There’s A Lot to Be Said

You know, there’s a lot to said for looking at something from your own point of view, and saying “this is the way I choose to do business, and you choose to business a different way. And that’s OK that it works for you, but I will not choose to do business with you.”

It’s kind of like, when I go to a fruit stand and there’s a peach I like, so I look at the price, and I decide to buy it.

Then, there’s another customer who goes to the store, and sees the same peach, and says “I like it, but I want to pay less for it” so he goes to the fruit stand worker and says “Hey, I really like you, and I really like your stand, and I really like this peach, but I can only pay you 50% of what you’re asking for it. Now, maybe tomorrow, if I have a good bowel movement because of your peach, I can come back and pay you some more for it.”

Now, let’s examine this for a minute.
First – The customer probably doesn’t at all know the fruit stand worker and is making a snap judgement on the persons character in order to get what he wants.
Second – Who cares if he likes the stand? It’s a shack. Shut up.
Third – Glad you like the peach, please pay for it.
and last
Fourth – I don’t want to know anything about your potential bowel movements, please, I’ll take 50% just to get you to shut up and leave my shack.

In current negotiations I’m having, in an attempt to buy out a company that will fail without a team and a real strategy and organizational structure behind it, we reached the point today where we walked away from the deal. We were done. There was no way to reconcile the BS that came back at us, a company where we have 6 figures worth of hard assets and zero (ZERO) debt, to take on another company that has less than $4,000 in hard assets and close to HALF A MILLION dollars in debt but has some “intangible” assets that have debatable real value, and some strategic value. So we called it a wash.

Until the majority shareholder of the company called to ask if he could come over RIGHT NOW to please find a way to make it work.

After much discussion, the discussion is to be continued in the morning, but the deeper we get, the more I start to think that even IF we get everything we want, it still might be more pain than it’s worth because I don’t like working with someone who does business in a different way than I do… that is why my partners have chosen to work with me, and I have chosen to work with them. And yet, maybe there is still some value – there IS definitely some sort of talent and ability inherent in the owner that has brought about some good things, though maybe in spite of his talent and ability to create things on purpose. His ability to spin and publicize things is pretty damn amazing. And he IS funny. Sometimes.

But dammit, it is hard to look at a proposition that looked uncertain from the get go, and to try to walk away when it looked worse, and to have someone come back and say “wait wait wait” – there’s a long road ahead for what’s left tomorrow morning.

Either way, it will turn out well for my company as our passion and enthusiasm for a new market fuels our imaginations and our relationships in our current business. It will be interesting to be a part of.

More thoughts on Content

Now my prior post doesn’t mean I think content should all be free – but I think it should:
A) cost less.
B) make much of it a “loss-leader” for actual merchandise. Hell, you can’t crack a Hanes T-Shirt now can ya?

Our CEO had a comment the other day about tracking the actual number of minutes each user viewed of each clip and using that to determine how we paid our licensees. Talk about a gargantuan task… Now, we looked into it, and the software being used currently doesn’t allow us to easily reconcile the number of minutes each user actually watched a movie (and as a percentage of how long that movie is vs. number of minutes watched…). But it probably will soon.

Now, this is an interesting idea. What if we applied this to going to a movie theater? Or a theme park? Or a concert?

I go to see a hundred minute long movie. It costs 10 bucks. That’s 10 cents a minute. Say 10 minutes into the movie, I decide “This movie SUCKS, I’m leaving” and the theater debits my card for only a a buck. That’s how much of the movie I saw.

Wow would that change the economics and incentives to make good movies right? Right!

But then I think about this for a minute, and I get a bit pissed off. Think about ALL the many things in life you pay for upfront and don’t get what you paid for? How many times would you have left a terrible movie if you knew it would only cost you a dollar to leave RIGHT NOW?

But noooo.. instead you sit through the whole thing, hoping, praying, DEMANDING that it gets better. And it never does. And when it’s all over, you wish you could find the dumbasses responsible for even conceiving the film and MAKE them PAY.

Anyway – I’m not sure where that leaves me as a filmmaker and executive other than, “holy shit” I hope I can make some good films… oh, but good is subjective…. eh, screw it. You’ll pay for it and like it.

Stop the madness. I’m tired. Start a new day, at a new office, with much madness and opportunity afoot tomorrow.

In the Belly.

Well, to say I’ve been lazy would not really be accurate. To say my priorities have laid elsewhere would be more like it. I’m changing the title of my blog because many other things are changing too.

But the more that keeps happening, the more I think it might be good to document, vent, and otherwise post about. So I’ll make more of an effort to do so.

Today’s fantastic news is that DVD Jon has broken iTunes DRM and it is a good thing.

