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What's The Best Medium For A Storyteller In 2015 And Beyond?

(Hugh Hancock here again. Charlie's still beating the squamous and eldrich tentacles into malleable literary form, so I'm filling in for a few days. He'll be back soon.)

It's a weird time right now.

That's true in general. It's fascinating watching sci-fi authors like Charlie sprinting increasingly fast to keep ahead of the Bear Of Social And Technological Change. But it's specifically true right now for storytellers of all stripes, from comics artists (which category, somewhat to my surprise after two decades of movie-making, now includes me), to writers, to games designers, to filmmakers (also still including me).

Over the last year or so I've been taking a step back from my previous single-minded pursuit of performance capture and Machinima to get a broader understanding of the opportunities for anyone who wants to tell stories right now. Whilst Machinima has been pretty good to me, letting me travel all over the world, giving me the opportunity to pretend to be a Muppet on live CNN, and letting me tell stories ranging in scale from feature films to experimental arthouse shorts, it became clear to me that the landscape was changing pretty fast and I was probably missing out on all sorts of interesting things. So over the last year, I've experimented with comics, game development, prose fiction, a little bit of app development, virtual reality and filmmaking in many and various flavours.

And it's no exaggeration to say that the world of a lot of these artforms has been upended -- or in some cases entirely created -- in the last decade or so. And the next decade's going to make the last one look comparatively stable.

So what media are going to rise? Which are going to fall? Is VR going to look awesome then fail to deliver again?

I've got no certainties, but I do have some hunches and a lot more information than I had a year ago.

Feature Films

Right now, the world of indie feature films is fucked up.

For starters, the cost of production is in free-fall. We all know about GoPros, DSLR cameras being used on major productions and so on, but it goes way beyond that.

It's less about any single piece of tech becoming cheaper, and more about all the tech starting to interact in ways that do very strange and non-linear things to how films are made.

Cameras are becoming cheaper, sure, but they're also becoming lighter. At the same time, brushless motors and cheap IMUs mean that robot camera stabilisers are taking over from Steadicams for stable moving shots. And all of that means that a shot which used to require a guy who'd trained with a Steadicam can be done to 90% of the same quality by some untrained muppet (me) with a basic knowledge of how to walk smoothly and a magic box that does the rest of the work. And that magic box means that directors can rethink the rest of their shoot too, changing dolly shots (big pile of kit, couple of big hairy grips to work it) into a shot with a gimbal and a $200 self-balanced scooter. But all that might be irrelevant too because who the hell needs to wobble about on a scooter when you can probably just get a drone to do the shot?

Usable ISOs (the camera setting that affects how much light it needs) are shooting up like someone strapped them to a kangeroo with a rocket under it. And that means that our cameras need far less light, which means that the conversation with location owners about how we'll probably burn out all their electrics and is it OK if we park a generator next door becomes "fuck it, we'll just nip in, get the shot and use the ambient light. Two 40W household lights will be fine". But then obviously you don't want the rest of your crew to look like, well, a film crew, so it's a damn good thing that you can buy a perfectly good wide-shot camera that's small enough to count as a 1990s spy cam, right? (The fact that you can literally throw an axe at one without damaging it is a bonus.) You can just use your phone for the closeup shots.

But then you need to make sure that you don't have any big obvious sound gear -- but it's OK, because Rode just brought out a radio mic that frequency-hops on the 2.4Ghz band so you don't need a big-ass tunable reciever and can more or less rely on it to Just Work.

And the set's not quite perfect -- but that's not a problem because set extension tech is getting so good that you can more or less capture your actors and drop everything else you need in the shot in post.

And so on.

No-one really knows where this stuff is going to end up. Lots of grizzled veterans will tell you that it doesn't make a difference, and you still need experts from professions A through Q and kit worth $500,000 to make a decent film. Meanwhile, wide-eyed visionary types will tell you that we're heading toward a world where two-person film crews including the director are not only practical but routine.

(Two people? Luxury! How about a film made with ZERO crew including the director?)

All of this is bloody exciting. But the flipside is that once you've made your film for a budget that would have been impossible a decade ago, you'll find that the next stage has become more, not less, impossible.

The film distribution business is creaking and heaving under the strain of the world's change, and filmmakers are taking the hit hard.

Just the other day I heard the phrase "P&A is the new MG". Let me break that down for you.

'P&A', in movie terminology, is 'Prints and Advertising' -- in other words, the cost required to get a film into the cinema, and some marketing budget. 'MG', meanwhile, is 'Minimum Guarantee' -- what novelists would call an 'advance'. In the film world, thanks to the miracle of Hollywood Accounting, the MG is likely to be all the money you ever see from a film. (Both "Blair Witch" and "Lord Of The Rings" technically lost money, meaning the studios didn't owe any royalties.)

So in other words, in the brave new world of film, the advance you'll get from a distribution deal is... the money required to print the movie and advertise it. Which then gets spent on printing and advertising it.

Meaning your total expected income - not profit, income - from that distribution deal is $0.

So go to the brave new world of independent online distribution, right? Well, yeah. Except that the noise level and the difficulty of getting exposure at that point is so high that you'll still lose money. Without naming names, I know of reasonably commercial, well-made, well-reviewed indie movies that have made less than $3k -- against their $50k+ costs, not counting director's time -- on their independent release.

Netflix? They're swamped with filmmakers desperate to get onto their platform. iTunes? Just to get into the store -- with no publicity -- costs over $1,000.

The phrase I keep hearing about filmmaking is "there's never been a better time to get your movie made, and never been a worse time to get anyone to watch it".

Given all that, why the hell am I still working on live-action films? Because the technological change that's happening is just so damn exciting, that's why. The only other narrative medium that's changing as fast as film right now is VR. And where there's change, there's opportunity. If you're making films today the same way that indie filmmakers were making them a decade ago, sure, you're Gonna Have A Bad Time. But if you're trying to do something innovative? Then it's more a question of "test, observe results, repeat".

Television And Webseries

Televison's a refugee camp right now, where half of the hollow-eyed survivors wandering around in a daze are absent-mindedly clutching Oscars.

The growth of Netflix and all its rivals coupled with the sudden muscle of cable in the US means there's a huge amount of money and interest being poured into the TV market. At the same time, after things like Breaking Bad, House Of Cards, The Sopranos, et al, TV has shed its stigma and become the place to be.

Everyone's pouring money into TV: Amazon, Netflix, Playstation, even Yahoo, plus of course all the incumbents. Traditional film companies and even sales agents are jumping into TV-land too. And the same economies I mentioned above in film are also taking hold in TV.

So is it a good place to get into for a storyteller? Only if you're really good at deal-making or climbing institutional ladders.

Currently the money that's being spent is mostly being spent at the top. And thanks to the brain-drain from film, there's no shortage of really well-known people with serious portfolios eager to get their series made.

That means that it's at least as hard to break in as it ever was for a newbie, perhaps harder, unless you're already successful in another medium (books, comics, film), or you have strong contacts with an established Executive Producer or showrunner. And whilst you might even manage to sell your series idea to a production company, there's no guarantee that you'll end up associated with it subsequently.

There's no real 'indie television' in the same way as 'indie film' yet, and my understanding from experts in the distribution business is that even if you self-funded and made a TV-format series, you'd probably find you couldn't sell it.

So what about webseries?

Webseries are great - I've made a couple of them. They're an excellent format, superior to the feature film, I'd say, in all ways but one.

That one way is a bit of a killer, though. They just don't have a viable way to make money right now.

The economics of YouTube and similar platforms heavily favour content that's very fast to create and upload: Let's Play videos, direct-to-camera opinion or comedy pieces, or funny cat videos. At regular YouTube ad prices, even a piece that gets a million views will earn about $2,500, which is great if that took you three hours to make and cost you a fiver, but less good for drama, which is infamously slow and expensive by comparison.

That's true even given the technology shifts of today. Drama -- unless very cleverly scripted -- still requires multiple locations, props, costume, multiple actors, stunts and special effects, complex editing, colour grading, etc. That's exactly why the Netflix / HBO subscription model has been so game-changing -- because it generates a far higher per-viewer revenue stream, it means that TV drama doesn't have to be so mass-audience to survive. And even if you are mass-audience, TV ad prices are 10x what a YouTube creator will get -- making the difference between 'practical to create drama if you're massively successful' and 'not practical at all'.

The few drama webseries that do make a living for their creators survive off either corporate sponsorship, Kickstarters or similar ancilliary revenue streams. Patreon seems like it might be a practical approach for some webseries, but again the high costs of drama make it less viable than for comics (see below).

So, much like indie film, it's very possible to make webseries, provided you're willing to put significant amounts of your own money into them and get less than half of it back. Actually sustaining a living making them is... non-trivial. It's not impossible, but it's a pretty bleak landscape.

Games

Games development looks a bit like film right now, but nothing's quite as bad.

Games development tools are advancing, if anything, even faster than film tools, partially aided by the fact that the entire thing's digital.

If you have any interest in gaming as a creative medium, I urge you to download either the latest Unity or the latest Unreal Engine release. They're astonishingly easy to use; you'll be able to create a playable game inside about two hours if you have any familiarity with programming or 3D tools, and probably about three hours if you don't. They're absolute powerhouses of software, powering most of the latest big releases right up to AAA games in Unreal's case. Oh, and they're free. Barring some reasonable royalty agreements, completely free.

That's insane.

There's a huge and very active game development community producing thousands of tutorials on every aspect of game development. I've yet to find a single problem with Unity that I couldn't Google and solve immediately. There are hundreds of art assets and plugins available for very reasonable prices to make almost any genre and setting you want.

On the downside, no-one's yet solved the problem that games projects are subject to feature creep like you wouldn't believe. From regular reading on /r/gamedev, feature creep seems to be the pit trap that swallows about 75% of all indie devs. For storytellers, that's compounded by the bad news that most game genres that are narrative-heavy and still mainstream-acceptable are amongst the most cost- and time-heavy. (RPGs and Telltale Games-style narrative adventures being top of the list).

But again, the really big problem is distribution.

