From social networking on Facebook to bidding on crap on eBay, the Web has transformed the way people interact and do business. But from a moviemaking perspective, the Internet can be a tool the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the development of film sound.
Sure, story is still king, but with the technology to create films more accessible and cheaper than ever, the main non-creative, non-technical hurdle for moviemakers is how to actually make money from their efforts.
This takes creativity, and the Internet stands ready to help. So check out these 10 sites to help you earn a living in the field you love.
www.demandstudios.com • It’s all about generating smart, informative content for Demand Studios, but with thousands of freelance contributors. Demand creates videos for Web destinations like eHow, relying on freelancers to make this content happen. Whether tasked with making an eHow video on how to belly dance or creating a GolfLink video where a golf pro re-creates a historic swing, moviemakers are assigned topics by an editorial team.
After the moviemaker’s production plans and on-camera experts are approved, off they go to create videos to be posted to affiliated sites or YouTube channels (Demand is one of YouTube’s most successful ad sharing partners). Moviemakers can make $300 to $500 per video, and payment is made twice a week, so there’s none of that “waiting for the check” lag that often comes with freelancing. Prospective moviemakers should submit samples demonstrating their technical and storytelling abilities and make sure to have access to an HD camera, wireless lavalier mics and a basic lighting kit.
www.filmbaby.com • With diverse genre offerings—features, video art, docs, anime and shorts—Film Baby is an online store catering to the works of indie moviemakers. In addition to its collection of more than 2,000 DVD titles, the site also offers movies via digital download.
To sell through Film Baby, moviemakers pay a one-time registration fee of $39.99 and send in five retail-ready DVDs of their film. Film Baby then enters the title into its catalog and posts a trailer. If sales take off, Film Baby requests additional copies from the moviemaker. In this non-exclusive distribution model, the moviemaker sets the price to be charged, with Film Baby taking $4 to cover fulfillment and customer service. With digital delivery, moviemakers again set the price and Film Baby takes $2 for each download selling for less than $10, or an 80/20 split (80 percent going to the moviemaker) for downloads costing more than $10.
www.mofilm.com • MOFILM is devoted to bringing together the talents of moviemakers with the needs of corporate clients. Working with some of the world’s biggest companies, moviemakers who take part in MOFILM’s competitions and festivals can capitalize on the potential for career-launching exposure and big prize money. Take the recent Barcelona 2010 Video Competition as an example.
Choosing from five corporations (AT&T, Best Buy, Chevrolet, Samsung or Yoplait), moviemakers were invited to make ads less than 90 seconds. Winners in each category won cash (up to $10,000), computers, cameras, cars and trips to Barcelona, and also met Avatar producer Jon Landau. The winner of a separate MOFILM contest, in coordination with Wal-Mart, will have his or her video air during an episode of “American Idol.”
YouTube Partners Program
www.youtube.com/partners• While most people posting to YouTube are content with uploading their baby’s first steps or cell phone-captured hilarity, the YouTube Partners Program offers real moviemakers an opportunity to share in the ad revenues that have helped parent company Google dominate the online ad world. Some YouTube partners earn thousands of dollars a month, sharing revenues generated by ads and streaming rental content.
Though it has thousands of partners, the program is selective, judging applicants’ work by quality and revenue potential. As spokesman Chris Dale states, “The successful partners are really like aspiring media companies, people who understand the rules of YouTube and who really work at engaging an audience.”
www.itunes.com • iTunes remains a massively important outlet for moviemakers to get their work distributed and monetized. Here’s the catch: iTunes is big and busy and has quality control and storage space issues to worry about, so it works with a network of aggregators who take care of the nitty-gritty involved in making sure a film is iTunes material. Two prominent aggregators are Shorts International and E1 Entertainment (see below). If a film finds a home through either of these outfits, it has access to iTunes’ vast community of users, which—at a couple of bucks a pop per download—can mean some major ka-ching.
www.shortsinternational.com • As the name implies, Shorts International (SI) deals exclusively in shorts, with hundreds of titles for sale on iTunes and thousands of titles distributed for exclusive broadcast and streaming on outlets such as the Sundance Channel, Canal Plus, their own Shorts TV and more.
