new ideas, new voices, and fresh content.

 

So when supply increases exponentially and demand is static or declining – price drops and films become difficult to monetize. This is one of the reasons that it will be difficult for digital revenue to replace other revenue streams even with universal broadband and global digital platforms/distribution systems.

 

Some ways to deal with this phenomenon:

 

1. Embrace Infinite Supply and Use it to Develop Audience

 

Again one of the ultimate defenses against increased supply is to create demand for your work through cultivating your audience.   A number of filmmakers have given content away for free with the resulting effect of increased sales of scarce goods (discussed below). Nina Paley had great success with Sita Sings the Blues as documented by Sheri Candler in Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul(in which Sheri also discusses other cases using this model).

 

A variation on the completely free model is to give a film away for a limited time to create awareness and promote other revenue streams as Mike Dion and Hunter Weeks did with a weekend long free YouTube stream of Ride the Divide to promote their iTunes launch of the same film (documented in one of my chapters from
Selling Your Film).

Other examples of this abound.

 

A second variation is the reverse crowd funding model that Jamie King has created with VODO, in which content is offered to the peer-to-peer network pro-actively for free and people are encouraged to contribute to support the filmmakers.
2. Create Repeat Viewership Content

One of the reason’s that Pioneer One is the most successful program on VODO is because it is a series, and the audience is contributing to the continued support of the series.

 

The reason I believe that Netflix is turning towards series and away from movies is because they are ultimately similar to any other television or cable channel that for years now have discovered that series provide audience retention that one-off films do not. Netflix is no different than any cable network. Films are a great way for a channel to fill empty pipelines upon launch – but it is series that bring people back to a channel. Series provide continuous engagement in stories and characters that one off films do not (ironically whether or not the series are viewed all in one sitting).   This is also why I believe YouTube is investing in so many channels and seems intent on becoming an uber network. I recommend that any filmmaker download the free YouTube Partner Handbook – it is packed with helpful information.

 

Dickens had great luck with serialized content – which is how many of his novels (if not most) were initially released. He even received audience feedback – and incorporated that feedback into shaping the story.

 

I’m not a Pollyanna as to how serialized content will monetize for filmmakers although a number of filmmakers have figured out how to make money doing this by either monetizing their own channels, creating original content for other channels, or creating original content for branded channels. A series still has to become very popular for it to directly monetize via ad revenue or reverse crowd funding. There are outliers leading the way – most notably Freddie Wong’sVideo Game High School (who notably calls this a serialized feature).   But there are filmmakers creating short regular content (not always serialized) who are not outliers, but are making a living at what they are doing – such as the folks atZoochosis.com.
While I am an advocate for filmmakers to explore regularly delivered short form content, filmmakers are exploring other ways to contend with audiences increased desire for serialized content.   Ed Burns for instance connects with his audience on a regular basis via twitter – often providing video answers to their questions – as well as engaging them in the creation of his films. He has also ramped up production of his films so that they come out yearly – or almost annually. While this is not serial, it is more regular than most filmmaker’s production.   I understand that film (and novel writing) is a process that takes time – but just as some writers are discovering the value of the digital short form it is also important for filmmakers. Tiffany Shlain has extended her film Connected into her Cloud Filmmaking project where she is producing more regular, shorter content with help from the crowd.  If filmmakers cannot increase the frequency of production, it is important for them to maintain some form of content connection with their audience whether it be social media based or other. Filmmakers who ignore this are then either faced with rebuilding their audiences whenever they produce a film – say every three years – or are at the mercy of selling their films to whatever buyers may want to take on the job of connecting their films to an audience.

 

3. Create Membership
Those artists who have achieved a certain popularity can create memberships to either “fan clubs” or priority access to content. Some are borrowing the tech Fremium model where some content is available for free – other content is paid for. These memberships often do not give access only to digital content but scarce real experiences that I’ll discuss in more depth later in the series. I’m starting up my own version of this via the monthly conference call reward on myKickstarter page – so that I can have regular live contact with my audience. But unless there is a demand for the content – it is difficult to charge/create barriers to it.