You can forget the mobile market, for starters. Discovery in the App Store is unbelievably bad, and the median number of copies sold for an indie game released on iOS without a marketing budget tends toward zero. The Google Play Store is very similar. And marketing mobile games is brutal -- there are a lot of companies going for a cash grab with huuuuuuuge budgets behind them, a lot more using exploit-based strategies like game cloning, and generally it's a pit fight where everyone else is either cheating or paying professional gladiators, and all you've got is a butter knife and hope.

PC gaming is better, but there too the competition is incredibly fierce, the process of getting into most of the storefronts is deeply arbitrary and generally getting anyone to pay attention is tough as hell.

Some of this is mitigated by the fact that the gaming community is surprisingly forgiving of low production values. Indeed, indie game developers are strongly encouraged to stay away from competing with the big franchises in that way. Provided a game has a coherent art style it can get away with being blocky as hell, 2D and palette-limited, or even deliberately ugly if that suits the gameplay.

If you're very focused, have innovative ideas for ways to tell stories through games without spending too much time on them, and are good at making friends with journalists, indie games are an interesting option for a storyteller right now. But the golden ticket they ain't, and there are plenty of pitfalls. Personally, I'm staying clear; not because of the discovery angle -- I am good at publicity -- but because my projects tend toward feature creep at the best of times, and game dev looks like a hole from which I would emerge 5 years later with a massive beard and a game reliant on half-decade-old technology.

Prose

I'm not going to get too in-depth with prose, partially because my prose experiments failed early and partially because, of all of these media, prose is the one where I know there are bigger experts than me hanging around here -- notably our gracious host.

Prose is interesting because it's the only one of the artforms I'm discussing here that has gone through a revolution in distribution but not in creation. Writing a novel doesn't take massively less time now than it did 15 years ago; sure, minor things have changed (I hear some considerable enthusiasm about Scrivener), but it's not like a novel used to take 10x as long to write as it does now.

However, the distribution landscape for self-publishers has changed beyond recognition. From the initial rise of the blog (which we really can't overestimate -- we're talking about ubiquitous, zero-gatekeeper journalism accessible to all) to the ebook and the Amazon Kindle store (which I'd argue are two seperate and equally important advances), prose distribution is the only one of these artforms that has really seen a frictionless, practical self-distribution framework emerge.

It really helps that readers clearly have much less hesitation buying self-published books than they do buying micro-budget films or even indie games. That's perhaps unsurprising: there are a lot less things that differentiate a newbie self-published author from a NYT Bestselling giant. Whilst there are still very important skills involved -- writing style and plot -- there aren't the additional hurdles of, for example, acting, music, sound design, sound recording, editing, colour grading, production design, prop design, costume, makeup, cinematography, camera and lens quality, lighting, CGI effects, practical effects, motion graphics and probably some other things I've missed.

Non-fiction text is sufficiently easy to turn into money that it reaches the hallowed ground of actually being a plausible, investable business plan. I funded my last big film project from the combination of a non-fiction info site that I founded and another on which I consulted.

Fiction is, still, harder than that. Most obviously, we've still not really figured out how to market fiction direct to consumers outside the comparative slam-dunk of 'you like this author, so here's another book by her/him'. I've been helping M. Harold Page market his "Shieldwall" novel recently, and even given the fact that I speak and consult professionally on online advertising for non-fiction, it's a tough sell.

In other "con" elements for prose, Amazon's discovery tools are the best of any store for fictional media, by a long way, but they're also not perfect, by an equally long way. And the field's increasingly crowded with new authors -- but the same's true of all these media except, perhaps, Virtual Reality.

But overall, prose fiction is probably in the best shape of all the artforms I've mentioned here.

Sadly, I just don't get on with writing it. My prose fiction attempt crapped out at 4,000 words. Twenty years of working in visual media appear to have wired me to need pictures. So I moved on...

Virtual Reality

The new frontier!

There are two huge problems with VR for a storyteller at present.

First, not that many people have a VR headset.

Secondly, no one has the faintest idea how to tell stories in VR. Well, OK, that may be a slight exaggeration. We have the faintest idea how to do it. We just don't have anything beyond that.

I've been experimenting with Virtual Reality since about 2 months after the first Oculus Rift developer kits became available. I participated in the first Oculus Rift Game Jam, creating a game whose visuals are the very definition of the phrase "programmer art". I've even worked in Virtual Reality creating sets for non-VR films, for my last animated film, Stone And Sorcery.

I still don't exactly know how you'd tell an effective story in the damn thing.

I think that 3D stereo cubemaps might have a significant part to play (and if you have a access to a VR headset, btw, I highly recommend checking them out), but beyond that I got nothin'.

However, there are heavyweights working on solving that problem. Oculus themselves has a dedicated team working on the problem. And Hollywood directors like Alfonso Cuarón are looking into the Rift for storytelling, too. Someone's going to crack it, and soon.

And aside from that minor detail, VR's an excellent environment for a storyteller right now. It's super-hip, so getting press coverage isn't hard. It has a massively enthusiastic community who will actually seek your work out. And if you make something really cool, John Carmack will review it and tell you what you could be doing better.

There's even money in it. Whilst, as previously noted, there aren't many people with a VR headset at present, the people who do have one are (a) rabidly enthusiastic and (b) have disposable income, by definition. Several VR apps, including the ubiquitous porn start-ups, are definitely posting revenue, although I don't know how profitable they are right now.

Oh, and VR experiences aren't even that hard to make. Unity and Unreal both work natively with the Rift -- it's essentially no harder to make a Rift game than to make, well, a game.

Overall, the future's bright. But it is still the future -- a stable medium it ain't.

Which makes it rather exciting.

Comics

And so we finally come to comics. Why the hell am I making a comic, exactly?

Well, quite a bit of it comes down to less-practical issues of vision and the nature of the medium (which I'll go into more detail about tomorrow on my own blog) as well as the fact that my unique background lets me cheat several aspects of the comics production process egregiously. I don't think most people are using a $50,000 motion capture system to make comics.

But comics are actually in a very interesting place right now.

They're about halfway between film and prose in terms of revolution of creation. 2D art has changed a lot in the last 15 years, thanks largely to a little program called Photoshop, but we're not in 'complete revolution, burn all the books' territory.

Nonetheless, comics creation has become fast enough that it's practical for a single creator to produce an ongoing narrative -- in some cases, a pretty epic one.

And in terms of distribution, it turns out that comics are very well suited to the Internet as a form of delivery.

I'm more enthusiastic about webcomics than I am about Comixology-style digital comics. Comixology itself has a self-distribution program, but its lead times are startlingly gigantic: three months or so to get a comic into the store, with infamously stringent requirements that often result in submissions getting knocked back a bunch of times. And once you're in there, it's another digital store, with similar discovery problems to the Apple App Store.

Webcomics have a discovery problem, again, but there is some help in the form of Project Wonderful, an advertising agency that's pretty much dedicated to comics creators, and a generally enthusiastic community. The comics subreddits, for example, are actively welcoming of comic author self-promotion, something that's not true at all of most of the other medias' subreddits.

Webcomics enable extremely rapid experimentation. I was able to test out a webcomic idea in about 5 hours last year -- all the way from 'have idea' (admittedly from an existing project) to 'publicise and get viable, interesting feedback'. That's incredibly powerful, and something that's missing from almost all the other media I've discussed here.

And the audience for webcomics is, quietly, absolutely gigantic. Even if we discount the popular comic strips as opposed to ongoing narratives (Penny Arcade, Dilbert, et al), the audience for top serialised-narrative webcomics like Homestuck is in the order of multiple millions a day. To put this in perspective, a webseries that gets 1,000,000 viewers for its premiere episode across all time is a huge success. A solid number of webcomics see 100,000+ page views a day -- more than you'd expect by the usual inverse square law rule.

( I suspect a lot of the size of the audience is down to one simple fact: unlike movies, TV shows, or even games, it's very easy to consume the latest page of a webcomic at work. )

The combination of rapid development time and the large audience makes webcomics unusually practical from a financial perspective, too. Just on an advertising basis, larger webcomics are doing numbers that will generate at least a modest income. The webcomics community is leading the charge on alternative support methods like Patreon, too, and there are quite a few comic creators on there clearing $3k+ per month.

So, strangely, it seems that comics, which most people involved in them regard as an almost inevitably loss-making proposition, ended up looking to me like one of the, if not the, best propositions of all the available media in the 2010s.

And that's why Carcosa, my ongoing webcomic happened.

The Future

Given this is Charlie's Blog, I can't possibly leave things at a statement of the present.

So, where are things going to be in five years?

Firstly, I don't think that the 'film is scr000d' situation is going to persist long-term. Right now it feels like we're in a classic Warren Buffet "be bold where others are fearful" situation. One large player moving in with a competently executed, low-friction independent movie marketplace would change a lot, and I've no doubt that will happen.

I do think that the movie world is going to change beyond recognition. In the medium term, (independent) film is probably going to look a lot more like the book world: films are not going to stop getting cheaper and faster to make, until $6,000 is an average or perhaps even unusually high budget for a indie feature-length production. Studio films are likely to go a different way - several people are predicting a massive crash in the studio world in the near future when a couple of tentpole blockbusters fail badly, and I'm inclined to think the odds of that happening are good.

The sheer quantity of indie features being made right now - 10,000+ a year or more - also all but guarantees that we'll see an E.L. James style breakout hit from the truly indie film world in the near future; probably more than one. We're already seeing an erosion in the power of the 'movie star', and I suspect that's going to continue, too. We may even see a dramatic turn against the prejudices against low production value: that has already happened a bit with the "Mumblecore" movement, and the rapid evolution of film on the Internet may end up taking the entire aesthetic of the medium in a very strange direction where some things look very slick and others very amateurish.

I'm less than convinced about the long-term viability of the feature format, because it's dependent on the cinema as a long-term cultural artifact. As films become cheaper and faster to make, I can see short films returning as a financially viable medium -- if we get to the point where you can make a short in a day, then the YouTube model starts to make sense.

I think that the culture at large is going to wake up one day and realise just how big webcomics have become. With Homestuck and Questionable Content already starting to push into TV-sized audiences, webcomics look to be the next artform to suddenly break out of the 'nerdy subculture' ghetto and into mainstream culture, in as much as that term means anything.