But wait, I’m a creative! You’re stealing! My children won’t be able to eat!

Please.

I’m now working with a new company where DRM is becoming a big deal, and oddly enough, our COO was one of the consultants who worked with Microsoft for years to get their DRM in order. This company is called “Fun Little Movies”. We’re making, and acquiring shitloads of short comedy films for distribution via cell phones and other portable media players (currently including the new Creative Zen and all Microsoft powered “Portable Media Center”).

Now, our business is about the creation and acquisition of comedy short films and series. This is good. It’s fun. It might actually soon be lucrative.

But we are not just filmmakers, we are media publishers by default. What I mean by that, is that in order to sell our crap EVERYWHERE, we have to be able to deliver it EVERYWHERE at any time, in any format. We don’t make much, if anything at all, on the upfront in terms of the old model of filmmaking or media making. What we make is on the “long tail” – we will sell our clips to a BILLION PEOPLE for mere pennies. But boy, is that a lot of pennies.

I’m beginning to be a beliver in that the very idea of DRM is a failure. No matter how hard we as content creators work to lock down or secure a piece of content, we will fail.

Instead, I’m starting to think that the time and money we spend trying to lock down content could be better spent orchestrating better and easier ways for users to download or stream our content wherever the hell THEY want, in whatever format THEY want it in.

Yes, there will and ALWAYS will be people who will steal the content. That is called “shrinkage” and it happens in every business on the face the planet. The best safeguard that I can see right now is making your product easy to buy, in as many formats and in as many places as possible, as quickly as possible.

I’m More Creative Than You

Problem: I need to pay my bills and do so by doing creative work.

Solution: Convince as many people as I can how creative I am, so they might hire me to use my uber-creativity to help their a) product; b) lame ass tv show or movie or c) design a website – sometimes…

So now the problem is that I do get hired to do the creative work, and that’s well and good, but I find myself less and less inclined to walk around proclaiming how large my penis is and that it is bigger than any other penises in proximity.

I find myself more and more inclined to find ways to stand up, say what I think about things, and work with my usual work ethic, and if clients and potential clients are good with that, AND (and this is the tough one) I’m into whatever they want to do, and HOW they want to do it, then there’s a good match for creating great work.

It doesn’t even require a perfect storm for colloborative creationism – it simply requires people knowing what you’re about, and how you’re going to approach what they want you to do. It’s about creating your own personal brand, and finding an effective way to communicate it.

Watching it Happen

OK, while I’m not normally much of a TV watcher, I must admit that the casting decisions made for the new season of “The Apprentice” is brilliant.

And even in it’s first hour of “Street Smarts” vs. “Book Smarts” it’s clear that the book smart folk have been brought up believing that appearances are important, while the Street Smart folk are more intent on doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

Nothing is more tell-tale, and more inline with my current favorite creative work, Hugh MacLeod’s “How to Be Creative” than seeing all the silly ass college grads sitting around in a room after their loss and someone asking the group “well, how do we feel? what do we think” – which is the essence of his 8th Rule. “Team Players are not very good at creating value on their own. They are not autonomous; they need a team in order to exist.”

And we have reached the point in our society where it is more important to exist inside the team, and keep the status quo, rather than commit to something, anything and run the risk of being booted off the team.

Kind of a crock of shit, I think.

The Death of Distribution Channels, the Birth of the True Market

Was just reading through my “Wired” RSS feed and skimmed through Adam Penenberg’s Media Hack column of the week, when he refered to something written last year by Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired Magazine – called “The Long Tail.

Adam was drawing parallels with the ubiquity of blogging and it’s effect on the free market of intellectualism.

It’s really no wonder so many people are scared shitless of free knowledge and free markets. Hell, I’m scared – because all of these ideas of meritocracy and people actually deciding what something is worth based upon it’s quality means that either my shit better be good or I will perish (figuratively speaking, of course). This more than any other issue is what’s got all the music and film and television people running around in circles tearing their hair out trying to figure out what the “next big thing is.”

But here’s what I think – the next big thing, is not a big thing at all. In the power of the free market, it’s all about the small things….and how many of those small things you have to sell to make a living.

But here’s the hard part; I’m deep in a business where it is very expensive to create content – even at the independent level.

So here comes the challenge. According to “The Long Tail” we have to be prepared to make possibly more sales than I might have previously forecast, but over a far far longer period of time. This is good for long term revenue, but very bad for cash flow. If it turns out to be true – the studios will continue to need larger and larger pictures to prop up their enormous and bloated overhead costs, and the indies will need to find a way to reinvent their business.

It’s gonna be interesting.