4. Exclusive Digital Editions

Crowdfunding has been very instructive in teaching filmmakers about merchandising and they have used this and other pre-sale campaigns to create exclusive digital editions of their work that are only available during their crowdfund or presale campaigns. I would recommend filmmakers consider exclusive digital editions during pre-sales or crowdfund campaigns only available during that sales period.   Because these are still digital products, I do feel that the effect won’t be as strong as other forms of scarcity – but it is a worthwhile tactic.

 

A caveat to the above can be witnessed with studio strategies to digital content. You may have noticed that films are available for sale a week or weeks before they are available for rent on transactional digital platforms (iTunes, Amazon, etc). The studios and digital platforms have discovered that few people are buying films to own digitally. So the ownership window has in essence become a premium rental window for people (like my daughter) who want the digital content before anyone else and are willing to pay extra for that privilege. (Ultra VOD being another version of this digital windowing). Aggregators who a year ago were advocating near day and date releases for transactional, SVOD, AVOD are now advocating again for a longer transactional window before subscription and ad supported revenue streams.

 

All of the above tactics will work to some extent to create revenue for filmmakers and help develop audiences (especially repeat content), but I feel it is important that filmmakers learn how to create scarce goods and and create price tiers to fully monetize their films and brand.   The rest of this series will deal with various ways of creating scarce products such as through events/experiences and physical products.

 

I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign and you can see how I am utilizing scarcity, membership, and digital exclusivity to raise funds for my latest film, Bomb It 2, here: bombit2Kickstarter.com.

Ways to Distribute Merchandise

I recently posted a short piece about innovative merchandise.  Here is a quick rundown on the different ways to sell your merch!  Let me know what you think!

Creating Innovative Merchandise

Its the IFP Film Week in NYC where I just was for the IFP Lab and the new IFP PMD Lab – so with that in mind – I am posting my new clip about merchandise and an intro to innovative merchandise.

 

Launching New TOTBO Workshop Webclips

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I am kicking off a series of excerpts from my Think Outside the Box Office Master Classes today on my new YouTube Channel TheJonReiss. I am rebooting my YouTube channel because even though I had some decent views on YouTube.com/jfilm1 – it didn’t feel like that accurate or searchable. Since I am going to start releasing regular content not only from my workshops, but also interviews with filmmakers, artists and people on the cutting edge of audience engagement, I thought it was time to start fresh. On the channel you can also see excerpts from my film and music video work as well. I look forward to your thoughts on the clips as they roll out.

This week’s post concerns setting the goals for your release. I am a firm believer that it is essential for filmmakers to have a clear idea of what their goals are for their film’s release and to prioritize one or perhaps 2 specific goals because a film team will use different release strategies to achieve different goals. I see 4 main goals that most filmmakers strive for in their releases:

1. Money (Fortune)

2. A career launch, helping get another film made. (Fame – for a traditional career based on the previous film career paradigm that only exists for a small percentage of filmmakers these days).

3. Audience (some people just want their film to be seen by an audience as wide as possible.

4. Change the World – especially for documentary.

However I encourage most (if not all) filmmakers to consider a fifth goal:

5. A long-term relationship with a potentially sustainable audience/fan base. This is an essential component of any modern media release – yet most filmmakers still do not consider this a primary goal. This goal is different in objective than the old school fame based career launch (Number 2 above). It is not about press, “heat”, ego. Its about connection, engagement and a bringing your fans with you from project to project. This goal is not achievable if you sell your film outright in an all-rights scenario. In that case your distributor has access to your audience data – not you (although most don’t cultivate this data – yet).

Next week’s clip will talk about the importance of prioritizing your goals. In other words you are better off pursuing one goal. If you don’t, you are at the risk of not achieving any of your goals. Upcoming posts will concern identifying and engaging audience, creating events, merchandise, digital rights, timing as well as interviews with artists and filmmakers such as Timo Vuorensola, Molly Crabapple, Corey McAbee and many more.

I’m launching the channel today as part of my Spring Workshop Kickoff. Yesterday I gave a “Strategic Distribution Workshop 202” at Hot Docs Toronto. I will be helping lead the IFP Filmmaker Labs in NYC in May and June. I will also be giving a mini-workshop at Sheffield Doc Fest in June 15th and then in London on June 23, 24th for a newly revamped two day TOTBO Distribution Master Class.

I’ve also created some Hot Docs Specials on my store where you can get a PDF of TOTBO for $4.95 and a hard copy for $9.95.