Finally, VR is either going to fail utterly or be huge, for values of 'huge' meaning 'bigger than the mobile phone'. I don't think it's possible to overestimate the impact of the first genuine reality simulation. We'll figure out some way to tell stories in it, but it might be that those stories are necessarily interactive in nature. Alternatively, we might end up discovering that actually, hovering like a ghost in the middle of a dramatic scene is a surprisingly natural way to view drama. Games are already discovering this: several of the most popular Oculus Rift titles are actually third-person, not first-person at all.

But regardless, VR isn't just a game-changer -- it's a reality-changer.

Alternatively, it may be that VR fails and the second horseman of the VRpocalypse, Augmented Reality, ends up being the real winner. That's certainly what Microsoft are betting on with their Hololens.

At which point, the best guide I could give to the future of entertainment would be to say "Have you heard of this guy called Charles Stross? He wrote a couple of books a few years ago that you might find interesting..."

Agree? Disagree? Think I've missed something key? Let me know below.

And if you'd like to read more of my rants and rambles, you can find me on Twitter at @hughhancock and on the Web at Strange Company.

88 Comments

1:

> Writing a novel doesn't take massively less time now than it did 15 years ago; sure, minor things have changed (I hear some considerable enthusiasm about Scrivener), but it's not like a novel used to take 10x as long to write as it does now.

Yes indeed. The word processor revolution came much earlier. Another quiet revolution was the point when agents and editors started accepting e-submissions.

The one thing that has changed more recently is the revival of the shorter forms thanks to self-publishing via Amazon. In a sense that has speeded up production but in terms of titles not wordage.

2:

Yes, that's what's so interesting about prose. The massive upheavals that are happening in games and film right now happened to prose much earlier.

I'm not entirely sure how much the other narrative artforms will follow its lead, but I hope they will, at least in terms of getting a vaguely friction-light, discoverable platform.

However, it's notable that the situation in the music world, another artform that was technologically disrupted early, isn't nearly so rosy.

3:

Good and well thought out article. I am glad to see someone else giving some respect to the web comics genre, I have been an avid reader of web comics for quite a while and love the format.

The only medium that I can think of that you did not touch on is podcasts. I know of a great many that focus on short and serialized fiction, interested to hear your opinion on the format.

4:

Yes indeed. The word processor revolution came much earlier. Another quiet revolution was the point when agents and editors started accepting e-submissions.

This!

If you've ever written a novel-length text on a typewriter -- even a smart daisy-wheel electronic one, never mind a manual one -- then compared it to a mid-1980s Amstrad PCW word processor, let alone a modern Mac running Scrivener, the difference is as night and day. It's astonishing.

(I began writing fiction on typewriters in my teens and early twenties, was 21 when I got my first word processor, and didn't look back. Seriously, this is your missing revolution in book production -- it just happened 30 years ago.)

5:

Random comments -

First 100k word fiction work was written on a Mac SE in WriteNow. I had written 10k works on typerwriters before that and ZOMG you kids have no idea...

Regarding films - I think we're seeing really quality work out of midbudget stuff, the current release that springs to mind is Ex Machina (go see it if you have not). Not a *new* idea, but really well executed, with only 4 actors for nearly the whole film and a very limited number of set locations. And I bet a serious amateur could have pulled it off for under a million euro easy, vs the 11 million they did spend.

I think we have new film / TV distribution *tech* down, but as the author here states we don't have a new model yet. Commissioned works, yes, but no curation system for the masses, etc. Someone coming up with a model for that which flew would be in a very very interesting position, I think that's potentially a Next Big Startup type position, if someone has a model in mind.

6:

Doing comics on the web is fun. I just want to note that, as a rule, you are not going to be Homestuck. That is a combination of a lot of hard work for several years and no small amount of luck in striking a chord with an audience that' s underserved.

I've been working on a comic about a robot lady dragged outside of reality by her ex-boyfriend for about four and a half years now. Patreon has made it a lot easier to make it worth the time I pour into it; I make about $100 per page, and can crank out eight pages a month on a good month. That's a lot more than I ever made from advertising, a lot faster - that's after a year of having a Patreon.

That's as a solo creator; I write it, draw it, build its website, manage Kickstarters for its books, go to cons to sell/promote it, and occasionally even buy ads to get new readers. It's a slow process.

It is a hell of a lot easier to make a really nice product than it was back in the 80s B&W comics days. But I'm not sure it's any easier to make a living off of it, and becoming a smash hit is, as always, more of a dream to hope for than an actual goal to aim at. I've only been able to chase this for the past four years due to a lucky situation where I don't have to worry about where next month's rent is coming from.

7:

One of the things that's slowing the entire midbudget range of films down is that the bottom dropped out of that particular market for the studios in 2008 - 2009.

There's a huge hole where the mid-range budget movie used to be at the moment. It's being filled by a bunch of higher-end indies, particularly horror, at the low end of the range (Jason Blum, producer of Paranormal Activity, pretty much owns this area right now), but almost no-one else is funding movies in that range as I understand it.

8:

I think I saw you reply to a comment on my last blog post here over on HN a few days ago! Hello!

Yes, I couldn't agree more. Homestuck is the top end of the range, and as with any artistic venture, there's an inverse-square-esque distribution in place.

Still, it's interesting to compare your financial reward from your comic to the expected financial reward from spending the same amount of time making a feature film. I'd estimate you're about $25,000 up per year against where you would be as a feature filmmaker :)

(Barring Kickstarters and similar things for the film.)

9:

This is my cue for a product endorsement for Decrypting Rita, isn't it?

Seriously folks, if you haven't looked at "Decrypting Rita" yet you really ought to. Innovative, fresh, interesting, and it does my head in (although not quite as badly as Kill Six Billion Demons -- this is probably a good thing).

10:

The career of K. Brooke Spangler is interesting, here - created a webcomic (about a cyborg federal agent, a girl that sees ghosts, the ghost of Ben Franklin and an Uplifted koala - much, much more considered [and better] than that makes it sound) and has since started two series of novels with viewpoint characters from the webcomic, in two genres, and her next book will start a third - as well as single-volume comics for three other characters, the requisite comic print collection, posters, t-shirts etc, and a Patreon. Multi-modal careers as a pattern?

Midbudget movies... can we expect another Night Of The Living Dead (made on half a shoestring, initiated the zombie as a cultural force), or will the movie market fragment?

11:

Yeah, I had a couple comments in that HN thread.

And the cheapness of comics is part of why I'm doing them! I used to work in animation, but gave up because I didn't want to spend several years claw my way to the top of the heap to get a half a chance at telling stories that matter to me. The only person I have to convince my comics are a good idea is *me*, not a bunch of executives worrying about whether or not they'll get back the money it takes to employ a small army of people for a year or so. I've only had to fund one person-year of work per year.

That said I really feel like Patreon has made it a LOT easier for webcomics to be a thing someone can afford to make their day job. It's going to be interesting to see how that shakes out in a few years. Or decades - what happens when everyone driven enough to put in the several years of work building enough of an audience to pay their bills making the things they love to make does it, and walks away from less fulfilling jobs? Who's going to consume and support all these bits of media? The poor Morlocks busy keeping all the pluming running?

12:

Your comic is fun, great stuff, but: Patreon is a really bad idea, and is actually supported by the Hollywood types who employ legions of accountants to make sure their movies never make a dime.

Stay with me here...

Let's take an anecdote from Computer Games. Let's say I'm a AAA department head, and I need to keep abreast of the trends of the day to know what's going to be 'the next big thing' (cf our host commenting on publishers not knowing what's the next trend). What I do is employ someone with an excellent nose to review the market and buy into Early Access of games that will make money. (They may not also be good, that's the agent's choice: we'll come to that later). Every game they buy into succeeds: makes bank, commercial and artistic success and the AAA studio gets a beeline into how to plan the next $20-80 mil project (the real big fish ignore this as they're structured like films, c.f. Bungie and Destiny which is mechanically atrocious, but $500 mil will make almost anything a success).

Cost: $20-50k / year, max, if your expert is actively knowledgeable and not a 4chan hikikomori.

Priceless market research for peanuts.

Or, let's step above this stage. I'm a VP of a bank's investment division (getting VP just denotes who you can talk directly to in the wider market, fyi) and I have an interest in taking say a 10-30% share in a new project. Let's imagine it's an MMO: and we've all seen the last few big ones (Vanguard, Kingdoms of Amalur) burn out and waste their investments.

I have $30 mil I want to allocate. (Note: this is an extremely small deal for this department, but Blizzard has returns of billions, so it's worth it).

I might employ someone on a short term contract (with hefty generosity in regards to fees and a NDA so nasty it's a piece of art) to tell me exactly how the market is playing out and where to invest next. That person might tell them (long before these two flops) that that market is over, send them a copy of CowClicker, point to their phone and whisper: "Micro-transactions".

VP accepts advice, invests there, her bank makes billions.


Both true stories.


So, let's imagine. I'm a Hollywood exec, and for pennies (let's say 10k for a number of Patreons) I can dribble less cash than I spend on restaurants per year supporting 100 or so Patreons. Obviously, I don't do it, I hire out to experts.

And when they present the synopsis of the creative work, I steal it. Well, I employ a very nasty lawyer who makes it look like I had the idea first and you'll never get a penny of profit. (Hmm. I'm sure you can think of examples, such as Finding Nemo).


~

That's the state of Patreons at the moment. The Morlocks are the smart ones, remember?

13:

Hugh:



One of the things that's slowing the entire midbudget range of films down is that the bottom dropped out of that particular market for the studios in 2008 - 2009.

There's a huge hole where the mid-range budget movie used to be at the moment. It's being filled by a bunch of higher-end indies, particularly horror, at the low end of the range (Jason Blum, producer of Paranormal Activity, pretty much owns this area right now), but almost no-one else is funding movies in that range as I understand it.

I am curious as to how the funding worked for Ex Machina. Going over Garland's other movies on IMDB (not the best film money site, but)... 28 days later was around $8 million cost, grossed $83 mil in theaters 'worldwide' (excl Asia, it looks like); Dredd was $50 mil grossed $41 mil (probably nearly broke even with DVD/BluRay/Asia distn etc); Ex Machina $9 million grossed $32 mil it looks like (and still going).

It looks like he's been convincing small investors on the strength of 28 Days Later. It seems like he's doing decently well with making good money doing that (Dredd being the exception, but he's well up on career P/L).

