As part of the emotional fallout of how poorly ALGORITHM has sold in what I’m now calling its soft-launch, I’ve been forced to iterate, to change my views on some things. It requires that I modify my view of humanity, and slightly downgrade my view if inherent morality.
This shift is, to me, even more profoundly depressing than the bad sales because it means I have to build a business model that, at its very core, incorporates greed and selfishness into its design. And, it’s even worse since my primary motivation for making movies isn’t simply to explore my own philosophical beliefs in some masturbatory situation. I do my creativity in public because I believe it adds to the public good. But, if the public isn’t good, if they’re more greedy than benevolent, what does it say about me that I want to entertain them?
I make the counter-argument that I’ve opted to not merely entertain people, but to use entertainment to encapsulate the thinking that’s needed for people to pull themselves out of their amoral tailspin, to get them thinking an engaged in their lives and contribute to a better future for themselves and the rest of humanity.
* * *
Yesterday I got a text from my brother Paul, who told me he’s been talking to one of his Hollywood friends about helping me with distribution. I told him I was going to call Shoreline tomorrow (since the text was yesterday, that call was made today, but I’ll get there.) and that I’d get back to him. Having more possible sales options really brightened my day yesterday.
This morning, at 10:35am I called my contact at Shoreline and found out that they have decided not to purchase any rights. I texted my wife the bad news.
I then texted Paul and told him I wanted to talk to him and if he had time. He made the time. I went and talked to him about connecting with his HW contacts. He said he did a soft-pitch and that he didn’t get much of a response. In other words, his previous text was a bit optimistic, to say the least.
I then gave him a price I was willing to do the videos for, $2,000/30 seconds. That’s helping with the script, shooting it, and editing it. He retorted with $700. I told him that wasn’t possible for me. He then asked if I would lend him my $7k worth of filming equipment and let his 16yr old employee come over and use my $10k computer at my house. I told him no. He then asked to rent them. No. He then asked me to train 16. I said I’d be happy to do that for free.
I later got a text that said someone didn’t want me working on any of their projects.
* * *
It’s been a bad day.
I’ve taken the sales portion of www.thehackermoive.com off-line and pitched it as the end of the soft-launch. The soft-launch ended because sales had become a trickle. No one really seems to care.
* * *
It’s hard not to be sad about this. It’s hard to find some hopeful spin, to know that I don’t have a way of making money with ALGORITHM. Because my first tendency is to ask myself where I’ve gone wrong, my first response is that ALGORITHM isn’t as good as I’ve been led to believe, that I’ve been inappropriately optimistic and that ALGORITHM actually isn’t that good of a movie. If it were good, more people would be willing to pay for it. Since they’re not…
I have to stop now. This line of thinking is too depressing.
My mind is drawing me back in the direction of writing novels, which has almost no overhead costs at all, is as creatively fulfilling and less than 1/3 of the work.
* * *
[insert 3 hours here]
* * *
When I’m writing and I can’t figure out the next plot point, I like to go on walks. They’re cathartic. They clear my head. They get more blood flowing to my brain. They give me time to think and feel and move and vent all the things I can’t express without breaking something and that frantic energy gets converted from destruction into productivity.
I got back from the walk with a couple revelations.
ALGORITHM isn’t selling. I don’t know that it will ever sell.
* * *
Sean Hackett and I are chatting as I’m writing this and he suggested I check out Gravitas Ventures, which purchased a movie by a mutual acquaintance. I will definitely be talking with Gravitas before I do what I’m about to describe.
* * *
Back to the revelations.
The idea that using mechanisms available to me will not allow me to distribute ALGORITHM in a way that lends itself to getting far beyond the audience that’s already seen it… that reality is forcing me to reconsider my distribution model. I thought, if people are going to watch it for free anyway, if people were willing to sit through commercials from the pirated versions on Youtube, why not just post my own version on Youtube and put ads there.
Youtube has already offered me the possibility of becoming a partner with them. Obviously not the $1m/year the majors are getting, but it means I can put ads on my videos. It’s something I’ve strongly resisted because I don’t like ads. But, it will bring money in and it will allow people to watch it for free.
That acceptable-but-not-ideal model could be counter-balanced by selling an ad-free version on my site for $1-2. That will give people the option. If they hate ads and want to watch it, pay. If they’d rather not pay, and are willing to pay with their time and attention, then ads. Meanwhile, both models generate money for me, which allows me to continue doing what I do.
Building on that same model, I could also release each of the tracks of the soundtrack, with the corresponding video (with the rest of the audio removed) as videos on Youtube, also with ads. And, of course, I’d still sell the soundtrack on the site. The idea is to make it as accessible as possible while still paying for my continuing to create.
* * *
That idea of iterating yet again, it really cheered me up.
* * *
And, it segued into another idea: pool all the creative people I know and get them making stuff, and putting it up on Youtube with ads. That’s why I was talking with Sean Hackett. He’s one of the people I’d want to work with. He’s always been very supportive and he’s really smart. And, he also actually used to work for Youtube, so he’s very well informed (I actually forgot that he used to have that job; it was just serendipity). He had some great tactical thoughts on how I should go about it. Each of his points were right on. And, he said, if I went forward as he suggested, he’d want to be a part of it.
So, sadness has been expelled. I’m feeling much better. Man, this thing is a real roller-coaster!