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Guest Post: Joke and Biagio on Self Distribution for Dying to Do Letterman

Posted on by Emy

Joke and Biagio (right to left)

Today’s guest post is from Joke and Biagio who are doing an amazing job with their Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the distribution of their film Dying to do Lettermen. Check out their kickstarter page – they’re already raised $47,000.   In it they talk about why they are releasing their film themselves (plan B is the new Plan A).  And no – I didn’t pay them for all the nice things they say about me and TOTBO :) !

The Number One Reason We Look At Self-Distribution First

The Distributor Was Very Nice…

Truly. We genuinely liked this person. Why? The distributor:

  • Came to a screening of the movie (instead of passively requesting a DVD.)
  • Wrote a cell number down during the credits and said “call me ASAP.”
  • Offered to distribute the movie.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

The Distributor Was Also Very Honest…

“There won’t be any money up-front. When all is said and done, after a few years, you can hope to make between $15,000 and $50,000.”

Huh?

We spent more than that making the movie.

A film we worked on for six years.
Continue reading →

How to Self-distribute Online: Using E-junkie to Create an Automated Business Part 2

Here is part 2 of PMD  J.X. Carrera’s  post on how he uses E-Junkie to distribute a film that he made while doing the actual fulfillment himself.

3:  Advertising using Google Ads

Making my tutorial would be useless if no one knew that it existed, so I launched an ambitious advertising campaign that utilized first-tier ad services like Google Adsense and Yahoo SM, as well as several second-tier ad services that most people never hear about.  Everything except Google Ads was a waste of my time and money.  Maybe 97% of my sales came from Google Ads, 3% came from Yahoo SM, and I never got a single sale through the lesser known second-tier services.  (Yahoo SM is supposed to be a quality service, but for some reason, it just didn’t work for me. )

I focused all of my efforts on Google Ads and dumped the rest.  On Google Ads, I created several different ads, experimented with dozens of keywords, analyzed the results, and tweaked continuously over the course of a couple of weeks.  I soon settled on the best performing ad and keyword combination that was bringing in a decent 1-2% click-thru-rate.  On average, I pay about 40-60 cents every time someone does a google search and clicks on my text ad, which links them to my website. Purchase rate after click through hovers around 6%, and about a quarter to a third of the revenue generated from Google Ads is circled back into advertising on Google Ads.

4: Amazon as a Supplemental Revenue Stream

Many writers, such as Jed Riffe, have already done a great job articulating the how-to’s for listing a product on Amazon, so there’s not much need for me to dive into it. But it is worth mentioning that the revenue generated from my DVD listing on Amazon is a fraction of the revenue generated from the sales on my website.  All the Google Ads link to my website, not Amazon.

5: Retail Outlets Can Diminish Your Revenue Stream

Although I began focused on creating an automated business, I also desired to have my video tutorial stocked in a retail outlet, thinking that it would help me generate hoards of cash.  Perhaps this desire also stemmed from a subconscious need to prove that my video tutorial was good enough to exist in an established brick-and-mortar outlet — not the best motivation.  I approached one of the buyers for a large retail outlet based in New York City, and sure enough they bought a box load of DVDs from me at $19.50 each.  At the time, I found this to be extremely gratifying.

Then I noticed an odd occurrence, which was the sales generated from my website took an unexplained dip.  Upon investigating, I found that this retail outlet was selling my tutorial through their own online website at a discounted price.  People who had discovered Crash Course: Final Cut Pro were now buying it cheaper elsewhere, which means I was being undercut and making less money than before.  After that, I significantly decreased my tutorial’s retail presence.  Sometimes, there’s value in being the exclusive or semi-exclusive seller of a niche product.

4:  Self-distribution Overview

For clarity, here’s a quick rundown of all the steps for this automated business:

An aspiring editor or filmmaker google searches the phrase “final cut pro tutorial,” they see my text ad, click it, and go to my website. If they buy the tutorial as a download, the money gets deposited in my Paypal account and E-junkie sends the buyer a link to download the Quicktime file.  If they buy a DVD instead, Paypal sends me a notice that I have to package and mail out a DVD.  My Google Adsense account is linked to my Paypal account, so revenue made from the tutorial pays for the advertising.  Whenever Google Ads runs low on money, it just charges my Paypal account automatically.