So Hollywood may have no stomach for it, but he's doing OK. And it does make me wonder what you'd be able to do with much lower budgets these days. $100k is a Kickstarter, $1M is a big Kickstarter or a rich benfactor, etc.

14:

DNA Films, the UK Film council and Fox Searchlight. Deal lapsed but it says a lot that they could pull $25 mil from Fox and $25 mil from themselves back in 2003.

http://www.internationallawoffice.com/Deals/Detail.aspx?r=2641

https://variety.com/2010/film/features/dna-films-evolves-into-bigger-projects-1118028378/


They're not unconnected to the establishment if you're wondering.

15:

Oh, and Dredd killed it on DVD sales. x2-x3 the usual returns, hit the "cult classic" angle.

Slow burner for the internet age (was marketed incorrectly and no-one could forget Stallone).

16:

Not unconnected to the establishment, but running out of the usual step.

To our viewing advantage, I think.

17:

As far as I know, VR is basically an overlap with video games for the most part. That's how you tell stories in VR. Eventually, it can start branching out to different types of media, but right now the future of VR is a subset of the future of games. VR has all of the perks and flaws of traditional games, but with some perks and flaws of its own.

18:

I get into trouble for monopolizing commentary, so apologies.

There's a video out there (seems it's been scrubbed) where an exiting founder of AMV was talking to Saatchi and having a career send off in front of his peers. One to one with Saatchi with 'best of' their companies' career.

Here's a text link to the same kind of thing

(Wasn't Mead from memory).

What you won't get is the moment of pure terror when he had to justify 'being good' and decent to his workforce and the world. His face at that moment was just... distilled. Like a bleeding man in a swamp full of leeches. And he founded an agency that served Capital and made billions.

Reminds me of the RSA talk where the younger version of Stallman (I forget his name: open source, anarchist, dreadlocks, smart-but-autistic) starts wandering into... politically dangerous territory. The moderator snaps a quick hushed "not to this audience" and you can see the power in action as his anarchist tendencies immediately crumble.

Or the American version of the RSA chatting to that Oxford math guru and the unscripted "Which faction am I talking to here?" at the end. (www.edge.org - its probably been pulled as well).


Beautiful.

There's a world out there that doesn't even have a name in popular media. (And no, not Conspiracy Time).

Hillary outdoes Albright (Youtube: 12 seconds).

On topic: Redbull sponsors space dives and flysuits and if the athlete dies it's actually a bonus these days.

19:

What I'm rather unsubtly saying is that all media is captured (trite but true) ~ the need is to invent something else.

The 90's raves almost had it, then they didn't, much like the 60's had it then Manson and the drugs kicked in.


NatGeo - Octopus Mating (Youtube: 3:12)


Yes, it's an octopus mating. Host knows what I'm really saying, I hope you do too.

20:

Somewhere between prose and web comics are web serials. They're definitely not a NEW medium - think Dumas and Doyle - but they are making a resurgence with the web. PayPal donate buttons and, more recently, Patreon, have made web serials a viable medium for some.

Authors like Wildbow (Worm, Pact, and most recently Twig) are making a living (albeit only slightly better than minimum wage) off their serial prose. The barrier to entry is quite low and self publishing anthologies or "final" works can bring in a few more bucks. They have the advantage of being quick to consume, even at work (somewhat easier to explain then webcomics, too).

Some indie authors like posting their books chapter by chapter as they get immediate feedback and open source copy-editing. While most won't make much more than beer money, it's an interesting medium.

Discoverablility is still low, but sites like TopWebFiction are working on that.

21:

To me it's become very obvious that it's not about the medium, the talent, or the costs. It's all down to answering two questions:

1) How do I get lots of people to look at what I've produced?

2) How do I get them to pay me something for doing so?

Time has become a precious quantity for far too many people. With the assault on our senses, time taken out to decompress with NOTHING going on becomes valuable (particular for those introverts). If I'm going to watch/listen/read/etc. something - I'm going to need a guarantee of a known quality, upfront. That's why the know mythos elements win out - I know exactly what I'm going to get with Iron Man on the cover. Same with some 1960s remake etc. Archetypes are nearly as good (remember those war comics?)

Thus a perceived known quantity, coupled with a frictionless way of extracting cash, and you can have a success on your hands. If it's any good, so much the better.

As you point up, bottom-feeding, scum sucking, lawyers can spoil the game - but something fairly undefended, coupled with a nice spin, and voilà - you've got a winner.

I wonder how far you'd have to shift "The Young Ones" or "Animal House" before you could call it new?

Not far is my guess.

22:

It was not intended as a cue for a product endorsement but I will gladly take one. Thanks! I probably now owe you a beer when we're at the same con.

23:

I am maybe the wrong age to comment on The Young Ones or Animal House, they never really grabbed me in their day, but how far is a web-comic like Questionable Content from the tropes of The Young Ones, and where does The Big Bang Theory fit in?

Looking at a plot outline for Animal House, and recalling news reports of the behaviour of real fraternities, I think it a part of the ugly history of Men's Rights Activism, which seems to be commercial enough to be getting deal-of-the-day promotions from Amazon.

90% of everything, and it makes money too...

24:

I am going to respectfully disagree with your thesis that Patreon is really just a way for Big Content to steal ideas. While there are some people using Patreon to create a paywall for their content, I use it to monetize content that's posted free for everyone to see. If someone in Big Content wants to rip me off they don't need to drop a single dime into my begging cup.

I'm far from the only person to do this, either; the webcomic model is generally "1. make comic 2. post comic for free on the web 3. try to make a few bucks off it, probably by selling ads/books/shirts or putting out a tip jar".

25:

I disagree with a few of your predictions.

"Studio films are likely to go a different way - several people are predicting a massive crash in the studio world in the near future when a couple of tentpole blockbusters fail badly, and I'm inclined to think the odds of that happening are good."

and

"Lots of grizzled veterans will tell you that it doesn't make a difference, and you still need experts from professions A through Q and kit worth $500,000 to make a decent film. Meanwhile, wide-eyed visionary types will tell you that we're heading toward a world where two-person film crews including the director are not only practical but routine."

Basically, movie studios will survive because there will continue to be a movie which requires hundreds of millions to make. I know that making Avatar now would cost <$1 billion. However, $1 billion would still get you far more advanced technology that the indie movie maker can't compete with. According to my understanding, modern indie films are in general about as good as big budget movies were in the late 90's/early 2000's when it comes to movie tech. I know this depends on the movie of course.

Further, the indie maker is constrained by geography. A good indie maker can make something that is accessible to their core cultural sphere. For instance, you can make it in the US, Europe, and their former core territories of the old empires (ex. British Dominions). Congrats. Studios can make movies that can be seen and understood by whole continents with various cultures.

Big movie studios aren't as constrained by the talent of the scriptwriters as much as indie filmakers. They can release bullshit as long as the movie has something else going for it. Look at the previous blockbusters for examples.

There was a blog I read about 1 month ago which I wished I could save. However, it made the argument that studios don't really need to recoup their costs in the movie release. They more than make up for it with toys. They used Disney's current Cinderella as an example. I don't remember the argument that well to be able to reconstruct it.

Speaking of Disney, a big selling point of Disney movies is interactivity.
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/06/02/business/ap-us-disney-wearable-toys.html?_r=0

As for distribution sucking, what else is new? Unless there is a barrier to entry like an editor, you're going to be inundated by volume. That goes for all art forms, apps included.

Fortunately, the indie movie industry has a lot of new corners to deal with. For instance, no one (to my knowledge) has created a movie that is best seen on a smartphone or a smartwatch.

Basically, I think that the visual arts medium (save film) is undergoing the same transition music underwent with the invention of the radio and painting underwent with the invention of the fast and cheap steamship. It did create the starving artist meme because people who were big fish in their small ponds now had to compete with each other in a big pond. I don't think that will change anytime soon.

As for the future, I'm not interested in VR or augmented reality as much. I'm interested in a more speculative space:
http://www.techtimes.com/articles/56813/20150602/google-levi-strauss-team-up-to-bring-you-smart-clothes-hello-project-jacquard.htm

and

http://neurosky.com/

(smart fabric and EEG devices).

Assuming it's successful, this may revolutionize some media. The easiest to think about are video games. Perhaps other media could take advantage of this? The only thing that I'm fearful about is that I'm not sure why Google glass failed? So I don't know which of these would be successful.

[[ If you want to display the < character, type in &lt; - herewith repaired for you - mod ]]

26:

El Mariachi is one of the wild outliers.

A decade later, with Once Upon A time In Mexico, they were using digital cameras, no film, and realised they could keep the camera running. (It's described in the DVD extras.)

And the studio spent a lot of money on the distribution process for El Mariachi. The cinemas are digital now.

When you get down to it, Hollywood accounting and sales methods means that the cinemas are having to pay their operation costs from the popcorn stands (Maybe that over-simplifies). Could a large cinema chain go direct to a film-maker, cut out the middle-man?

Against that, the Studio model used to include owning the cinemas. Various things forced a change in the USA, including anti-trust legislation. We've had a swing back against that sort of thing.

I think a modern J. Arthur Rank might be looking at the possibilities. Maybe short features might have a place in a world of multi-screen cinemas, and the local monopoly (One local town has, in my lifetime, gone from a half-dozen cinemas to a single multi-screen) means that a film-maker has a chance to sell to multiple cinema chains.

The cinema business has seen some huge changes.

27:

"Seriously, this is your missing revolution in book production --
it just happened 30 years ago.)"

Yes. It was in widespread use from the late 1960s onwards - by
the small number of people who had access to suitable systems!
Advanced plain-text editors and markup both date from that period,
and quite a lot of documents were produced like that from then on,
and a few organisations almost wholly converted early in the 1970s.
But I agree that it was the advent of affordable special-purpose
systems that caused the revolution by making the technology
accessible to a vastly greater population.

28:

There are a fair number of people who would like to produce
pictorial material (cartoons, comics, animations etc.), but can't
draw. This is closely related to putting smooth movement onto a
series of stills, and the tasks done by PhotoShop/Gimp. Currently,
the tools available need a LOT of skill to use or are very crude
(usually both). There is no technical reason (and some reasonable
economic ones) not to have much higher-level, easier to use (and
probably specialised) tools. Yes, they would be seriously hard and
costly to develop, but would be a game-changer.