According to Linda Olszewski, co-head of global acquisitions, SI distributes shorts on iTunes to viewers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Germany for around $1.99 per film. Shorts range from eight to 40 minutes (Olszewski says consumers have voiced reluctance to spend the same for a really short short as they would for a 25-minute TV show). Exceptions might be made for shorter films that have high-quality CGI animation or particular appeal due to subject matter, popularity or having a name actor or well-known music (all with appropriate SAG and music clearances, of course). All genres are welcome, and SI generally enters into 50/50 splits.
www.E1entertainment.com • Handling international digital distribution for hits like Twilight, E1 Entertainment is no mom-and-pop distributor. But E1 is also a longtime aggregator for iTunes, and a distributor for other online partners such as Hulu and Netflix.
As Eric Lemasters, vice president of digital and business development, explains, “The reason iTunes chooses us to be an aggregator is because they want to know a film title that’s delivered to them will generate revenue. They’re looking for quality over quantity and they don’t want to flood their system with content that’s just gonna sit there.”
When E1 enters into a distribution deal with a moviemaker (which is always exclusive), it does so in a comprehensive way, digitizing the content into whatever format the partner needs and delivering it with all associated metadata (the pertinent information about the movie and moviemaker, including length and genre). Lemasters states, “The majority of the revenue we receive does go to the rights holder.”
Atomic Wedgie TV
www.atomicwedgietv.com • When you’re part of a media empire that includes “American Idol” and “The Price Is Right,” people don’t necessarily associate you with offbeat digital comedies. But Atomic Wedgie (part of FremantleMedia) is a funny business. The site got started in 2006, and since then has been going strong, nurturing Web comedies that might eventually morph into television shows. Case in point: Atomic Wedgie’s successful transitioning of “Secret Girlfriend” from a mobile clip to a Web series to a television show, which recently had its first season air on Comedy Central.
As manager of production and development Tom Hoffman states, “What sets us apart is that one of our main goals is to use Atomic Wedgie as an incubation platform to develop scripted comedies for TV.” Atomic Wedgie doesn’t take blind submissions, instead seeking out moviemakers with established Web presences and those recommended by agents and producers—investing small sums toward production of the Web series.
www.atom.com • It’s been around for a while, but don’t call Atom “grandpa.” It’s a savvy player from the dial-up age that has outlasted dozens of its competitors and is now part of the MTV family. Of the 10,000 videos on the site, about 1,500 have earned “pro” status (due to their online popularity, licensing or other circumstances), allowing them to qualify for revenue sharing from ads.
Moviemakers interested in partnering with Atom can go to the Web site and upload their films, which are then reviewed by a team of executives tasked with selecting the most appropriate material. Films that are selected for licensing, or those that win the “Upload Showdown,” share ad and distribution royalties, which are paid quarterly. Distribution destinations might include international TV markets or even Comedy Central. (My short, The Revenge of the Red Balloon, has been on Atom for years and has earned thousands of dollars through the site and with Atom-brokered airings on TV networks.) If a film makes the cut, Atom pays!
www.netflix.com • Want to watch Cliffhanger one night and The 400 Blows the next? It isn’t just Hollywood blockbusters and classic films that fill the world’s largest subscription DVD service’s catalog. Indie moviemakers are discovering that Netflix is an avenue for getting their work out to new audiences (think 12 million subscribers) and earning rental fees in the process.
Netflix looks for films that have received some play or recognition at festivals and generated some Internet buzz. They should be long-form and Netflix is open to a variety of genres. As Steve Swasey, VP of corporate communications, explains, “We don’t take everything, but if a film has critical mass, if it has garnered some critical acclaim and fits our demographics, we’ll want to acquire it.”