It’s been a long time since I’ve been on my feet as much as I have in the last two days walking around NAB looking at a variety of production equipment. So I cherished those breaks where I was able to sit and listen to speakers. Yesterday I watched an interview with Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Outliers) who I have quoted on this blog before. And I also heard Tim Street a producer and social marketer.
Street gave a sweeping overview of some success stories of online programs and webisodes which represent a new era of opportunities for screenwriters. Many of these shows have budgets above independent feature films and have viewers into the millions. Finding ways to monetize these ventures is still a guessing game for all involved, but I thought you’d be encouraged to know that there are people writing and producing online stories that are making money.
According to Street Gemini Division represents the best of websiodes. It’s about an undercover NYPD vice cop based on an original story by Brent Friedman and created by by Electric Farm Entertainment. Each episode is five to seven minutes long and stars Rosario Dawson. I believe the budget for the first 50 programs they are producing is in the $1.75 million range. They have many deals in the works with sponsors.
Like any TV program the key to success is to generate millions of viewers. No easy task, but one where screenwriting places a key roll because nothing hits an emotional cord like a good story. Millions of viewers opens the doors for marketing and licensing opportunities. Street talked about some of the deals where the producers sold the web rights but maintained the TV and DVD distribution rights. This is all new territory but is going to do nothing but grow. Newspapers are shrinking and traditional TV is unsure of the future of advertising dollars. But the future looks bright for the Internet.
The great thing from a screenwriting perspective is can put you in the driver seat. Less dependent on agents and the system that can take years to bring your work to the screen– if at all.. Just think of the ideas that Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) could have produced online verses the three years he spent on writing and developing that Indiana Jones script that got scrapped.
This won’t be for everyone, but for those of you have creative friends (actors, directors, editors, camera people) this can give you an opportunity to pull your resources together and create some pilots that generate some opportunities for all of you. That’s what writer/actress Felicia Day did with her award winning online sitcom The Guild.
This really is a brave new world for screenwriters out L.A. because potential partners are interested in you having one thing…a great idea with the potential for millions of viewers. So start working on a two or three minute pilot that could grow into a webisode series and see where it leads.