Thursday, 25 February 2016

Economics of Filmmaking & Finding Your Audience

Hands up if your film has made a net or gross profit.

OK, anyone with their hands up, they can leave the room. You have nothing to learn here (although you are welcome to stay and gloat).

If you want to give up the day job and earn a living through the business of show, you have to have your content make money, right? I mean sure, "do what you love and the money will follow" is something people say to the aspirational but at what point can you make a profit from passion?

I'm not sure I have any answers, but I do have research. Data. 18 months worth of data.

I present to you, Exhibit A - an award winning short film made by a team of dedicated filmmakers with much care and attention - and a passion for storytelling. It was shot over a few nights in November 2014 and cut into its final form and uploaded to the public in January 2016. The film has been marketed to festivals across the world (as well as a lot of admin time this costs real money in terms of entry fees - arguably tax deductible as part of the marketing budget). It's now on Youtube with appropriate metadata tags for SEO.

208 views at time of writing.

Here I present to you Exhibit B - a genre and brand exploiting short video made in a few minutes by a single hack of a filmmaker with a focus on delivering an experience for a defined audience - and a passion for stereo sound. It was shot realtime and uploaded with no editing. Tagged in Youtube within minutes. The film has had no active marketing; only passive metadata tagging for SEO. Arguably someone had to buy the product in this video which is a negative cost - however, it is a tax deductible line item from the marketing budget, right?

423 views at time of writing.

I said I don't have any real answers. I don't. There can be no absolutes when markets are fluid.

Which movie would you rather watch, and why?

Which movie would you rather make, and why?

What I will say at this point is that both of these movies have generated revenue on Youtube - and at time of writing one of them has generated almost 400% more revenue than the other.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

UPDATE: Murphy's Lore

The development of my documentary around the late prolific Portsmouth filmmaker Michael J. Murphy takes another turn as the Merlin/Murlin/Murlyn portfolio becomes officially available on the internet.

It's made me realise that to truly do justice to his story I need to be more familiar with his body of work. Basically, that means watching it!

Before I interviewed Murphy I had watched bootleg copies of Death Run and Bloodstream and seen a few trailers. He'd also invited me over for a private screening of his last film entitled The Return of Alan Strange which I duly attended.

After he passed away I discovered that as well as a cult horror following some of his work has a peplum following too.

Whereas his horror stuff that I've seen to date reveals themes of cannibalism, satanic rituals and general low budget gore, the peplum productions are another side of his character I need to become better acquainted with.

The MURLYN INTERNATIONAL Youtube channel is being populated with Murphy's back catalogue.

So having said that, I have resolved to watch the remainder of his surviving filmography as it becomes available on his youtube channel over the coming weeks. I suspect I may start reviewing his work here on my blog, too. All in an effort to inform the sensitivity of the documentary I produce, which you may have guessed is consequently not going to get completed any time soon!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Top 5 Things I Learned Directing for TrashArts

Tuesday evening during a live film screening event an episode of "Making Of" being produced by TrashArts was shot before, during, and after. Directed by me.

DSLR and stereo X/Y mic atop for POV experience
Fortunately the actors knew their characters really well so it was more a case of AD'ing myself and being continuity person (fuck continuity) to ensure enough coverage for the edit.

What a luxury to just turn up, direct, and go home!

The current cut of "Episode 2" is a shade under 20 minutes. We shot it all in one location in just over four hours.

Anyhow, what did I actually learn?

1. Microphone technology, and audience tastes, have shifted to the point where the camera can truly become a character (indeed this was part of the brief).
Despite shooting at a noisy event in a pub screening the football and a short film night the Røde Stereo Videomic picked up a fine stereo soundstage and intelligible dialogue (at my direction, natch - move closer!)

2. The film clips of the late Michael J Murphy went down a storm.
Part of the script called for reactions to local low budget films. I opted to show excerpts from Murphy's Avalon (German release) and his commercially unreleased super8 Bloodstream.

Boy did those clips get reactions! Secretly, I think MJM would be proud even from the afterlife.

3. Let go but keep time.
This was shot from a five page treatment (by the time I'd added my notes) and then completely performed improv. In the chaos of the venue it was pointless to have done too much planning - but doing just enough to, well, provide direction (as the director, see?)

4. Texan four bean soup sure does look like puke.
I wasn't sure whether to go for the brown realism or the camera friendly yellow-y GAIN style demonic possession vomit. The brown stuff worked out just swell in context.

5. Great actors can appear from nowhere.
I don't know where Sam Mason Bell finds them, but the casting really works. Like I say it probably helps that the majority have already been through the award winning "Episode 1" experience. Those that hadn't were well prepared and researched - leading to some great ad-hoc exchanges between the protagonists and antagonists.

So despite the football running into extra time (I have no idea what the final score was) and a room full of local film nerds watching what film nerds watch at these events I brought a 20 minute episode in on time and under budget (the Texan four bean soup is a tax deductible line item I assured them).

All in all, 21st Century Fat Fox movie magic.