As I write this post, everything sounds a bit too easy. The truth is, setting up things like Amazon, E-junkie, and Google Adsense may be time consuming, but not actually difficult in terms of brain power needed. Creating good content, however, is usually both time consuming and mentally intensive.  By far the hardest part of my automated business was the actual creation of the tutorial.  Curating information and trying to figure out how to best teach an idea simply and effectively is painstaking.  It makes me think of the quote by Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”  But I wanted a hard-hitting tutorial that editors would recommend to their friends and that I could be proud of creating.  I also took the time to make sure the copy, design, and functionality of my website portrayed a sense of professionalism that would allow customers to feel safe and secure when purchasing from me.  In the end, all the hard work paid off: I’ve sold hundreds of DVDs and downloads, and have received incredibly positive feedback from customers.

5: Wrap up

I started Crash Course: Final Cut Pro with two humble goals: 1) that I would be able to wake up every morning, walk over to my computer, and see money deposited in my Paypal account because someone had purchased a tutorial while I slept, and  2) that I would add genuine value to the filmmaking community by helping to train aspiring editors, giving them a learning tool that I wish I had while first learning Final Cut Pro.

What really makes Crash Course: Final Cut Pro unique, however, isn’t just the content, but its immediate availability as a DRM free download.

Creating and selling a Quicktime file is a lot easier than creating and selling a DVD, yet many filmmakers seem to be reluctant to make their movies available as a download.  I believe this stems from an overblown fear of piracy.  As far as the indie world is concerned, I believe you’re losing money by not offering your video as a download.  There have been many times where I would have purchased a movie instantly had it been available as a download, but since it wasn’t, I moved on to viewing something else.  Briefly stated, people want to watch video in the format of their choosing, and with services like E-junkie, it’s now incredibly easy for filmmakers to quench this desire.

How to Self-distribute Online: Using E-junkie to Create an Automated Business Part 1

We’ve been exploring alternatives to fulfillment for filmmakers in the last month or two.  Many filmmakers are actually doing self fulfillment when their numbers are low – and using a shopping cart such as E-Junkie.    J.X. Carrera is a PMD who specializes in online media and international entertainment, particularly in regards to China and Japan.   He offered to write up how he uses E-Junkie to distribute a film that he made while doing the actual fulfillment himself.
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How to Self-distribute Online: Using E-junkie to Create an Automated Business

In this walkthrough, I’m going to break down how to create a simple automated business in which you are selling a video in the form of a download or a DVD from your own exclusive website to a niche market. For illustrative purposes, I’ll be using my own product and automated business – a video tutorial called Crash Course: Final Cut Pro that I sell from papersamurai.net – as a case study. Although the product is a video tutorial, the same DIY process would be applied to narratives, docs, books, music, software, and much more. I’ll also be discussing my decision to distribute downloads through the use of E-junkie in finer detail, since the opportunity for filmmakers to sell their movies as downloads (.avi, Quicktime) is often overlooked.

1. Find Your Niche, Assess its Needs
The niche market I chose was the Final Cut Pro tutorial market. Despite there being an abundance of tutorials already in existence, I strongly felt there was an unmet need for a high-caliber Final Cut Pro tutorial for beginners. Most FCP tutorials touted being 5-6 hours long, which I felt didn’t appeal to the newbies who just wanted a comprehensive crash course that would allow them to “jump right into the game.” It took several weeks for me to script, screen capture, and edit my tutorial, and I did it all with just my laptop and a good external microphone. The only software I used was Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and ScreenFlow, a fantastic screen capturing software. I paid a web designer/graphic artist $800 to work side-by-side with me in building a website using Drupal, as well as design a logo and DVD cover.