Will that happen? Dunno. But several other areas have seen such
revolution. I remember when people optimised code for their system
by hand, but nobody sane does that nowadays. Image recognition and
3-D modelling (as needed above) are now standard, but used to need
a real, live human not so very long ago.

Paradoxically, producing decent prose from a rough draft, let alone
a mark-up of a story, is a much harder task. 50 years ago, people
thought that it (and decoding prose) was around the corner, but
they learnt better and it's as imminent as nuclear fusion power.

29:

It's one of those threads where I get to drop in the same old quote from Bruce Sterling.

"Whatever happens to musicians will eventually happen to everybody."

30:

It's already happened.

I can't draw. My pen-and-pencil artistic skills are terrible, and my 3D sculpture skills aren't much better.

I've had a 20-year career as an indie animator, and now I'm making (by which I mean both writing and creating the art for) a comic.

As you say, it's a non-trivial task to enable non-artists to make visual art, but if you know what corners to look in it's been doable for a while now, at least within some limitations.

One of the problems that this sector has hit - again and again - is that the demand for tools like this is actually much smaller than you'd think. People say they'd like these tools, but unless they're truly effortless to use (which is another couple of generations of billion dollar funding away - the last 10% is tricky) the takeup tends to actually be remarkably small.

31:

Reminds me of the RSA talk where the younger version of Stallman (I forget his name: open source, anarchist, dreadlocks, smart-but-autistic) starts wandering into... politically dangerous territory. The moderator snaps a quick hushed "not to this audience" and you can see the power in action as his anarchist tendencies immediately crumble.

Jaron Lanier at a guess?

I think it’s fairly obvious that the large well funded media conglomerates will trawl patreon & the like in order to try and work out what will sell well to the next generation of consumers. Then they’ll package it up with stars that they own & market it to the max.

32:

Not sure I entirely agree on games - for one thing whether mobile or PC there's one place for each (appstote/googleplay/steam) where you can find almost everything that wants to get noticed - you argue that the greenlight system is arbitrary but the examples in the thread you linked are mostly about getting the attention of enough people to click a yes button (thinking is that steam will move to a completely open system sooner or later anyway). Seeing some of the stuff that makes it through I don't think its a huge barrier. Anyway there's nice big catalogs of everything available complete with reviews a marketing page that lets the vendor set out their stall in a standard format. I'm not familiar with the app stores but I rate a lot of games on steam wishlist/follow/don't show/skip and I believe a lot of people who use steam a lot do the same - my suspicion is that while perhaps on occasion there is a hidden gem out there that gets overlooked because they screwed up their store page more often its someone's labor of love not being as appealing to the customers as they hoped.

33:

And then there's Bitstrips, which were a fad, then a cliche, then a reason for yelling "get this shit out of my feed."

The tools have to be easy to use and good - and also not drown in banality before creators with good ideas get to them.

34:

You can find games if you're looking for them but the question is how do you find them if you don't know about them? There are thousands of games on steam, the greenlight system is interesting but at the end of the day the best way to find out about a game is for it to be advertised (either by steam, ads on other media or reviews). Many of the games in my library are only there because I watched a let's play of them.

From a developer point of view that's the challenge. So you get your game on steam, how do you get anyone to know about it? And how do you get enough people talking about it for awareness to snowball.

35:

Wow, big, interesting comment - thanks! I'm going to pick a couple of pieces out to respond to:

Further, the indie maker is constrained by geography.

Not at all. Translation is cheap (comparative to the cost of a movie, anyway) and plane tickets aren't very expensive. Stock footage of the location you're claiming your film is set in is even cheaper.

Indies that have any success at all are almost always distributed around the globe - the "foreign rights" portion of distribution is almost as important as the domestic these days. Quite where you'll end up being distributed is something of a crapshoot, but if you're assuming you'll play entirely to English-speakers you're in for a bit of a shock.

movie studios will survive because there will continue to be a movie which requires hundreds of millions to make.

Only if the following are also true:

1) The cinema as a mainstream experience also survives. No cinema, no blockbuster (in feature film format).
2) There continue to be movies that not only require huge budgets to make, but that will also return an appropriately large amount to be successful. Look at "Waterworld" for the most famous example of this going horribly wrong.
3) The studios continue to be able to predict what movies fit both criteria of #2. All of this has happened before, and will happen again: studios overreaching, picking a few losers, spending too much money on them, and crashing is not a phenomenon without precedent.
4) Investors continue to believe that investing in companies that make multi-billion-dollar movies and then risk it all on whether they succeed is a good idea.

It's worth noting that Steven Spielberg, who is not unused to the world of the blockbuster or unfamiliar with its economics, also believes that a massive crash is coming. (George Lucas mostly agrees.)

And it's very hard to deny that if you look at the sector over the last 10 years, the Blumhouse mid-budget model and the Netflix-esque IPTV model look rather healthier than the conventional blockbuster model.

36:

Steam appears to have a bit better discovery mechanisms than other similar stores, but judging from tales of folk on Steam, it's still not terribly easy to be found.

Personally outside the Steam Sales, I rarely see Steam recommend me a game I wasn't already aware of.

The app stores are a different kettle of stinking, rotten fish. The Apple App Store in particular has bad enough discovery that it's driving people out of the ecosystem in droves - search for "app store" on /r/gamedev or Hacker News and you'll get a fairly thorough rundown of the problems.

37:

Have a look at "Help" for an example of a film made to be viewed in VR; they escape the low distribution of headsets by releasing it as an app for Android and having the device work as a "window" into the VR, as opposed to true immersion.

38:

Apologies, it's a film short released on the Spotlight Stories VR film app (apparently mostly stocked with Pixar whimsy rather than live-action monster movies).

39:

You're completely right. Podcasts are a blind spot for me - I should learn more about them.

I used to be a big fan of radio drama as a kid, and the Radio 4 LOTR adaption is amongst my favourite pieces of fiction in any medium. Are there similar things going on in podcasts just now?

40:

I'm a big podcast listener but not for fiction ones, but I have been told that there are plenty of good ones akin to old radio plays.

Again though podcasts I think suffer from the same problem as other media of getting found. In the iTunes store alone it's been reported that there are over 1 billion subscriptions and 250,000 podcasts:

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/apple-hits-one-billion-podcast-subscriptions/

Of course many of them might not be active and people can subscribe to loads without listening to them but it gives an indication of the competition. Unless you're in the top 100 lists it's probably very hard to be discovered, exceptions are things like Serial which caught on like wildfire.

41:

And when they present the synopsis of the creative work, I steal it. Well, I employ a very nasty lawyer who makes it look like I had the idea first and you'll never get a penny of profit.

Correct, but this isn't new: it's been going on for a century! You want lulz? Look into the movie industry contract experience writers endure.

However I think you're overlooking some mitigating factors.

Studios are conservative with their investments because the amounts of money they're investing are non-trivial. Anything they splurge on has to come with spreadsheets attached and be signed off by executives whose primary concern is protecting shareholder value, with reference to accountants and legal bills.

(Exception: a loose cannon rock star director-god-Kubrick comes along with the Midas touch, and they choose to trust him (it's usually a him). This often ends in tears, eventually ...)

Anyway. This business model isn't about creativity. Whereas creativity is what indie developers are all about. As Margaret said up-thread, she went into webcomics because it gives her complete creative control on a manageable budget, rather than having to work in a team. That's also why I write novels: while I publish via major publishers, that's the outcome of years of working my way up the ladder -- and it's pretty much the last area where you retain complete creative control over a commercial artistic medium (unless you're Stanley Kubrick).

This means that, broadly speaking, you get two overlapping clouds of indy product that your talent hunter has to scout:

a) Hopelessly derivative one-step-from-fanfic extruded pseudo-commercial product,

and

b) Wildly innovative and eccentric

The former is a bad bet in the world of business because it's been done before. There is no commercial advantage in writing a book "just like Game of Thrones, only fatter" because that ecological niche is already fully occupied by George (not to mention the other Grimdark high fantasy bestsellers).

The latter is a bad bet in the world of business because it's a gamble, and while it's one thing to gamble with $10,000 over the course of a year if you've got a day job to fall back on when your webcomic flops, it's another thing entirely for a studio to bet $100,000,000 on the same idea finding a market.

Upshot: the wildly experimental stuff will only get lifted by the evil moustache-twirling producers once it's proven itself to have legs. By which time, if the wecomic author is clueful, they will be earning more like $100,000 a year than $10,000, and they will have a media rights agent on call with lawyers on their string and the lawyers will make the producers an offer they'd be stupid to refuse: spend $1M or so (1% of turnover) to acquire the rights legally, or be tied up in court for years and quite possibly end up costing more money.

There are exceptions. The worst risks are:

a) Another somewhat-better-funded freelance producer sees your indy thing and throws $1M of their own at doing their own derivative version, which gets a lot more attention from the big studios because they are perceived as having skin in the game. That kind of IP theft is hard to defend against because once the big studio has bought into the rogue creator they've got an incentive to double down on claims by third parties. (Mitigating factor: most freelance producers have their own ideas. Ideas are much cheaper than most non-creators realize ...)

b) You do some writing work for hire for a big studio, per contract. A couple of years later a chunk of your WFH turns up as the core of a massive Hollywood hit. Unfortunately you sold the farm when you agreed to do WFH: oh, the ignominy. (This allegedly happened to Thomas M. Disch, with Disney's The Lion King. What they did was legal, he'd signed on the line, and it's hard even to call the studio's behaviour unethical: for example, they might have made him an ex gratia payment when they turned his book into a movie, but then that could have been used as evidence that the working relationship wasn't strictly work-for-hire, so ...)

c) Your thing looks promising: at this point you will attract swarms of chancers who will make you attractive-sounding offers for options on your sub-rights, tying them up for years (for not much money) and more importantly, smearing their half-assed tag all over your IP while shopping it around so that the Serious People assume your ideas are shit because they're being shopped by idiots.

Anyway. Talent scouts on Patreon: yes, this probably happens, and yes, it's open to abuse -- but it's also potentially a good thing, if the creators in question understand how the business works and are prepared to work the system. Just like talent scouts working for the music studios by hanging out at gigs and signing new acts, as recently as the mid-90s, come to think of it. Yes, there were plenty of abuses. But that's also how some of the biggest acts in rock'n'roll history got their break.

