I should have known Free would be the mantra of the weekend. We were going to take Hope The Younger to freeload at Vanessa's Dad's pad by the beach for the 4th, but before we left, we had the op to share a cab back from celebrating Strand's 20th with Indiewire's Eugene Hernadez; under his arm, still in it's protective wrapper, was Chris Anderson's "Free". Eugene had shelled out the $27 bucks for the wisdom of the nothing economy. Meanwhile, I was still hoping that Anderson would still take me up on my offer to send copies to the 4 most influential people I know, and thus provide with a copy for the price of the title. I guess heads of Hollywood and Indiewood studios don't rank in his book. Back from the sea, sand still between my toes, I still haven't read the meme of the moment, and now must live vicariously.
Scott Macauley on FilmmakerMagBlog tipped me to Brian Newman's powerpoint on moving beyond Free, and actually how to make a living with Free. Brian answers that question quite clearly & concisely.
- Immediacy: Give them something now
- Personalization: To their needs
- Interpretation: with study guide, or commentary
- Authenticity: From you directly, signed by you
- Embodiment: Speaking Fees
- Patronage: Support the artist; Radiohead model
- Accessibility: Make it easy to get
- Findability: Work with partners who make you findable
To further answer this Question-Of-The-Moment, Janet Maslin points out in her review:
Mr. Anderson sees that consumers think not only about money but also about intangibles like convenience, access, quality and time.
Maslin, in contrasting Anderson's "Free" with Shell's book "Cheap", also hits upon one of the plagues that runs amok in Indie Filmland:
Ms. Shell’s intangibles are different; she argues that moral accountability and responsibility are often sacrificed for the sake of cheap pricing.
There are four strands of argument here: a technological claim (digital infrastructure is effectively Free), a psychological claim (consumers love Free), a procedural claim (Free means never having to make a judgment), and a commercial claim (the market created by the technological Free and the psychological Free can make you a lot of money). The only problem is that in the middle of laying out what he sees as the new business model of the digital age Anderson is forced to admit that one of his main case studies, YouTube, “has so far failed to make any money for Google.”
To makes matter worse, providing for Free, isn't free to YouTube. As Gladwell points out "A recent report by Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube’s bandwidth costs in 2009 will be three hundred and sixty million dollars." And then it gets even worse from there:
...in order to make money, YouTube has been obliged to pay for programs that aren’t crap. To recap: YouTube is a great example of Free, except that Free technology ends up not being Free because of the way consumers respond to Free, fatally compromising YouTube’s ability to make money around Free, and forcing it to retreat from the “abundance thinking” that lies at the heart of Free. Credit Suisse estimates that YouTube will lose close to half a billion dollars this year.
So where does all this leave us? Indie films been losing approximately two billion a year (guesstimate: 4000 features @ $500K avg. budget; all not distributed or recouping).Gladwell's summation essentially comes down to that there are no easy answers -- but that easy answers do sell books (or at least get you a publishing deal, and the 4th of July meme of the moment).
- A good first step is to work harder to make your film better and more distinct.
- The second step is team up and start to truly collaborate.
- Try following Kevin Kelly's 8 Generatives for step #3.
- I think the fourth step is follow those rules via some of the methods we've relayed here.
- Let's call the fifth step sharing your knowledge with each other in hopes that we will find a way.