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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Whedon Gets Specific on 'Dr. Horrible' Economics

Kendall Whitehouse at the Wharton School has just posted a great interview with Joss Whedon, creator/writer/director of 'Firefly,' 'Serenity,' 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' and 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.' (His new TV series on Fox is called 'Dollhouse.')

Kendall finally gets Joss to talk, in some broad strokes, about how his original, three-part Web series, 'Dr. Horrible,' performed financially. Here's a key passage:

    Knowledge@Wharton: Several numbers have been quoted regarding the overall cost of "Dr. Horrible" -- "low six-figures"; "around $200,000" -- can you set the record straight?

    Whedon: We got so much of this done through people doing us favors -- department heads and people who have access to things. But you've got to pay your day-to-day crew. The actors all did it for nothing. And we all did it for nothing. So, the production costs alone -- the basic costs of filming the thing, and getting the locations, props and everything -- ran a little over $200,000.

    We had a secondary budget drawn up in case of a profit, wherein we were trying to find rates for Internet materials. In some cases they didn't exist. We used models that had been created by the guild for repurposed, or reused, material that we used for original [content], because this had never come up before.

    We didn't want to leave a sour taste and say, "Well, we made some money off of you guys being kind." It was like: No, everybody has to benefit from what they've done, obviously not enormously -- it's Internet money we're talking about -- but as soon as we got in the black, we paid everybody off.

    So that budget was probably about twice what the original budget was.

    Knowledge@Wharton: You've now earned more than twice the original cost?

    Whedon: Yes.

The whole interview is well worth a read, but I also wanted to highlight this very inspiring quote from the end:

    Whedon: ...A lot of people sit around and go, "How can I get this made?" The only answer is: By making it. By borrowing someone's camera. By buying a camera. They come cheap and they work well. And if you know where to point them -- and the person that you point them at is saying something interesting -- that's it! That's how it works.

    I can't stress enough that I believe the best thing in the world is for everybody who feels like they have a story to tell, to tell it.

    If they want to sell it, if they want to make a lot of money, they can do that -- and they can kiss their story goodbye. Because, in general, that's the last they're ever going to see of it, because somebody else will own it and they will either not make it, or make it very differently than that person hoped.

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