42:

Welcome To Night Vale is a podcast 'radio drama' that's turned into a beast - a New York podcast doing their second UK/Ireland live tour in September. 11 dates, ~1,000 capacity venues, can confidently expect most if not all to sell out. (And it's Mythos-influenced, as well! Often described as "A Prairie Home Companion meets Lovecraft.") Drama makes up a minority of podcasts, but they do exist.

43:

"One of the problems that this sector has hit - again and again
- is that the demand for tools like this is actually much
smaller than you'd think."

Perhaps, though I didn't say that I thought it was huge. It is,
however, probably comparable with the number of people writing
fiction and making it available now, versus the number who did
so before 1980. You are right about the last 10% effect, but
the other factor is that it's damn hard to find unless you are
already into that area - and, yes, I have tried and am no slouch
at Web searching! All I found were products of the form I
described. I, for one, should be interested in any pointers.
I am happy for the moderators to tell you my Email, if necessary.

44:

There's a video out there (seems it's been scrubbed) where an exiting founder of AMV was talking to Saatchi

Apples and oranges comparison.

One of the interesting points Hugh didn't make is that the prevalence of sociopathy in [the creative] industries scales with the amount of money in play.

Sociopathic executives and editors are uncommon in fiction book publishing because there simply isn't much money in the business, as a rule: people write books and become editors because they love what they do rather than because they're trying to get a corporate bizjet and hookers. TV is a lot worse: games and film are much worse in turn because when your budget has eight digits it's easy to siphon off the odd million here or there. Advertising is worst of all: it's an obligate parasite and the budget is globally bigger than TV and film combined.

Worst of all: creative imagination isn't something you can bottle. (You can educate and train it up to a point, but there's also a genuine talent element.) It's also hard to control, because it tends to seek expressive autonomous outlets. So the folks who are attracted to advertising or film because of the great steaming piles of money are often the folks who are least clueful about where the money comes from.

45:

Did you see my "Virtual Filmmaking Primer" on Charlie's blog last year? If not, that'd probably be the first place I'd recommend looking - have a read through and see if I reference any tools you're not already aware of.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/01/resource-post-virtual-filmmaki.html

If you still don't find anything there, let me know and I shall have a think about more appropriate areas to look at. I may also prod a couple of other experts to come and suggest things at that point too!

46:

I must confess, I never understand why people who are primarily interested in money head toward the creative industries at all, advertising excluded.

Even at the top end, most of the movie studios and games studios are at best middlingly good investments, with corresponding levels of financial reward for people working within them. Software, the financial industry, or anything related to marketing are all far better bets for getting rich.

See Jon Rogers' fantastic post on what it's like to be a studio exec:

"Movie executives do not lead happy lives. If you are an executive, this is your day: a scruffy man in a Hawaiian shirt walks into your office and says, "I need you to be personally responsible for giving me one hundred million dollars so I can go to Ireland and have people who pretend for a living act like they're fighting imaginary dragons."

"Will I get to see the dragons first?" you ask hopefully.

"Oh, no the dragons won't exist until after we're done shooting. The professional pretending people will be yelling at sticks. Occasionally, they will flee from a mop."

And your job, as the exec, is to write him the check."

- http://kfmonkey.blogspot.co.uk/2005/02/writing-adaptation-pt-2.html

OTOH, if you like controlling, bullying or screwing with people, an industry teeming with desperate folk who will do anything to work is great, I would imagine. And if you're looking for that, the creative industries are exactly where you want to be.

47:

I am amused by that, because it is exactly the same as in the
software industry (a fact that I assume you know). Good ideas
are sparser, but not as sparse as the ruling bean counters and
bureaucrats think. One comment on category (b) people is that
not all do it for the money - what is really pissworthy is when
a large company rips off ideas and then uses its lawyers to
prevent other people using similar ones (or even, in some cases,
the originator from using his own). That form of extortion was
the main reason that the USA was being pushed into a 'first to
file' patent law.

49:

"You can find games if you're looking for them but the question is how do you find them if you don't know about them?"

By going through the discovery queue, I don't think everyone will, but if I've been through everything in my region I'm certain there's a bunch more dedicated people who have too. Anyway there's some pretty unappealing looking games deep in the guts of steam that people have bought and reviewed, I think they're getting a chance but don't break out because they're very niche or not much good.

@36 I agree for the amount of data Steam has the recommendation system is laughable.

50:

The proportion of "creative" people may be small, but the population is large enough that there's no shortage of them.

Idea monkeys are a dime a dozen; the shortage is of people who can successfully complete large and complex projects.

51:

The era of stand alone blockbusters may be coming to an end, but when you look at what Marvel is doing right now, and what DC (or rather Warner Brothers, who are in the driving seat on that relationship) are gearing up to do, it looks like the blockbuster serial is set to run for a good long while yet.

Marvel's strategy of multiple individual character movie series, coming together for occasional team-up mega movies, has been firehosing money at them since Iron Man back in 2008, and there doesn't seem to be any prospect for it slackening off this decade. They've got no end of material to mine, and they seem to have the writers and directors to pull it off time and again. DC/WB looks to be trying the same thing with their IP, and if they manage it, you can bet the rest of hollywood is going to be trying to get in on the formula.

Its also worth noting the relationship between TV and film that Marvel have been developing. Their TV series and films explicitly share the same universe, with actions on film being referenced and used in the series and vice versa. TV series graduating to film is nothing new, of course, and even a TV series doing a film then more TV has been done, but no-one has really taken multiple parallel series and multiple parallel films and inter-related them this way before. This allows them to, for example, do deep character stuff on TV, then use those established characters to blow stuff up in the features, then examine the results in the series, and so on. Crucially, it gives them a built in audience for the features who want to follow the story that has been built in the series. Its seriously addictive, and that means seriously lucrative.

52:

That is a common claim made by bean counters and bureaucrats when
deprecating creative and technical skills. The number of people
who think they have good ideas, but where they are pretty ghastly,
need serious work to turn into a usable form, or where they are an
isolated good idea that needs many more to complete it, is indeed
legion. The number of people with innovative, adequately complete,
properly constructed, ideas is vastly smaller.

53:

Yes, I couldn't agree more here - although I do think that one or more Marvel blockbusters may explode messily on them at some point.

In particular, Marvel are doing something very smart indeed by tying their TV and movie universes together. Occasionally it has some unfortunate side-effects (notably in the latest season of Agents of SHIELD where a major plotline turned out to be a minor point in the movie) but in general, it's a great transmedia play that I suspect will drive a lot of fan enthusiasm.

That's something that DC are screwing up really badly, and I think it's going to bite them, hard. The fact that they've actually cast a different person as the Flash in the DC movies means that rather than having all the Flash fans (of whom there are many) supporting them, a lot of them actively feel betrayed - particularly when they can look at the Marvel universe and see the crossovers.

They've also managed to royally piss off at least some of the cast and crew of their TV series with that stunt, which really isn't a great idea when you consider the social media following and expertise of some of those guys.

(If you want to learn how to do Facebook as a creative type, I strongly recommend following Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen. That guy is good. )

54:

Yes, this.

It's also extremely difficult to do this. Marvel is either mining a decades-deep seam of story or building on incredibly deep foundations, depending on your point of view. DC are the obvious other candidate here, but they don't seem to have the same momentum and they don't (AFAIK) weave it all together so effectively. But it does currently need enormous resources to do it.

Can it carry on? I dunno. A couple of box office disasters would break it. Losing the creative vision would, too.

55:

A couple of box office disasters would break it.

Possibly. 2 sequentially maybe, and 3 sequentially definitely, would break the movie series, but the TV series ought to be able to soldier on, and provide a core viewership for 5 years down the line when the memory of the flops had faded and they could try again. On the other hand, a flop followed by another success or 2, followed by another flop, would just be shrugged off as "that's holywood". Might take the shine off, but eminently recoverable.

Losing the creative vision would, too.

This, I think, would be the greater threat. The central creative vision is what's been driving this, largely down to Joe Quesada and the Marvel Creative Committee. If Joe fell under a bus tomorrow, things could get sticky, but they seem to have done a good job of getting everyone on board with the basic concepts (letting story drive everything else, making it all interconnected, etc), so hopefully someone would step up.

What could really kill it is someone at Disney deciding they can do it better and taking over. The reason this seems to be going so well is that when Disney took over Marvel, they basically gave them a bunch of money and a long leash and let them at it (and put out some buckets to collect the money that rained down).

Actually, and this goes to what Hugh was saying @53 I think that is probably the big difference between Disney/Marvel and DC/Warner Bros. DC have some input, but WB is in the driving seat and are calling the shots, so they're being typical studio execs and focusing on individual films and film series and farming out the other stuff to other people who are going off and doing their own thing. There's no single creative vision and the film side is being handled by film guys who are trying to copy the Marvel playbook without really understanding it.

So you get stuff like the TV series being explicitly a different universe to the films, and film scripts being decided by competitive tender and then tinkered with by the studio right up to and during production depending on what Marvel's been doing this week, and every other mistake that anyone on the outside can look at say how crazy it is.

If you're interested in this sort of stuff, I can thoroughly recommend Kevin Smith's "Fatman on Batman" recent podcasts, particularly the ones where he interviews Joe Quesada (there's 3 of those), there's a lot of fascinating behind the scenes stuff about how Marvel works in there, and the recent Utility Belt episodes about general comic book related TV and Film news.

56:
The reason this seems to be going so well is that when Disney took over Marvel, they basically gave them a bunch of money and a long leash and let them at it (and put out some buckets to collect the money that rained down).
The apparent reason for this is that to Disney Marvel's there to drive toy sales to boys, Disney feeling they need no help whatsoever selling toys to girls. So they don't give a crap about the movies, they're there for the merchandise.
57:

I have to agree with the DC screwup. Wow. I don't watch Arrow or the Flash, but I do see the coverage they get. The way Warner Brothers is wasting that fan energy is amazing. I'm sure glad I don't have any financial relationship with them.

As for Marvel, I think they'll start doing mako parkour next year, in part because they're getting too serious about their product and forgetting that at the end, we're supposed to enjoy watching the movie. It'll be interesting to see how far they get into Phase III of this plan. Perhaps falling production costs will save them? (heh heh heh).