2: Using E-junkie to Sell Downloads
I knew I wanted to offer my customers the choice of buying the tutorial as either a DVD for $39, or a download for $29, but I wasn’t sure how to handle the digital delivery. After researching all the services available I decided E-junkie was the best choice to handle my needs. E-junkie provided me with buy buttons and a shopping cart that integrated seamlessly with both my website and Paypal, as well as automated the secure delivery of my downloadable video file.
E-junkie’s pricing is determined in two ways: the number of products being sold and the file size of the download. After testing various compressed versions of my tutorial, I found that 500 MB allowed me to deliver a 70-minute HD Quicktime file without much detail loss. For $18/month, E-junkie would allow me to upload the 500 MB file to their server and sell it an unlimited number of times. But it’s important to mention that at $18/month, E-junkie also allows you to issue downloads from any web server. In other words, if I wanted to, I could’ve compressed a 1GB file, uploaded it onto my own web server, and still have used E-junkie to handle its delivery – all for the same price. Note to non-profits: E-junkie also boasts that they will consider giving you their services for free. To quote from their site: “Non-profit organizations (charitable, humanitarian, or otherwise just plain awesome causes in our opinion) can qualify for FREE E-junkie services.”
With E-junkie, when a customer purchases a download from my site, a download link is emailed to him or her. One of my initial concerns about this was that the download link could easily be forwarded to other people or posted on a forum. To E-junkie’s credit, their service is highly customizable, and I could limit how many times the download link could be accessed before expiring. I knew a 500 MB file would be difficult for customers with slow bandwidth to download, and if I didn’t allow for multiple download attempts per link, I would be inundated with angry emails. So I decided to set the limit for the number of attempted downloads to 5. If the customer failed to download the file after 5 attempts, they would have to email me directly for assistance, at which point I’d hop on the E-junkie interface and email them a new download link with no questions asked.
I also use E-junkie to handle the payment for the DVD version of my tutorial. This is the one part of my tutorial business that is not automated but easily could be. Instead of paying a fulfillment service to pack and ship the DVDs for me, I have no problem just dropping DVDs in the mail whenever I go to return my latest Netflix.
In terms of sales, the majority of my business comes from downloads, which outnumber DVD purchases 3-1. I make a few more dollars with the DVD than I do the download, however, so I would never eliminate the DVD option.

Prevent Film Piracy and Globally Monetize Instantly

Today’s guest post is by filmmaker Solomon Mac-Auley who contacted me to offer his opinion about a DIY Digital alternative that I have been intrigued by called Egg Up.   Egg Up offers an elegant solution for filmmakers to monetize their films via Electronic Sell Through (previously known as Download to Own) by selling a film digitally while protecting it from being copied.    I was curious as to how consumer experience was with the service – so here is Solomon’s feeling about Egg Up:

Prevent Film Piracy and Globally Monetize Instantly by Solomon Mac-Auley, QNX LTD

The Challenge:

Piracy is the biggest worldwide threat to the film industry. The internet and social media have made it easy for consumers to pirate and share movies illegally. This growing model has disrupted and destroyed the traditional distribution channels such as DVDs, theatres, video stores and pay-per-view providers. It also doesn’t help that many platforms and media channels do not have any digital-rights-management (DRM) in place to prevent piracy. This phenomenon has cost the industry a whopping $18.2 billion and the figure is growing daily and has left in its wake a growing number of frustrated filmmakers and distributors who are unable to monetize their films. Continue reading →

Guest Post: How to Maximize Revenue Selling on Amazon

Today’s guest post comes from filmmaker Jed Riffe who I met this year at Slamdance. He told me that he was surprised at how little money filmmakers make selling their films through Amazon and that he had a system that maximized return from Amazon sales at 80%. I of course immediately asked him to write a post to tell other filmmakers how to do it – and he has generously obliged:

How independent filmmakers can maximize their profits selling and fulfilling DVDs on Amazon.com by Jed Riffe

There are two main options that I use to sell DVDs: 1) Self fulfillment for the orders from my websites. 2) Self fulfillment for the orders from my Amazon. I don’t use Fulfillment by Amazon and I will tell you why:

Self Fulfillment from sales on my websites:
I have three documentary film websites that sell DVDs directly to customers (www.jedriffefilms.com) and a consumer can go online to my websites, read about each film, see one or more trailers or clips and if interested, purchase a DVD. On my websites I sell DVDs of my seven, nationally broadcast documentaries for $24.95 plus $10 Shipping and Handling and any applicable state sales tax. I use Paypal as my shopping cart and pay them a fee of $1.31 or approximately 3.75% for each sale. It is easy to fulfill these orders myself. I drop the DVD and a list of all the films in the Jed Riffe Films Collection in the mail and it is done. I spend .25 cents for the mailing envelope and $1.92 in postage and pocket the rest $31.47.
Continue reading →