Piggybacking perhaps on my recent post about selling out, just where do you hope to find your financial backing? In the web-series world I think a lot of faith is placed on the nebulous world of online advertising. Still others are hoping some mysterious force - be it fans or sponsors - will see the work they do and offer to help out. But all of these methods insist you actually make your show FIRST.
This method has like a 20% success rate. That's a completely made-up and biased number based on little more than my impression of the industry. But go with me here. How many of you have started projects offering folks deferred pay with the promise of creating a stellar project which would - now here's the key - lead to financing for a 2nd season. Raise your hand. Now how many of you have successfully financed a second season. Like, raised everything you needed to fully pay everyone industry rates AND pay them the deferred fees agreed upon for the first season? Is your hand still raised? If so we definitely need to talk. If not, read on!
Truth be told most projects, including many Hollywood endeavors, start off as passion projects. At least one person commits the time and energy and (often) money out of pocket to get their project to a level where people with money will actually look at it. This could be a script to pitch, a Kickstarter campaign video, or an entire first season of a web-series. You can't really get away from it, you can just strive to limit the time-suck by getting your shit together before you ask other people to come on board.
OK, so let's say you've gathered your team and they have all agreed to work on this project for nada. Remember you've promised them that with excellent work and the kind of production value you expect from a million-dollar per episode television series, you'll be able to pay them because... ?
Sorry, how will you?
If your business plan is simply to make an exceptional project and hope for the best then you're not finished with that plan. I would hesitate to even mention it to anyone - be they potential crew or potential investors. With film business plans it's imperative to present to your investors (including potential deferred cast/crew members... yes they're investors too!) not just the sort of business you expect to do (comparables) but also how you hope to acquire that business (revenue streams). This info can easily be extrapolated to web-series as well, and I strongly recommend you go through and make a business plan now (or update it).
Think about it. No one expects you to make a shitty web-series. Everyone is gonna hope for the best of course! So promising to make the best one you can is a foregone conclusion. But once production is over how hard are you looking for your audience, aka your financiers? You MUST start before you hire your first crew member or cast your first role.
Trust me I'm a gold-winning overly-excited-filmmaker. When I have a project idea I want to MAKE IT. And that works if you don't care about making money. But if you are promising people that, yes, eventually, you want to be making money then you need to think about it.
OK. But where, pray tell, is that money? It could be via a distributor (XBOX Live), via a sponsor (Sprint), via audience support (Kickstarter). I will most definitely go into this in a future post but I want to hear from you. Where are YOU looking for money? You don't have to give specifics but what is your business plan looking like? Have you advanced beyond the "hope for the best" mentality? Have you approached backers somehow before you started shooting?