58:

Thanks for responding.

I think you misunderstood what I meant by the fact that movies are constrained by geography. I didn't mean that making the movies is constrained by geography.

However, I have a question, how many indie movies became successful in N. America, S. America, Europe, the Arab World, E. Asia, India, AND Africa at the same time? I did not say that indie films were limited to the English-speaking world. However, I did say that American and European indie movies are limited to the European language spoken world (excluding Africa). That is one advantage studios have over indie films. The fact that some of those markets are growing should compensate for lower returns in more mature markets.

"1) The cinema as a mainstream experience also survives. No cinema, no blockbuster (in feature film format)."

I'm not sure that's true on both counts. The decline of cinema as a mainstream experience seems to me similar to the predictions of the decline of desktops except for special needs. It's true that desktops are declining, yet they seem to survive.

Even if that's not true, it doesn't mean the billion dollar blockbuster is dead. The distribution may have changed, but as long as there is advanced technology that can create movies which indie technology can't, studios will have an advantage.

"2) There continue to be movies that not only require huge budgets to make, but that will also return an appropriately large amount to be successful. Look at "Waterworld" for the most famous example of this going horribly wrong."

For every Waterworld, there's an Avatar. I didn't say that the studios have to be successful all the time. Over the past decades, they have been more right than not. I don't see why that should change.

"3) The studios continue to be able to predict what movies fit both criteria of #2. All of this has happened before, and will happen again: studios overreaching, picking a few losers, spending too much money on them, and crashing is not a phenomenon without precedent.
4) Investors continue to believe that investing in companies that make multi-billion-dollar movies and then risk it all on whether they succeed is a good idea."

I'm not arguing against a crash occurring. I do think that you overestimate the effects of the crash. To use the expression: over time, investors are stupid. The fact that the first dot-com bubble collapsed didn't stop them from investing in this current tech bubble. Further, the collapse of the housing market didn't prevent investors from investing in this housing bubble. Over the past century, investors have generally viewed investing in movies which are one or two orders of magnitude more expensive than the indie movie as a good idea, despite previous crashes. It's been true for a century, I don't see why it's different this time?

A few extra points. As we're seeing, the same is becoming true for video games.Second, the place where this is not true is in areas where very expensive technology does not yield an advantage. This is in media such as paintings, books, comics (both on and offline). However, movies, tv series, VR, video games, and apps in general are media where newer technology can provide an advantage.

59:

On the crash - all very reasonable points. I'll be very interested to see which one of us - or neither of us - is right.

American and European indie movies are limited to the European language spoken world

I'd disagree with this. Looking at my handy sales projection sheet from my usual indie sales source, compiled by someone with a couple of decades in selling indie movies to foreign markets, I see Indonesia, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Brazil, China, and Malaysia on the list.

Film is a very, very global business these days.

However, I would agree that studios have the clout to release all over the world simultaneously, which an indie will struggle to do. That's definitely a thing.

60:

"studios have the clout to release all over the world simultaneously"

And yet, a lot of the time they don't. Another thing that, looking for the outside, seems crazy to me. You'd think that releasing in one market first (typically the US, though not always - sometime we get it first over here), particularly after marketing it like crazy over web, global by definition (language issues notwithstanding), is a huge incentive to piracy for people who are now desperate to see it and pissed that they can't, whilst the bloody americans (or whoever) get it first again. (Boy, that was a long sentence. I need to invest in more full stops).

Yeah, its probably a tough logistics issue, but surely the reduction in incentive to piracy would be worth it. Don't they realise that one of the the biggest piracy drivers is people being pissed off with you being unfair? Or do they figure its going to get pirated anyway, so what the hell? I guess they have people to run the numbers on that, and I don't, so maybe they have and the numbers don't support it.

61:

Film is definitely in an interesting place, in terms of accessibility. I have relatively little interest in big budget films -- they are conservative by nature. However, if you're lower-middle-class in the first world, you probably already own a device that makes a decent camera for short films. For a few years, I ran a "no-budget film contest" where the rules were: you could not buy or rent anything specifically for the film (we got a handful of entries, all of them excellent); the idea was to bring film back to the people, in the same way that the new theatre movement, with its minimal sets and props, tried to bring theatre back to the people. I think we still have a ways to go with this -- particularly now that there are owner-run youtube channels with multi-thousand-dollar budgets for equipment and props.

Another really interesting field is interactive storytelling. VNs have been around for a long time, and twine games are blowing up now -- and twine games are basically VNs for people who can't draw, which opens it up to a much larger group of potential creators. At the same time, there seems to be a renewed interest in old-school text-based interactive fiction in the vein of Zork and Adventure. I feel like the most genuinely interesting game experiences of the next few years will have twine-like or VN-like interfaces, while triple-A games (and even pseudo-retro 2d mobile games) will proceed to be more and more the domain of ever-larger organizations of wealthy professionals.

The third thing I feel like is really growing in interest is longish short-form text -- i.e., longreads. Lots of people spend their leisure time reading on the internet, and both quality entertainment and quality journalism are beginning to be manifested in the form of articles that, if printed out, might be 20-40 pages long. The best of these are pure craftmanship, and I get excited about reading stuff by particular authors in the same way that I might get excited about a new book by OGH (of course, the entire turnaround is much faster!) The places that specialize in this kind of essay -- Vice, the Awl, and (oddly enough) Buzzfeed -- are really succeeding, financially, which makes me hopeful that this trend will continue. There's also a kind of mix of fiction and journalism in these places that reminds me of high quality literary magazines. (It's also notable that, while Cracked is holding onto its listicle format, its better listicles more and more closely resemble longreads with numbers attached to the section headers.)

62:

Thanks. I didn't know that indie developers actually release a lot of movies in China. I wonder if the reverse is also true: is it common for E. Asian indie developers to get their projects sold in the West?

63:

Cracked's personal stories stuff is fantastic, and they absolutely mean them as journalism - the house style is to make you laugh so you don't notice the knife slipping between your ribs. And anyone who doesn't take Buzzfeed seriously should be reminded Michael Hastings was a Buzzfeed employee when he died.

Re: the longread format - I mourn the Medium's acquiring the 'online magazine' Matter; monthly ~10,000-word articles sold each as Kindle singles or all available under a membership scheme, generally digging into things few others had looked at. And then they were bought and appear to have kinda fallen apart.

64:

Sounds like a business opportunity for a new search engine/algorithm focused on 'digital experiential art'.

OOC, has anyone looked at how the market is segmented in terms of sensory experience preference? You can invent all the techno gadgets you want, but if not enough of the species is wired to receive/appreciate it in that modality, then you're throwing money away.

Another thing ... some of these technologies could be used as both psychological/emotional and physiological therapies. We've already talked about robots for the aging, palliative, critically ill market. Okay, that takes care of some lower level physiological needs. Immersive VR could potentially help with their emotional and intellectual needs. A few hospitals have been studying this ... and I imagine that at some point the medical insurance companies are going to discover that a robot/VR is a lot cheaper than four shifts of human caregivers. Note that the VR would need to provide the complex/changeable feel of still being alive.


Basically, the creative hurdle may be toward therapy rather than entertainment.


65:

I feel like this is where grey-legal translation and distribution schemes shine. Fansubbing is a pretty big deal, and there's a demand for it essentially because of international licensing agreements often not existing for properties wherein they would be beneficial.

(I'm going to choose specifics from anime here because that's what I'm familiar with, but, having discovered a fan project to translate my five-year-old blog posts into russian via crowdsourcing, I feel like I'm justified in assuming that comparable things are happening with other media and from other source languages.)

Fansubbing communities for anime seem to slightly predate both serious translation efforts that respect the source material and the release of subtitled material in the united states (the state of the world prior to the early 90s is pretty well represented by Macross -- which was chopped up and given an entirely different plot but proved to be so popular that the US release was translated into Japanese and released in Japan -- and Samurai Pizza Cats, which was given to the US distributors without a script and thus couldn't be translated). It wasn't until the past ten years that professional translations began to approach the same average quality level as amateur fansubs, and more than one licensed US distributor began as an illegal distributor of fansubs (Crunchyroll being the best example). The current biggest US anime license-holder, Funimation, does simulcasts for extremely lucrative franchises (thus undercutting fansubbers) but on other franchises will openly base their translations off fansubber scripts. For minor franchises, fansubbing is tolerated in the same way that doujinshi are tolerated, despite Japanese copyright law being generally far more strict than US copyright law (with people going to jail for bringing cameras into movie theatres, and other extreme cases); in one case, at the end of a series, the narrator explicitly thanked fansubbers for illegally translating and distributing the work (Battle Programmer Shirase).

We should never underestimate the usefulness of samizdat translations -- black markets congregate where white markets fail, and some of the most profitable US licenses were relatively unprofitable in Japan (but had their value shown by the enthusiasm with which unofficial translations were created and consumed).

66:

"studios have the clout to release all over the world simultaneously"

And yet, a lot of the time they don't

I suspect this is down to two issues.

Firstly, a lot of promotion involves getting your stars onto the chat shows and in front of the media journos. If you've got a nice big ensemble cast, Avengers say, you can farm different territories to different cast members (Scarlet to France, RDJ to Germany, &c.), but the logistics does tend to bottleneck.

And secondly, your accountants want to get the money flow as soon as possible. Foreign language versions need that extra step, and if you can't do that in parallel, your finance guys are going to be wondering why the world-wide distribution is being held up while you source some Nepalese voice actors.

I think it's a lot better than it used to be. A whole business existed in film duplication which has been eaten by digital distro. It took time just to make the umpteen thousand copies for the US market alone.

67:

I'm going to make a prediction for the Marvel tie-in universe. From my understanding, Marvel doesn't need to tie-in their movie universe to comic books. That's already done. They also don't need to worry about novelizations. I think that they may eventually expand it into video games, and possibly VR/augmented reality. Especially if those video games need toys or particular merchandise to function.

As for VR and therapy, that's already talked about.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2734541/Could-Oculus-Rift-KILL-Extreme-immersion-scarily-realistic-trigger-heart-attacks-expert-warns.html

Heck, the technology is barely out and the moral panic has already started: Daily Mail believes that VR games may cause heart attacks due to realism.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2734541/Could-Oculus-Rift-KILL-Extreme-immersion-scarily-realistic-trigger-heart-attacks-expert-warns.html

68:

I should have included this in the previous post.

