A Consistent Revenue Model for Movie Makers

Eating with the lions

Smashing success, colossal failure - the current model

You really can't say that the Hollywood movie production and distribution model is a failure. Overall it's a smashing success, producing great movies that make a lot of money. Yet like any human endeavor, it does have several failings.

The biggest failing of the Hollywood movie model is that it has always created an exclusivity that prevents local talent from taking part. The number of movies in production does not increase very much from decade to decade. The amount of talent used in the industry is limited to only a few.

While US population doubled from 150 million in the 1970s to 300 million today, Hollywood production has changed little. Hollywood production in the 1970s was from 350 to 550 movies annually. Today Hollywood produces around 400 movies a year, while around 550 total movies are shown in theaters. The unions, for all of their value, support this exclusive model, making it difficult for independent producers, new talent... to make a movie.

The second failing of the Hollywood system is that those who do work, don't stay working. It is intermittent work, and only a few can earn a consistent living at it.

The third failing is it fails to feed the hunger of the market. The studio catalogs supplied to NETFLIX® have been found to be inadequate by consumers hungry for new content.

The fourth failing is that it does very little experimenting. Failure is very expensive.

So as an industry that provides opportunity, provides regular income, explores the market and satisfies market need, Hollywood is a colossal failure.

To be fair, no system could ever provide opportunities to all of the hopefuls standing in line for live theater, Hollywood movies, and TV, or keep everyone working. As for feeding a hungry market, even the ever available TV, with over a hundred channels, fails to satisfy what people want.

As for talent, everyone wants to be a star, or at least have a role, or at least stay working... few production models would come close to satisfying that. The SAG and AFTRA scales do help address the inconsistent work. And no business could possibly satisfy the producer who only wants to do his own thing – no market, no sales. And to be sure, independent producers, with partial exceptions, have not produced a model that resolves these failings either.

The Internet changes things for movie producers, just as it has for just about everything. Even things like who has credibility is changing from old guard institutions to who consistently gets the most blog hits. The public has a more powerful say, and institutions like Google have capitalized on that, feeding the public hunger for information, and finding that competitive advertising is very lucrative on its platform - a major success unthinkable in the 1980s. The Internet makes new ideas and efforts potentially possible.

Related Variety.com article: LAFF: Mark Gill on Indie Film Crisis.

Next page: Successful movie production models.

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Successful movie production models

Hollywood has developed several successful production models. Most of them leverage the past. For example, when a writer or producer pitches an idea, he will typically say, "This is When Harry Met Sally meets Avatar." Then having established a marketable historical basis, he will go on to tell what is new, which also must be marketable.

Much of what Hollywood does follows the Remake model. A movie was successful in the past, so remake it. It's supposedly an easy sell.

Another model is the Thematic model. Vampires are a popular theme with historical longevity. Make more vampire movies.

One of the most successful production models is the franchise. For example, the TV series Gunsmoke went for 20 seasons. Movies offer franchises like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Carribean. Topping Gunsmoke in longevity is the movie franchise James Bond, which began in the early 1960s and is still going strong with another production reportedly scheduled for 2012.

What the Hollywood model offers the independent producer, even ones who despise Hollywood, is a glimpse of how to create success.

Next page: The franchise as success for everyone.





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The franchise as success for everyone

Can the independent producer learn something important from the typical Hollywood production model, without prostituting himself to a system, and create a sustainable movie production base that supports not just his own productions, but gains economic viability for production talent and crew?

Franchises work. George Lucas has made a career out of the Star Wars franchise. But the James Bond franchise offers some good lessons. It shows us that the right franchise can potentially have a legendary life if it has the qualities that capture the public imagination. For example, Bond movies are always high concept - good versus evil - plus they are high action, always add astonishing new things (gadgets), and have an iconic character. It was spawned by the real life espionage adventures of author Ian Fleming.

Can you sustain franchise success with only one main character and actor? In the franchise, Bond is the only main character (discounting the secondaries M, Miss Moneypenny, and the gadget guy). The first Bond, the inimitable Sean Connery, who was born in 1930, has aged gracefully in his career and indomitably gone on to many other successful acting and producing opportunities. The James Bond franchise continues. The franchise did morph over time, as Roger Moore in the character often portrayed a humorous parody of Bond, but the franchise has had 6 actors, some more successful than others. Despite lows, the franchise adapted and survived.

Producers can borrow from the successful TV series model and movie franchise model. There is a lot to be said for establishing a franchise base and then regularly creating movies that you love to make, using the same people over and over.

From TV we know that interest doesn't disappear from week to week, or during production lapses. Momentum builds through the series. When the series returns, the audience returns. Movie producers can't make 2 hour movies at the same rate as a TV series. They can't compete with TV on well produced series like House. And the Hollywood franchise model does not make movies with the regularity to continuously support a low budget business. But there is a model that can work:

  • Make movies in the franchise every 4 to 6 months. This will keep people working and engaged in the production.
  • More frequent movies more effectively leverage public interest than two year intervals.
  • Since themes, like vampire themes, come and go, more frequent intervals allow you to capitalize on the theme.
  • You need many fewer sets, since old sets and settings can be reused.
  • You can use the same crew and facilities.
  • Actors and crew can come from the local area and continue living in their homes and communities.
  • Talent becomes more skilled through a franchise, providing a base for even better movie production, and providing more opportunities locally or in the industry.
  • The audience doesn't have to see New York and LA over and over again - the movie setting can be anywhere.

Currently SAG and AFTRA (which seem to be merging), have adopted no union policies regarding "New Media," allowing the model to evolve. Movies made for Internet distribution, which hasn't proven itself economically yet, are one branch of New Media. If you adopt something close to the Low Budget Agreement, and pay above average industry wages to talent, you can have a viable and respectable business model.

Once you have a franchise going, you can delegate and pursue another franchise or another one-off movie.

Effort is never wasted. You learn. You may get picked up for conventional distribution. Examples of series that got their start on the Web, at Gigaom.com: How Do You Define Web Series Success?

Movie Stream Productions will work with producers to research and develop a franchise storyline that matches their interests, and advise on the development of their screenplay, to develop a franchise that is likely to be sustainable. Payment, or first option on distribution, may be required. Contact MSP for more information.

Have you produced a good independent movie or short? Get more attention for your shorts on FlixStreamer.com. Rent your movie on FlixStreamer.com for more profit.

- Dorian

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You might also like to read:

LA Times story: NETFLIX®'s days without competition may be numbered.

4 Filmmaking article: How to make money from your film / a brief history of film distribution models.

NETFLIX® is a Registered Trademark of NETFLIX®, INC.
Disney is a business name of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
HULU® is Registered Trademark of HULU®, LLC.
AOL® is a Registered Trademark of AOL Inc.
Amazon.com® is a Registered Trademark of Amazon.com, Inc.
Barnes & Noble® is a Registered Trademark of Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Any trademark not listed out of oversight is a Trademark or Registered Trademark of it's respective owner.

Mention of any business or movie in this article is not intended to endorse, disparage, or favor any business.

Movie names that are mentioned are not given reference citations. This is because numerous studios are involved in production, and they then assign distribution rights to multiple distributors, and these rights can be sold to other distributors. For production and distribution information on any movie mentioned, consult the Internet Movie Database, or other authoritative listing.

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