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I’m seeing more and more “webisode” television and it reminds me of my days in Los Angeles theater.  It’s up there, not as a staged experience or to even just entertain, but as a showcase.  The creator is actually hoping someone will discover their series and put it on Network television.  It’s content for the wrong medium.

In 2002, when I co-produced the documentary series “Senior Year” with David Zeiger for PBS, I also produced a series at KCET, based on the television show for the web.  At the time, our biggest challenge was how to make the series accessible and easy to view on home computers.  I faced those same problems when I presented my political narrative webseries “Unconventional.”  These days we’re past access and viewing issues, but I still haven’t made a dime from any of my webisodes.

I continue to develop webisodes and related content.  I’ve come to believe these two things:

1) that there is too much good free entertainment on the internet to expect anyone to pay for your webseries unless you’re Joss Whedon.

Sorry, but someone sends me a link, I usually take a few moments to see what they’ve created, but not if I have to pay on my credit card or Paypal.  I even hesitate if I have to enter my email and become a “member.”

2) Unless you don’t care about the costs (and this could be because you’re putting up the webisodes hoping to eventually sell the series to television, you know as a “showcase” of your incredible talent) you’ve got to find an advertising sponsor ( see reason #1).

Now, that’s not always easy, but take some time to figure out the marketing of your work.  In a recent issue of Hollywood Reporter, IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller talks about the Web as being in just the early stages of its potential as an advertising medium.  He doesn’t see banner advertising having any real success and believes Video ads will be targeted and interrupt programming, as well as playing before and after the content.  I’m seeing this happen more and more.  I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker I hate a show being interrupted when I watch it on television and I certainly will hate it on the web, especially if it is my show.  However, if that is what it takes to get the money to produce the programming, then I’ll bite my lip and shut up.

So what’s a solution.  Well, after producing the live action elements to the upcoming EA video game “Need for Speed:Undercover,” I’m convinced that it is a waste of money to make webisodes look and feel like short three-four minutes of regular television.  Instead, it needs to be a whole different form of entertainment, a mixture of interactive gaming, virtual worlds, comedy, music, etc.  The viewer needs to say, “wow, I couldn’t have seen that being done any other way.”  You’ve got to want to stay at the web site and explore.  Then the banner ad does work on the site because it is not ignored but becomes part of the experience.  You can even have a commercial, not in the content of the video, but in the interactive content.  This stuff requires a lot of thought and planning, but I’m seeing some great cross-over.  I think it’s evident on the Need for Speed and Which Road to Take sites.

We’re developing some of these ideas (still very much in development) on the PressPlayMovie site, with ChanneledObsession.com as the marketing portion.  On all these sites, things keep changing so the site becomes more interactive and worth a return visit.  You build on that.  It can’t be just a new episode of television, it’s got to be a bigger experience.

I’m very interested in any other thoughts on these ideas.

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I first met Jeff Seckendorf on the feature film, “Finding Home” starring Genevieve Bujold, Louise Fletcher and Lisa Brenner.  I was impressed.  I found his cinematography and his visual understanding of how to tell a story the most impressive thing about the feature film.  We’ve remained friends ever since.  A few years later I had the opportunity to produce a short film that Jeff directed entitled “The Crux,” starring Misha Collins and Wilie Garson (Sex and the City).  Still liked his understanding of film and how to tell the story visually.

Jeff Seckendorf has taught the “Art of Cinematography” for years at the International Film and Television Workshops (now the Maine Media Workshops).  It was because of Jeff’s introduction that I began to teach a course on producing at the Workshops.  One of my favorite highlights each year.  More info at my website at www.EricMofford.com.

A few months ago I completed production through my production company Unconventional Media on the live action elements of the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need For Speed:Undercover.”  We shot a 25-minute narrative film that is interlaced into the game.  Jeff was the Director of Photography and he did an amazing job.  We chose the RED camera for a variety of reasons: the large chip allows full control of depth of field, and the camera records in a ‘raw’ mode which allowed us to deliver a 4k intermediate.  Check out my RED Camera blog for more info.

So the long story short, Jeff has a wonderful training course for directors, cinematographers, editors, production designers called One On One Film Training.  This is not a film school, but a confidential consulting and mentoring program that teaches visual storytelling.  It doesn’t matter if you have a feature film or a video short, a TV commercial or music video, the process is the same.  How to tell the story!

I saw the success of this program when I produced Diane Namm‘s short film “The Sacrifice” starring Chris Mulkey, Jon Lindstrom and Darby Stanchfield (Mad Men).  Diane is a terrific writer and theater director but it was with Jeff’s One on One Training that she had a much better understanding of the filmmaking process.  I’ve worked with many first time directors, on bigger budget shows, that didn’t know what to do.  That wasn’t true with Diane Namm.  She was a professional throughout production.  I credit Jeff and his course (and I believe Diane would to) for this knowledge.

If you are not in Los Angeles, I know that One on One is available via ichat and podcasting.  In fact, I join Jeff on the audio recording “Making a Short Film.”  Check it out.  Check out the program.

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