Taking advantage of multiple revenue streams from your content takes planning. Unfortunately, many adhere to the myth of "Get the movie done, then let's worry about where and how we'll sell it." Subsequently, they either lose out on potential profits, or worse, make no profit at all. A proper workflow and project plan need to be designed before the start of every production. And in doing so, a global vision of the production's distribution and revenue potential needs to be considered and addressed with each step on the way toward completion.
In this article we will address various revenue streams aside from the standard DVD/VHS distribution. Many production companies have already started considering or have already implemented HD product, broadcast distribution, and online/digital distribution, but may be neglecting some easily implemented streams of additional revenue such as behind-the-scenes specials and mainstream versions of product. Since the key to implementing these strategies is planning, it is first important to understand the basics of project planning and management as well as workflow.
Project Planning Overview
Project planning is extremely important in order to complete a project successfully, yet many executives frown upon having to plan. They feel that they know how the business works and they don't need to waste their time with preparation. However, even a vague project plan can save a great deal of time, money, and problems.
A project can be deemed a success when the needs of the producers, investors, the company, and the customers are met. Thus, the first thing that needs to be assessed is the identification of the key investors and customer market. The project's objectives become quite clear if you use these needs as a guide. This "needs list" is one of the initial components of a good project plan. In the entertainment industry, the needs are usually simple – investors want to make profit and receive some recognition in the industry, the company wants to make profit and make an impact with the project (as to distinguish the product from its competitors), and the customer wants to be entertained at an affordable price. These needs are called the "Project Objectives."
Once these objectives are on paper, it should be easy to determine the items or activities that the project needs in order to meet those objectives. It should be specified in the project plan how and when such items must be delivered. Examples of such activities will be casting, finding locations, obtaining crew, shooting media, etc. For each activity, it is important to estimate the amount of effort required in hours or days and to identify who is going to do the work. Once this is done, final delivery dates can be easily calculated.
Develop a Schedule
It is extremely beneficial to use a Gantt chart to develop the project schedule. A Gantt chart displays the tasks, people responsible for these tasks, and a timeline. The chart is used as a visual aid to help everyone involved in the project accomplish tasks.It is made by listing tasks on the left hand side, then making columns for the start date, number of days needed to complete the task, and a finish date. Each task should be assigned one or more people responsible for its completion. To the right of the text listing is a graphical representation of each task's duration in the context of the project time line.
Microsoft Project is a great program to use for facilitation of project planning and management. According to SitePoint.com, "One of the most useful features in Project is the ability to streamline and automate your tracking and communication efforts with the resources in your project, over the Internet. This allows you to easily keep the members of your team updated with the latest information on your project… one of the 'downsides' to a program of this size is that it has a large learning curve. This is a massive application and it takes a serious time commitment to learn and use it to its full potential."
Workflow is "the defined series of tasks within an organization to produce a final outcome… at each stage in the workflow, one individual or group is responsible for a specific task." There are different workflows for different types of jobs, and various software to aid in their facilitation. For example, in a filmmaking setting, a script might be automatically routed from writer to editor to proofreader to production (Webopedia.com). BizFlow is a good example of workflow and Business Process Management (BPM) software. A review of the software at bpm-today.newsfactor.com states "BizFlow is built on cross-platform technology, so customers can run the system on a variety of hardware and operating systems… the workflow client is an integrated, graphical-design environment typical of focused BPM products. It is easy to use, and the interface is adequately designed to allow process modeling without programming."
Additional Revenue Streams
Behind-the-Scenes. Instead of including all of the behind-the-scenes material for a particular production on that production's VHS/DVD release, behind-the-scenes footage for several productions can be issued as a separate release in a pseudo-documentary format. Fans of the Adult entertainment industry are usually fans of the industry altogether and will be interested in learning about what goes on during production and backstage. A separate release, or even a series of releases, put out like a documentary about the industry should prove to be a profitable additional revenue stream and also expand your catalog. Behind-the-scenes releases will also provide more branding and customer loyalty for the production company.
If such a project is to be implemented, the project plan must take into consideration a separate cameraman and possibly a separate shooting crew that maintains ongoing documentation of the production process. Additional editing must be also be considered, and possibly a sub-project plan for the behind-the-scenes project itself. Often times interview sessions will need to be scheduled during days where certain actors or starlets are on site. The project plan must incorporate someone to generate interview questions and conduct the interviews; in most cases, this will be the cameraman. Even though the main productions may be shot on film or HD, it should be sufficient to shoot behind-the-scenes footage with one MiniDV camera. This should minimize costs significantly. However, if the documentaries are meant for broadcast, you will want to find if such footage needs to be shot in HD or another pro format. Media planning is an important component of the project plan. HD conversion is something that you don't want to worry about after the fact, for it may be costly or a compromise in quality.
Extras (the "Cutting Room Floor"). There's often over an hour of footage that gets cut down to a 10-15 minute scene. What should happen to the remaining footage? Alternate shorter scenes can be cut and licensed out to third-party companies as well as edited into compilation series that can be sold as separate product. If you perceive you have a strong market for this, it may be beneficial to shoot with two cameras for multiple angles and more footage for the editors to work with.
Music Videos & Soundtracks ("Inter-Market Involvement"). There is much opportunity for inter-market involvement between major independent record labels and movie production companies. Once a record label has agreed to involve an artist in such a project, the production company's project plan should allow for an additional day of shooting where the girls or primary talent should appear. In many cases, talent will appear on the extra day for free when given the opportunity to appear in a mainstream music video. On this extra day some music video footage with the musical artist should be shot. This footage can then be interspersed with footage from the actual production to form a music video for the record label's artist. A music video project will provide an enormous amount of publicity for the movie release. DVD sales for the movie will increase from the buying power of mainstream music followers.
The record label will also often provide the movie production company with a 2-5 percent royalty of the artist's CD sales. This serves as an exceptional form of additional revenue. A soundtrack deal can be negotiated with the record label in which the movie production company uses some songs in the film, and the record label releases a corresponding soundtrack to all major retail locations. The movie production company not only benefits from cross-marketing publicity from the major music industry, but it also receives additional revenue as royalties from sales of the soundtrack CD.
Photo Sets (or "Stills"). During most shoots, production company's hire a photographer to shoot stills for the box covers. Often times the photographer only appears for one day of shooting. However, for some extra money, the photographer can be asked to shoot several hardcore and softcore shots not just for the box cover but for sale by the production company. These photo sets can be sold to magazines, Web sites, and anyone else who has a need for still photos.
Mainstream. Adult entertainment may be the main focus of your company, however there is no need to limit revenue to such a niche unless the only product produced is gonzo/wall-to-wall sex. When scripting, shooting, and editing features it is important to plan a mainstream "R-rated" cut in addition to the X-rated cut. By "R-rated," we mean the equivalent of something one might see on television. For example, at Sonic Wave International, we work out major retail distribution, home video distribution, and broadcast deals for features that have the sex and nudity edited out – meaning an "R-rated" version of the production can be available through Best Buy, Border's, Tower, FYE stores, Amazon, Blockbuster, Hollywood, etc., which translates to an even larger profit through mainstream sales and licensing.
Anand Bhatt is CTO of SWI Labs, a technical consulting and research group, and is an executive at Sonic Wave International Entertainment (www.sonicwaveintl.com). His name is also recognizable from his mainstream music career. Anand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.