Presented by: Hugh Hancock (Video Game Filmmaker and founder of Machinima.com)
What I’ve been doing for the last ten years is making films, sometimes feature films, using computer games. I’ve used barriers that don’t exist as cameras, I’ve impersonated a Thunderbird while on CNN, I’ve been quoted in the New York Times, I’ve travelled all around the world, and had the chance to see the birth of a new artistic medium which I have had a significant part in creating. These days I’m using more or less the same technology as James Cameron and Peter Jackson to make films on something like a 1000th of their budget. Oh, and in between that, I plumb the murky depths of the internet marketing world, hang out with people who sell you dark pearls and people who make porn, and if anyone is wondering, who the idiot who buys ads on facebook, is, “hi”. So, I’m going to leave you two problems, and one solution which I’m suspecting you won’t believe.
The first problem. When the ‘Statute of Anne’ was drafted no one was thinking about ‘World of Warcraft’. This has some significant problems and most of the people who get screwed by it will never tell you. I’ve seen a lot of them, I’ve seen a lot of young filmmakers, come up, show the signs of absolutely blazing talent, produce something that was massively popular, that loads of people wanted to see more of, get horribly scorched by copyright and vanish, never to be seen again.
Let me give you two examples. A friend of mine, Phil Rice, produced a film called Male Restroom Etiquette – it was fantastic, it had five million viewers, Jay Leno wanted to feature it. Phil Rice wanted Jay Leno to feature it on his show, because that’s one of the big tickets in the US to a comedy career. Unfortunately it was made using Sims 2 – it had nothing to do with the Sims 2, the story had nothing to do with the Sims 2, it just happened to be using the Sims 2’s characters. Jay Leno’s lawyers talked to the owners of the Sims 2, the owners of the Sims 2 didn’t get back to them, ever. Phil’s career never really happened, he’s still making films but he’s about a 1000th as popular as he should be.
Second example. A couple of other people released a fantasy film called The Return. It was made in World of Warcraft, it was massively successful, there were about half a million people who were saying , “Hello, we’d quite like to pay you money to watch the series of this,” and Terrorez said, “We’d quite like money, we’d like to do that.” They talked to Blizzard and Blizzard said no.
Now, there’s a huge problem with derivative works, particularly cross-media derivative works. Particularly in the UK, you have no exemption for transformative use – the US does. But there are problems with it there. As a result, an awful lot of young creatives these days are producing work in a transmedia way because it’s cheaper, or because that is the culture they are immersed in, or because they just thought ‘Hey, let’s make a cool film in Halo.’ Most of the time, they don’t realise it’s going to be awesome, until such a time as they put it out and everyone goes – ‘That’s awesome.’ Then, they try to do something commercial with it, copyright lawyers from the bigger companies who have no interest whatsoever in allowing this work to go ahead, sit on it very hard, and they disappear.
That’s a big problem, and I don’t have solution.
Second thing, when Lilian mentioned that there were going to be a lot of people from the arts funding bodies in the audience (in this event), she said – ‘Of course, you’ll be very familiar with them, as a filmmaker’. My response was, ‘No, I honestly have no idea of who they are or what they’re doing.’ Sorry guys.
I find grants to be of absolutely no use as a filmmaker, and I think some people want to know why. I spent about ten years looking for grants, trying to get funding, occasionally getting grant funding. First point is: in my experience, in order to get grant funding, you have to cut, spindle or mutilate your idea in such a manner as to appease the audience that is going to give you grant money. This is directly in conflict, under normal circumstances, with the audience that is subsequently going to watch the bloody thing, and I’m much more interested in having an audience that likes my work. Second point is: grant funding is an enormous pain, it takes ages, it’s slow coming, it requires you to make demos and demos and demos….in the time that it takes me to do three funding applications (which is what you need to get one successful one), I can start a business and it can fund my films for the next four years. It’s not a hard choice. It’s easier for me to start a small business in the current climate than it is to apply for grant funding. Third thing is, and this is the solution. As mentioned a little while ago, I stopped making films entirely because I decided that I would quite like some more money to make them, and instead of going the traditional route of going to funding bodies, I decided to start businesses. This lead me to the murky world of internet marketing. If you want to know what I do, google internet marketing, then ignore the first hundred results, because that’s people trying to sell you things. The rest of it, is more or less what I do.
Now, you guys are all here to try and find a way to make money off creative IP, to find a way creatives can sustain themselves making creative IP and so on, in the 21st century with piracy, and the interwebs, and Facebook, blah, blah, blah. Well, the good news is, solved problem. (Laughter)
Seriously, there are lots and lots of ways, certainly for small independent creators (I’m afraid I don’t know about the corporations and I have no clue how you survive the mixed media in posterity problem, sorry) to sustainably make money in the modern age. Some of these ways also make absolute wodges of cash, we are talking in the order of 100,000 dollars per day, in some cases. Now, a lot of people doing this are very obscure, who hang out in very dodgy parts of the internet that you’ve probably never heard of. I hadn’t until two years ago. They certainly don’t hang out at academic conferences, they don’t wear suits and many of them don’t wear clothes (laughter).
These business models do not all come from fiction (although some of them do), nor films (although some of them do), some come from how-to books, some come from books on making money online, and believe it or not, some come from MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer games), and, some of them come from pornography.
People are making money out there from liking on facebook, they make 1 million writing blogs you can’t even find, there are thousands more authors perfecting their techniques to make money in forums you’ve never heard of. There are people out there who want the fourth season of their TV-style series that you’d probably never discover when pissed. There are people with 5 million person audiences – I am not exaggerating. I advertise on one of these guys’ blogs, that you’ve never heard of, people like Pat Flynn, Tim Ferriss, Chris Guillebeau, Sonia Simone, Finch, Naomi Dunford, Fraser Cain, Tim Howgego, Peculiar, Damien Valentine, Tawnis Logue, Nym, Jeph Jaques, Andrew Hussie, Jarrett Cale.
I’m going to very quickly round off by giving you ten business models that work, right now, to make money off intellectual property. Here we go:
1. Identify a market that readily spends cash. Interview them to find pain points. Create an information product that fills their needs. Sell them it before it’s finished. Finish it. Profit.
2. Take out Facebook ads for your book. Split test. Profit.
3. Develop a minimum viable product. User-test. Repeat until profit. Develop a minimum viable audience. Find out what they want. Give it to them. Profit.
4. Write about one specific area you know or are interested in that other people are too. Find out what search terms there are out there for that area. Write about it. A lot. Profit.
5. Come up with a bunch of ideas. Test until you’ve got a good one. Test landing pages until you’ve got a good one of them too. Make it. Profit.
6. Offer people 50% off the price of your book/film/dog biscuit if they direct people to it. Profit. Vast, vast, hideous sums of money.
7. Find a very high-competition niche. Do exactly the same thing that everyone else is doing in that niche, but swear more. Profit.
8. Give some of your best stuff away if people give you their email address. Send them emails every so often. Occasionally, recommend your own things or something you genuinely think is good. Profit enormous amounts.
9. Buy banner ads pointing to your stuff. Don’t suck at it. Profit.
10. And this one still works for a fair number of people. Give all your stuff away. Be confused when money turns up. Profit.