For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a great Christmas! :)
I’ve been spending time with family, and benefitting from a little down time and ‘distance’ this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about where I want to prioritize my energies in 2018.
While I premiered a low budget feature at SXSW this year and really enjoyed immersing myself in that process from beginning to end, something I enjoyed even more was producing a 32 episode digital series for a major network.
The main reason I think is, while low budget features continue to be passion projects for me, I’m more excited about the actual business opportunities that digital series, and episodic content in general, represent.
And even though the series I produced this year was network-funded, the next few I’m producing will be a combination of sponsor funded and private equity. You see, I’ve been convincing the low budget film investors in my network to diversity into digital series (for the same amount of money).
Distribution opportunities are abound – between Amazon Video Direct (which does a fantastic job with short form series delivery) and the new Facebook Watch platform (which is a HUGE white space in my opinion)….let’s just say I haven’t been this excited about actual distribution in a long time.
Also, sales cycles on digital series are much shorter than feature films which means investors and sponsors benefit much quicker than with features.
Producers get to control the process much easier since digital series for the most part are a producers medium, and don’t require as much ‘collaboration’ as a feature film does with multiple people, personalities, and issues along the way. In general, things just happen much quicker with digital series and you can go from concept to finished product in a whole lot less time than your average feature. Sometimes it’s refreshing to just go and shoot something – you know my motto of ‘stay shooting’…..
As a producer, I’m also investing in creating digital series that act as a two-for-one – meaning, they can be distributed as stand-alone series, but also act as a proof of concept for something bigger like a long form series that I pitch to networks. So everything is working double duty.
Producing for a network this year was great for the experience alone, but remember when you produce something for a network (whether it’s short or long form) you’re working for fees and have no ownership whatsoever. What I’m most excited about experimenting with in 2018 is a model where I’m funding these series independently and owning the IP outright so I can exploit the content not only on the US distribution platforms I mentioned, but internationally as well – markets like MIPCOM and MIPTV eat these things up! Again, part of owning and controlling IP of a short form series means you own the concept and can sell it upstream…. either to networks as long form when appropriate, or build out an entire back end business off the back of it.
So for all those reasons digital series will be a main area of focus for me in 2018. I’ll still be Producing a mid-budget feature ($3-$5 million range) which starts shooting in April and will be out of post in time for Sundance 2019 festival submission. Don’t worry, I’ll be taking you along that whole process with me as I go and documenting my journey for this of you who are interested.
I’m also EP’ing a handful of other exciting projects and mid budget features but the beauty of digital series is that you make them happen a lot quicker than a feature film and my goal is to produce one a quarter….so let’s see how I do with that!
What about you guys? Is this a subject you guys are interested in hearing more about? Has anyone produced digital series themselves and if so, what’s your experience been like? Let’s discuss in the comments section below…
PS: I’ll dig in more to all this in greater detail in my January FS Members Training Webinar. If you’re not an FS member yet, you can JOIN HERE … and we’ve brought back the popular yearly membership option for those of you who would rather pay for a year up front rather than a recurring monthly option…..see you on the ‘inside’!