As an entertainment media creator, why do you think 3D TV and Google glass failed? I'm asking this because I wonder if Google contact lens has a future?

69:

I mostly don't see in 3D, so 3D video in the cinema at best looks fake or blurry and at worst gives me terrible headaches. ('Gravity' was not too bad in the cinema, but I'm told its effects were comparatively subtle.)

Also, at home I multi-task, so anything that distorts my view of the needlework or computer screen I'm also looking at while watching TV is a non-starter.

70:

"It's fascinating watching sci-fi authors like Charlie sprinting increasingly fast to keep ahead of the Bear Of Social And Technological Change."

Not that new. Several writers predicted the Soviet Union's future for the next few centuries. Those who predicted its collapse in our lifetime didn't realize it would be relatively peaceful. Nobody predicted the declining social acceptance of smoking in the First World.

And here's what I believe is a complete list of sf writers who foresaw the rise of rock music among non-Blacks:

71:

You do some writing work for hire for a big studio, per contract. A couple of years later a chunk of your WFH turns up as the core of a massive Hollywood hit. Unfortunately you sold the farm when you agreed to do WFH: oh, the ignominy.

Indeed: but the corollary is that they're at least getting a living wage while working in-house. Patreons (the monthly stipend variety) seem to hit the ~$1-3k / month range in most cases, which is a lot less. Just feeling out if this is one of those hidden 'race to the bottom' moments under the disguise of social-crowd funding goodness. (The HN curse).

ABV vrs Saatchi - yep, that's what I was contrasting / pointing out. Saatchi is well known to be on that spectrum, the ABV people generally aren't (and are highly regarded. And they can claim true artistry in places such as Guinness adverts).

Jaron Lanier at a guess?

Yep, that's the one. Works for the Big Bad but likes and has interesting ideas on octopuses. Weird space he inhabits: like an octopus, he's good at camouflaging himself.

I am going to respectfully disagree with your thesis that Patreon is really just a way for Big Content to steal ideas.

No worries - feel free to disagree without respect as well.

Since this thread is partly about new modes of funding for creatives and you're one of them, a question (ignore if not interesting or if it's weird being asked personal questions on a blog):

Patreon strikes me as more socially driven than Capital driven, and (this might be my age / cultural bias at work) an element of 'collecting butterflies' to it. A form of RSA membership for millennials if you will (or further back, supporting the Opera). Do you find this to be true / worry about this? (Paying for an object of my creativity strikes me as fair; paying for a tiny slice / living-through-connection-to of someone elses' life seems to be something different to me.)

[Edit: note, I did some due diligence, your Patreon is explicitly pay-per-page-of-comic, not a monthly stipend, so squick factor averted. There's also a Culture reference so much kudos]

~


Regarding Google glass - it failed because it's too physically clumsy / obvious and most of the people testing it don't lead rock-star lives. It's reality TV without the skillful editing and production hooks that you're not supposed to notice. However (for non-MFites):

Seems Neural Lace is coming though. Strange Days are here.

On future projections: I'd imagine that shared emotional experiences / meshing would be the real goal. Whether you fake it (by tech) or do it by some more authentic way is another question (Kant & the Sublime, re-run here we come).

~

@host:

That Kill Six Billion Comic? Ace! Thanks for the link, very cool & 2000ADesque.

72:

(ABV = AMV, double typo)

73:

(Apologies for the triple)

Neural Lace - the first (non-pr0n) sponsor will be Red Bull (or equivalent) and they'll slap it on adrenaline junkies and mass-market it.

Done Deal.

74:

Maybe not.
*points at Gibson's "Fragments Of A Hologram Rose," where he has someone use the recorded experience of a yogi waking up at the beach at dawn and beginning their practice as an alarm clock*

75:

[B]ut the corollary is that they're at least getting a living wage while working in-house. Patreons (the monthly stipend variety) seem to hit the ~$1-3k / month range in most cases, which is a lot less.

Hm, to me $3k a month is very much a living wage. When I was a researcher, my salary was about 2000 euros, and I lived quite comfortably off that. Also, I have many friends who make about 1000€-2000€ a month, and they seem to be living with their wages.

It's also about what to spend of, obviously.

76:

It's also about what to spend of, obviously.

It's about what you buy and how much of it, obviously.

77:

Interesting question!

Google Glass: because they never came up with a compelling use-case for it, and the entire narrative became about the camera. As a result, wearing a Google Glass signalled that you were a rich (because you could afford Glass) asshole who was probably recording everyone around them.

People don't like being recorded, by and large. They also don't love rich people. The social signalling was, shall we say, not entirely on Glass's side.

3D: My guess is that most people don't actually give much of a crap about the current faux-3D in movies or TV. Studios love it, because it makes piracy harder (theoretically). But I have literally never heard anyone - and my friends group skews early-adopter and media-enthusiastic - excited about acquiring a device that allows them to watch media in faux-3D.

78:

A small caution here: being a "creative" isn't cost-free. 3000 per month from Patreon is good. If you assume a 40-hour working week, it's a very good hourly rate, but you likely have to work far more hours. 1000 per month is down in minimum-wage territory. But it's the gross. What matters is the net, after the costs of doing business.

(Pounds or Euro or dollars isn't a big enough difference to matter at this level of discussion.

79:

> 1) The cinema as a mainstream
> experience also survives.

Somewhere, but not where I am. Theaters have closed one after the other, until the closest one I'm aware of is ninety miles away. And even before then, the expense and hassle made them an unattractive proposition compared to just renting the DVD when it came out.

Which most other people in the area probably agreed with, since the theaters' claim was that their attendance levels were too low to stay profitable.

It's like the first-run hardback issue for writers; great, except the last local bookstore closed a few years ago too.

This has also had the effect of skewing the first-run purchase demographic heavily toward major urban areas as the market sloughs off the rural and suburban markets.

80:

I must confess, I never understand why people who are primarily interested in money head toward the creative industries at all, advertising excluded.

Even at the top end, most of the movie studios and games studios are at best middlingly good investments, with corresponding levels of financial reward for people working within them.

There is the ego stroking effect to go with the money.

81:

Hm, to me $3k a month is very much a living wage.

Not so much in New York or Chicago. I don't know about London but I suspect not.

82:

" Not so much in New York or Chicago. "

But I understand that it is AMAZING what $3000 will buy in, say, Neo York or Chicago ... let alone on E Bay...

" Mike Kozan couldn't believe he asked Barry Sanders to autograph a Pontiac Silverdome urinal a year ago. Now, he can't believe how much attention the autographed men's toilet has received since he decided to auction it off.

That eBay auction ended Thursday night, with the urinal going for $3,000. According to the eBay auction page, 17 people placed 46 bids on the signed urinal from the home locker room of the Silverdome, where the Detroit Lions played during Sanders' tenure with the club."


http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/13061311/barry-sanders-signed-urinal-pontiac-silverdome-sells-ebay-3k


" I don't know about London but I suspect not. “?


I live in a err, moderately pricy area of the North East of England and have a modest - index linked - public service pension and, even though my mortgage is long since paid off and I do have both state Pension and a modest investment portfolio I couldn't afford to live in London.

If you want to play the Middle Classes of The U.K.s favourite, Game of Things, do a quick currency conversation - Pounds Sterling to Dollars of the U.S of America - and then go HERE...


" Whether you are house-hunting or just daydreaming, try using this calculator to see where in the country you could afford to live - and would it be cheaper to rent or buy? ...

Enter your requirements and how much you'd like to pay on rent or mortgage repayments each month to see places in your price range."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23234033


83:

I'll quote Wikipedia: Median household income

$3000 is below the US median. But not hugely so, and I note it's above the UK's (though the figures there are adjusted for purchasing power, so it's not quite apples and apples). And that assumes you're the only earner, too. So yes, $3000/month may be too little to live on in London or NY or Chicago, but for most of the rest of the world it looks fine.

84:

OK. Here was my thoughts. People doing pickup work for that pay rate could not live very well at all in the big media cities in the US. So they do it remotely. But to do that they'd likely have to have a very good rep. But how would the get that rep not living in the media cities?

Anyway, $36K (gross before taxes) per year to live decently in the US not as a single means living outside of most urban area. Which gets to be hard because you'd need a car in most of these places. You'd be on the edge of poverty if there was any bump in the road.

Yes you could do it but I doubt you'd be satisfied with your situation.

85:

The big media cities of the US? I strongly suspect from the internal clues that Mikka lives in Finland.

I have a couple of friends who are full time writers. They'd love $3,000 per month, even between them rather than each. At the moment they're seriously looking at moving to Germany, somewhere closer to Munich and Hamburg which are the media cities in that country, and which are the bases of the companies they tend to work with.

An awful lot can be done over the 'net these days. The first meetings, yes, you might want in person, but your average writer needs a desk and a chair and a keyboard, and not a lot more. For a Patreon setup, you can theoretically live almost anywhere.

86:

Oh, and answering the question "where do they get that rep" a little more directly: for some, the same place Erika James got hers.

It might not work for everyone. Hell, it might not work for the majority of people. But it certainly works for enough. Meanwhile, the majority of the established writers I know couldn't afford to live in London, and most of the rest wouldn't.

87:

> But again, the really big problem is distribution.

Or, from the audience's POV, curation. Sturgeon's Law applies everywhere. Amazon's efforts at presenting things I might be interested in are the best of any of the major content distributors', and they're extremely bad. Apple's efforts are beyond bad; they're ... words fail me.

Other efforts at curation are stymied by an expectation that the service be free, or for the paid services, the absence of any guarantee of independence or way of measuring "quality".

Most people have not yet realised that relying on their networks or personal efforts is narrowing and ultimately stultifying, and that therefore they need to employ experts to curate their media. Until enough people do have this realisation, things are going to get worse.

88:

I think we have bigger problems.

I know I do.

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This page contains a single entry by Hugh Hancock published on June 10, 2015 6:05 PM.

They Took Our Myths was the previous entry in this blog.

From the hemline index to the vampire/zombie ratio: SF/F by the numbers is the next entry in this blog.

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