Reading for an August Weekend: Financing, Distribution, Red Envelope, and More on 'Dr. Horrible'
- The Christian Science Monitor writes about how the Web is being used to finance and distribute indie films, with quotes from yours truly, filmmakers Minna Zielonka-Packer and Lance Weiler, and IndieGoGo co-founder Slava Rubin.
- I was a little slow to come across the news that Netflix has shut down its Red Envelope division, which produced and distributed movies. That's too bad.
From Variety's coverage:
One hurdle to continuing Red Envelope, execs said, was the notion of the company competing against the same studio suppliers it was negotiating with every day over DVDs and streamed content. The complications involved in acquiring, producing and distributing pics were an unnecessary headache for a company already battling a resurgent Blockbuster and the dizzying pace of technological change and consumer habit.
IndieGoGo has a bit more on their blog.
- Eric Kohn of Stream talked to the producer of 'Purple Violets,' the Ed Burns film released direct-to-iTunes last fall. While he doesn't share a lot of financial details, he does recommend that other filmmakers do similar experiments with distribution, and says the results were on the high end of their expectations.
- There's been a lot more written this week about Joss Whedon's 'Dr. Horrible' series, which I noticed is now available on Hulu.com, speckled with advertising. (That wasn't part of the original distribution plan, at least as it was announced.)
The New York Times, in a column called "The Web," compares it to what you'd find on TV:
On that scale “Dr. Horrible” falls somewhere between an amusing trifle and a dramedy that won’t make it to the 13th episode. Mr. Whedon has clearly thought about how to develop and add layers to a story (even a goofy tale about a nebbishy villain with a freeze ray) within the short-attention-span context of the Web. But as diverting as it is, “Dr. Horrible” still looks both slight and overheated compared with any middling-to-good television series, and the jokes, both verbal and visual, feel tossed off and scattershot.
I think that's an unfair comparison... online, 'Dr. Horrible' stood out as something funny and worth spending 45 minutes with...which is quite unusual for Internet content. If we assume, at the high end, that 'Dr. Horrible' cost $250,000, it was still much cheaper to make than an hour of TV programming. (The New York Times says an hour of reality programming averages $700,000, and scripted dramas $1 million to $2 million.) And as a piece of Internet content, it could take advantage of links and sharing and embedding in a way that no TV show ever could.
This post from Kendall Whitehouse makes the case that Joss Whedon would do other indie content producers a great favor if he shared the financial details of the 'Dr. Horrible' experiment: how much did it cost to produce (and promote), and what is he earning from digital distribution (and eventually, DVDs)? I completely agree.
Kendall's post also got me thinking about an issue I've been harping on for almost three years now: why was it easy for 'Dr. Horrible' to get a prominent spot on iTunes, when most indie producers can't get iTunes to carry their content?
Finally, I wrote a blog post for Harvard Business Online making the case that Hollywood studios ought to be conducting more original content experiments, similar to 'Dr. Horrible,' with small-ish budgets.